Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a difference a day makes......

Today marks 2 weeks.....and it's the last day of the year.  I guess there should be some irony in that somewhere.  Two weeks since mom left this world to be with dad and God.  My, my -- what a difference a day makes.  This post could get lengthy -- maybe it's just me trying to get it all "out of my system" -- if you read it -- thanks.  If not, that's okay, too.

It was no surprise to me that mom's health was declining.  Dennis and I had talked about it a couple of months ago that she was getting a lot worse.  I had even told a couple of my co-workers that I did not believe she would be here at Christmas.  Wish that was one premonition that hadn't come true.

I was at my desk on Monday the 15th of December.  A weird phone number came up on my cell phone -- I think from Ohio if I remember correctly.  Thinking it was some telemarketer, I didn't answer.  But they left a message.  As I was listening and heard "This is Lifeline" our office phone was ringing -- they were calling me at work.  Mom had fell and pushed her button.  I told them to go ahead and send out an ambulance, all the while they were telling me I could wait until someone got out there.  But I knew my mom.  She has never pushed her button before, even in times when later she would tell me she should have.  So if she pushed it -- she needed help and help now.  Here I am -- trying to drive home from Russellville at school time no less.  When I finally got there, she was already on the backboard getting ready to be loaded into the ambulance.  I had called Glenda -- she and Bill were on their way to Florida.  She gave me some of the greatest advice -- call and leave a message on your mom's answering machine.  She will know you are coming!  I am so glad I did that.  Mom told me that she heard me and knew help was on the way.

A broken hip -- that seems to be the worst diagnosis an elderly person can ever get.  Surgery would be scheduled the next day.  Mom was in a semi-private room in Russellville.  And so at first, I was going to go home and spend the night, come back early on Tuesday.  But for some reason, I thought I should stay.  I told mom I would go home and change clothes and be back -- she didn't argue -- first clue something was wrong.

A pretty uneventful night -- I didn't sleep but she and her roommate did -- lots of snoring between those two!  But oh, what a beautiful sound!  When she got up the next morning, she wasn't concerned about herself.  She was concerned because Whit would graduate from Arkansas Tech on Saturday and she wouldn't get to go.  She was concerned because her hair appointment was Friday with Pam and she wouldn't get to go. 

As the day progressed, her condition deteriorated.  She had so many health conditions fighting against her and her little body just couldn't take anymore.  Decisions were made that night that I am still trying to come to terms with.  For anyone who could ever say how easy it is to make the decision to "let someone go" -- well -- I'm wired differently than a lot of people I suppose.  It was, and it still, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.  I still question was it right -- was it the right time?? I believe in God -- I believe in miracles.  If I believe God can take me to heaven, how do I convince myself that mom couldn't have had her own miracle????  Oh well, it's probably just my view -- and I don't know how to get over that part.

Her funeral was beautiful.  Lots of flowers, lots of people, great food prepared by our church family.  One of her quilts proudly displayed.  Her jewelry on all the right fingers (trust me -- that was a harder task than we thought it would be!)  She was serenaded by the Johnson Family - a music heritage that she belonged to.  We played a couple of songs from their album and a song that was played at my dad's service that she loved.  Rev. Earl Stapleton, a former pastor and friend to mom and dad had such beautiful words to say.  And then our former pastor, Rev Jamie Burris who my mom thought was the best person to ever preach a funeral did amazing.  He asked us for stories or things that he could include so it would be personal.  I loved that.  As most know, mom had a great LOVE for shopping.  So one of my favorite parts of the message was when he said something along of the lines of mom already talking to Mary, Martha, maybe Esther asking "Where do you guys shop?"  Perfection!

I am so thankful for a couple of weekends before she died.  I called her on a Friday night to see if she would be up for a trip to Ft. Smith shopping.  She really wasn't "up" for it, but she wasn't going to pass on the trip either.  Jessica and Whitney went with us and we had the best day.  We laughed, we shopped, we ate -- what we all love to do (well the girls do -- I'm the driver LOL) She picked out a dress at Dillards.  it was beautiful.  She didn't know then that the tags would not be removed until I took it to the funeral home.  She looked beautiful in it.  We had stopped at A to Z and picked out a spray for dad's grave for Christmas on the way home.  It looks beautiful on the headstone for the both of them now.

