Happy Birthday, America – 100 Day Blog Challenge – Day 94

A Special Day

Today is Independence Day.  America’s birthday.  This day in particular is very special for me.  On this day 17 years ago, my Mom and I were sworn in as American citizens along with hundreds of others at Hofstra University.  I grew up in the States, since I left Jamaica when I was 3.  I’ll never forget the day.  The weather was beautiful and there was the right amount of breeze.  Being surrounded by so many people who were there because they wanted the same opportunity as others.  Having that recognition made it all valid.  Proof that we belonged and had a right to be called American citizens.  It’s an amazing feeling.

Now, I am living in Canada.  Today, the boys played “O, Canada.”  They wanted to make sure I start learning the national anthem.  Right after playing the anthem, my oldest asked, “What song did you sing when you were in America?”  That one question spoke volumes to me.  I played the “Star Spangled Banner” for the boys and to this day, each time I hear that song, I get choked up.  Fully understanding the validity of the song and what today means to me, I can’t help but get emotional.

So, as the day is winding to a close, I hope all my American friends had a great 4th of July celebration surrounded by family, friends and love.  A friend of mine sent a great note today and a particular section sticks out the most – “We think freedom not as the right to do as we please but as the hope to do what is right.” It is my hope that we always remember those who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Enjoy your weekend, be safe and all the best to you and your families.

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Favorite Recipe – 100 Day Blog Challenge – Day 91

My Favorite Recipes

I love to cook.  Cooking is my way of showing my love for someone.  For me to choose just ONE favorite recipe is not possible.  I have many, but I will share 2 of my favorites that I like to make very often.

Gordon Ramsay’s Sticky Lemon Chicken

I first saw this recipe in 2008 on the Rachael Ray Show when Gordon was promoting his latest cookbook, “Fast Food.”  I loved the simplicity, the fact that the kids could help and that it involved chicken.

Ingredients
1 large chicken, cut into 8-10 pieces (I also use individual parts, breasts, thighs, etc. when I don’t have a whole chicken on hand)
Sea salt and black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
Few thyme sprigs 
Splash of sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (I use low sodium)
3 tablespoons hone
1 lemon, finely sliced (ideally with a mandoline)
Bunch of Italian parsley, chopped

Preparation

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and heat the olive oil in a large saute pan.  Brown the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) over high heat with the garlic and thyme for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Return all the chicken to the pan, add the sherry vinegar, and bubble until reduced by half.  Drizzle over the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix.

Pour in a good splash of hot water and add the lemon slices.  Let the liquid bubble and reduce down until syrupy, which will take about 10 minutes or so.  By now the chicken should be cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and sprinkle over the chopped parsley.  Serve with the chomp and green beans or steamed sugar snap peas.

Makes 4 servings

This has been a staple in our house since I first saw it and each time I make it, it’s a hit with the family and guests who come over.  Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!!!

Gluten Free Muffin (or Cookie) Recipe

This recipe was introduced to me earlier this year, and I thought it was a great way to get started with gluten-free flour and other gluten-free items I use daily.

Ingredients
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ProFlex protein powder
2 packets Simply Fit Oatmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 ounces applesauce
2 egg whites
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
You can add 1/2 cup raisins or dried fruit

Preparation

The finished product

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, protein powder, oatmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and dried fruit (if using.)  In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce, egg whites, brown sugar and vanilla extract.  Combine applesauce mixture with dry ingredients.  You may want to add some almond milk (about 1/2 cup to a cup) if too thick. 

Thumbs up from Justus

Roll out and flatten out to make cookies on parchment lined cookie sheet or spoon into muffin top pan.  Pat down gently with wet hands (so they won’t stick to your fingers.)  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes.  Great to have after a workout, too.

Elijah taking a bite

I usually make the muffins, and the boys LOVE it.  I’ve made it for others, and they can’t get enough of it.  So tasty and good for you.  The boys always ask for it and they like to help out in the kitchen (when my over motherly instincts don’t take over.)

