Saturday, March 24, 2012

Goodbye Grandpa

LB and I took an unexpected trip up north this week.  My grandfather passed away at the age of 89 on March 18th.

He was an Irishman through and through and it was fitting that he got to spend one last St. Patrick's Day on earth before getting to meet the guy himself in heaven.  He was born in Northern Michigan and after spending his youth on the farm, served in the military during WWII and worked in Chicago until he retired back up north with my grandma in the late 80's. 

He built his own retirement home in MI and I remember helping him build it as kids.  I think I would've been about 8, and as I look back, I kinda wonder at the wisdom of giving me a hammer...... 

My grandfather reminds me of no one so much as my younger sister, #8.  He was quiet most of the time, but every now and then he would say something so profound or funny that it would make you wonder what was going on behind the quiet surface.  I have fond memories of a quiet, gentle and kind grandpa who enjoyed reading the paper, always carried his reading glasses in his front shirt pocket and liked nothing more than walking around his garden with his hands behind his back planning the plants he would plant or surveying his work. 

He was the perfect balance to my outgoing grandmother.  The quiet to her boisterous, the stillness to her busyness.  They were married 60 years and watching my grandmother as we laid him to rest, I couldn't help but be awed by the magnitude of such a long life together.  The fruit of their lives together stood all around her wheelchair as we bid him a final farewell. 

As a veteran, the honor guard was on hand to play one last farewell and sound off with a gun salute.  It was hauntingly beautiful when the bugles played.  One sounded from a distance against the rest and it was as if Grandpa's bugle was sounding from far off on his journey home.  When my grandmother was presented with the American flag, tears I thought I had finished crying sprung up at the finality of such a presentation.

The blessings in such a hard parting did not go unnoticed.  My grandfather was in failing health for several years and when he passed it was peacefully and painlessly in his sleep.  He had two of his children by his side and all of his children and grandchildren at his burial.

The gathering at the funeral and burial was mostly family, but the fruit of their marriage was impressive.  My mother has 4 siblings, who were all in attendance with their children and the spouses who could be there.  All of my eight siblings and I were there, as well.  I felt wrapped in family as we mourned together and I hope Grandma had that same sensation. 

Even though it was difficult, it was amazing to see all my brothers and sisters.  I know I've talked before about how much I enjoy them, but there's just nothing that compares to having us all together.  There was laughter in the midst of tears and joy in youth as we celebrated a long life well lived.  As I mentioned, my second to youngest sister reminds me so much of Grandpa - the joy of big families is seeing those personalities carry on and help keep our departed close in our hearts. We will still miss him, and it'll be hard when we go to MI for our family reunion and he's not there this summer, but I'm trying to remember the beauty of a life well-lived and the rewards that are waiting for him.

Rest in peace Grandpa.  May the journey home be swift and the gardens of heaven ready for your inspection.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Macaroni Experiments - Part 1

A friend of mine recently had her fourth child.  As I've mentioned in past posts, one of the great and nurturing things about the homeschool community I belong to is the bringing of meals to families experiencing a new arrival, an illness or even death in the family.  This act of service to each other is important to me and I try to get meals to everyone I can who comes across our listserv as in need of something from the heart and kitchen.

I've also been following pinterest rather a lot and feel like I can only justify this with actually doing and using the things I find on there.

So, I found a baked macaroni and cheese recipe.  Being Lent, I thought this would be a great time to try out a meatless meal for my friend.  Here's the link to the recipe I started with:  Baked Mac and Cheese.

I made a few changes to the recipe - and will make a few more next time I make it (hence the Part 1 in the title).

First, I used a 32oz box of macaroni.

Next, I didn't want to get a canning jar lid dirty in the process of making the mac and cheese, since they're disposable and it's not canning season yet - so they're not readily replaceable in the stores right now.

So, I used my Ninja (I could do a whole blog on how much I love my Ninja). Varying from the recipe, I also used a 16 oz container of sour cream and about double the flour and milk it called for (since I had 4x times the noodles).

My Ninja did a great job blending the ingredients together.

Enter the cheese and noodles:

Obviously, with 4x the noodles and much more sauce, I probably should have used more than 48 oz of cheese, again, experiments aren't always perfect - this is just part 1! 

It made enough for 2 giant casseroles.

I didn't have any store-bought bread crumbs, so I took my first whack at homemade bread crumbs.....I used whole wheat bread and will probably never buy bread crumbs again!  It was just bread dried in the toaster and - again - some Ninja action!

A thing of beauty may be a joy long as it's not edible.  I drizzled butter over the top per the recipe and then tasted it straight from the oven.  I promptly boxed up half this casserole and gave it to my brother and s-i-l who aren't eating meat this Lent because I was worried I would single-handedly eat the entire pan otherwise!

I also made some knot rolls to go with the casserole:

Because pre-made biscuits were just too easy to pass up.....

Rolled them out like a log of play-dough and twisted them into knots.  After baking, I brushed them with butter and Parmesan cheese....any herbs/seasonings you like would be just as great.

So, as I mentioned, this posting is only Part 1.  This is because I've been thinking about that mac and cheese and how I could improve on it basically since I finished eating it.

My hubby has a birthday party coming up.  It's a hot dog roast where everyone is bringing a side dish.  I usually provide the hot dogs and their accessories, pop and one or two sides to get these kinds of parties rolling at our place.  In addition to the standard couple bags of chips, I'll be making mac and cheese.

I'll be sure to post my refined recipe, but here's what I'm thinking so you have something to look forward to:

Keep the sour cream, add grated onions, increase liquid content slightly, layer in provolone and muenster cheese slices in addition to the cheddar......try not to get sick eating too much!

It's going to be epic.  If you can't wait for the finished recipe, try out the link in the meantime - it'll get you by until the party in a couple weeks when I can post the recipe.....or if you're lucky enough to know where I live, stop by and have a bite :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Little Photographer

LB loves to take pictures....some of them look good, others are part of the learning curve :)

This week, she took some pictures and I took some of her.  We had a great time goofing around.

Posing with the belly (27 weeks)

Of course you should turn spaghetti into a mustache...

She's got her own style!

Cheesing it up

7 months pregnant

Crazy faces

Like mother, like daughter!

One of the wonderful things about our homeschool community is that we bring each other meals on occasion to help each other (birth of a child, family illness, etc).  One of my friends has recently had her fourth daughter and tomorrow I'll be making a meal to bring to her. 

I found a couple good recipes on Pinterest and with some slight modifications, I'm going to make them for their dinner (and a little extra for ours!).  I'll be sure to take some pictures of the modified recipes to share.

Our zoo opened yesterday and we went with a friend to check out all the new animals that were born over the winter.  Look for those pictures soon......

The pregnancy continues to be uneventful (praise God!), but I do have the dreaded glucose screening today.  I don't anticipate a problem, just gotta get it done.

Looking forward to all the warm days ahead and 84ish days till baby!