Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Tapestry

See that babe in arms? That's my Uncle Johnny. He passed away yesterday, leaving a legacy of kindness, gentleness, and love of family. He was the last of my grandfather's siblings to pass away, the youngest son in a big, loving, Italian family.

Of course, none of them were perfect, but every single memory I have of these great-uncles and great-aunts is just that: GREAT.

Outbursts of laughter around overloaded tables.

Good-natured teasing and bickering.

Stories of stark but happy childhood.

Bear hugs & kisses until you were gasping for breath.

And yes, food. LOTS and LOTS of food at every single gathering.


Not a bad way to grow up. Not at all.

By now, you all know I'm hopelessly sentimental when it comes to matters of family and legacy. Uncle Johnny's passing has provoked a myriad of memories all rife with emotion today. Anchoring all of those feelings is an overwhelming gratitude, I'm so incredibly grateful for the great big tapestry that both sets of my grandparents' generation wove for me and my generation.

This tapestry has been many things
for many people in our family.

A work of art, giving testament to the family's status and standing in society. A witness, if you will, of that which they have achieved together.

A rich backdrop, giving color, depth, and texture to our collective coming story as new immigrants to this country. Bringing their history to their present.

A thick and stable rug to stand upon, when building a life together. A plush but firm "take your stance" kind of setting point.

A soft landing place, a net of sorts that was wide and secure into which they could fall when hard times rocked them off their feet.

A warm wrap into which they could burrow when life felt cold and brutal.

Today, we mostly think of intricate tapestries as works of art to be hung on a wall. But a true family-woven tapestry wasn't always meant to be just gazed at and admired. Admittedly, we aren't as familiar with the many uses that a hand-woven, artfully crafted tapestry can have in today's world. We don't need one piece to do all those things anymore. We have Wayf@ir for rugs and T@rget for sweaters, right? But if you look back in history, family tapestries had many functions beyond their artisan beauty.

It strikes me that my family tapestry has both beauty and function that is sadly becoming more and more rare in this culture in which we live. I'm proud to declare that I will stay anchored to both families who wove this tapestry before me. I will continue to teach my children well in the art of weaving their rows to grow it strong and beautiful for generations to come.


Uncle Johnny, say hi to Grandpa Sam for me. Enjoy your reunion and your time to worship Jesus to the strains of heavenly Italian opera with him. You are missed here. All of you.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Allllllll-most Fall {and a recipe!}

Yesterday was a cool and breezy day full of little hints of autumn. Football was on the tv screen. BBE spent the whole afternoon prepping our fire pit and side yard for LadyBug's "end of summer" bonfire with friends. The Boss was working in the master bath, prepping for our big re-do (pictures coming soon) that starts on Tuesday. I had spent all Saturday afternoon filling the freezer with yummy casseroles for those weekday afternoons full of junior high football games and other Mommy taxi duties. Yes, fall is definitely in the air these days!

I was really looking for something easy to make for the family, given that I'd cooked for 4-5 hours straight on Saturday. I knew left-overs one!more!time! wouldn't cut it for the Gang, no matter that I felt wiped out. I also think I might be brewing a cold, so I was pretty motivated to simplify my day. This recipe was JUST the ticket! It's been going around the interwebs in a few different forms, with a few variations. It sounded really delish and easy to pull off so I gave it a whirl for The Gang this Sunday. It felt like just the right "introductory" fall meal. 

True to form, I couldn't just leave the recipe alone, so I'm sharing here what I did. Feel free to make it your own. It was indeed very easy and all The Gang members, including Shaggy and Miss A who joined us for Sunday dinner, gave it a huge thumbs up! I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did. The kids are eating it now, as I type this, for a delicious left-over lunch.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, in 1-2” chunks
   (or 6 skinless chicken thighs)
2 Tbsp. butter, chunked
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth
2 cubes chicken bouillon
1 12 oz. bag frozen mixed veggies, steamed and drained well
Cornstarch and cold water (if needed)
1 roll (10 per pkg) refrigerated biscuits, quartered
Flour to coat biscuits

  1. Lightly spray a crock pot with baking spray. Place chicken in bottom of crock. Over the chicken, dump the butter, onion, soup, broth and bouillon.
  2. Cover crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours. If using frozen chicken, cook on high for same amount of time then reduce to low for the remaining time.
  3. Around the 3 or 4 hour mark, add steamed, drained veggies and stir well. Re-cover and allow to cook for an additional hour or two.
  4. While you are waiting for serving time, quarter the biscuits and toss them to coat in all-purpose flour.
  5. About 30-45 minutes before serving, thicken the mixture with cornstarch and cold water (shaken together well) if it’s too loose and soup-like.
  6. Drop flour-coated biscuits onto the top surface of the chicken mixture and cook with lid on for another 30 minutes. (For a single batch of these proportions, you might not need the whole roll of biscuits.) Do not stir!
  7. Once the biscuits are puffing and the broth is really bubbling well around them, it''s ready to serve. Be careful, those biscuits are HOT HOT HOT inside! Enjoy this hearty dish with your family!
I'd be interested in hearing what you did to change it up for your family's taste buds. I'm thinking that I might do a combo of white wine and chicken broth, with a dash or two of rosemary or dill added in with the liquids next time for a little added burst of flavor. There's just something about those flavors that really speaks "fall" to me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Break With Tradition?!

