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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Nice

An old photo from 2007...love the craziness of this picture and 
the unseemingly calmness and happiness from both mom and dad!

Last night my dad dressed up for an event. He shaved, put some cologne on, put on a tie and a suit. He was looking very dapper for an event. This is where he would of loved to have Stella on his arms and spend a nice evening with his partner in life. Unfortunately we all know Stella cannot join him, so with our caregiver staying late, he kissed her good night and said I love you. And Stella replied with the word "nice". That one small glimpse where my mom shows herself; breaking through the disease that has entrapped her doesn't come around very often. But it seems to come at those pivotal moments, when we are all busy doing life. It stops us in our tracks and makes us appreciate the smallest, most important parts to life. Those four letters, that one split second, breaks through my dad's strong exterior and brings him to tears. How could he ever not be with the one he loves. I admire my dad once again for honoring his vows to a wife unable to be who she really is, but who is alive and living the best she can with this horrible disease. I love you dad; for the man I have always known you to be and for the man of even greater character you are becoming everyday. You love with your entire being and that is "nice".

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dinner on the GO!

If you are a mom, you are on the GO! Just like those Target Ad...life is a moving target! Well, to keep up with this moving target, this is one dinner we repeat weekly as it is easy to hold on to while driving and tieing  your soccer shoe and running out to the field! And it is filling and full or protein!  I NEVER get any complaints! What is it? It's the Garlic Bread Chicken Sandwich...to go! 
All you need is a piece of bread, garlic spread, left over chicken breast cut up, and go!
(I broil the bread for literally 5 mins, stuff the chicken in it, wrap it and we are in the car! Good luck with that moving target this week!!!


Monday, September 17, 2012

BFF's


Many years ago a mother of a young strappy boy traveled to Greece to bring home his wife. Her son's bride was 15 years younger and excited to go travel to the USA to live with her new husband. She would travel alone on a plane back to the states after her mother-in-law to be had come for her. When her mother-in-law came she grabbed her belongings, said good-bye to her family and got on a plane. The mother-in-law had noticed another young lady traveling back to Greece that her son knew from English classes at Roosevelt. She asked her to take care of her son's bride on the long flight back to the USA. And from the moment on, these two ladies became best of friends. Not just best, but lifetime friends. Almost like sisters, since their own sisters were in Greece. Here they would raise their families together, learn English together, and try to assimilate into this foreign land. They watched their Soaps for language, had play dates with their babies, and cooked their meals from the old country for dinner. Many nights, sharing their meals and lives.
This year in December, the young bride is turning 60. Yes, this lady is known by many as Popi and I love her like my mother. Especially during these times when my own mother has been suffering from an illness that robs one from their own lives. Many times Popi has been the one who has come over and folded my laundry, cleaned my home, and brought me homemade pasticio. Many a nights we've sat together and held mom together and wept over the loss of a loved one. She has been a yiayia to my babies and has babysat when my mom couldn't anymore. When I was recovering from my Thyroid surgery, it was Popi and George who came over to my parents and they all sat there watching me, making sure I was okay. I love this women and I know she has gone through some great loses in her life recently. But in the midst of these great loses she is dearly loved and greatly esteemed in the lives of my family and of course sissy's.
She has been the lifetime friend to my mother and the only one who comes on her lunch break to visit her best friend. To sit with her, to hold her, to love her. And I love her for that. It makes my mother so happy. And if my mother knew how she would end up in her later years of life, she would be so grateful that Popi is here to love on her girls and her grand babies for her.
I will always hold dear the "best in the West" BBQ chicken dinners we would have, the limo ride to Vegas for Jason's wedding, the recovery, the births of all our babies, and the endless supply of hugs and kisses from my dear Popoula and her pillows! I love you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What's for Dinner, Mom?!!!?!!


