Tag Archives: relationships

Grilled Tri-Tip

A message I will spend a lifetime learning. Wouldn’t it be nice if it would just stick! The grilled tri-tip is one my favorites.

creative noshing

Today, I have had some revelations, so please bear with me. There’s a great recipe for Tri-tip at the end, I promise!

As I was completing my morning set of sprints on the elliptical (I still can’t shake the fact that sprints on an elliptical makes me look like a fool, especially when you have a heavy breathing weight lifter within feet of you); the thought crossed my mind that I am home. Meaning, this head space, this moment, where I live is my home and where I came from, where I grew up is just a memory. I guess I had never really thought of my life like that before, always feeling I lived in a place other than my home, always trying to return to a place that doesn’t exist anymore.

 I have had a hard time grasping this reality since my father passed right before my wedding years…

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Coconut Macaroons

We sent my cousin off today. It was the end of the visit and though I was a little sad, it was so nice to have this time together. She is pregnant with her third child, so I know it will be a little while before she will be venturing out on her own again.

The wonderful thing about my cousin and I, is that we were raised so close that I can sit in the room and be at complete peace. I don’t have to guess what she is thinking. I think sometimes, this is what twins must feel like, knowing by the tiniest body movement what sort of mood she is in or what she is thinking. After a day of watching me and her together, my husband asked if we were in a fight because it was so quiet and we didn’t seem to be communicating. I got kinda upset that he would question this. I didn’t feel like we weren’t communicating and was aware that we were perfectly fine. I had to understand that as an outsider, he wouldn’t understand that we were communicating without verbalizing.

Of course, me and my cousin haven’t always seen eye to eye on every thing. As teenagers, we probably got into it at least once a week. Sometimes it felt like we fought more than we were friends, but no matter how many silly fights we’ve gotten into over the years, we were instilled with a great importance that we care for one another and keep our friendship alive no matter how far apart life takes us.

Last year, I visited my cousin in New England and it was the first time that I had seen her in quite awhile. In that amount of time our lives had changed a lot. However when we were together, we could pick up right where we left off. Deep down we will always be the two giggling girls of our youth punch drunk from sleep deprivation, but our relationship had grown into one of appreciation and gratitude, instead of one of devoted protection and security.

What I didn’t expect was how amazing it was to see the little precious faces of her children whose familiar expressions reminded me so much of my family members, some still here and some long gone. I hope she passes those same sentiments to her children that our mothers gave to us. Most importantly, to never take each other for granted, because we were given such a great gift, an opportunity for friendship that is so rare in this lifetime. I can honestly say that without our constant friendship, I am not sure what sort of person I would have turned out to be. To my oldest and dearest friend, I love you and I wish you every good tiding this world has to offer! You deserve it.

What is the best way to send someone off other than a hug? I’ll take a page out of our grandmother’s book and stuff your pockets with cookies. This was a new addition to the holiday basket last year that got rave reviews. I will definitely be adding it for years to come. Toasted on the outside and creamy on the inside. These would be perfect for an addition to an Easter get together.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

 

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Chocolate Grooms Cake

While the aroma of chocolate cake filled the reception hall, my cousin, my mom, and I buzzed around the tables making last minute adjustments to raffia and candle holders. Tomorrow was the big day. Traditionally, a southern bride gives her husband a grooms cake as a gift at their reception and I would be no different. Believe me, you don’t want to cause any sort of bad PR in a small southern town! It was delicious and I heard that people said that my grooms cake was better than the actual wedding cake. Just sayin’….

The next day, the heavy smell of hair product and hot curling iron sits heavy in the back of the throats of anyone in my hotel room. My family has come together to celebrate my wedding in my hometown. In the corner of the room, my cousin is busy “doin’ hair” under the haze of the dim green glow of a cheap fluorescent fixture. Before the big event, a steady stream of female family members sit in our makeshift salon to get styled. My cousin would have always been my natural choice as a maid of honor no matter what, but it has always made me proud that I had such an amazing person to fulfill that role. I could rattle off a laundry list of things that she did for my wedding. There is no denying that she’s awesome, but the truth of the matter is that the most important thing that she did for me that weekend was keep me calm in the storm.

The recipe that I used for my groom’s cake can be found on the Hershey’s site for the Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake.

Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake

Traditional Southern Pound Cake

As is the balance of life, times are not always easy or fair. My mother laid in a hospital bed in a coma. A 17 hour brain surgery had left her brain swollen, putting pressure on her brain stem. They didn’t expect her to live through the early morning hours. Even if she were to survive, they didn’t know how much brain activity she would have. Obviously, it would be hard to ever be prepared for this news, but I was a youngster in my last semester of college.

I was getting a sobering dose of reality and an initiation into adulthood overnight. The doctor was a nice man. I could tell in his eyes that it was hard for him to watch me struggle. He just kept telling me that the tumor was much larger and harder than expected. What he didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter how much he explained it to me, it wouldn’t make sense to me. I had to deal with this news in my own way, just like I couldn’t make my mother wake up through worry, a doctor couldn’t unbreak my heart with an explanation.