On Sunday the 14th, something strange happened.  Whit was at the house when we got home from church.  "Let's go out to eat," she said.  With us going to different churches and everyone being so busy, the 6 of us (Greg and Jess, Whit and Jeremy and me and Dennis) going out to eat is few and far between -- especially on a Sunday!  I was changing clothes so Dennis called mom to see if she wanted to go -- we didn't go many places that we didn't ask her to go LOL  At first she said no, but then when she realized the kids would be there, she said yes.  I am so thankful that there were 7 at that table that day!  A moment I will treasure.

Her house looks so quite now.  Dennis or I one would always look outside before we went to bed to see if she was still up or in bed.  I still look every night.  I always checked to see if she was up on my way to work.  I still look that way.  I have picked up the phone to call her several times.  I'm thankful I found a couple of voicemail messages she left on my cell phone -- those will not be erased.

I know that time will heal wounds, but right now, the wound is very deep and it hurts so bad.  Dennis' parents are both gone, and now, so are mine.  As we have talked -- we feel like orphans.  I know there are plenty of aunts and uncles who will step in to try to feel the void as best they can -- and we SO appreciate that -- we love them all.  But we also know it will never be the same.

So now, one year closes and a new year starts -- wow what a difference a day makes.  I am still very much in the "one foot in front of the other" mode.  We will continue to live, we will try to smile and eventually, hopefully, find some peace.  I'm so thankful for what my mother taught me -- to love, to respect, to laugh, to smile.   She taught me how to be a good wife, a GREAT mother (ask my kids LOL) and one day, if I take after her, I will be the BEST GRANDMOTHER in the world!

Thank you mom for all you did for me and for just being my mom!  I love you!

Jannie Lou

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My new toy!

Dennis and I have crossed over into the EGGhead world!!

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to help put together the first EGG'N in the Valley event for the shelter.  We had some awesome cooking teams come from all over to cook on the Big Green Egg.  I was so nervous -- had no idea what to expect in the way of the crowd, what our teams expected, what our craft booth people expected, how the entertainment would turn out, and most importantly (for the shelter) how much money we could raise since this will be a continuing major fundraiser.  Yep..... I'm a worrier.  I must say, I came close to a nervous breakdown a time or two. 

But in the end, all I can say is WOW!!!!  Talk about some amazing cooking teams!!  I had food that included a breakfast casserole, bacon wrapped watermelon rind (and it was delish!), stuffed peppers, meatloaf/potatoes, apple pie.... and the list goes on and on.  Our cooking teams were on fire (or smokin' hot, as our t-shirts say LOL)  All this time, I was so worried for myself about what I could do for them, and in return, they showed me what they could do for me.  They showed up and showed out for our event (and I mean that in the best way possible!!!)  Talk about some amazing dishes, some of the friendliest people I have EVER met and just made our event the best it could possibly be! Our entertainment was phenomenal, the arts and crafts booths were fully stocked and enjoyed by all.

During this journey, we had to pre-sell these things called EGGs.  I had no idea what an EGG was -- it was a board member who come up with this idea since she has one and has been to an EGGfest before.  It was a first not only for Russellville, but for the great state of Arkansas as well.  So being the good executive director that I am (HA!) if we were going to sell these EGGs, I thought it was part of my responsibility to purchase one.   The more I got to reading about them and the more researching I did, I became more intrigued, to say the least.  And then, the big day happened.   Seeing all these grills going out there just made me that much more excited about purchasing one. 

So now, it's sitting at my house, just waiting to be fired up.  The decision is being made....what to cook first....and second....and third....and how am I going to convince Dino that we need to build a deck around it....oh and we need the Mini for the camper.....  Welp, they say a way to a man's heart is through his stomach.....guess I got that covered now LOL  I can already tell he's going to enjoy it as much as me.  I will posting more about my new grill and hopefully some wonderful food pics and recipes!

God Bless,

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mom's Chocolate Pie

I am very fortunate that my mom is an excellent cook!  My dad was also a very good cook!  I wonder why that gene didn't get passed down to me??  Oh, well, I do love to try so today I thought I would try one of mine and dad's favorites -- Mom's chocolate pie!!  And it's been a while since I have blogged about cooking anything -- it seems like every time I start to blog, something happens.  We live in a busy world, I guess.  But today, I have the house to myself (well me and Daisy -- we're grand dog sitting this weekend LOL) so my mixer was happy to see me :) 

Now, in starting with the pie, you have to start with a pie crust, right?  My mom always made hers, but of course, I took the easy way out and bought a pie crust.  I did have to put it in the oven and cook it, so does that it make it at least a little homemade??? LOL

So however you chose, cook your pie crust according to directions.

