Last week, I told you that we were in the midst of a week of craziness. When that post was published? That was totally true. But, in His typical fashion, God threw us a curveball and forced some rest upon us.
Wednesday afternoon, my two older children fell asleep. FELL ASLEEP. For hours! Now, that’s just odd. They typically rest and read and sprawl and chill, but they don’t sleep mid-afternoon. I assumed a week full of Summer Spirit, swimming, and other activities had just wiped them out.
A. woke, stumbled to the bathroom, then out to the couch, and crashed out again. I was able to finally rouse him about 6PM and planned to feed him fast and get him out the door to karate. Something made me take pause, however, and I took his temperature.
So we took C’s temperature.
And then G.
It was not a big deal and we totally managed and treated the virus at home. They’re all fine now and no one’s the worse for wear. By necessity, however, we scrapped Thursday and Friday’s activities.
Ah, well… c’est la vie! Sometimes you gotta roll with the punches, right?
We stuck pretty close to the menu plan, but my husband did do an emergency lunch-hour run for Gatorade, yogurt, and apple sauce to get us through the worst of the (104+) fevers and blistered throats.
Everyone’s healthy for the moment, and here’s what we’re hoping will hit the table all this week!
Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating–
B–Cheerios, Apples, & Milk for the littles, before 7:30AM Mass
L–Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Sandwiches, Yogurt, Black Raspberries
D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s– my dad grilled ribs! And he also grilled a chicken breast. Because he knows his youngest child well. And he knows I don’t like ribs.
I’ve admitted it before and I’ll say it again– I’m not very good about using recipes when I cook. (Last time I admitted that, I received a scathing email calling me arrogant for saying that I could cook without instructions– I have no idea where that came from, but, trust me. I’m not telling you this to brag. I don’t consider it a virtue, by any means.)
Anyway, I do love to cook and I can (usually) concoct something fairly tasty. I chalk that ability up to being primarily a “method” cook. I tend to read and study enough recipes that I can learn a basic method, and then I try to apply that skill in different ways.
It usually works out okay.
One of the “methods” that I learned years ago and on which I still rely quite a bit is making a basic cheese sauce. There are lots of ways to make a good cheese sauce and many start with a roux– the butter and flour mixture that will ultimately thicken it. I typically skip the roux and just use butter, cream (or half & half or whole milk), and cheese, plus whatever spices sound good.
This is the method I use in the following simple recipe. Know that this way of making cheese sauce works for almost any cheese, so long as it doesn’t get “stringy” when it melts. For example, when I do this with swiss cheese? It’s not really creamy. It has a different texture. Now, my husband absolutely LOVES it and I still do it, but you should know that it won’t be smooth and creamy; it will have chunks and strings melted throughout.
Anyhow, moving on…
This recipe can be as made with fresh broccoli that’s been steamed and real crab meat for a very elegant, but still not hard, meal. It can also be made with a bag a frozen broccoli and imitation crab meat for an easy, inexpensive meal with great flavor. It’s up to you. I’ve done both and I will not judge you etiher way!
A quick-to-prepare, elegant pasta dish featuring sweet crab, tender broccoli, and creamy havarti cheese.
1 lb. penne pasta
½ cup butter
1 cup half & half or whole milk
7 or 8 oz. havarti cheese, finely shredded
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or dill or tarragon, if you don't have that)
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed, OR 1 bag steamable frozen broccoli
8 oz. crab or imitation crab (fully cooked), in bite-sized pieces
Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat, to boil. Once at a full, rolling boil, cook penne according to package directions.
Meanwhile, add butter and half & half (milk) to sauce pan and heat over medium heat, until bubbling. Cook at a VERY low boil for about five minutes.
Remove butter/half & half mixture from heat and gradually stir in shredded cheese, a handful at a time. It will melt in and form a sauce. Don't fret if it seems kind of thin-- it will thicken when it hits the starch of the pasts. Once all cheese is added, stir in black pepper and herbs.
Set the (empty) pot from the pasta, which will still be hot, back on the burner, set to low now. Toss the crab into the pot and stir occasionally to warm through and sweeten it.
While you're warming the crab, steam your broccoli, on stove or microwave. Once steamed, dump it in with the crab.
Pour cheese sauce over broccoli and crab and stir.
Add pasta back to pot and stir gently to coat. Allow to sit for just a minute if the sauce seems thin. Otherwise, serve immediately.
