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Contrasts

This past week has been one full of contrasts; of ups and downs, of highs and lows, of gains and losses.

It has given us both loss and love, grief and joy, sorrow and happiness; a death and a marriage.

After moving him into hospice this past Monday, my father-in-law, Charles Hollander passed away on Thursday June 5th, he was 81 years old. Although we were all well aware that this day was looming, expecting it and experiencing it are two different things.

Charles Hollander

Two days later, on Saturday June 7th, my stepson Steven and his lovely fiancée Eileen got married. It was a beautiful happy occasion.

SteveEileen-Cake

Contrasts

Although I often hide it, I am an emotional person (disclosure) there were tears, some at the most inopportune time (thankful for an empty ladies room). You see, mourning a loss and celebrating a union put me in great conflict and their collision, it turns out, was harder to take than I anticipated it would be.

Dad-1

My father-in-law was a loving and creative man who passed on his curiosity and inventive nature to both of his sons. He didn’t slow down until his body said otherwise. I have fond memories of family gatherings and working craft shows in New Paltz, NY…and pointing out “trac-toors” (winks at mother-in-law and husband). He will remain in my heart, always.

Although this week began on a sad note and was punctuated with the loss of a life, it ended with the beauty of a new life for two, joined at the heart. And it is my heart that both aches for dad and swells with joy for Steven and Eileen.

SteveEileen-Dance2

SteveEileen-Kiss

The newlyweds are now on their honeymoon in Hawaii and I hope they are having a wonderful time.

Despite the sad start to the week, for my husband and I, it ended on a happier note.

Us-Laugh

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You need to say the title with the appropriate accent. See, now it makes sense.

Tzimmes Ingredients

One of the traditional side dishes my mom always makes for Rosh Hashanah is Tzimmes. It’s also part of an expression she liked using when I was growing up, “what are you making such a tzimmes out of it!” In other words, what are you making such a fuss/project/big deal out of whatever “it” was at the time. I’m sure it was just me being overly dramatic…it’s a girl thing.

Basically tzimmes is a stew made from sweet root vegetables and dried fruit that is cooked down slowly in a sweet liquid until everything is tender and juicy. Traditionally (at least in my family), it is mostly of carrots, with some parsnip, prunes, raisins and dried apricots. The carrots, cut into rounds like coins, are supposed to represent good fortune.

Tzimmes Veg Stages

Me, not that I wouldn’t like some good fortune, I minimize the carrots because frankly I don’t care for them cooked. Blasphemy!

Raw yes, cooked, not so much. I’ve tweaked the recipe over the years and will no doubt continue to do so but for the most part I have subbed out most of the carrots with sweet potato, added apples, figs sautéed onions and some spices.

FruitCooking

The veggies and fruit cook in a sweet syrup made of brown sugar and honey. What could be bad? And like my honey cake, I use buckwheat honey in my tzimmes. You can use whatever you have on hand but trust me, this honey adds a richness to the flavor that only the dark rich maltiness of buckwheat honey can provide.

One of the best parts of this recipe is it can be made a day or two ahead and reheated. Just make sure you take it our of the refrigerator at least an hour before you plan to reheat it.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil of choice (I use either canola or safflower)
1 large onion cut into thin half rounds
3 not too thick parsnips, cut into rounds
2 large carrots, cut into rounds
1 large sweet potato cut into chunks
1 3/4 cups water, vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/4 cup buckwheat honey (or whatever you have on hand)
1 granny smith apple, pealed, cored and cut into chunks
2 1/2 ounces apricots
4 ounces prunes
4 ounces figs

Instructions
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
2. Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet, add the onions and sauté until they are translucent but not browned – approximately 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the carrots and parsnips and sauté about 3- 5 minutes.
4. Add the sweet potato and sauté for another 5 minutes.
5. Pour in the water or broth and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
6. Remove the veggies to the prepared casserole with a slotted spoon.
7. Add the brown sugar, honey, cinnamon, ginger and salt to the skillet and return to a boil.
8. Add the apple, apricots, prunes, figs and simmer until the liquid becomes slightly syrupy about 5 minutes.
9. Pour the fruit and liquid carefully over the veggies. Cover with foil and place in the over for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the the veggies are soft.

NOTE: To Reheat, cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven. if you would like to brown the top, for the last 10 minutes of cooking uncover it and sprinkle with a little additional brown sugar.

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RicPlayingBanjo

Today is my husband’s birthday and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love him. There are no words in the English language that can even come close. He holds my heart ever so gently in his warm comforting hands; he knows me like no other, sometimes I think even better than I know myself. He is always there to soothe my oft frazzled nerves, he’s there to lend a helping hand when I need it. He’s my enabler when it comes to my creative pursuits and enjoys (truly) joining me on that journey. He is my rock. He makes me swoon.

