Monday, May 23, 2011

To Mom, with Love....

We took the kids downtown on Sunday to visit Mom.  She is wearing a scarf of my Mother-in-law Kerstin's.  She said it gives her strength.  Mom fights the fight Kerstin never had a chance to.
The kids thought everything was cool.....especially all the treats that Grandma still managed to have.
 Mom said Evan looked like he was going to spend the day in the Hampton's!  That's how we roll! 
Seriously, how beautiful is my Mom?  She looks amazing and this is 5 days after her stem cell transplant and 6 days after a wicked little bottle of chemo.
Lauren is wearing a strand of Kerstin's coral beads.  We are on this journey together with her spirit guiding us.  We love you and miss you Kerstin.  Mom, you are a rock star.  You never fail to impress me.  I love you more than you will ever know.  xoxoxoxoxo  You are a survivor.  Remission here we come.  This will all be worth it in the end!  My sister said today, "Look how far we have already come."
And to all those amazing people on the 15th floor of Prentice Hospital, we thank you for your friendship and encouragement.  We couldn't do it without you.  You are all hero's in our book. 

I can only see the love....

On Friday night I went over to my neighborhood BF's house (Ashley) and at some point in my chair lounging and beer drinking her two daughters and my Lauren proudly gave me a "manicure."  It was done with little tiny kid bottles of blue and pink and gloppy glitter.  I gave them free reign.  It was striped and slopped over the nail beds.  When I said "you can do my nails" they kinda looked at me like, "what, really????"  Yep.  Go crazy.  Ashley kinda looked at me too like I was nuts.  She mentioned she was "not at that level yet" or something like that.  (But she soooooo is at that level....just with other things~her nails not being one of them!)

The girls were giddy.  Ava, Lula and Lauren were huddled over me and kept adding layers of color.  They glittered up my toes too.  I knew I was going to do my nails and toes over the weekend so I let them have at it.  I told the girls if I closed my eyes it was like I was at the spa.  They looked at me with love.  I could feel the love.  I was the cool mom.

It brought me back to a childhood memory of my Great Aunt Ruth letting me use her real oil paints and acrylics, of letting me dig through her purse, use her Oil of Olay, seating me at the adult table during dinner parties and serving me real wine in my wine glass.  She made me feel less like a kid and more like I was somebody important and worthy and special.

And that is all kids ever want to be......important and worthy and simply just heard.  My heart was busting with love for these precious girls and all that they will grow to be.  It was a small gesture in a fleeting moment of time.  And when I woke up the next day, before I took the polish off, I could see the love.

All things pickled....

To speak to my love of all things pickled, I went on a rampage a few weeks ago preparing "bloody mary bar condiments" for our trip in June.  I was sick of paying so much money for pickled veggies!  A little tiny jar costs around $7!  All I did was steam my veggies (mom questions this....not sure if it is needed or not, but I wanted a "slight" bite to the veggies and not a "chew"!!!) and pour a few cups of vinegar that I brought to a boil with some peppercorns and bay leaf and I added garlic and onion to some of them.  By "them" I mean:  green beans, brussel sprouts, asparagus and a little magic I will describe below.  Mom was the inspirado for this whole pickling factory that began in my kitchen when we used all the leftover eggs from Easter for a lovely little pickled egg treat.
This my friends is what I will call the "Tom Kushman Special"~Could anything be finer than a mix of sauerkraut, green pepper, onion and celery?  I think not.  But I might be weird.  I grew up eating sauerkraut.  And in the words of my BF Kelly, "I could drink the juice straight from the can of sauerkraut!"  (this is why I can vacation with this woman!!!!) 

I am not sure why, but I've never made this before and I feel like I've been denying myself and my family and friends the goodness!  (my sister is gagging right now and does not follow me on this one I'm sure!!!!)  My Dad LOVED this "relish" if you will.  My Mom prepared this so many times for him that at one point I think she may have banned it for awhile!  Her recipe calls it "Sauerkraut Relish" but I like my name much better!  You can eat it like a side dish or use it as a relish on hot dogs or brats or sausage, etc.  Anyway you use it, you will not be disappointed!!!!