Ugh...seriously, lately I have been dreading this dinner questions as our lives have changed from babies to school active children. I used to do Freezer Cooking-where you made all your meals for the month and stuck them in the freezer-but with constant living in my SUV, freezer cooking was not cutting it for me. My friend and I couldn't find the time to make all 30 meals and nor could I find the time to be home to make a meal. Between 4 kids, their school, their HW (another post!), dance, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, and church, I find myself hardly in the kitchen. So many nights we are eating what is easy, fast, and on hand, which usually means pasta with butter, cheese fruit, and broccoli. But even though it's my kids favorite meal besides pizza, it's just not going to cut it. So lately this is what I have been doing. Since my kids eat more than when they were infants and we are never home, I have on hand the basics for 10 of our favorite meals and try something new when I have time (see how I don't hold myself back with a schedule? I have enough schedules!). And although I do not have a "written" menu, I switch between the basic 10, as I like to call them. Here they are, they are fast, they are planned (in my head), and healthy. I ALWAYS purchase fruits and veggies weekly and no,  I do not have time to coupon as intensely as I have been known for in the past. Life's a target, and I am barely hitting the bull's eye! Hope this helps you moms out there!

The Basic 10:
1. Tomato Sauce from Costco:
Instead of buying marinara sauce, I keep these on hand to make my own. I add two jars, salt and pepper to taste, oregano, italian seasonings, and minced or fresh crushed garlic or garlic powder. And I taste it till it's perfect and voila, add to pasta on one of THOSE days!
2. Broccoli in a bag from Costco:
I love these broccoli florets. They are already cut and all I do is stick in a microwavable bowl with lid and some water and zap it for 3 mins (this idea came from my good friend Annette-saved me time for waiting for boiling water). Steamed broccoli. Add salt or whatever your kids eat it with and you have your nutrients. It lasts about 3 weeks in our house.
3. Salmon from Costco:
I always purchase a couple of Salmons from costco. This is something I have made my family eat. Two of the kids LOVE it, two of them eat it because of the treat at the end. Whatever the motivation, this is so nutritious and easy. I take out in the morning before we leave for school and put in the fridge. When we get home from soccer and what not (around 6:30 or 7:00) everyone goes to their baths and I put the Slamon on a jelly rool pan, line with foil, cover in olive oil, Greek Seasoning (a staple in this house!) and cover with feta (from Costco, duh!) and bake for 30 mins and dinner is served!
4. Chicken Breasts from you know where:
There are a TON of things you can do with the ever popular chicken. Here are my 2 FAVORITE and super fast meal options...
A) Chicken Nuggets from Skinny Taste.
B) Shredded Chicken-boil your chicken the night before and make whatever you want the next day...from shredded tacos, chicken quesadillas,  cheesy enchiladas (remember that video?), chicken pasta, the options are endless!
5. Ground Turkey...whenever they are buy one get one free from Vons or Savemart, I stock up!:
With this the options are endless again, but I always make it in lasagna or tacos. The tacos are easy which I season when at home for 15 mins and have it ready for the evening. That way assembling it up to everyone...tortillas, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, all ready to go!
6. Ground Beef:
I will put Lasagna Recipe here...it's easy and when I make it I always make two so one can go to the Freezer. It's fast and easy and it feeds us for two days!
1
lb ground beef
3/4
cup chopped onions
2
tablespoons salad oil or olive oil
1 (1
lb) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6
ounce) cans tomato paste
2
cups water
1
tablespoon chopped parsley
2
teaspoons salt
1
teaspoon sugar
1
teaspoon garlic powder (I use real clove garlic, minced)
1/2
teaspoon black pepper
1/2
teaspoon oregano leaves
4
ounces lasagna noodles
1
lb ricotta cheese
8
ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (I like it cheesey, so I use more)
1
cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. In large heavy pan lightly brown beef and onion in oil.
  2. Add tomatoes, paste, water, parsley, salt, sugar, garlic, pepper, and oregano; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook lasagne as directed; drain.
  4. In 13x9x2" baking pan, spread about 1 cup sauce.
  5. Then alternate layers of lasagne, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesean cheese, ending with sauce, mozzarella and parmesean.
  6. Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling.
  7. Allow to stand for 15 minutes; cut in squares to serve.
  8. Makes 8 servings.
  9. I make this a lot and serve with Italian garlic bread and salad.
  10. It always gets a rave review, especially if the mozzarella strings with every bite.
7. Block of Sharp Cheddar Cheese:
I always have one of these on hand...I can make cheese quesadillas, which can be served with anything. From left over chicken to even your salmon! It's a great way to spruce things up! I always shred my own cheese!!!
8. Bell Peppers & Zucchini:
I always keep these on hand lately because stir fried veggies are fast and add a lot of nutrients to our bodies! And it's always a quick side to any meal. Add some onions, garlic, and seasonings and it adds a great punch to any meal!
9. Fruit:
These are the fruits I keep on hand 24/7. I always cut fruit and have it accessible for quick snacks and served at dinner for the kids...The hubs always sneaks some too! All depending on season as well:
Blueberries, Apples, Watermelon, Cantalope, Strawberries, Kiwi, grapes, and bananas!
10. (559)299-3060:
This is the number to the Me-n-eds on Willow and Nees. I am not ashamed that they know my name and my order. Sometimes, maybe even often, you just have to order a pizza!