That is the physics of life and some rules you just can’t bend. It is during these periods of time when all the breath has been knocked out of you, that you find out who you are and what you are made of. It is also when you find out who you can lean on.

That morning I called my cousin and left a message on her recorder. Getting ready for work, she heard my voice trembling on the recorder and ran to pick it up. Hastily she said, “What’s wrong?” She knew my mother was having her surgery. “It’s bad…” That was all I could get out before I started sobbing uncontrollably. She started asking me over and over, “Do you need me there? I want to be there. All you have to tell me is that you want me there.” That night she hopped on a plane in New England and flew home to sit with me in the silent limbo of a critical care waiting room. Because as I was starting to understand, it isn’t the holding on that is painful, it is the prospect of letting go that hurts the most.

My mother made it through the surgery, but as is traditional in the southern part of the U.S., you show up at the door of a grieving family’s home with food in hand. Most likely, a pound cake or three will show up.

Traditional Southern Pound Cake

Pound Cake
Pound Cake

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Fruit and Cheese Danish

After high school graduation, as with most young, burgeoning adults, my cousin and I went our separate ways. My cousin moved to New England with her Mom and I went off to college. It was to be expected, though we didn’t expect it, “home” would never be the same. We had experienced our whole lives there together. Sometimes I thought, can I ever go “home” again?

The short and simple of it is yes, in flashes. Three years after high school graduation, I was in New England sitting in a swivel barber chair. In the background, Madonna singing ”Holiday” from radio speakers. The familiar smell of hairspray heating up under the twist of a hot curling iron hangs in the air like the fond memories of our Grandma’s Beauty Shop. My cousin had followed in my Grandma’s footsteps and become a hair stylist. On this day, I was there as her Maid of Honor. I was a junior in college and I had mustered up just enough money for a plane ticket and a dress. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Though the surroundings were different, I couldn’t help but reminisce back to our childhood, fixing each other’s hair and painting each other’s nails. It was bittersweet. After her ceremony, she was glowing beautifully in her wedding gown and I knew in that moment that it wasn’t her that I should be worried about, but what was going to happen to me now that I felt I needed to step aside and let go.

The following recipe is reminiscent of the croissants and danishes that my cousin served while we getting our hair styled for the wedding.

Fruit and Cheese Danish

Fruit and Cheese Danish
Fruit and Cheese Danish

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English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches

In the mornings as a child, my mom moved at break neck speed until she sat in the car. Inhaling long drags from her cigarette as the white Bonneville putted along to my cousin’s house, she would finally relax into her routine. With the shut of the car door, the tires slowly crunched gravel as she sputtered out of their drive.
By the time I got to my cousin’s house, my aunt had already left for work. Life had to have hard for our mothers, who were both single and working. My cousin and I were quintessential latchkey children with all of the pros and cons that came along with that sort of existence.
Luckily, my cousin only lived a few streets down from the middle school and high school. Most of grade school, we would walk together early in the morning. It was always a game with us, would we leave early enough to walk the long way to school or would we inevitably have to cut through her neighbor’s yard?
A train track ran right in front of my cousin’s house and that train was always on time. When we would feel the entire house start shaking, we knew we were late. With the intense shrill whistle blow, we were off. Shimmying through bushes, jumping fences and outrunning the eyes of angry neighbors, we emerged a few paces from the school. Brushing the debris off of each other’s book bags and clothes, we would giggle while catching our adrenalin filled breath.

English Muffin Breakfast Sandwiches

English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich
English Muffin Breakfast Sandwich

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Caramel Popcorn

Over the years, me and my cousin were inseparable. Because we were born on the same day, in some ways we were raised like twins, being dressed alike and attending many of the same events. We were definitely not raised as conventional cousins, more like sisters.

On the weekends, we would stay up giggling with our cheeks stinging and our bellies hurting until one of our mothers would hang their weary head into the bedroom and give us until the count of three to go to sleep. With covers flailing over head, we would lay as still as possible. The light would click off and we would listen until their footsteps softly padded away. After a few minutes one of us would whisper, “Are you asleep?” with which the other would reply, “no.” We would sit there whispering in soft half breaths, trying not to giggle out loud, which of course made everything 100 times funnier.

On more than one occasion, we would just look at each other and spontaneously burst into laughter, eliciting sideways stares of disapproval. There are so many memories that I have with my cousin, honestly, I could fill a book.

I swear if I shut my eyes, I can go back to the floor picnics of popcorn and candy, snuggled up in front of her TV. Sitting close enough, one of us could reach up with our toes to turn the channel dial during commercials. The left sides of our faces warming to the crackling embers in the old cast iron potbelly stove. My cousin unconsciously humming while crunching on her salty, buttered popcorn.

What would be more appropriate than my mother’s recipe for caramel popcorn. To me, the winter holidays wouldn’t be the same without a batch of this popcorn. A family favorite for sure.