I am so incredibly proud of him and in awe of his amazing talents as a musician and an artist; he plays guitar and he builds guitars; he plays banjo (and trust me, you’ve never heard banjo music like this before…no “Beverly Hillbillies” around these parts), he repairs and restores instruments; he draws with both graphite and pixels. He’s been making beautiful music longer than I’ve been on this earth.

We met at work…the second time. I can’t really say that the first time we met we actually saw or spoke to each other but we were in the same place at the same time and as far as I’m concerned it was destiny. You see, when he was in high school he was in a band and among other far warmer places, they played at a local ice skating rink on Long Island. I grew up in Queens but every so often my friends and I would convince our parents to take us to that same rink for several hours of icy fun. I’m several years younger than my husband so we needed a chauffeur. I very clearly remember there being a band and watching them play as we skated. It was an unbelievable moment when we realized that it was his band that played there during that time period so many years ago. See, destiny.

I cannot begin to do his story or his journey justice so the best way I can introduce you to him is by sending you to this wonderful interview!

Do give it a read, oh and there are audio samples too!

Happy birthday honey, I love you with all my beans! XOXO

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Roses2

How do I explain how deep my love is for my husband? I can’t because there are no words strong enough, passionate enough to express the depth of my love for him.

Although we do celebrate, we don’t need Valentine’s Day to remind each other how we feel; we express our love every day though our actions and we say I love you many times throughout the day. Yes, we’re a little mushy and we are happy. Isn’t that all that really matters?

Happy Valentine’s Day honey, now and forever I love you.

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I can’t say I much liked 2011 and I’m not sorry to see it go. It started out on an up note but crashed and burned by the end. I’m hoping that 2012 will be an improvement although it’s off to a rocky start.

So much happened in 2011, it was kind of a mixed bag of good and bad but you know how it goes, the bad tends to stick in your mind.

Let’s start with the good: THIS BLOG! Yup I started my blog in February so my one year blogaversary is on the horizon. I’ve learned a lot not only about blogging and the community of bloggers I’ve grown friendly with but also about myself. You see I’m an intensely private person so just the thought of sharing my life in this way was a huge leap of faith for me. I don’t regret a thing.

Through my blog and other social media outlets like Twitter and Google+ I’ve met a host of wonderful people. I can honestly say that although I have not met most of them in person…yet, I count them as friends.

I’ve gotten involved in a few Twitter inspired group activities too. I’ve done all but one two of the #baketogether challenges organized by the amazingly talented Abby Dodge. I’m not really sure which was my favorite but the Fig-Honey Summer Fruit Cake Fig-Honey Glazed Summer Cake and the Pumpkin-Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake  Pumpkin-Chocolate Coffee Cake are pretty high on my list.

I’ve joined a group of bloggers for a monthly bloghop, each centered around either an ingredient or an item organized by Junia, mis pensamientos. My favorite is absolutely Grandma Bea’s Cookies: Grandma Bea's Cookies

I joined a group of knitters on Twitter, Jaala of @knitcircus, Kate aka @Knitsophrenic, Tanya aka @theindigomuse and Katie aka @Yarn_Love, in a delicious cookie swap…my first ever! The cookies were delicious and the bonus swag was way cool too.

I knitted my first actual garment this past spring, the Chiton Pullover: Chiton Pullover - WIP.
It has a cap-sleeve and a soft cowl neck. It’s knit in the round as one piece (yes, it’s done, sort of. I need to seam it up. Slacker). I also knit my first full-on lace shawl designed by ObliviousKnits who I had the awesome pleasure of meeting at Rhinebeck along with her hubby and super yarn dyer AtKnitsEnd. The shawl is just off the needles and must be blocked. A post on that to follow.

We’ve had a number of not so good moments as well. My father-in-law became very sick this year and was in and out of the hospital for many months. We feared we might lose him way too soon but luckily he was admitted to a study which literally saved his life. We’re all very thankful.

Things tend to pile on and cause quite a bit of stress. While my father-in-law was in the hospital, a feral cat decided to have kittens under our wood pile. Remember these cuties?
Kitty Pile
Well we’ve kept the ginger and black kitties, adopted one out (not pictured) and are looking for a home for the calico little girl. Don’t ask how in the middle of the hot summer we turned our lives upside down so we could bring these four babies out of the hot shed and into our house, in a dog crate and worked to socialize them. My dining room will never be the same.