When I say “BAKED BEANS”, what comes to your mind?
1. Beans simmered in a sweet, typically molasses-based sauce with salt pork, sometimes referred to as “Boston baked beans”?
2. Beans simmered and/or baked in a tomato based sauce (with any manner of variations in sweetness, spiciness, etc.)?
Here’s why I ask–
I LOVE baked beans.
I’ve loved them since I was a child and I eat them with burgers, dogs, and also German potato dumplings.
Occasionally, however, I’d go to a potluck cookout and there’d be a big serving dish of baked beans. I’d load up my plate, take a big bite, and then nearly gag. They were NOT what I knew as baked beans.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this happened to me many, many times before I determined that there were clearly different ideas out there about what exactly constituted “baked beans.”
Do YOU like baked beans? And, if so, which type are you familiar with?
[For the record, I only like the "Boston baked beans" type that are sweetened with molasses or, occasionally up here in New England and also Canada, maple syrup. Though I love both beans and tomatoes, I can't get onboard with that other sort of baked beans. ]
We were invited to spend the day at the Connecticut shoreline. The family of one of A’s classmates had rented a cottage for a week and thought it would be nice for our boys to spend the day together. Not one to say no to the beach, I RSVPed in the affirmative. Her email came quickly, “Oh, we’re so excited you’ll be here! There will be a couple other families from the area. They’re all nice. :)”
We arrived and the boys wandered off to check something out. Our hostess introduced me to the other adults there– some parents and kiddos from our town and some family members of the hosts.
One of the families was familiar to me. They have three boys and they live on our end of town. Of their children, I’ve really only met the middle one. He was in preschool with both my older kids, actually, and I can remember having him at our house for a birthday party at some point. I’m going to call him Beck.
Beck is severely autistic. (Is that how that’s worded? I so dearly do not want to offend. Feel free to correct me (gently) if I’ve used the wrong verbiage.) Anyway, I remember vividly when we attended the preschool open house. It was loud and chaotic and crowded and, honestly, it just about pushed me over the edge as I tried to navigate the space with a six-week-old in a stroller.
It was overwhelming for me. It was pretty much intolerable for Beck. He looked positively panicked as he remained in the hallway, refusing to enter the fray.
Parties throughout the schoolyear were difficult, too. They were just so loud. So crowded. There so much movement and they broke the routine. Unusual foods, smells, faces, and sounds filled the space. While many of the children beamed with joy through those parties, Beck averted his eyes and struggled fiercely not to break down. It was hard for him.
Anyway, Beck is going to fourth grade now. It was good to see him again! But, honestly, this beach house setting was challenging, too. Again, with the noise, the crowd, the odd smells, the different foods, the sudden comings and goings of various people. Everyone was kind and accomodating and it was all going fine, but you’d have to be pretty unobservant not to see that, well, it was hard for Beck.
A few of the boys (including Beck) decided to go into an inflatable rectangular pool on the sand behind the beach house. They all played together peacably but, if you really watched, the other two boys pretty much just played AROUND Beck. He was in his own world, watching water run through his fingers.
And then C. decided to get in the pool.
C. bopped on over, climbed in slowly– she’s not a huge water fan, and smiled widely, “Hey, Beck! How’ve you been?”
He looked up sideways at her. Raised his chin a little bit.
You see, C. and Beck were together in a special ed support room for periods of time each day. They worked on different things, sometimes at different times, but their paths crossed often.
C. knows him well. And, for lack of a better way to describe it, she just knows him as exactly who he is. His sensitivity to sounds, smells, changes in routine, and what-not? Well, that’s just who he is. It’s who he’s always been. It’s neither good nor bad in C’s opinion– it’s just who he is.
His mom saw this unfold and hurried over. She didn’t realize they’d known each other. She captured a beautiful photo of C. beaming with Beck’s arm around her, a crooked smile on his face as he avoided looking directly at the camera. She posted it on Facebook (with my permission) with the caption “Found a friend!” and tagged their special ed teacher.
It was beautiful.
I watched those two play their way through the afternoon. At one point, I called C. over by name and Beck spoke up clearly to correct me. Apparently they’d been playing a game and he was Mr. Bee and she was Mrs. Butterfly.
I quickly apologized for my oversight.
We went to the beach that day because we’d been invited by a friend of A’s.