Good luck with dinner...share your basic dinner secrets! I love seeing what works in everyone's home!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Check this out!

So while on pinterest I found this totally cute pic of a before and after...

I mean...how cute is this? Did she really take two shirts and make this most adorable skirt? Why yes she did! I have a sewing machine and I would LOVE to try this out...not sure it would look that cute on my bottom, but that's another blog post. So I clicked on the pic to find out more and it is all about this adorable young mother who loves style and hates to cook! LOL! She is super cute and so is her blog Cotton and Curls! Lots of DIY on fashion...who knows...I just might actually attempt this!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Little Girl

"There once was a little girl who was born in Greece. Her mommy couldn't take care of her, she was too young and had no way to support this little girl. So she gave her to a mommy who couldn't have any babies of her own. This mommy was so happy to have a baby and flew to Greece from America to get her baby and bring her home. The new mommy loved her new baby girl and sang to her every night as she rocked her to sleep. She would say a prayer thanking Jesus for this little bundle of joy sent to her from heaven."

This was the story of a little girl who was born to a mommy who wasn't able to take care of her. She was told this story when she was little by her mommy every night. One day this little girl asked her mommy if she was the little girl in the story. "Yes", the mommy replied. "You are my little bundle from heaven who was given to me by Jesus and I love you very much." The little girl grew up in this loving home with a mommy and a daddy who adored her very much. Soon she had a sister and a brother. Mommy always told her it's because she was so happy with her that she was able to have a sister and a brother for her. And the family grew up knowing how this little girl was the miracle that brought this family to life.

Fast forward 37 years. This little girl is a big girl and has a family of her own. A little girl and a little boy. She loves her family and knows her story and is grateful for the life the Lord has given her. Every person who crosses her path has been blessed and is a better person for knowing her. Everyone loves this girl and couldn't imagine their life without her. And one day this girl meets the women who gave birth to her. She meets her face to face. And her husband is with her when this moment in her life has come to a reality. All the thoughts she had of the what if's of this women who made a decision so long ago that would forever change the course of her life. What does she look like? Do I look like her? Will she like me when she see's me? What will I say? All the unknowns passing through her mind leading up to the monumental moment.

The day arrives. The two are standing face to face. Both unsure of what the other thinks. Amazed at the similarities and in awe of one another. The women who made that decision 37 years ago grabs her hand and places it up against hers, a perfect match. The palms of their hands identical. The wrinkle in their noses, unremarkable. The mannerism in their walk, uncanny. Their hearts both pounding at the connection they have. The colors they were both wearing that day were pink, the women's favorite color. The embrace they share so powerful, like two hearts beating as one. 37 years ago this women didn't even let herself hear her babies cry; on this day she just looked at her as if she was just born. Like a new mother inspecting her newborn for all her fingers and toes and who she resembled most.

This is the moment. The unspeakable moment where life is seen through the miracle of creation. Where every fingerprint of God is felt and every unknown answered. That bond between a mother and child can only come from the One above. This little girl embraced this women who gave her life and honors the one who gave her a life of love, support, and values. She is this incredible girl I call my sister. She is a beautiful story of love and grace. She was chosen by God to be my sister, my parent's first born, this women's decision for a better life.