Caramel Popcorn

Caramel Popcorn
Caramel Popcorn

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Poke Cake: A Birthday Celebration

On a fateful day, two cars sped in the darkness of the early morning hours over the state line and to the closest hospital. Both were unaware of the other.  And so the fun began, around 3:30 am my cousin was born. When the doctor came in to deliver me, my mother asked, “has the the other  baby been born yet?” He answered, “Yes, I just finished delivering that one.” Promptly she asked, “Was it a girl?” “Yes.” She laid back and said, “Good, I don’t have to work so hard then.” 45 minutes later, I was born and my Dad and my Uncle  had fun swapping the phone back and forth to announce our birth. So it was to be that our family would get to celebrate the birth of “twin cousins.”

Knowing my family, the small hospital halls were filled with wafting cigarette smoke while people were walking in and out of the hospital rooms socializing and celebrating. Probably even passing me and my cousin around to every family member prepared to dote on us. As you can imagine, it got confusing for the hospital staff. In the midst of all the chaos, a nurse gave me to my Aunt instead and my cousin to my mother (switched at birth, you might say). We were quickly identified and given back to our mothers.

To be continued….

What would be more appropriate than a proper children’s birthday cake for such an occasion?

Poke Cake

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Soul Food Peas

Organization for any holiday event started in the prior summer hunched over fruits and vegetables preparing them for preservation. Over the years, my Grandma not only gave me an education about cooking but she also snuck in little life lessons to take with me on my journey through this world. Some of our conversations would end in her ever present, “And this too shall pass, my dear” or even sometimes, if she needed to scold me, she would say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth, hush up and listen child.”

My Grandma may have only gotten through the eighth grade, but she had been through the school of hard knocks. To say my Grandma had opinions would be putting it mildly. She would interject ethical proverbs in an attempt to keep her grandchildren on the right path. She would say, “all you have is your name and reputation; if either of those are tarnished, they are tarnished forever.” However, the catch 22 for that argument is gossipy teenage girls.

One of the most important conversations I had with my Grandma was in her living room over a bushel of field peas. Every summer, you could bet that an old bed sheet would lay in the middle of her living room floor with a pile of peas still snuggled in their pods on top. All the women in my family would pull up chairs campfire style around the mounded pile with stainless steel bowls in lap. The sounds of the older women’s ringed fingers rasping against the sides of the bowls were only cadenced with muted attentiveness of serious discussions mixed with the loud cackles of uproarious laughter at someone’s joke. There was an air of camaraderie and safety when the women got together.

On this occasion, my Grandma wanted to know “Why are you so quiet today Baby?” I was a teenager and I can still remember being so hurt when I found out that a group of girls at school had started spreading malicious rumors about me. To add insult to injury, these were people that I trusted as friends. I didn’t know how to deal with it, should I turn the other cheek, should I stand up for myself in the face of a tarnished name. My Grandma’s advice, “When people talk behind your back, remember they took time out of their lives to think about you. Be happy in that, but next time you pick your friends, know that those who gossip to you, will gossip about you.”

After that, I started my journey and started to not care if judgmental people wanted to say nasty things about me. I also learned that I should never measure my life with someone else’s yardstick because true happiness comes from being thankful for what your life holds right now. Admittedly, these would be lessons that I would have to revisit again and again, but at least the building blocks had been laid. At the end of the day, the second nature repetitive motion of shelling the peas left our fingertips sore, but seeing the pile disappear while “solving” the world’s problems made each of us feel a sense of accomplishment.

Soul Food Peas

Pea pod
Pea pod

 

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Marbled Banana Bread

Yesterday, I decided that the thing that would make me happy was banana bread. I love bananas and banana bread. Normally, we throw in a few mini chocolate chips as favorite combination. To mix it up a little, I took my standard recipe and marbled it by adding additional cocoa to half of the batter. I have to admit I was very pleased with the beautiful marbled pattern and is was delicious to boot.

As a continuation from yesterday’s post of questions I received from a fellow blogger, I will be answering two questions “Why are we all the time trying to be a better person?” and “A better person in relation to what?”

In the past, I compared myself to other people and I thought the key to my happiness was to be like this person or that person, have these qualities, have these relationships, be that smart or pretty or whatever, the list goes on and on….

Recently, I had an epiphany, realizing that I was the problem, not everyone else. Constantly comparing myself to others and not working within my own constraints was me getting in the way of my happiness. With that understanding came an intense freedom. I no longer had to be like someone else, I could just be me and as an extension of that I no longer had to wait for someone else to like me or love me for me to be lovable or like-able. I didn’t spend my time making efforts to please others, I started to look inward for what would please me. I discovered that I needed to peel back the layers of facades that I had put up to protect myself from the hurt and pain of potential rejection and rediscover who I am today, what makes me happy today, what makes me healthy today.

What makes me happy and healthy may be different from what they were yesterday and may change tomorrow, but I accept that for today this is who I am and I, without a shadow of a doubt, am the best person I can be today, flaws and all. Meeting myself each and every day with stability, understanding, love, and integrity, I no longer look to others for those feelings, I provide it for myself. Now everyday that I wake up, I strive to be a better person than I was yesterday.

Marbled Banana Bread

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