Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review-C'mon, Grab your Friends!

 

For those of you who don't know, I love Adventure Time and so do my kids.  That's why when Blogging for Books gave me the chance to review Adventure Time Crafts, I took it.  I received this book as a part of the Blogging for Books program.

The crafts are easy to follow, although some require some basic skills a crafter might not have (crochet, sewing with a machine, etc).  It does give some "Crafty Basics" to get you started, and I think it's a great starting point for seeing something you HAVE to make and jumping into a new craft.

Overall, there was enough in this book to make it worth the while of anyone who enjoys Adventure Time (or anyone who has kids who do).  Seriously--there are perler bead patterns for coasters!  Perler beads...you can do stuff in this book.  You can learn stuff from this book.  And at the very least, you can admire all the very cool Adventure Time craft ideas in this book!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Actual Knitting(!!)

So I have been doing actual knitting.  I'm hoping to start (and finish) mittens for at least one child, since we have 1-3 inches of snow coming tonight.

I finished test knitting this very cute kitty hat.  I made one a little bigger than the other, not only so I could help the brilliant designer (and her first pattern!) check the sizing, but then I have one for Anna and one for Emily.







Right now I am working on Barbie clothes.  I decided for Christmas that the kids' presents from us are going to be something we made.  So for Emily, I want to make some clothes for her Barbies (and I bought a big lot of shoes on Ebay to put in the box).

The only problem with knitting Barbie clothes is they're made on REALLY little needles with crochet thread.  This isn't so bad while I'm making Kelly dresses (and I can usually knock out one of those in an afternoon) but egads, this gown I am making is taking forever just to do the first skirt.  But I found this amazing website of free knitting patterns, all Barbie and her friends size.  I'd like to shake this persons hand!!

So now--knitting (after I have a rice krispie treat Emily and I made together today) and watching Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix. 

Periphery

pe·riph·er·y
/pəˈrif(ə)rē/
noun
noun: periphery; plural noun: peripheries
  1. the outer limits or edge of an area or object.
    "new buildings on the periphery of the hospital site"
    synonyms:edge, outer edge, margin, fringe, boundary, border, perimeter, rim, verge, borderline; More
    outskirts, outer limits/reaches, bounds;
    literarybourn, marge
    "rambling estates on the periphery of the city"
    antonyms:center
    • a marginal or secondary position in, or part or aspect of, a group, subject, or sphere of activity.
      "a shift in power from the center to the periphery"
 --Google.com

I was perusing Facebook (as I am known to do.  25 times a day) and saw another one of the "Light this fake candle picture for someone in Heaven you are missing this holiday season".  Which made me think, "Why would anyone do that?" but then, "Who would I light a candle for?"

I have some family members who died.  My grandma (mom's mom).  My uncle (mom's brother).  My great grand parents.  But I thought about how sure, I miss them, but probably not much more than if they were here.  It sounds bad, but there is a reason for this.

Growing up, we were always on the outside of our extended family.  I saw my grandma (mom's mom) probably the most, but even then she'd do something that pissed my mom off, and we'd not see her for a while.  Same with my aunts and uncles and cousins.  It was like, my mom would be "friends" with one of them that would put up with her and her horrible life and her abusive, drunk husband.  But then they'd say something (I assume.  I was never completely privy to the information) and we wouldn't see them for months.  So I would spend nearly every waking hour with a set of cousins, only to have them ripped from me.

My dad's family--I can count on 2 hands the number of times I've seen them...on one hand or no hands for some of them.  They're in New Jersey, and, for most of them, I probably come to mind only when they see me on Facebook, and maybe not even then.  I am always on their periphery, and they are on mine.  I am sure that if I died, they might "light some candles on Facebook" but it would be for them thinking of the loss that isn't, and not really thinking of me.

My grandparents:  I still love them.  I used to love them dearly.  Then my love for my grandmother dimmed considerably when I visited at 18, and she bought me a bridal magazine and asked me to pick things out (I was with Brian 2 years.  And young and stupid).  So I showed her things I liked.  Then she went to her sister and told her how selfish I am to want such an extravagant wedding when my parents were on a fixed income.  It dimmed more when she came to visit a few times and did nothing but talk on her cell phone to the people back in Jersey.  My kids are here that she hardly ever sees.  I'm here that she hardly ever sees.  But all she could do was have drama on her cell phone, like we weren't even there.  She doesn't even visit anymore.  I have no desire to go there.