But it was watching the beauty of C’s friendship with Beck that actually made the whole day.
Sometimes all it takes to feel more at home is to know you’ve found a friend.
Every summer, there’s a week of chaos. It’s that week when a million things seem to be happening and, while they’re all fun, it can also seem pretty wild and crazy as we rush here, there, and everywhere.
This is that week.
It doesn’t feel as bad as years past, however, and I’m not sure if that’s because our schedule is lighter or I’m just getting a touch better at managing the crazy. Either way, I’m not feeling stressed, but I am embracing the beauty of a simple menu plan!
Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating through the week–
B–Cheerios, Apples, & Milk for the littles, before 7:30AM Mass
L–Leftovers before heading to the beach!
D–We seriously ate all day. Chips and salsa. Meatballs. Veggie tray. Some wine. Strawberries. More chips. Burgers. Cookies and cream rice crispy treats. That salt air must have stimulated our apetites!! (It also made our children crash like rocks that night. )
Many, we take for granted… like the freedom to worship how we choose, for example.
Others, I believe we sometimes misinterpret… like the second amendment, quite frankly.
Still, there is no doubt that we are permitted so very many liberties compared to millions of others in this world. We can believe and think and speak freely. We can buck the system or go against the grain and that’s okay. We can have strong, strong opinions and voice such and doing so will not likely result in any severe ramifications.
As a child, I definitely took all of this for granted. I mean, how could I know differently?
As I grew, I was rather fascinated with all the freedoms we have. College was an eye-opener for me as wide, varying viewpoints spilled forth and vocal, determined people shared them with the world.
It’s been over fifteen years since I was in college, now.
I’ve had a lot of time to learn to appreciate the freedoms we have. I’ve pondered what it meant for our forefathers to risk it all so that we could have true liberty.
And I’ve also learned to appreciate a freedom that is far too easy to forget–
We are free to love.
In the midst of fighting for and over our gun rights and our faith and our parenting style and our school choice and our healthcare stance and the state of marriage and all the rest, we are free to simply step back and LOVE.
We don’t actually need to fight and yell and scoff and demand. We don’t need to judge and worry and fret over what others are doing. We don’t HAVE to decide what’s best or perfect or ideal for everyone around us.
And– and this is huge– we don’t have to hate or reject those whose views contradict or oppose our own.
We can love. And learn. Laugh. And love some more.
To me, there may be no greater freedom than that.
Happy Independence Day, sweet friends. Let freedom ring.
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ve likely seen breakfast burritos make more than a few appearances on my menu plans. We love them! There’s something so tasty about all that eggy, meaty, veggie-packed goodness stuffed into a tortilla.
I do, however, have just a few beefs with the breakfast burritos:
1. They’re either really big (even when we use “soft taco” size tortillas) or there’s way too much tortilla and it tastes weird to me.
2. They tend to be pretty liquidy thanks to the ham and veggies and what-not and can drip on-the-go.
3. Too much grainy stuff (here: tortilla) in the morning tends to make me feel sluggish all day.
4. Since my girls can’t always eat a whole burrito, I have to cut one in half and that gets messy.
So, while breakfast burritos still make a regular weekend appearance around here, they’re not high on my list for quick weekday breakfasts.
That said, I LOVE the taste of egg and tortilla together. Throw on some cheese, and I’m a happy girl! I decided to go even SMALLER with the tortilla and these simple egg wraps have become a staple around here.
This simple egg wrap is quick, portable, and more manageable than a breakfast burrito. The possibilities are endless!
1 tablespoon butter or bacon grease
salt, pepper, preferred spices (I almost always add dill.)
2 oz. sharp cheddar, finely shredded
4 fajita size tortillas (these usually come in packs of about 20)
sauce of your choice, e.g. salsa, ketchup, taco sauce, mustard, guacamole, etc.
Heat small skillet over medium heat.
Melt butter or bacon grease.
Working one at a time-- it goes very quickly-- crack an egg into the pan and give it a quick scramble/swirl with the corner of your spatula. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and/or spices. Cook for 30-60 seconds, flip and cook through.
Meanwhile, place a tortilla on a plate. Top one half with about a tablespoon of finely shredded cheese. Heat in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, until warm and cheese is melted.
Top tortilla with cooked egg, add sauce, and fold in half.
*These wraps are not huge or hearty– those with larger appetites may prefer two. I typically make 6 of them for our family of 5 and one of my guys eats the extra.
