Friday, December 30, 2016

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

I've been thinking about 2016 these last few days.  It hasn't been a bad year really but it hasn't been a great year either.  Its been good, that is, up until these couple of weeks.  We found out before Christmas my brother Tony has cancer. I'm not going to lie, when I saw the message I broke down and I broke down hard.  I knew absolutely nothing except that he had cancer and was being referred to MD Anderson.  We now know he has esophageal cancer and it appears the cancer has been caught early.  More testing today will determine that and what treatment will be best.  Most likely it will be radiation and chemotherapy. The doctors are very positive and talk in terms of curing his cancer.  Tony's attitude is great.  He's ready to kick this cancer in its ass.  He has an army of support and prayers right behind him.  We are all right here with him to give him whatever he needs.  With that being said, we are all ready to say goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017.  We are ready, hopeful and thankful for many new days ahead.  Cancer puts your life in perspective.  Makes you see what's important and what isn't. I saw something the other day that said...

365 new days.  365 new chances.

I like that a lot.  I like the start of a new year.  Fresh start.  Not sure why a new year does that to everyone when we should get up every day with a fresh start.  I totally get it though, some days are easier than others. Positive thinking helps and I'm trying more every day.

I want to share this picture of me with my siblings we took Christmas Day.  Its rare you get all of us together for a picture but I'm glad Tony suggested it.  I think this one turned out pretty great....


Friday, December 16, 2016

Hank & Christmas

Hank the Elf finally made his debut late last week. The weather had been horrible at the North Pole so he wasn't able to travel before then.

He hasn't done anything too crazy...but has made Bella laugh a few times.

She really liked the snowflakes he made...

And when he decided to prop himself up on the rooster...

Yesterday he made a grocery list for us, or should I say for him!

He was hanging out in the tree this morning. Bella still loves to get up and see what he's done each day.  One day earlier this week, he hung himself upside on the Christmas bell hanging in the doorway.  Bella said, "mom, he did that last year" in a tone like she was appalled he hadn't done something new.  I told her that he probably just likes hanging upside him a new perspective on things, sees things differently.  She was okay with that.

Christmas is drawing closer and I am very, very close to finishing my shopping.  I have the kids done but still need something else for my sister and a gift for a friend.  I really wanted to do something different for both but I'm finding out that "something different" is harder to find than I anticipated, especially when I don't know what it is I'm looking for.  ha! I also need to quit thinking a gift is not enough and that I need to add more to it.  It is enough.  It's perfect.  I'm trying but while my heart wants to give, give, give, my pocketbook is screaming no, no, no!!  

Other than that I am super excited to be off for a glorious 10 days.  I want to cook, bake, watch Christmas movies in my jammies with a sweet girl snuggled up with me, eat popcorn, look at Christmas lights, sleep in, be lazy...all of that and more.  Just to be away and have some down time will be very nice indeed.    

Monday, December 5, 2016

Homemade Beef Stew

This is one of those recipes that I never got from my mom.  I watched her make it but never really made notes.  I can remember bits and pieces of how she did it but I'm not certain.  It was a dish that when I was married, she would always call me to say "I'm making stew for supper if you want to come over".  If the ex-husband was working, he was lucky because he didn't like stew.  However, if he wasn't working, tough nuggets for him because that meant he was eating a sandwich or McDonald's because this girl was going to her momma's for supper!  Over the years I had always wanted to try and make it.  When I was first married, I made all things simple.  If recipes called for a lot of directions and prep, I would avoid it.  If I thought it was hard, I would avoid it.  Key words being "if I though it was hard".  I laugh at myself now because those recipes don't scare me now.  I've come a long way baby.  Not that mom's beef stew was hard, but it required a little more and plus, mom would make it often enough when it was cold so I could enjoy it then and the ex didn't like it so I avoided dishes he didn't like.  I also naively believed my mom would be around forever.

Fast forward to December 4, 2016.  Its cold and rainy out and my children are at their father's for the weekend.  It's the perfect weather and opportunity to make beef stew.  I still didn't have enough bits and pieces of my memory to make stew mom's way but there is Pinterest and cookbooks.  I found the recipe below on Pinterest and decided this would be the one I wanted to make.  Part because the picture looked a lot like momma's stew and part because it was titled "Classic Homemade Beef Stew".


1 1/2 - 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 large onion, diced into large chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cups beef broth, homemade or low sodium
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 star anise (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


1.  In a large ziploc bag, combine flour, salt, pepper, onion powder and thyme.  Add meat and shake until well coated.

2.  In a large dutch oven or pot on medium high heat, add cooking oil and brown the meat on all side for about 5 minutes.  You may have to work in batches so you don't crowd the meat.

3.  With all the meat browned, toss in onions and garlic.  Cook and stir 2-3 minutes until onions are translucent.  Add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar.  Stir in beef broth, worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, rosemary, dried parsley, potatoes, carrots and celery (and star anise if using) and stir to combine.

4.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

5.  Combine flour with 1/4 cup stock or water, whisking until there are not lumps. Turn heat back to high and stir flour mixture into stew and cook until stew has boiled and thickened.

6.  Adjust seasonings if needed and serve hot with fresh parsley.

Now for Missy's adjustments...
I did not include the star anise.  I have never heard of this and it was optional so I opted to not include it.  Saw a picture of it in the picture but chose not to use it.

I also did not include celery.  Instead, I used bell pepper. I remember mom put bell pepper in hers, confirmed by my siblings, so I was going to use it in mine.

Little story here...I made my list of ingredients I needed, went to the store to get them, came home and began to prep.  Going down the list...balsamic vinegar?  Where the hell did that come from?  Crap. I don't remember seeing that?  So I get dressed and run back to the store to get the vinegar. I get home, change back into my comfy clothes and get back in the kitchen to finish and discover I missed the cloves of garlic as well.  Screw that, I'm not running back out again, I will use garlic powder.  And that is what I did.  So here is my lesson learned, double and triple check your recipes and ingredients before heading to the store!

After I combined everything, I didn't think there was enough juice so I added about 1/4 cup or so of water.

I followed the recipe as instructed combining everything at once even though my gut and memory remembered momma never adding the potatoes at the same time because they don't need to cook as long as the carrots.  I should have followed my gut.  The potatoes ended up being a little too soft so I definitely make that adjustment next time, adding them in about halfway through the cooking process.  Other than that, this stew was delicious.  It wasn't momma's but it was a good reminder.

Oh, I also didn't add the fresh parsley at the end. If I were cooking for family or a date, I would have for presentation but for me...I don't need it.  Ha!

If you like beef stew and looking for a good recipe, I encourage you to try this one.  Its sooooo good!! Perfect for a cold day.

Have a good one y'all!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Welcome December

Its December y'all and that means it needs to be cold outside.  I'm so over the 80 degree temps.  Normally I wouldn't complain about the 80's however, it is now December 1st so its getting a little ridiculous.  It would be awesome if we could see something beautiful like this...

There was that time in 2003 or 2004 I think it was that it snowed Christmas Eve and we woke up to a very white Christmas.  That was amazing.  

Isn't that just beautiful?  

I will settle for this....

But if Mother Nature changes her mind...I'll take the snow too!!