So, I’ve basically covered dinner and/or dessert/snack.  Perhaps you will add these to your menu one day.  Enjoy.

An Old Photo of Me – 100 Day Blog Challenge – Day 90

An Old Photo of Me

Well, now this is not a difficult thing for me to find.  It’s just finding the right old photo.   With all the Throwback Thursday photo posts on Facebook, this was not too much of a challenge.  There were quite a few I had in mind, and one in particular that I wanted to post, but I can’t find.

I settled on these two photos of me when I was 2 years old and was still living in Jamaica.  I don’t remember anything about this day, but my Mom would tell me stories about this picture and I’m always fascinated when I look at it.  Here I am in this little red dress sitting on this bench and I almost look like I’m hanging on for dear life.  It’s just too cute.  I especially like that my face is dirty with some food on the side – that just makes me smile.  The one below with me looking up at my Mom is priceless in my eyes and it’s another one of my favorites.  Pure innocence, love and trust.

Life was so simple back then.

There’s not much else to say, except I’ve always loved these photos and I’m glad I got the chance to share them with you.  Thanks for reading.

Father’s Day – 100 Day Blog Challenge – Day 76

Happy Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day; the day we celebrate Dads and father figures who are out there doing their thing.  For me, today was a crazy emotional day.  I couldn’t put my finger on it originally, but I’d say around mid-afternoon, I snapped.  I’m not even sure what triggered it, but I was an emotional wreck and unfortunately, my kids got the brunt of it.  Oh, man, talk about a downward spiral.  I mean, this is supposed to be a celebration of Dads everywhere who really don’t get the recognition they deserve.  What do I do?  Have a nervous breakdown.

As I was reading through all the Father’s Day posts on Facebook, I was very surprised by how many were tributes.  I had no idea so many have lost their Dads either recently or for quite some time.  The parallels are all the same – there’s that void, a missing piece that’s hard to explain unless you’ve been through it.  I’m not sure if the “time heals all wounds” bit really works in this case.  I know it’s still fairly new for me, but some of my friends whom I’ve spoken with tell me it hasn’t healed.  Once again, it’s quite an experience.

The boys spoke with their Dad on Skype this morning, and Isaac, tonight’s night owl, go to say goodnight to him.  I’m thankful for these little ways to keep connected even though we’re miles apart.


My Mom called today and we chatted for a bit.  She tells me that every night she has dreams about Dad and they’re pretty much full-on conversations.  It’s as if he’s right there.  It’s a lot different for my Mom, and she seems to be okay.  But she sees him every night.  I still really haven’t seen him.  I’ve got my memories, but I haven’t had that vison from the other side or the conversation from the beyond.  I’m not sure if I will and for a while I thought maybe I was weird for not “seeing” him.

Some days are good; some days aren’t so great.  Those days that challenge you really put you to the test.  At least tney have for me.

I hope you all got the chance to celebrate Father’s Day with your Dads and/or father figures today; told him how much you love him and recognize that he’s one of the grat ones.  To those who share memories of their Dads because he’s no longer with us, I’m sending lots of love and hugs your way, and hope you were surrounded by lots of loved ones.

Take care, all, and be well.

Traditions – 100 Day Blog Challenge -Day 21

Traditions

It’s Easter weekend.  This weekend has lots of memories for me.  One of my all-time favorite traditions is watching “The Ten Commandments.”  I can remember every Saturday night sitting in the living room with my family watching this movie.  I called my Mom this afternoon and mentioned it was on tonight.  She actually forgot!!!  The boys aren’t as excited about this.  In fact, they really don’t care.  I’d love for them to be part of this every year, but, I guess I still have time.

At the time I started writing this entry, the show wasn’t on.  The boys started watching, and my oldest was really getting into it.  He was knocked out within 90 minutes of the show, but, at least the seed has been planted.

This got me to thinking about traditions.  We all have them.  Some are very straight-forward; others take time to develop.  The beauty of traditions is that they keep history alive, sparks conversations and creates lots of memories.  