Eleven years ago, I was working as the teller manager in a Virginia banking center. A young man– younger than me, and I was only in my mid-20s– walked in and asked to go to his safe deposit box. I took him and we chatted. He told me that his fiancee worked for the same company, but that she was out in San Diego. She’d be moving to Virginia with him after the wedding.
“Well,” I remarked with a smile, “if she wants a job when she gets here, have her come in and see me. We could always use good tellers!”
A few months later, we hired her. Her name was Jessica. (She was the third Jessica we had at that office.)
At that time, we’d been married for a year. We were still fairly new to the Virginia Beach area and we didn’t have a lot of friends yet. Most of the people we met who were our age were either 1) single and living with their parents or 2) in the military and already had a couple of kids. There was nothing wrong with either of those scenarios and we were most certainly friends with people in both categories but the fact remained– we weren’t in the same season.
I got to know Jess better over the next couple weeks, but I wouldn’t say we spent a lot of time chatting, really. We were at work, after all, and it was a busy, busy center. Jess’s husband (whom I had actually met before her, if you recall) was named Scott. All I could really say at that point was that they both seemed like decent people. They were also newly married, new to the area, and didn’t yet have children.
On a whim, I told my husband I was going to invite them to dinner one Saturday night.
They accepted the invitation and I cooked a Mexican feast. In retrospect, cooking Mexican food for a couple of native San Diego folks was perhaps risky, but I didn’t realize that and I guess I didn’t offend them terribly– they wound up staying past two in the morning as we laughed and played a crazy card game called Flux.
They invited us to their apartment the next Saturday. And, from then on? Well, we were pretty much an inseparable group. So precious and rare is it to find couple friends where each person truly enjoys all the others. It brought me great joy to see our husbands connect and Jess and I got along smashingly.
We spent holidays together. Weekends. Ordered pizza and sat in a heap watching the premier of CSI. We went on home tours together. Saw The Nutcracker. Shared meal after meal after meal.
And then, one day, I told them I was expecting.
They were the first to buy a gift for our unborn baby. Jess hosted my shower. Scott agreed to share the weird pizza combos I was craving with me. I fell asleep on their couch more times than I can count as pregnancy exhaustion overtook me.
And, when A. was born, Jess was the first to visit us in the hospital. She brought Taco Bell for my husband because he hadn’t eaten for so very long and didn’t want to leave me.
When our baby boy was only four months old, we tearfully told our friends goodbye. I was devastated to leave them. Honestly, they were what we loved most about Virginia and they had already played a big role in A’s life, too.
Scott is tall and A. loved it when he would hold him. It’s like he got a whole new perspective up there. Plus, Scott is one of those naturally calm and fun men that babies and children seem to enjoy. Jess spoiled A. rotten by stocking their apartment with baby things the way a very doting aunt might.
Anyway, we moved to Indiana and things quickly spiraled out of control with my near-miscarriage, the loss of my father-in-law, unemployment, and a baby born four months too soon.
In short? Years passed.
It had been nine years.
We had had two more babies.
A. was fifty pounds heavier.
And three feet taller.
Last week, while on vacation on the Carolina shore, Scott and Jess came to see us.
They came on Wednesday and we wondered what it would be like. Would we still connect? So much time had passed.
It was just like it had always been. And you know what? They made the three hour drive again that Saturday.
We laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more.
Couple friends like that are true treasures, indeed.
We’re all determined not to let another nine years go by.
So, vacation was amazing. Truly. I may or may not be guilty of already perusing the available weeks for next year. *blush* I can’t help it! It was just such a great getaway.
This week, however, it’s back to reality, and that means I need to follow a fairly regular menu plan. This is easier said than done with my husband still home for another week, though. He doesn’t always understand that our schedule doesn’t change just because he took off.
Here’s what we’ve been eating and will be eating through the week–
B– Cereal, Water, & Juice Boxes in the car– we were already on our way home from North Carolina.
L–Taco Bell (on the road)
D–Should have been Penne Marinara & Green Beans, but we didn’t make it home in time. We had to settle for Burger King at almost 10PM. It was not fun. But, well, it got the job done, I guess.
B– PB Toast, Mixed Fruit, Milk
D–Penne Marinara & Green Beans (which, for the record, was way better than BK’s spicky chicken sandwich)