Painful this one is: our sweet houndie girl Dassi has cancer; Dassi at Mom & Dad's

undifferentiated sarcoma to be exact. She’ll only be five January 12th and it’s just not fair. I don’t know how to explain it but there is something very special, very different about her from any other dog we’ve shared our lives with, even from her doggie mommy Irene who is also a member of our family. She’s tuned in in a way that I cannot put to words; she’s a cuddle bunny, sweet as sugar and an joy beyond belief. She’s had surgery to remove a badly inflamed lymph node and is now being treated with both Western and Eastern techniques in the hope of prolonging her quality life. We’d been down this road before with another dog, Betsy, who had lymphoma. (Despite it’s location this is not the case with Dassi.) That time it went bad quickly…three months. Eerily though, both dogs became ill around Thanksgiving; I don’t like this kind of coincidence. Hopefully Dassi won’t suffer the same fate that Betsy did; I can’t bear it.

Some more personal stressful moments I’m not prepared to share (intensely private, remember?), a hurricane which forced us to have two trees taken down, a couple of funerals later and 2011 is finally over! As Tanya has said, we “kicked 2011 in the taco”!

So you can see there is no love lost for 2011. But, my father-in-law is, thankfully, doing great and in fact we just celebrated his birthday this past weekend (I made an awesome cake, stay tuned for that recipe, yum!). The kittens are quite well adjusted, they are happy and healthy and like to snuggle with both hounds. We’ll be continuing Dassi’s dual treatments for a good part of this year and I’m hopeful for a positive outcome.

Life goes on.

I am looking forward to a lot more knitting, challenging myself with new techniques and types of projects. I see socks in my future and definitely more lace.

I am also looking forward to the upcoming #baketogether challenges and new love bloghop ingredients/topics to experiment with. I need to blog more about savory items…been doing a lot of sweets lately and my butt is suffering.

I also plan to make some significant changes to my blog this year but first I must do my homework. More on that when the time comes.

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There are so many ways to celebrate Mother’s Day. This year we went to visit my parents who live about three hours away, without traffic. It was a lovely visit, we stayed over and had dinner at a restaurant she favors. We then intended to spend the day at my in-law’s on Sunday celebrating with my mother-in-law…best laid plans. Unfortunately my father-in-law got sick and was contagious, so the visit was cancelled…sort of.

Sometimes we can be very silly:

Gas Masks on Mother's Day

My mother-in-law shot this through the glass door. Come on, don’t you greet your mom this way? 🙂

There are those of us who don’t have kids of our own but in every sense of the word are still mothers. What is a mother anyway? To me, a mother is someone who nurtures and teaches, who cares for, who supports and encourages, who loves unconditionally. A mother is someone who shows her love in many ways, she provides a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. She shows her love in ways that are hers and hers alone. A mother is chicken soup and warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven; she’s that favorite meal that no one else much enjoys made just for you.

My husband has two wonderful, adult sons. I’ve watched them grow and mature from pre-teen, to adulthood and I am very proud of them.

One is a mechanical engineer, married to a wonderful woman (you’ve also seen them here)…
Adam, Natallie, Lucky

and the other is a NYC police officer with a sweet girlfriend who loves to crochet.
Steve Ilene Graduation

When the boys were younger, they’d stay over each weekend and we’d watch movies, go on hikes, do homework, play video games. I’d cook meals for them, I’d bake for them, I’d help them and encourage them in their daily lives and I have fallen in love with them. I care for them, about them as if they were my own and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. They are my step-sons and they make me a mom.

I have two sweet, loving and gentle basset hounds, they are my babies; my girls. This is Dassi, our little princess…and she knows it.
Dassi at Mom & Dad's  Dassi in the Common Area
Way too smart for her own good, she came into our lives almost four and a half years ago. What an absolute loving joy she is, a real “kissy-bug”.

This is her doggy mommy, Irene who we adopted from the breeder about 2 years later.
Irene at Mom & Dad's   Irene in the Common Area

It’s amazing to see how similar and yet entirely different their personalities are. Irene is just a big mush of love. Much quieter than her feisty red-headed daughter, but tells it like it is when she has something to say.

These are my girls and they make me a mom.

And this is my grand-puppy Lucky; he’s a European Golden Retriever.
Grandpuppy

My husband, who works from home, babysits him during the day for one of my stepsons so he’s not home alone. Lucky, Irene and Dassi have bonded, they are a pack…we are a pack. Lucky and Dassi will play (I kinda think he has eyes for her) and Irene will supervise. If Lucky gets too rough Irene will scold him…he stops. Once a mom…

These are my children and I love them and care for them unconditionally. I am a mom.

A very Happy Mother’s Day to ALL mom’s out there.

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