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The Misadventures of Mrs. B

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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2010-01-24

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Coffee Time: Finding Joy

Good morning, coffee friends!

The word "joy" has been on my mind a lot this past week. I'm sure my husband, who will be reading this because he's just cool and supportive like that, is tired of hearing me say the word. Joy, joy, joy.
Why has joy been on my mind? Well, as of late I've noticed that there is a severe absence of joy in my life. Granted, there have been beautiful moments here and there, and laughter and family and friends. But for the most part (and more so lately) I feel as though a weight has been placed on me which is getting heavier and heavier as time goes on.

Last week a boulder was added when we got word that Rob's dad is coming home much sooner than we had planned. The normal questions arose, questions like "Will we have to clean him up after he uses the bathroom?" and "Will we have to bathe him?" and stuff like that - things we were hoping he'd be better at before he was sent home. He's talking and everything, and there's no paralysis (thank you, Lord), but he's weak and not eating well and not interested in anything but sleep so we can't yet forsee a time when he'll start to get stronger and more able to take care of his basic needs. We felt very overwhelmed by that news (and that's not taking into account that we had to seriously speed up our move as a result, too!).

After all this frustration and confusion...Not much is doing it for me right now. I'm trying to find humor in life, still trying to make yummy things in the kitchen and throw myself into blogging. And I'm still loving the heck out of my husband and family members. But other than that? Everything, from getting up in the morning to getting through the work day without falling asleep and getting home without collapsing, is a major chore.
I know that lots of people go through much more devastating events than I am and still manage to keep a grip on life and not focus so much on the negative. Sure, after a year and a half of marriage you don't really expect something like this to come up. I just keep telling myself that this is happening for a reason. Okay, I should have said that I NEED to keep telling myself that, because I've clearly stopped doing so.  The Lord has a reason for everything and I need to give this to Him.  Why is that so difficult at times? Why do I need to keep reminding myself over and over? And even then, even after praying and talking to God and taking a deep breath, it's so tough to remember to be happy.

My new goal, then, is to find ways to add a little joie de vivre to my everyday life.
I already plan on trying my hand at gardening when we get settled and the weather warms up (note to self: post the before pictures from last weekend).

I'm happy that I'll have a bigger kitchen with - GASP! - windows, so I'll be able to take pictures of my creations and actually have natural light! A big, big backyard in which Rob can just grill to his heart's content (once we buy a grill and all). There are many positives here. Still, I know that things can become overwhelming when you're caring for someone who's sick, and I know that I'll want to pick up the slack when I'm home since Rob will be home all day and he'll probably want a break - I know I would.  But I'm gonna need something to fall back on.

So any more suggestions? All you Company Girls were so helpful last weekend when I had my "To Do List" woes - and I'm still so appreciative!!!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

B is for Boxes and Books - Alphabe-Thursday

Boxes and books.

Those two words have been filling my brain for the past several days.

It all started on Monday night, when I walked up to our car at the train station.  Inside was my husband...and 55 boxes which he'd just picked up from U-Haul a few minutes earlier.

"Is someone moving?" I asked with a laugh.  Then I had to fold myself up and slide myself into the car.  Which wasn't easy since the seat was pushed pretty far up in order to accommodate those stupid boxes.  The situation wasn't so funny anymore.  Especially when Rob said "I just hope I don't have to brake suddenly", and I could only assume he was making reference to the fact that my forehead was inches away from the windshield.

Nope.  Not funny anymore.

And even less funny when we then had to unload all those boxes.  Hungry.  Cold.  Tired.  Sigh.

But we got them all in here and after chowing down on some reheated chicken and dumplings, we started packing in earnest.  Prior to the purchase of the boxes we used those we already had on hand - I saved a lot of the boxes that our shower and wedding gifts came in and just repacked their original contents.  Now, though, it was for real.  We had 55 boxes.

Which, after only packing cds, dvds and books, we realized would probably be far too few.  Time will tell on that one.

Rob packed the cds and movies.  I packed books.

Before I go any further, let me explain something in case you're unaware: I love to read.  And I love books.  What's more, I love OWNING books.  I love looking at my shelves and shelves of books and feeling...I don't know.  Accomplished, maybe? I never tried to put a name to the feeling before.  But there's definitely a sense of achievement when you look at books from when you were in your hoity-toity classic literature phase back in the late 90's, sitting next to the Twilight series and Harry Potter, and the hoity-toity historical and biographical books you're currently into.  You feel well-rounded.  Down-to-earth. 

Besides, I've always wanted to have a wall of bookshelves one day.  A small library, perhaps, overlooking my garden.  With a fireplace and a doggie who likes to nap at my feet or a kitty who likes to frolic and play with balls of yarn on the floor as I take an afternoon nap in my chair...