Very simply, all it is is two jars of kraut (drained) some celery and onion and green pepper chopped up and added to 2 cups vinegar and 1 cup sugar. (bring to a boil and pour over the mix)  So this relish is "sweet and sour" as opposed to all my pickled veggies, which are straight sour.  (To which husband HAD to comment about and say, "I really think some sugar was needed.")  Well, then.....keep your dirty mitts off the condiments if you prefer to have a bloody on vacation!!!!!!!!  I mean, really!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For the Love of Fruit & Veggies....

In the spirit of the Farmer's Markets opening and all the DELISH produce I see at my local grocery store (which is not one of the big name rip off joints~but rather one that specializes in excellent prices on fruit and veggies....really, how can anyone afford to shop at anything but?  You name a fruit or veggie, and I can find it here!  I love you Joe Caputo & Sons!) I would like to highlight a recent haul....

Let's begin with the beloved brussel sprout.  My fave way to prepare is cooking them with some olive oil and a touch of butter in a pan....getting them nice and brown and adding some crushed red pepper flake and S & P and a few drizzles of honey.  It forms a lovely glaze and the sprouts are tender and a touch spicy.
Who doesn't love asparagus?  (never mind the weird number it does on your urine smell!)  I love them anyway I can get them.....roasted, steamed or pickled.  Yes, pickled.  In a nice bloody mary on a Sunday afternoon.  I pickled this whole lot.  I am preparing for vacation where we have a "bloody mary bar" of condiments.  Yum!
 The kids could eat a pint per day of strawberries.....and here is a quick look at our bountiful crop....

Now if we can only harvest before the birds eye all the good red fruit when they turn!
We planted eggplant in the garden this year.  I normally would say I don't like it, but using the proper technique of salting the sliced eggplant to remove the excess water really pays off.  You can then use a nice panko bread crumb and pan fry them to golden deliciousness!  I made some "veggie stackers" with the eggplant and red pepper and a bunch of other veggies with a nice honey goat cheese slice on top.  It was devine!  I got the idea from the food court at the hospital.....can you believe that?
 I am obsessed with lemon juice in my water!  I can't get enough.  The kids now ask me if I have lemon "in there" before they guzzle now on my water bottle.  The kids love apple and peanut butter.  Oh, and do I have a nifty gadget for you in regard to a whole pineapple!

This one is from Willams Sonoma and is fancy and around $20.  Mine is plastic and was around $10 and it does the same thing.  Do you see that empty pineapple shell in the background?  That is exactly what it does and you have so little waste.  I am in love!  I usually cut up a whole pineapple every Sunday for breakfast.  I've been cooking up a storm, especially since Mom has been staying with us.  She gave me a great compliment by telling me that I am always preparing healthy meals for my family.  I say it's just my job!  And it's done with love XO
Lauren can't seem to get enough of watermelon these days.  She wanted it before it even looked good in the store but how can you say no to a child who requests fruit?  I love my watermelon with salt on it.  I'm a salt freak.  I say if you HAVE the fruit and veggies in the house you cook more, eat more and the kids eat healthy.  I am convinced my kids only eat tomatoes because we grow them in the garden.  Lauren wanted to eat a tomato last night as a snack before bed!  I love that we have literally "planted" the seeds of good eating with a garden and lots of fruit and veggies on hand at all times.

So happy Farmer's Market time, gardening, planting and harvesting friends!  Relish these days now and hold them in your heart fondly so we can pull them out in the thick of snow and ice and cold and reminisce!  (I know.....can you believe I even said "S" word?  sorry!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Free Flow.....

We love Chicago 4-ever!
Especially Nortwestern Memorial Hospital!

So I really have a million (too legit to quit) excuses for why I haven't been "tending to the blog."  However, now I'm just in this space of .................well, emptiness.  I have forty thousand ideas floating around in my head and I finally sat down in the office to write tonight and it's like.........beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.  I got nuthin'.  But really, I have everything! 

I returned from checking Mom into the hospital on Monday and was spent in every way.  I slept for 10 hours that night and I've never felt so human again or like such a good mom.  (Why do NON exertion type things just make you so stinkin' exhausted?  I literally sat in a chair all day an was exhausted!  It's the same way for me after an airplane ride.  Has anyone ever researched this?!) I haven't been yelling at the kids and I've been patient and understanding.  (I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop!  But I do know I'm in control of it all!)  I took the kids to the park and library and I've just been living in the present.  What a difference that makes!  So simple, yet it works.  They are so much easier to deal with when I'M easier to BE with!  (I mean DUH!)

Did you watch the James Frey interview on Oprah today and yesterday?  I only watched the one from Tuesday and I have to say I was blown away.  I was expecting something totally different and what I got was a shining example of how to take responsibility for yourself, your life and your actions.  I was humbled by James' humanness, his calm demeanor and I can't wait to see today's show.  I fail to ever find that my time spent watching Oprah is wasted.  I will feel a huge void when I don't have her show to watch daily.  I am all over the OWN shows though.  That will fill a tiny part!

I continue to be amazed by life.  I continue to find out who I am everyday.  I have never felt so good about being 40 in August.  I am just getting started.  I am just coming into who I really am.  Wow does it feel good.  To feel good in your own skin. 

I just started reading "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen and about 25 pages in, I'm hooked.  I really like reading a book before seeing the movie because the movie always seems to disappoint me.  I am waiting for Adele "21" CD to arrive for me at the library.  I'm in need of some new music for the ipod and she speaks to me.  I read a small snippet about her in a magazine and she said she "never wanted to look like the other women in magazines" and who doesn't love that?

I have realized in the past few weeks that all anyone ever really needs in life is proper sleep and to say the words "thank you" in any situation~good or bad. 

So how was that for my "I" rant?  whew!  I feel better already!  Thank you for your continued love and support as my mother grows stronger in the following weeks.  Our entire family is beyond thrilled with this incredible opportunity for my mom to receive a stem cell transplant.  It is amazing technology and we are in awe. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

These are the Gems of Life....

Mother's Day Flower 2011

A piece of me
I give to you
I made the flower
To say "I love you."

The heart is you
The hand is me
To show we are friends....
the best there can be.

I hope you will save it
And look back someday
At the flowers we shared
On your special day.

These are the kind of things you don't think about before you have kids.  These are the kind of things that make me want to lie down on the floor and curl up into a little ball and cry.  Cry for the joy of it all and for all the frustrations of parenting.  I told my mom yesterday that I had no idea how much she loved me until I had my own kids.  It's like you are broken open.  How could I possibly have thought my life would have been anything without these two little rascals that make me smile, laugh and scream a lot?  I wouldn't change a thing.  I am a better human being because of them.  They teach me something new everyday.  I will however tell you that I WILL NOT  (I mean it!) WILL NOT miss these "messy years."  Call me anal or crazy, but this momma loves a clean house.  And I'm counting down the days until the basement playroom is finished and all these cars and dolls and trucks and toys are out of my sight!!!!

I gave my Mom a pedicure for Mother's Day and Lauren had to get in on the action!  Imagine that!  Wait, on second thought, what did I get for Mother's Day?  Hmmmmm......Oh right, focus on that joy.  Channel the inner joy the rascals bring...(try harder!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's the Remix....

I wrote several posts last year talking about some of my favorite accessories and clothing. 
I like to say "I don't get out much" so when I do, I like to kick it up a notch with a good outfit. 
These are Candies shoes from Kohl's...
"Sapphire in the Snow" OPI nail polish on the toes...
Here's another angle of the them! 
Everybody needs a nude pump right?
Jeans: DKNY from Costco
Here's the whole look....Lauren took the photo so my hair is cut off a bit!
I wore a long black tank top underneath the vintage sweater because it's a bit short in the waist.

Purse: vintage from my mother-in-law
(it had a geeky long string so you could use it as a real purse instead of a clutch,
but I cut it it's a cool clutch!) 
Bracelet:  Ann Taylor Loft (gold tone)  Bird Ring:  JCPenney

Another view of the goods!
Vintage necklace that perfectly covered my thyroid scar
 and the "pretty in pink" sweater....

Where did my waist go?
I think I'm standing at a weird angle with my hip out!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Signs of Spring Part III...

The annual "renting of the rototiller!!!"....
Evan kept shoveling dirt and compost from one pile to the next!
Lauren used the big rake...
"Big Red" Rototiller....
We had enough compost from May '10 to now to cover all the garden!

The grand scheme of things for the garden...

We have some lovely heirloom tomato seeds in here that were gifted to us by my BF's father (Doc Craddock!)  And as she (Bern) said, "Those are gonna be some sweet tomatoes!"

Love to see the crazy growth!

The "Master List" in Bengt's handwriting.....
How he understands what is what in here is beyond me!

Welcome Spring!