It's time for the annual First Day of School post. And for the "First Time In Forever," you all get the added treat of updated peeks at my gorgeous gang. I know, it's been a while since you've seen their faces 'round these parts o' the blogosphere!

{You are more than welcome for THAT ear-worm... 
it's blasting in the kitchen right now and I succumbed. 
I am weak. I admit it. And now I'm laughing at you
because you are hearing Ana in your head just like I am.}


Our "bonus daughter" had a VERY momentous First Day yesterday. She returned to us late Friday night from summer at home with her family in Beijing. She's still a bit jet-lagged and trying not to be anxious about all the SAT prep work she has ahead of her and layered on top of her Honors course load. In spite of it all, she made it to the bus on time and is officially a SENIOR!!!!!!

Today, we sent our LadyBug back to the public school bright and early. For those not following me on F@cebook, she came home in January to do cyber-schooling after some health issues that made the public school pace and routine pretty hard to manage. It was a great season of refreshment and retreat for her and she is confident that she is ready to handle her JUNIOR year. Seriously, how did this sneak up on me like this?

Next to head out the door was Li'l Empress. This girly of ours was so ready for her new school year to start. She's super excited to be in the upstairs of her building - it's a milestone that all the rising third graders wildly anticipate in our little school community. Yes, I said it. THIRD. GRADE.

After Li'l Empress climbed happily on her bus, Mei Mei and I ran inside to finish getting ready for the morning. Then we were OFF to the elementary school for their annual Back To School Celebration. It's always so fun to meet the new teachers, say hi! to the old teachers, and catch up with friends after the long summer apart. I'm particularly thrilled that Li'l Empress is going to be with her sweet little buddy "S" again this year. She's a sweet friend and so very encouraging and kind to all her classmates. It goes a LOOOOONG way for my girl to have that security and confidence in her friendships.

As soon as Li'l Empress' class was escorted into the building to start the day, my little Mei Mei fell apart in a puddle of tears. She kept saying over and over, "I miss my sissen" and wiping her tears with her Beebee. She was a soggy mess by the time we got to the van. It was decided that a little pit stop at the local Chick-Fil-A was in order, to cheer our spirits and distract both of us from missing our Li'l Empress.

Then, suddenly, it was time. Yes, that's right, the day has arrived. Mei Mei began her first day of PRE-SCHOOL today. Oh, my heart. This girl was a STITCH to listen to once I told her it was time to get ready for her drive to school. Giggling to herself while I dressed her. Wiggling in her seat trying to eat lunch. Covering her mouth in "OH!'s" of anticipation and looking over my shoulder on the 5 minute drive to see if we were "dere yet?"

Until we walked into the building. Upon which time she started muttering under her breath, "I not want go pee-kool, Momma" over and over like some tribal chant. I exercised HERCULEAN effort to not crack up and to take her anxiety as seriously as she wanted me to, but man, it was hard. SUCH a HOOT.

Oh, and yes, Yes, that IS in fact the very same dress that Li'l Empress wore on her very first day of pre-school. I'm totally a sap like that and I am so excited that she chose it from the line-up. And that I'm still smarter than my kids most of the time to make her THINK she chose it. Yeah. I still got it, baby!

I hung out with her for about 20 minutes, chatting with the teachers and helping her feel comfortable. It was fun to point out to her all the things that Li'l Empress enjoyed when she was a student there. Once she was sufficiently distracted and feeling comfortable, I headed out and the teachers reported that she only cried for about five minutes. And I didn't cry at all. :)

It sure helped to have her little buddy in the classroom - he's the youngest son of the director from our adoption agency AND LadyBug babysat for him and his big brother all summer long. Here she is watching for his car to pull up to the drop-off door. Both his mom and I got the story later that they held hands when they walked together and that he is her new "bess fren." So cute!!!!!

When we headed back to pick her up at the end of the afternoon, her very first words to us were "I had SUPER! FUN! today! Mom!" She had all kinds of great stories to share and pretty much was wiped out and ready for bed by 6:30.

You might have noticed that BBE has no First Day pictures. That's because the poor kid got hit with a a nasty tummy bug that kept him up most of last night. Prayers that no one else gets it here would be so appreciated. We have BIG family plans for the holiday weekend and we've been looking forward to them for the whole summer long!

So there you have it. The Traditional First Day wrap up. Thanks for hanging in there for it all. Hopefully soon I will have something incredibly wise and deep and important to write about. Till then, all these cute pictures of my kids make me happy. And it's my blog, so that's all that really matters, right?

Hope your First Days were momentous and memorable too. Here's to a GREAT 2015~2016 school year!!!!!