*shakes it off*

Anyway, here's just a small portion of what I was faced with when I sat down and rolled up my sleeves:


See, I was all neat and fine when I had enough room for them.  Eventually the chaos you see before you emerged.  There are books behind the books you see up front.  Stacked neatly.  The ones in front, well, I just kinda shoved them in when I was through with them and no matter how many times I told myself that I needed to sit down and at least make them look nice, it never happened.

So I started separating books into three categories: Books I wanted to keep in the attic, books I wanted to keep where I could lay my hands on them right away, and books to donate to goodwill.

At first this was totally traumatic.  I mean, hello! I love my books! I spent time building a collection which, by the way, included another 4 sets of shelves which went unphotographed.  How could I pick and choose which ones to abandon? It's like deciding which child you don't like and want to give away.  Who does that?

Turns out when you're faced with the proposition of spending yet MORE money on boxes to fill up your already limited attic space, choice becomes much easier.

There ended up being one small group of books which I had to admit I would never finish reading.  Like this one:

That beaut was purchased at some point during the aforementioned classic literature phase of the late 1900's.  And I'm sorry but never did I get more than a few pages into it.  Neither did Rob when he was feeling ambitious enough to give it a whirl.  I finally had to just give it up and admit defeat.  Into the "giveaway pile" it went.

Along with this went some Hemingway and a few others I don't even remember buying, and a couple of diet books (they're in the pictures above - can you spot them?) and some books that Rob didn't want any more.  Plus a few which made me go "eh" when I read them and weren't worth the effort of packing and hauling around.

Here's one I DID read:

I read it so hard, it broke in half.  Actually, I'm pretty certain its massive size caused it to break in half, but I still read it all the same.  I'm kinda proud of that.  Good book, too (and there's my understatement of the evening).

All in all I'd say we're donating between 3 and 4 dozen books.  Could I have left more than probably 3 dozen books behind? Yes, of course.

But I think enough has been asked of me in this endeavor, thankyouverymuch.

Linking this post to:


Monday, January 25, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

Last week, Rob and I went to Cracker Barrel for dinner one night.  Of course I got chicken and dumplings  because, well, that's what I just had to order.  I'd only had them once - in fact, I had only been to Cracker Barrel once before that night.  But it was good!

And I was inspired.

So I immediately decided to make my own pot of chicken and dumplings over the weekend.  And I did.

It helped that Rob had a couple of friends coming over who needed help with a wonky laptop, so I had guinea pigs...uh, I mean willing enjoy the fruits of my labor.  At least, I hoped so.

So I started with this:

Fresh out of the shower!

And put it in a great big enormous pot

 Hellllloooooo iiiiin theeeeeeere...

I then took these

And turned them into this

I took these

And turned them into this

 *sniff sniff*

I then grabbed a big old handful of fresh parsley and gave it a rough chop

I just L-O-V-E the smell of fresh parsley.  It's so fresh and it made me think of spring.  Ah, far away you are...

Moving on.

Into the pot all of my fresh ingredients went, along with 4 quarts of water, and...


Garlic powder...

And salt and pepper

I also added a few bay leaves but of course forgot to take a picture of them.  Sigh.  Will I ever learn?

**Aside: I'd like to say that the big, manly hands in those pictures up there are my husband's.  Alas, they are mine.  See how much I'm willing to reveal about myself for the sake of you readers? I have man hands and now you all know it.**

This all went on the stove to simmer for an hour.  Once that hour was up and an experimental bit of chicken was ripped from the breast and tasted, I decided that the chicken was quite tender and ready to be removed from the pot.

And this happened.

Ouch.  And I'm not just referring to the lack of a manicure, either.

Notice the difference in color between the two fingers? That would be a result of steam burning my index finger as I lifted the chicken from the pot.  But even though all of my instincts were screaming and pleading and begging me to drop that chicken and thus end the agony, I knew that I would probably end up splashing hot liquid all over myself as a result.  So I hung on like the culinary champ that I am.  And the burn wasn't all that bad...just enough to leave me in agony for the rest of the night.  No biggie.

Again, moving on.

The chicken was placed on a platter in order to cool.  After straining the veggies and herbs out of the broth, I was left with this...


Thus it was time to make the dumplings.

I combined two cups of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in a bowl and combined them.

I bet you didn't know that you'd just be looking a big pile of white stuff after that description...

I then added 1 1/2 cups of milk to the dry ingredients.  I used skim because it's what I had on hand.  I wonder what whole or low fat milk would have done...hmmm...

Once everything was all good and mixed, I covered the dough and let it sit for a while because that's what I was told to do a long time ago when it comes to dough.  The dough needs to rest in order for the gluten  So I let it rest.