Now we need to start with the filling.  First we need to separate the eggs.  I'm sure my mom would separate using the shells, but I chose to use my trusty egg separator apparatus LOL  Whoever invented this jewel of an kitchen accessory should be put on a pedestal LOL 

So take 4 eggs and separate the egg whites and the yolks.

Now I have this one pot that is the only one that I will use to make pies.  It is really heavy duty and I don't have to worry about stuff sticking as much.  That's a good thing :) 

After you have the eggs separated, beat your yolks and then add 1 1/2 cups of milk.

Now for the dry ingredients:
Mix together a 1 1/2 sugar along with about 3 heaping tablespoons of flour.  Mix together and then add about 3 heaping tablespoons of Hershey's cocoa.

Now another thing about my mother is she never measured anything!!  That I did inherit that from her.  So when I say about -- well I just kind of guess.  If you stump your toe and add a little more, it's okay.  Just be careful with the cocoa -- too much will make it bitter.

Now for the cooking stage:

Cook your milk/egg mixture on medium high.  Once it starts getting hot, you will want to stir it very often or continually.  Once it starts to boil, add the dry mixture.

Now it is important to continually stir -- no one wants burnt chocolate and it will stick very, very quickly!  I didn't keep up with the time, but I would say I probably cooked this at least 5 - 8 minutes. Just remember -- KEEP STIRRING!! :)  It will start to thicken up -- my rule is when I can pick the spoon up and it's really slow falling off the spoon, it's ready.  But hey, if you take it off too soon and it doesn't set up -- just eat it with a spoon!  I won't tell...

Now pour it into your prepared shell.
And now......the hard part for me.......the meringue.....

I have a love/hate relationship with meringue.  Sometimes it works for me....sometimes it doesn't.  I think today was a good day.

So make sure that your egg whites are at room temperature before you start whipping them up.  I think where I have messed up before is that I don't have the patience to wait on it to get done.  So I took my time today :)  I started beating the eggs on a medium speed.
Oh, and add a little bit of cream of tarter, too... about forgot that step.  I just added about a 1/4 tsp.  Beat until they are soft and well mixed.

Now we have to add the sugar -- the general rule is 2 TBS sugar to each egg -- so 4 eggs -- 8 tablespoons of sugar.  The trick is to add the sugar SLOWLY!  Don't get in a hurry.  You want the sugar to completely dissolve.  Beat with your mixer until stiff peaks form.  Then spoon the meringue on top of your pie filling.  Make sure to close all the edges.
Put it in the oven just to brown the meringue.
And then here you go!!!

At least it looks somewhat pretty LOL  It sure tastes like mom's and according to my brother-in-law, it tastes like his mom's did too!!  So that makes it a doubly good recipe.  Every family gathering, I try to make one for Dennis and his brothers since their mom is watching over them in Heaven.  I think her and my dad would be pretty proud of this pie!! 

Happy cooking!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nella's Chicken

So I'm not too good to admit that I love to use other people's recipes.  I have a friend/co-worker, LaNell Thompson, who is a great cook.  A few weeks ago, we were all tired at the office of fast food and decided we wanted some good "home cookin'" -- so LaNell to the rescue.  She decided to make us some of her baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and biscuits.  It was so good and so easy.  So I asked her if I could share her recipe on my blog and luckily for you, she said yes :)  And luckily for me, I get to use my new casserole dish that I got for Christmas and have never used.  Isn't it pretty??

So our list of characters includes:
Chicken breasts
Seasoning (I used Cavenders, Kosher salt)

In a skillet over medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, sear the seasoned chicken on both sides.  Oh, and don't tell Dino I used olive oil -- he hates it!  I'm not sure why.  So I cook with it and he never even knows LOL  Once you sear your chicken, remove it and put it aside.

Then in a bowl, I mixed together a can of cream of chicken and a can of cream of mushroom.  LaNell says you can use mixed, or one of the same kind -- just take your pick.  I almost grabbed cream of celery instead of cream of mushroom.  That could have been good too!  LOL   I also dissolved a chicken bouillon cube in a cup of boiling water and mixed that in with my soup mixture.