 What a difference a choice makes. What a difference a choice for life makes. Take what you want from this story, but know the joy and immense love that comes from one single decision, one single moment. Embrace it. Love it. Live it.

Nina Jones

Talented Friend

So I have a special friend, she would do anything for me. She has such a deep and open heart and she lets everyone in. She is a good girl, someone you love having in your corner. And I am so happy we have become friends through our children at school. I feel like we have known each other forever. With that said, she is also very talented! She always comes up with grand ideas and somehow I am suppose to figure out how to make them come to life! We work well together...the other day she had a project in mind and within a couple of days she made it come to life with some help from her mom. I LOVE how she turned this old book case into something so cute that her daughters will remember for years to come!
The book case...

The American Girl Closet! The drapes are pillow cases hanging on a resistant shower bar. She sanded the book case and primered it and then painted it white. She found the bins from Target and the little hot pink containers on the top shelf from the Dollar Store. The back drop to the book shelf is I believe a canvas print she bought on clearance from Carmel Kids when they went out of business. This was an inexpensive project...the dolls and all their accessories cost way more! 
Love the closet! Great job Annette!!!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Cab Ride

I read this story today and had to share on my blog...totally made me cry! It is a VERY popular story but it was the first time I had ever read it.  It is a true story and is actually part of a book by the actual author. Really made me appreciate my day and every little moment I usually take for granted. Enjoy...well with a box of Kleenex that is!


There was a time in my life twenty years ago when I was driving a cab for a living.
It was a cowboy’s life, a gambler’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss, constant movement and the thrill of a dice roll every time a new passenger got into the cab.
What I didn’t count on when I took the job was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a rolling confessional. Passengers would climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity and tell me of their lives.
We were like strangers on a train, the passengers and I, hurtling through the night, revealing intimacies we would never have dreamed of sharing during the brighter light of day. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and made me weep.
And none of those lives touched me more than that of a woman I picked up late on a warm August night.
I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or someone going off to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at the address, the building was dark except for a single light in a ground-floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a short minute, then drive away. Too many bad possibilities awaited a driver who went up to a darkened building at 2:30 in the morning.
But I had seen too many people trapped in a life of poverty who depended on the cab as their only means of transportation.
Unless a situation had a real whiff of danger, I always went to the door to find the passenger. It might, I reasoned, be someone who needs my assistance. Would I not want a driver to do the same if my mother or father had called for a cab?
So I walked to the door and knocked.
“Just a minute,” answered a frail and elderly voice. I could hear the sound of something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman somewhere in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like you might see in a costume shop or a Goodwill store or in a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The sound had been her dragging it across the floor.
The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. “I’d like a few moments alone. Then, if you could come back and help me? I’m not very strong.”
I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm, and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. Her praise and appreciation were almost embarrassing.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I should go there. He says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to go?” I asked.
For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they had first been married. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she would have me slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. Without waiting for me, they opened the door and began assisting the woman. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her; perhaps she had phoned them right before we left.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase up to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers,” I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held on to me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
There was nothing more to say.
I squeezed her hand once, then walked out into the dim morning light. Behind me, I could hear the door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I did not pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the remainder of that day, I could hardly talk.
What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? What if I had been in a foul mood and had refused to engage the woman in conversation?
How many other moments like that had I missed or failed to grasp?
We are so conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unawares.
When that woman hugged me and said that I had brought her a moment of joy, it was possible to believe that I had been placed on earth for the sole purpose of providing her with that last ride.
I do not think that I have ever done anything in my life that was any more important.

By Kent Nerburn
Adapted from “Make me an Instrument of Your Peace”

Reproduced on Zen Moments with the author’s kind permission.
Revised and edited in May 2012, at the author’s request, to accord with the original.
Photo: Taxi Union Square 2007 by Thomas Hawk
You may also enjoy another of Kent’s stories –  The Window on the Heart
Kent was recently interviewed about the Cab Ride by the Minneapolis Star Tribune