I then divided up the dough into three parts and kneaded each portion lightly while adding more flour to make it a stiffer, rolling-pin consistency.  I then rolled each section out on my counter and cut squares out of it.

Look how neat and pretty!
It all went downhill from there, folks.

Why no pictures of rolled dough being cut into squares? If I told you that I just don't want to make sloppy cooks jealous with my super neat and totally un-messy rolling technique, would you believe me?


How about if I told you that I made a huge mess and had so much dough stuck to my fingers I didn't want to pick up my camera to take a picture for fear of getting little crusty bits of dough jammed in its crevices forever?

Why did you believe the second reason so much more easily than the first?

Regardless, here's what I ended up with:

Mmmm.  Raw dumplings.

These little beauts were added one by one to the now-simmering broth and were allowed to simmer for, oh, forever.

Why? Because I had the darndest time making the broth into a gravy.  In the recipe I used as inspiration, I was led to believe that the flour from the dumplings would be enough to thicken the gravy.  I tell you, it just ain't so.  I think I had too much broth.

What did I do? I made a roux! And didn't take pictures!

Of course!

Suffice it to say, I ended up using probably the better part of a cup of flour to get my gravy.  It was all trial and error.  I didn't want to add too much at once so I first made the roux and cooked the flour, then added broth and mixed it all in, then added that to the dumplings.  No go.  Then I mixed up flour and water and threw that in.  Still no go.  Finally, third time was a charm and after adding my cut-up chicken back to the pot...ooooooh the results...

Oh...mah...Gawd.  It was soooooo good! I couldn't believe how well it turned out.  Leaving the dumplings to simmer in the broth for all the time it took me to figure out how to thicken the goshdarned thing up really worked well - they were tender and melted in my mouth.

 A close-up of the pepper-flecked goodness

Seriously amazing.  And all it took was one chicken, a lot of flour stuck all over my counter and a burned finger to make it happen.  And a lot of frustration as I struggled to make the gravy thicken up.  I swear, one day I will finally get the hang of that.

Chicken and Dumplings + Homemade Cornbread* = Good Eating.

The end.

*Why no cornbread pictures? Because I was in such a goshdarned hurry to get the chicken and dumplings done that I rushed through the process and threw it in the oven as quickly as I could just so we could eventually eat something.  But it turned out super great - according to Rob's friend Kim, it was better than her mother-in-law's.  From the sound of her voice, this is a good and surprising thing.  Oh, and I like my cornbread nice and sweet.  

 I know.  It's very un-Southern of me.

Linking up to:


To-Do List Results

Thank you to everyone who shared insight and advice regarding my post on Friday of things to do over the weekend.  It thrilled me to hear from you, and I'm so happy to have visited so many new blogs!

As promised, here is my list and just exactly how much I accomplished:

1) Laundry - Done! Thanks to the help of my husband, who got me started on Friday night.  I love you honey!

2) Pack up the rest of the decorations and get them ready to be moved over to the new house - Not completely done, but I packed as much as we could fit in the car so really, I couldn't have accomplished much more on this one.

3) Finally sew button back on coat (it's been missing for a week now) - Done!

4) Finally hem pant leg (pants have not been worn in at least a month because the entire hem came out one day and I haven't gotten to them!) - Done!

5) Finish organizing new kitchen - Pretty much done.  I brought a few of my own things in, the ones I know I won't be using in the next couple of weeks, and took everything out of my father-in-law's kitchen that I wouldn't be using and/or everything that was straight-up unusable.  Like a mini mountain of expired pill bottles.  Seriously, that alone freed up a small cabinet.

6) Take pictures of garden beds - Done, and I will be posting these pictures soon!

7) Possibly work on this wreath - Sigh.  This one causes me grief.  Thing is, I never got a chance to go out and get the materials for it.  So it still haunts and alludes me.

8) Clean - Done! Rob had friends over in order to work on their computer so it helped to have the motivation of company coming over.  Again, it was a team effort all the way!

9) Work on crocheting afghan - Started, plan to work during train commute until it is too big to reasonably be worked on without, you know, touching the dirty floor.  Yuck!!! After that it will be worked on at home.

Along with all of this, I made chicken and dumplings and cornbread last night for dinner.  I took pictures of the former, but not of the latter.  I was in way too much of a hurry at that point to worry about taking pictures - I was hungry and I was certain my guests were as well! I'll be posting about that later on.

Thanks again to everyone for their kind thoughts and words over the weekend. 

Now what about this pouring, drenching rain outside? Just the thing to make you want to hope out of bed and greet Monday morning...

Tonight: We pack! Wish us luck!