Friday, December 19, 2014

December Daily 18 ~ Being Thankful & Being Conscious

Yesterday the doctors decided to put Grandpa Don on home hospice. Even though his condition has been bad for a while, that label hit all of us pretty hard. At first I was in a place where the cheery holiday songs where a hard discord to the reality of our life right now. Then I sort of had a talk with myself and decided that I needed an attitude adjustment. Being upset and unhappy was not helpful to any of us, especially me. Instead, I stepped back, took a few deep breaths and decided that I needed to find the positives in our situation. And so I find myself thankful. I find that this difficult emotional place has also given me some gifts. It is a gift to witness the kindness, the nurturing and the genuine love my two children exhibit for their grandfather. Each of them doing it in their own equally important ways. What a gift it is to be able to stand back and witness who they are as adults, separate from ourselves and the many strings we have attached to each other. What a gift it is to be able to be truly conscious of the time we have left to be with Don, to take in who he is, how he has enriched our lives and how parts of him will live on in each of us. What a gift it is to have a chance to have so many of our friends and his friends come forth with their own stories of thanks for how he has enriched their lives. What a gift it is to have a chance at having closure. I don't know if we are near the end, but either way I am thankful for all of those things and more.

I have also made a point of slowing down enough to notice the small joys that are easy to miss. I went to Whole Foods yesterday and was enveloped in the smell of Rosemary as I went by the displays of little Rosemary trees they well this time of year in the produce department. They stacked them in such a way as to make them look like a larger tree. The fragrance lingered as I picked up what I needed.

Outside the Allegro Coffee Company had its Flxbus parked out front. The festive crew was handing out free beverages and Christmas stockings they purchased to support a coop in Kenya. There cheer was genuine and warming both inside and out.


Perhaps you can find them in your area.



Once I was back home I made a nice, simple meal for Ethan. He was so exhausted from having been at the hospital until about 4 a.m. He just needed some time to relax and soak in some of the love you can only get at home. I made a lovely grilled cheese sandwich and paired it with really lovely tomato soup. I used a fresh sourdough boulle and cotswold cheese (similar to cheddar, but more smooth, embedded with chives). I also served up his favorite rootbeer. He was so hungry that he had two large sandwiches. Tummy satisfied, we watched a bit of television together befor he had to return home to Grandpa Don's house since he was going home.
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

December Daily 17 ~ A Little Bit of Color

Even though I still have wrapping to do, I took the evening to enjoy a less hurried pace and I worked on a necklace that I have been commissioned to create since it was really just the pets and I at home last night.

Ellie and Kohlton spent most of the evening with Don playing card games. It was a nice distraction from his pain, even if just for a short while. Later in the evening, at around 11:00 p.m. Ethan noticed that Don was experiencing more trouble, so off to the hospital they went. Grandpa Don stayed the night. Larr and Ethan stayed as long as they could. It is really beginning to take a toll on both of them, the lack of sleep and worry. I feel at a loss as to what I can do to help. I keep my head in the game and a smile on my face at work, but I am distracted and unable to focus on planning for next semester when I have time to do that right now. After Friday I will have more time. Who knows whether I can add anything of benefit, or if I can relieve some of the stress by taking some shifts. This end of life stuff is just so hard.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Daily 16 ~ Special (or at least fun) Delivery

It seems amazing to me that we are about a week out from Christmas. This month has flown by. Larr was home last night (most of the evenings he has spent his time with his father) and so we sat at the dinning room table and talked. I also addressed our Christmas cards. This year we actually have two different designs. I used to make them all by hand, but this year I knew I would not have time and Shutterfly had some amazing deals on cards right after Thanksgiving.
I had a blast making these fancy cards. They are full color, thick and lovely. I think they will be fun to receive.

I also ordered a set from Tinyprints, a sister company to Shutterfly. Many of their designs tend to be a bit more trendy or modern. I love this card, too. I am thinking about making a hand carved rubber stamp of the flourish image.They had an amazing deal, too. In fact, many of my gifts this year are coming from either Shutterfly or Tinyprints. I think those are fun things to receive.

It was nice to sit, talk and do a bit of fancy lettering. Surely these envelopes will bring a smile to those who receive them.

I also spent part of the evening cleaning and decorating Ellie's room. She usually decorates it right after Thanksgiving, but she had not done so. I think she was feeling overwhelmed by laundry. I wanted a little special Christmas cheer for her and this was just the ticket.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Daily 15 ~ Sweets and Spice and Everything Nice + Chicken Bellagio Recipes

Grandpa Don is home and settled in. We have hired a person to watch over him as he sleeps (or attempts to sleep) so that we can make sure he is okay all night. Unfortunately, the pain medication that he is on effects the part of the brain that reminds you to breathe. This way we can make sure he is as safe as he can be 24/7 and Ethan can get some rest.