Then I placed my chicken breasts in my casserole dish.  Don't they look delish??

And of my favorite parts!  I get to use my Rada knife and cutting board.  I absolutely LOVE my Rada cutlery.  And did you know that the shelter has an ongoing Rada fundraiser??  I'll provide the link to our site at the end of this blog.

Quarter up an onion -- I'm not an onion fan, so I used a small one.  And then cut up some peppers.  Something about the colored ones -- they are so pretty and makes the dish a little "fancier" looking, don't you think??
I didn't use all of them -- just a dab of each.  But not to worry -- I finished cutting up the rest and put in separate freezer bags so now, if I don't have fresh peppers, I can just go to my freezer.  Not as good as fresh, but it will do in a pinch...

So I placed my onions and peppers all around the chicken and poured the soup mixture on top of it. 

Cover with foil and bake 1 - 1/2 hours (depending on thickness of chicken) in a 350 degree oven. 

And then........voila!!!
Use some of the liquid to use a gravy over mashed potatoes or serve over a bed of rice.  Yummy!!!

And because we love cheese, I shredded some mild cheddar on top of my piece. 

Very tasty and super easy!  Thanks LaNell for a great Saturday lunch!!

Happy cooking!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's a candy making kind of day!

For those that don't know me very well, I LOVE to be in my kitchen.  I'm not a good cook and certainly don't claim to be, but I do love to try.  When Dino and I got married, I knew that one of his favorite things that his mom made was peanut patties.  You know, that's that soft round red candy patty that at the convenience stores sets usually right next to the counter.  Anyway, it is something that I never did really eat growing up, but he loved his moms.  So I made the decision to try to master them.  It's usually hit or miss -- I seem to always want to make them when the humidity is high.  And I have never really found out why, but if humidity is high, can't just won't set up.  So this morning when I got up, I decided that I would try it today and see how they turned out. 

So here we go -- here is the cast of characters:
You're going to start with butter (and use the real stuff), red food coloring, peanuts, vanilla flavoring (I use imitation and it works fine), baking soda, Karo Syrup, Sugar and you'll need water, too.

Start by using a heavy sauce pan.  Mix your sugar, syrup and water together and bring it to a boil on a medium high heat.

After you bring it to a boil, mix in a bag of peanuts and let it continue to boil.  And notice my wooden spoon?  I have no idea why, but I always use a wooden spoon.  Come to think of it, I use a wooden spoon a lot of the time when I cook.  I think I need to go buy more! :) 
While your peanuts are on the stove, take a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet and butter it up.  And now we wait -- let your peanut mixture cook to a soft ball cooking stage.
Now, I typically use a candy thermometer when making candy, but once you make it a few times, you can usually tell by looking when it's ready.  Cook it to softball stage which is about 240 degrees.  Once you reach that, remove it from the heat.  Add in the butter, vanilla, baking soda and red food coloring.  And by the way, I kind of stumped my toe when I put the food coloring in.  I normally wouldn't put that much.

Now the hard part begins.  You have to beat it all together.  Beat and beat and beat and beat.  The more you stir, the harder it's going to get stir.  That's a good sign.  You'll know when it's close to being ready because you will beat the glaze off the top and it will start being kind of stringy.  Don't know how else to describe that.  Guess I should have made a picture.  I didn't time it, but I probably stirred this a good 5 or 6 minutes.  When one arm gets tired, just switch to the other one and keep stirring LOL
Once you get to the point to where your arms won't move anymore, then pour it out onto your buttered pan.  It will probably be a little bit hard to spread out, but that's okay.    Let them cool and then break them into smaller pieces.
And if everything goes as planned, this is what you end up with.  Like I said, I added a little bit too much food coloring, so my patties didn't turn out quite a pink as I would like.  But it doesn't affect the taste. 

So thanks to my mother-in-law, Peggy Condley, for one of the best recipes she left for me to make for Dino.

Here is the receipe:

Mix together
2 cups sugar
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. white karo

Bring water/sugar/karo to a boil then pour in 3 cups of peanuts.  Cook until it forms a soft ball (about 240 degrees).  Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 3 or 4 drops of red food coloring and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.  Stir until the butter is melted and beat until it looses it gloss and becomes a little sticky.  Pour into a buttered sheet.  Let it cool and then break apart into smaller pieces.

God Bless,


Monday, January 27, 2014

It's a very important day!