My grandfather?  Oh how I loved him the most!  The biggest thing he gave me was whispering in my ear, one time as a teenager in one of my darkest hours that "I was the first, and I was the best".  So much love!!  He loved me and I loved him and all was right in the world.  Until last year.  He's sitting next to me on the loveseat, and he's complaining how my cousin threw away her full cheerleading scholarship to get married (to a guy for about 6 weeks.  But don't worry, we saw all the elaborate wedding pictures for the wedding my grandparents paid for and heard about how wonderful she is).  Anyway, he said the sentence that forever put me on the periphery of his life, "I would have been so proud to have a granddaughter to graduate from college."

Here I sat, right next to him.  The granddaughter that never asked him to pay her rent, or raise her kids, or throw her bail.  The granddaughter that got married at a reasonable age (and paid for her own, non-elaborate wedding) then had her kids.  And never had to ask anyone to take care of my kids while she got evicted (again) or off drugs (again).

There I sat next to him.  The granddaughter that graduated from college.  The granddaughter that was, indeed, starting graduate school.  The granddaughter that thought she was going to grad school, in large part, to make her grandfather proud.  To give that to him.  And in that moment, he took so much away from me.  It was like being ripped away from the only person who lived out there who I thought gave a damn about me.

I just patted him on the knee and said, "You already have a granddaughter that graduated from college, Grandpa".  And I got up.  He stammered after, "Oh yes, and I'm very proud".  But at that moment, I knew the truth.  No matter how many times a day I thought of him, no matter how cherished the handful of memories I had of him, no matter how I can still smell his den (where I learned my love of history) and his garage and picture holding his hand walking through the woods, or helping him stain a picnic table or feed the dogs, or smelling his A&P coffee, or thinking about him taking me to sit with his buddies down in Highlands at his friends bait and tackle store in the morning, no matter all of that, I was always on the periphery.  Always on the outside.  Always an afterthought.

I wasn't even going in this direction when I started this post, but I guess that's the beauty of a blog.  Maybe it's all coming out because my grandpa is coming for hunting season in the next 5 days.  It's probably his last time; he's getting older, the trip is long and he has a lot going on back at the Jersey Shore.  Cousins who need him.  Maybe he doesn't think I need him because I didn't ask him for all the stuff my cousins did: The bail, the rehab, the kid raising.  But he's so wrong.  I took care of myself because that's what you are supposed to do.  But instead of making him love me for that, it pushed him away?  I don't know.  Maybe it's to the point where I am 41, and he's 84, and I can ask him if that's what he thinks.  And tell him he's wrong.  And maybe, in the end, I can get out of his periphery.

But maybe, just maybe, this is why your best family is the family you choose.  My best friend Jess is the sister I never had.  She listens to me and I listen to her.  She's probably the only one reading this right now.  I don't feel like I'm on her periphery.  She has so much going on in her life, and she still never makes me feel like an afterthought.  Never makes me feel like I'm not important, and not worth her time.  I always feel like she's happy to hear from me, and that she loves me and misses me.

And where this post was going in the first place, was me thinking about how my own, immediate family keeps us on the periphery.  If we don't do things they like, or we don't do things their way.  Does my brother think about me when we aren't together 6 months at a time?  We get together and it's fine, but does he miss me like I try not to miss him?  Even though we live about 5 miles away?  But I only hear from him when he wants something.  I heard from him last because he needed job references.  I had to suggest we go out for his birthday, otherwise I would not have been included.

I don't want my kids to be surrounded by people that put them on their periphery.  I want them to feel loved, and wanted, and important.  I feel badly that my parents didn't care enough about me to want that.  I feel really badly that they don't care enough about their grandkids to not do that; that there is no happy medium.  Either they don't come around ("Because you don't want us" or they're pissed at me for something) or they are smothering, here every day, telling everyone how to live and what they do wrong.  I love my dad, but he's Jersey people.  He's so self-absorbed; when I was diagnosed with MS, he called to tell me how horrible his life is now that he has a daughter with MS.  I can't even make that up.  Any problem that I have becomes something he has wrong, only more horribly.  I know he loves me, and I know he loves my kids, and I know our interactions would be different without my mom's influence.