Isaac licking the
banana bread batter


Case in point…keeping with the Easter tradition (as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas), I prepare a turkey dinner with the fix-ins.  Where did I learn this?  From my Mom and Grandmother.  I’d be in the kitchen watching their every move.   Today, it’s my youngest who is my shadow.  He is ALWAYS watching and helping , mixing and tasting, asking lots of questions and ready to jump into the trenches.

We’ve started our own family traditions as well as adopting traditions from our childhood.  There are so many that come to mind, and they keep flooding my brain.  Call them whatever you like, but we each carry a memory and pass it down to our families. It’s how we keep history alive, and I have come to realize this importance now that I am a Mom.

What are some of your traditions?  What memories do you hold dear from your childhood that you have passed on to your families?

It’s said that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  Today is my 21st day blogging – let’s see if this becomes a new habit for me.  Thanks for reading and taking this journey with me.  It’s much appreciated.

My Boys Will Thank Me Later

I will say this about how I raise my boys…

In and out of our house, we have rules.  If they ask for something, they must use the words, “Please” and “Thank you.”  They must be respectful to their elders, and any adult in the room.  If they get out of line (use a tone or language that we don’t like) they will get a slap on the hand, mouth or bum so they learn their lesson.  They must clean up after themselves, do chores and help around the house in any way we see fit.  They must ALWAYS be there for each other, because at the end of the day, they are brothers and they have each other to lean on for support.

I am a strict Mom.  I can also be a bit uptight.  When we go out in public, I fuss over them, and make sure they behave themselves.  I dislike it when they try to overstep the boundaries, and they do test the limits ALL THE TIME!!!  I’ve yelled at them in public, I have made an example of them in front of other kids, and they know I will call them out at any time.

Why do I do this?  I am their MOTHER!!!  I am not their friend, I am not their equal.  I am their superior and they must respect my authority.  They MUST listen to their parents, they must follow OUR rules.  I’m not here to cater to their every need or give them everything they want.  They’ve heard me say “No” to some of their requests, they’ve seen me blow my top; they’ve seen me cry.  They say they will listen, not do it again, but 9 times out of 10, the cycle has started all over again.

There are times I wonder if the words I’m saying get through to them or if I’m just talking to the air.  I know they understand me and get what I’m doing.  I’m also not a complete ogre who walks around with the yardstick.  We have other rules that we live by in our home.  We sit down at the table for meals all the time.  We say grace before every meal.  We say prayers every night before bed.  We say “I love you” more times than you can imagine.  We give each other lots of hugs and kisses and we say “Sorry” when we’ve done something wrong.

My boys won’t be boys for very long.  Next month, my oldest starts the 3rd grade and my middle is entering Kindergarten.  By next year, ALL 3 boys will be in school and there are going to be pressures from kids at every angle.  They are BOYS.  They are impressionable.  They are smart.  They are talented and they have a bright future ahead.   As their Mother, it is my job to ensure they are prepared for the world – the good, bad and ugly.  They will make mistakes, and hopefully they will learn from them.  We have a pretty strong bond and they feel comfortable telling us their troubles and I hope it continues as they become TEENAGE BOYS.

One day, they will grow up and become MEN.  They will hopefully have a great education, a successful career of their choosing (even if they decide not to partner up with me) and eventually (hopefully) they will fall in love, get married, and have children of their own.  Then and ONLY then, will they understand WHY I was so strict with them as babies.  One day, they may even have a baby girl (or 2 or 3) of their own who will grow up to be a teenage girl and eventually a WOMAN.  They will want their daughter to respect herself, her body and treat it like the temple it is.  They will want their daughter to know that her beauty comes from within and not have to seek it in the wrong places.  They will want their daughter to know and understand that saying “NO” is okay if something doesn’t feel right and that at ANY TIME, they can call on their Dad for help if needed.

My boys may not like and or appreciate all the rules and structure now, but when they get older, they will thank me later.  Why?  I am their Mother, I love them very much and it’s MY job to help raise them to become true GENTLE MEN!!!

Take care, and be well.