January 28th, 1989 -- seems like an eternity ago!!  I was pregnant.  I was huge.  And I was ready to meet this little bundle of joy.  I was 2 weeks overdue (luckily, I don't think that happens much anymore LOL)  I loved walking into a friend at Walmart them asking, "When are you due?"  My reply caught them off guard!  "Ten days ago."  It was like I shouldn't have even been up walking around or something.  But for me, sitting down and waiting on a baby that I was beginning to think would never arrive was just something I couldn't do. 

It was business as usual -- well that is until January 27th, 1989.  See my husband Dennis (or Dino as more affectionately called) has a best friend named Richard.  Richard and Mandy were pregnant too!  Mandy and I shared our pregnancy together and just knew that our kids would the best of friends.  She was due after me.....but of course, God had other plans.

On the morning of January 27th, I got a call AT WORK (remember I said I couldn't sit and wait) and was told that Mandy was having her baby today.  I must admit -- I was upset, sad, mad, jealous -- I think I went through the whole range of emotions.  She wasn't due yet, and I was 2 weeks late.  It just wasn't fair.

Luckily for me, I had a lady at our church that worked in labor and delivery.  I called her crying like a baby myself.  It wasn't fair!!  I was supposed to go first.  She called me back in a little while to tell me that Mandy was the only person on the floor that day and that my doctor was laid up in the hospital himself.  He was going to have an emergency surgery on his knee, and to top it off, it was the weekend.  She asked me if I was having any pains, which of course I had been having for weeks -- false labor.  She told me to just go on down to the hospital with pain (which wasn't a lie) and see if they would just induce me.

So I called Dennis at work, told him he had to leave and come by my office and take me to the hospital.  He thought I was joking -- "you're at work, but now we're going to the hospital"  yeah, it sounds funny coming out of my head, too.  But he came, and we went.

I got there a little after noon.  About 7:30 or so, labor was induced and we were well on our way to having a baby.  Now, remember I told you that Richard and Mandy were there, too??   They had had their baby that morning -- a girl named Kristen Taylor or K.T.  Well, the guys thought how great would it be if our babies were born on the same day.  So I was "encouraged" to hurry up before midnight.  Sadly, it didn't happen.  Just after midnight, Dennis and I welcomed a beautiful baby boy, full of black hair and screaming lungs into the world.  He was named Gregory Thomas.  Gregory because that's Dino's middle name and Thomas -- well, it just went together :)

I was wheeled into my room -- one that I Mandy and I shared.  She was still pretty sedated from her C-section, but we laughed all night because she said she could hear me screaming down the hallway (I was just a couple of doors down) and she kept covering up her head.  And I was STARVING!!  Back then, there were only a couple of places that were open that late at night, with Old South being one of them.  Dennis' dad went out and got me a burger at 2:00 in the morning.  Best burger I had ever had!  Finally, sleep and rest would come.....for a while anyway.

The next day, Mandy and I compared babies, talked about their future, wondered if they would like each other, ever date, ever marry -- so many questions about the future.  Luckily for us, Dino and Richard enjoyed holding the babies as much as we did.  That night, they shared their first Razorback basketball game -- in the same room being held by their dads.  I have a picture of that somewhere I have got to find for the kids.  And my dad, who always laughed and had fun in everything he did, thought how funny it was that they spent their first night together.

After that, they seemed to be inseparable and our lives were never the same -- never boring, full of laughter and tears. 

So happy birthday K. T. and Greg!!  

Dressing up for his first wedding.  Such a cutie-patootie!!

Best friends -- last day of high school

I look bad -- it was midnight LOL

Dennis' dad - grandson to carry on the family name.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New to blogging...

Well I'm going to try my hand at blogging.  I'm not a great writer, although I do it for a living...irony at it's best :)

I'm a pretty simple person.  I love my family, enjoy my job and love to cook and go camping.  I'm hoping that I can use this blog to share with my friends and family or anyone else who thinks I might have something fascinating to say :)

I'm hoping that most of my posts will be about my camping trips, my dishes from the kitchen and of course, bragging on my kids, kids-in-laws and granddogs.   I don't have any grandkids yet....but we're hopeful some day :)

So here is my family:   We have Dennis, me, our son Gregory, daughter-in-law Jessica, daughter Whitney and son-in-law Jeremy.  We are one big happy family! 
Well, I hope to start posting more.  Thanks for taking the time to read!!

God Bless,