My help was not needed, so I spent the evening with Ellie. She loved the Chicken Bellagio that she had at the Cheesecake Factory on Saturday, so we tried out a copy cat recipe. The Parmesan Chicken was wonderful, but the creamy pesto pasta was not exactly what we were looking for. I've included the recipe we tried out below, as well as another one that might have a better pasta recipe.

I also finished up the gifts that I am giving to the people on my team at school. I am giving them a Christmas Potpourri and a jar of Spiced Cherry Jam. I think the presentation of both is lovely and they were fun to make.

Thanks to Pinterest, I was also able to find some nice labels. Here and here are the chalkboard style labels that I used on the top of the jars (as well as coordinating gift wrap, too). Here are the tags that I used to label the jam and the labels for the Christmas Potpourri.

I also worked on the gifts that I am creating for the kids. I'd love to share them, but I cannot at this time, of course.

Tonight I think I will try to find time to create a necklace for a person who has asked me to do a custom job for her. I need to get it done in time for Christmas. It will be nice to shift gears for that project. Perhaps I will get to the Christmas cards, too.

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We tried this for dinner. The chicken was great, but the pasta with pesto cream sauce was just a little off.

Copycat Chicken Bellagio
via: Confessions of a Foodie Bride

A copycat recipe for the Cheesecake Factory's Chicken Bellagio. Make it at home and skimp on the calories, not the flavor.

Ingredients

For the pasta:
8 oz uncooked thin spaghetti
1/3 cup pesto
1/4 - 1/2 cup cream, optional*
For the chicken:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
1 cup panko
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt
Pepper
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
For the salad:
4 slices prosciutto
Your favorite dark salad greens (I had a baby spinach-kale mix on hand)
Olive oil
Lemon wedges
Parmesan
*I was looking to lighten the dish and didn't want anything as heavy as cream in the recipe. The restaurant obviously uses a cream-based sauce - so if you want to go big, stir in a bit of heavy cream.
Make Loaded Ranch Potato Skins for Gameday

Instructions

Bring water to boil in a large pot.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
Whisk egg with 1 Tbsp water and pour into a plate or small pan (I used an 8-inch sq baking dish).
Mix together the panko, Italian seasoning, a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and cheese in another plate or small pan (I used a dinner plate).
Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally and place in a large zipper bag (or between sheets of plastic wrap) and lightly pound a few times to even and thin them out (thin enough so that they cook quickly but not thin enough that you can see through them).
Add flour to the zipper bag and shake to coat the chicken.
Shake off the excess flour and dip the chicken into the egg mixture, flipping to coat.
Press the chicken into the panko mixture and flip and press again. Transfer to another plate or pan and set aside, repeat for the remaining 3 pieces of chicken.
Put the pasta into the boiling water at the same time you start the first two pieces of chicken in the frying pan.
Cook the chicken two pieces at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side, decreasing the heat a little if it browns too quickly.
Before draining the pasta, pull out ~1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
Drain the pasta and return to the pan with half of the pasta water and the pesto. Toss until a creamy sauce forms, adding additional pasta water, as necessary.
Divide the pasta between 4 plates and top with the chicken cutlets as they come out of the pan. Season with additional salt and pepper.
Top each piece of chicken with a slice of prosciutto.
In a medium bowl, toss 4 handfuls of salad greens with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of 2 lemon wedges, and a small handful of grated parmesan.
Divide between the 4 plates and enjoy. Without mascara. Pants also optional.

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Perhaps this one is worth trying for the pasta pesto cream recipe:

Chicken Bellagio ~ Cheesecake Factory
via: Oh So Deliciouso blog
Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Serving Size: 5-6 Adults

Pasta and Sauce
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1/2 C Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
5-6 Fresh Basil Leaves Minced
Juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 pkg. Spaghettini (thin spaghetti)

Chicken
3-4 Chicken Breast
1 C Flour
2 Eggs
1 C Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1 C Parmesan Cheese
Oil {Vegetable oil works great, but olive or grape seed oil is a nice alternative}
Garnish
Prosciutto at room temp.
Arugula Lettuce washed and dried (Pictured is baby Arugula)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Lemons
Instructions

Pasta and Sauce
Whisk heavy cream and garlic in sauce pan over medium-high heat until it begins to thicken.
Lower heat to medium-low careful not to scorch.
Add in Parmesan cheese and whisk til incorporated.
Add in basil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Whisk thoroughly and reduce to a low heat to keep warm. When ready to serve toss with Spaghettini that has been cooked at pkg directs.
Chicken
You will need 3 bowls. In first bowl place flour. The second whisk the eggs and third combine bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
If chicken is frozen, allow to thaw completely.
Butterfly the cutlets, or cut them in half by cutting through the middle of the meat so you have 2 thinner pieces.
Then place in a large sturdy zip-lock bag and with a meat mallet gently hammer chicken so that the piece is an even and thickness.
About this time, begin to heat your oil in a large skillet over medium -medium/high heat. You will want to fill your skillet about 3/4 inch deep with oil. You will know when ready if you flick a few drops of water on the oil and it crackles.
Take each piece of chicken and first coat them with flour, then dip in the egg, then last coat with bread crumb mixture. Do this to each piece.
Then place 2-3 pieces of chicken at a time in skillet. This will depend on how big your skillet is. Don't over crowd.
Allow to cook a few minutes, sides will start to turn a golden brown. Then flip and cook the other side. When finished remove and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Repeat with remaining pieces.
Assembly
To assemble this dish in true Cheesecake Factory Style..
Place generous serving of pasta in middle of plate.
Layer with two pieces of chicken side by side.
Ribbon 1-2 pieces of Prosciutto over top of chicken.
Then place a generous handful of arugula over prosciutto.
Drizzle a little evoo over arugula followed by juice of a lemon half.
Oh lovely lemons. Can't get enough!