Living on Borrowed Time

On Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:46am, my Dad passed away.  He was 63 years old.  First, my brother called and left a message (I fell asleep and didn’t hear the phone,) then at 4:07am (my time,) I heard the news from my Mom.  I felt numb when I heard the news.  I thought maybe I heard wrong, because there’s no way my Dad could be dead  Growing up, you have this belief, or at least I did, that our parents were immortal.  They were the ONLY people on Earth who would live forever.  Am I the only one who thought this as a kid?  As an adult?  It just didn’t make sense. 

I guess I should start from the beginning.  On May 24, 2012, our lives changed forever.  My Dad was working, tried to take a drink of water and couldn’t swallow.  He pulled over, called 911 and was taken to the hospital.  What turned out to be a small concern ended up being a stroke.  He was in the hospital for about 6 weeks and it was a whirlwind of events.   My parents and brother live in NY, I live in Canada with my family and I wasn’t able to be there to help.  You can’t imagine the level of guilt that I felt every day.  I realize that it’s not my fault, but, I wanted to be there and couldn’t.  Nothing that anyone will say will take away that guilt.  Anyhow, despite a few setbacks, he was improving and getting back to his normal self.  Just 5 days prior, the boys and I saw him on Skype and he looked really good.  There’s got to be more to all this, because it really doesn’t make sense.  Hopefully we’ll get some answers very soon.

I went home to NY to be with my Mom and brother and we have been going through his affairs.  It’s quite the toll, let me tell you.  This was an experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  The entire ordeal of the whole thing is a lot of work.  Be sure you are prepared mentally, emotionally, financially, etc.  It’s really important to make sure all your “i”s are dotted and “t”s are crossed.

I saw my Dad and said my goodbyes.  I had my closure and told him what I needed to say.  Hopefully he is at peace and perhaps he heard what I said.  I really do hope that he is at peace.  I think the stroke and being immobilized was too much for him, especially since he was such a vibrant, active, hard-working man.  This pretty much stopped him in his tracks.  But, I’m not sure.  He looked good, almost restful.

Aside from my maternal and paternal grandmother’s passing, this is the third death I’ve experienced and it’s given me a huge wake up call that we are all living on borrowed time.  Tomorrow isn’t promised to us; nothing is promised to us really, except life and death.  It’s what we do in between the two that really matters.

These past 2 weeks have been an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.  Some things were revealed that I thought only happened in the movies and has really opened my eyes to how I live my life and how I will live my life from now on.  I’ve often heard that you go through a metamorphosis when someone close to you dies, and I believe that to be true.  I do know this…no one is perfect, we all have our flaws and we are not going to make everyone happy.  That’s not why we are here.  If you’re living your life trying to make everyone else happy, you’re going to be miserable.  If you’re living your life as if you are invincible, you’re in for a huge reality check.  If you’re living your life as if you are God’s gift to the world, let me be the one to burst your bubble and tell you, “No, you’re not!!!  Get that chip off your shoulder and be decent.  You put your pants on the same as everyone else, you bleed just like everyone else.  Get over yourself.” 

It was great seeing my Mom, Brother, family and some of my friends that I was able to see while I was back in NY for the week.  Right now, I’m sitting at the gate in Toronto waiting on my last leg home to PEI.  My Mom is worried that I might breakdown when I get back.  I don’t think I will, but the reality hasn’t set in for me yet.  I haven’t cried much, but did get emotional last week.  Does it mean I don’t miss him?  Who knows.  Am I in denial?  I don’t think so – I saw him and he’s really dead.  I’ll be home soon, and I can’t wait to see my boys and give them all great big hugs and kisses – all 4 of them!!!

I’m not one to give advice, but, here’s what I do know – if you’ve been meaning to contact someone, pick up the phone and call them.  If you’ve done someone wrong, apologize.  If you’re hurt, tell someone.  Do right by others; do right by yourself and don’t be a know-it-all.  Be decent; be genuine; be yourself.  Tomorrow isn’t promised to us.  We really are on borrowed time.