And I guess I walk away from this very long blog post with this:  That although there are family members that have died that I'll miss, and there are family members in my life that if they died I would miss them, but my heart has to be with people that care about me back.  I give so so much of myself, all the time, because I'm supposed to.  Because it's the right thing to do.  Mostly because I WANT TO.  But how much of myself can I give anymore, when it's not given back?  When I am an afterthought?

I have to give to people who give back. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheese and Rice Casserole

So, I searched yesterday for a chicken and broccoli casserole that had rice in it.  When I searched for "creamy" with these words, I ended up with recipes that wanted me to throw 2 blocks of cream cheese in (and to me, that seemed like ucky overkill).  So I threw this together--it's not exactly like any of the other recipes I found, it's inspired by this one and the reviews that followed.  It's not "healthy" or "good for you" (besides being a way to get kids to eat broccoli), but it worked for us:

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheese and Rice Casserole

2 cups of chicken (I used 3 chicken thighs that I boiled up and removed the skin from, because they were cheap.  You can use breasts that are boiled or baked, part of a rotisserie chicken, or canned chicken-although the canned chicken might be a little blah)

2 cups cooked rice (I used my rice cooker.  Do you have a rice cooker?  You should get one!  I have this one.  You can even steam your veggies on the top.) I cooked my rice in chicken broth.

1 16oz bag of broccoli florets, thawed

1 packet onion soup mix

1 tsp garlic powder (more or less to taste)

1/4 tsp black pepper (I used my pepper grinder, a couple of turns)

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste--remember the soup and cheese are going to be salty, so you might want to hold off until you serve it to add salt individually as needed)

2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I used cheddar)

2 cans of cream-of-something soup (I used cream of mushroom and cream of chicken)

1 cup of milk

1/2 a stick of butter, cut into tablespoons

Ritz crackers to crunch over the top

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 13x9 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put all ingredients except butter and crackers in casserole dish and mix until incorporated together.  Place pats of butter on top of mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, mixing halfway through to help the cheese melt.  Put crushed crackers over the top of casserole and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Enjoy with some crusty bread and a salad.

Day 6 thankfulness!

So today was pretty easy to think of something to be thankful for.  I am thankful I have my own car.  This is the first time in a long time I've had my own.  It's a POS 2001 Ford Taurus old lady car (that we bought from my Mother-in-Law) but it gets me from point A to point B when I want to go.

Before I had my own car, my husband would drive me to work before he took the kids to school.  I would end up at work at least 20 minutes before I needed to be there (an unpaid 20 minutes).  Then at noon when I was done I'd have to wait for him to pick me up on his lunch hour.  8 out of 10 times I'd be waiting, sometimes in nice weather but more often in freezing cold.  I wouldn't get home until an hour after I was done with work (it's about a 10 minute ride).

With my own car:  I don't have to leave for work early.  AND when I am done with work, I actually get home RIGHT AFTER WORK!  It's amazing.  And if I have to go to the grocery store I can do that, Just like a big girl! 

Second car:  Awesome thing to be thankful for on a snowy Thursday in November!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thankful day 5!!

Just a quick post of thankful today! I'm thankful that I can knit! I spent this evening working on a hat in test knitting. It was exactly what I needed, and one of the only stress relievers I do just for me. (Well, besides drinking. But that's time prohibitive and not all that great for me.) I love knitting for other people. I really do feel like SpongeBob's grandma, where I put love in every stitch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thankful days 3 and 4

Look!  It's not even the 30th yet, and I am only one day behind!  I'm pretty proud of myself!!

#3=I am thankful that I have the opportunity to go back to college to get my Masters degree.  I'd like to be super thankful for a scholarship, but maybe the end of the month

#4=I am super thankful for having my old job back.  It was a nice reality check that sometimes money isn't everything when it comes to where you work.  I enjoy going to work every morning, and enjoy helping people achieve their goals.