Monday, December 15, 2014

December Daily 14 ~ Taking Care

Yesterday was a jumble of a day. Ethan and I had a nice breakfast together. I thought that we would have the entire day, but as we all know, plans often go awry. We all thought that Grandpa Don would stay in the hospital for a few days, but that was not the case. I spent a bit of the day doing some Christmas shopping for Grandpa Don. Some of my purchases were out of my usual realm, and so I tried to get advice from people I thought would have knowledge on the subject, but alas, I was unsuccessful at getting that advice. I had to go with my gut instinct.

I also started to prepare the small gifts that I will give to some of the people that I work with. I want to offer them lovely jars of Christmas Potpourri and containers of Spiced Cherry Jam. I am switching up the recipe for the Christmas Potpourri a bit. It contains an orange, Cranberries, some stick cinnamon, some whole cloves, ground nutmeg, star anise and small bits of juniper or pine. The sample that I am working from features a lovely presentation in a canning jar, of which I have many. However, my oranges will not fit in the jars like the ones I am inspired by, so I am thinking about cutting them up and putting them in a baggie in the jar. I could just layer them at the bottom, too.

In the afternoon it was announced that insurance would not allow for Don to be transferred to a skilled nursing home, so he would be discharged to home. Doug is in town, thankfully, so he went on Craigslist and purchased a hospital bed. Ethan borrowed a big truck and they got the bed taken care of. I cleaned up a bit. Larr arrived home with a very weary Don in the front seat. I wheeled out the wheelchair that Doug had gotten earlier in the day. I held it steady while Larr helped his father out of the car. Don cannot stand on his own right now so Larr had him put his arms around his neck while Larr maneuvered him gently as possible from the car seat to the wheelchair. All the while, Don cried and cringed as every movement causes new pains. The neighbors, Jill and Dustin, came over to help. Dustin and Larr managed to get Don and the chair up the two steps and into the house. While they got Don settled, I went to the pharmacy to pick up his medications. They are very controlled substances, so I had to wait for more than an hour for the paperwork to clear.

I had a chance to talk with Ethan about his role in caring for his grandfather. Ethan is newly 21 and he has a life to live. Being a full time care giver is very difficult. I told him that I am deeply proud of the young man that he is, that it warms my heart to see Ethan holding Grandpa's hand and helping him talk through the most difficult pains. I told him that we do not want him to feel like he has to do this for a long time, that he has a life to live. Ethan's reply was direct and honest. He said that he is living his life and that this is where he needs to be, that there is no other place he would rather be than with Grandpa. He says that helping him is his life's purpose for now, that he does not want anyone else taking care of Grandpa. He said this is his life, that he is not putting it on hold, he is embracing it fully.

I feel lucky to have such an opportunity to see the love, kindness and humanity that my son and daughter both exhibit. They are truly wonderful people.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Daily 13 ~ A Special Dinner

This weekend has been a tempered one. I've worked presents while Larr had to take Grandpa Don back to the hospital.I would have been with them, but too many people waiting in the emergency room waiting and observation rooms is not helpful.

In the evening Kohlton picked up Ellie to take her out to the Cheesecake Factory for a nice dinner.
We took a few photos together, too, Ellie and I.
With 12 days until Christmas, I am worried that I will not get everything done in time. Right now our focus is on hoping that Grandpa Don will stop being in pain.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

December Daily 12 ~ The Staff Christmas Party

After crazy week at school, we ended the work week with a staff party at the home of one of the administrators. It was a lot more fun that I had expected it to be. Our building is large and spread out. I don't even know the names of everyone on the staff. Last night I got to see a fun side of those who came out for the party.

We had an ugly sweater contest and some of the women in the Special Education department put in special efforts to have great, ugly sweaters. They made everyone laugh!
They took Steve under their wing and he took the grand prize, a stocking hanger with a photo of Deeble, one of the administrators. It is quite fun. I was amazed that Deeble was a good enough sport to allow that kind of silliness to happen.
We also did a white elephant gift exchange. The socks that I brought to the party were a hit and traded many times.

It was a great way to end the week. Here's a bit more fun, silly merriment for you: