Sunday, September 29, 2013

Smiles in Your Vicinity and Mine

The kitchen was quiet...mostly but not really for Molly was prancing around singing a Sunday school song from this morning that was on loop in her head. Normally, a song sung over and over with wrong words scattered throughout would cause a vein in my neck to stand out a bit by the third time through. Today, however, her song became the tune to which I was baking...with pumpkin!

A short way into her fourth iteration of her song, Molly noticed the mixer was in use and grabbed a stool. Dragging it toward me she said, "" 

I added the eggs, Molly added the pumpkin and the commentary...

" are just...the very best Mommy." It is her familiar chorus.

"I'm glad you think so Molly. You are the very best Molly."

"Oh Mom, you know I love it when you say that. Is that why you say that?"

"Yes, Molly. I like to make you happy."

"Oh I know," she said wistfully, "Don't I just make you smile?"

"Oh my yes," I confirmed...

...and then she waltzed off to make sure I wasn't the only one smiling...

A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, 
making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles. 
~Washington Irving~

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quickie Chickie (as promised on Instagram)

We stopped our school day at 4:00 but still were not finished. Having worked at a steady pace all day and having plowed through two chapters of a difficult read, and Cole having an evening commitment made calling it quits on our education for the day a merciful move.

Even more merciful was the dinner I had on the calendar for the evening. It was a new recipe from an old cookbook. The recipe had only a few steps and those proved very low maintenance which was the reason I was holding out hope that this new dish was at least swallowable because if it was anywhere near average, it was going to appear in regular rotation.

Happily, Swiss Chicken was a hit. When I looked at the kids after dinner had begun, their faces were about two inches nearer their plates than normal and they were eating way too fast. "Sorry!" said one when I corrected, "it's just really really good."

From Instagram...

A keeper! Whoot!

Swiss Chicken
(click here for printable recipe)

I doubled the recipe for my crew and those are the quantities below. The original recipe only served 4 however, if you're gonna go to the trouble of cooking, you really need to score some leftovers. BUT if you only need 4 servings, just use half of the quantity called for.

Here's what you'll need for 8 servings:

8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or if you're using the ginormous frozen kind, 1/2 of a breast will more than suffice. I usually cut those big pieces into three sections.)
8 slices of Swiss cheese
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 cup white cooking wine or chicken broth (I used cooking wine)
1 cup pre-seasoned croutons
1/2 cup butter, melted

Here's what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚. 
  2. Place chicken in a casserole/baking dish. Cover each piece with a slice of cheese.
  3. In a separate bowl stir together the soup and the wine/broth and pour it over the chicken and cheese. 
  4. Sprinkle the crushed croutons over the top evenly. Don't skimp on the croutons, they really add a nice taste to the final product. 
  5. Finally pour melted butter over everything. {Note: we poured butter over one half of our dish and left the other half butter-less. There was a small difference in taste, but not enough to notice if you want to opt for a lighter version.} 
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, being careful not to over cook the chicken. 
We enjoyed our Swiss Chicken with steamed broccoli and wild rice.

Happy cooking!
Original recipe from At Our Table by Roxie Kelley

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table."

~Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Smartest One

"Hey Molly," I said on my way to the coffee maker, "I'll get you started on school in just a second but first, I've got to get something started for me!"

"COFFEE!!" she shouted.

"That's EXACTLY what I was talkin' about!" said I, smiling both at her and at the wonderful scent of the coffee dripping into my cup.

"Of course it was," she bantered back, "you KNOW I'm the smartest one around here. 
Five year olds are very smart."

Smart, yes...but NOT very humble!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Anyway and Even Though

"I want you to sing at my funeral,"  she said. We were in her kitchen after a family funeral where I had been asked to sing. I agreed readily, honored that she'd asked.

I agreed readily because its easy to say yes to a woman whose eyes sparked often with humor, whose cheeks were full of color, whose hair wasn't even completely greyed, whose steps were quick and light and who had a regular early morning walking regime.

I couldn't picture a funeral in my Grandma's future back then so agreeing to sing was a simple matter.

She's such a part of all of us, in what kind of world would she not be present?

In the kind of world where time and sickness and decline had their way.

It's been nearly 18 years since Grandma requested a song of me and a few days ago the time came for me to sing it. The agreeing was so much easier than the doing.

Surprising sadness took hold of me that morning. We were, all of us, grieving more deeply than we expected I think, after Grandma's long illness. There was so much in the day for our hearts to take in.

The church was the same welcoming white church in the woods that it has been for all of my childhood Sundays when we attended while visiting my Grandma...

Then, in the choir loft, where my Grandma had sung many songs in her own time, her chair left empty, her robe hanging over it with a black tin bow in her honor....

Family and friends who had come from near and far to support us and to honor this dear lady of ours...

And too there was the added import of all of our family coming together as we hardly ever do anymore.

That day, our gathering had purpose.

We gathered in a back room before the service began, my cousins and our spouses and our children, then joined by our parents, all of us having said our final earthly farewells. Our missing of her at that moment was sharp. We filed back into the sanctuary and the pastor began...and very soon it was time to do what I'd been asked.

It was a simple hymn, one of my very favorites, one that held significance to our family.

It was not simple enough however, for as the introduction ended an I was to begin, I was suddenly thinking about my Grandma and green beans and ...I came in on a very very wrong note.

Not how I wanted things to go at allllllllll! I stopped and asked the pianist if we could begin again. She began with the introduction, but I began with the verse. Mercifully, she rescued me and said "Let me play the introduction then begin."

I followed her lead and off we went, song accomplished and duty done and comic relief provided to my grinning family.

Never in my life have I wanted to do so well and never in my life have I had such trouble. The funeral goers were kind afterward, telling me they enjoyed my part but I think secretly they were congratulating me for making it to the end of it with out totally falling from the platform!

My Ant Sab said she thought it was Divine intervention which lightened our sorrow for a moment. My Mom, "It really was the most beautiful I've ever heard you sing...I bet folks were so surprised that you really could sing after such a start."

True words.

My cousin hugged me later in the day and said, "I know you are going to spend a lot of time thinking about the beginning of that song, but you really did a good job after that."

Kindness, that.

After lots of thought and even more imagining, I think Grandma would have given me a pass for making an honest effort, I know she'd have grinned when I finished and would have given me a wink and a nod of approval even though it had been far from perfect.

She was like that. 
She always loved us...anyway and even though. sister has written a beautiful tribute to our Grandma with words I cannot begin to match and which perfectly captures her place in my sister's life and in the lives of all of her family. Click here to read it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Group Effort

We were attempting to chat about a new cd my Man had just purchased for me but we couldn't hear over the bass thumping through the much as bass can thump out of minivan speakers. The volume was turned up because the kids in the back seat were contributing quite a bit of volume of their own.

Our day, the last before school was to begin, had been a typical jaunt into the next few burgs away to secure some shoes, some books, and some Sonic. One of the kids had visited the bathroom of EVERY establishment we'd entered. Another child nearly escaped getting hit by a car in the chick fil a parking lot, the same child who would later have to be removed very quickly from the very back seat of the van due to excessive gagging which often leads to a more tangible evidence of motion sickness.

The remaining two kids spent much of the car ride uncharacteristically exchanging snarky remarks. Then there were the constant squabbles over feet poking through seat backs and baby dolls taking up too much room and How much longer? and I am really hungry. and Can I have this? and I really really neeeeeed that.

The day that was to have been refreshing and relaxing had instead proven stale and stressful.

Screaming from the back seat caused me to snap the radio's volume down and toss a steamy glare into the back seat, "Can't you guys hear that your Dad and I are having a conversation?!?!?"

"NO," said the screamer, "the radio is up way too loud!"

My Man took the reigns...

"You guys have just about shot my and your mother's LAST nerve!"

"Well," said the deepest voice in the back, "it has been a group effort."

Indeed it had.

The GROUP... on a happier day!

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