2016…transition year

front-of-house

Retirement plans and house hunting. So much happened in 2016. During the fall of 2015 my husband and I decided he should retire a few years early. We crunched the numbers and decided we could manage. Early in 2016 we started looking for houses. We finally found a house we loved as soon as we walked in. (It’s not perfect, of course, but I can see myself living here for years.) I moved into the house during the spring while my husband finished up at work and put our house in Maryland up for sale.

Flash ahead to first of July. My husband retired, we moved the rest of the household goods, thought we had the Maryland house sold and had a party for my husband here in Iowa. We had a wonderful summer just relaxing, unpacking and getting settled in. (The house sale fell through a couple more times. Finally, our Maryland house sold at the end of September. Yay!)

And now it was Autumn. We planned a road trip for much of 20160919_104029September and some of October while we meandered our way to a family wedding at the end of September. A few days before the wedding and a few miles from the U.S. border, but still in Canada we hit a deer with our car. The car was then towed almost 100 miles to Spokane, Washington for repairs. We rented a car and continued to the wedding. The wedding was wonderful and our niece beautiful. Our nephew-in-law and his family were wonderful, too. Lots of great memories.

Road trip finishes early. We continued in our rental into Oregon, visited some of my family and spent a few days at the Oregon Coast (one of my favorite places in the world). We were still hopeful our car would be repaired before we were ready to head home, but that didn’t happen. We flew home and waited for word the car was repaired. Over a month later we finally found out it was ready for the drive home and we booked tickets to Spokane. Our trip didn’t happen and we ended up shipping the car home. That was a good decision.

My husband in pain. Just a couple of days before the flight my husband had a terrible pain in his back which kept him from sleeping. After several trips to the emergency room, acute care and a hospital stay, lots of tests, pain medications, after two weeks we finally found out it was cancer. However, the oncologist is very encouraging. He started radiology and chemotherapy the first part of November. He’s doing well, is optimistic and his next chemo is scheduled around the first of February.

(You notice I didn’t include world events, politics, elections and other happenings in this post. I decided to keep this personal. I’m waiting to see what 2017 brings–and hoping for the best.)

So. . . it was a full and sometimes stressful year.

However, we have so much to be thankful for:

  1. For our children who have helped us out so much during the year
  2. For our extended family who have helped us move, cheered us on and sent good wishes
  3. For neither of us getting hurt when we hit the deer
  4. For the beautiful home we found in Iowa
  5. For the encouraging diagnosis my husband received
  6. And for so many, many other things in our lives

What about all of you? What happened in 2016 in your life? What are you thankful for?

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate

‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year.
–Walter Scott

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

village-card

My three kids are with us and I feel very lucky to have them here to celebrate our first Christmas in our new house. We also have their two dogs–along with my three cats so it’s a happy house.

I made cards this year and had lots of fun making them though I got a late start. I didn’t get my  cards sent out until this week, but I did get them sent out with a short note so that made me happy!

christmas-cards

I haven’t posted much in December. It has been a very busy month plus I’ve had various computer problems most of the month. My son is here for Christmas and has solved the last of the computer problems…at least for now.

I plan to get back on schedule after Christmas. For now I hope you all have a wonderful day!

How are you spending your day?

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Share Your World: 2016 Week 48

I’m participating in Cee’s Share Your World this week. She posts questions each Monday and invites people to answer the questions and then leave a link on her blog.

Check out the Share Your World post this week at Cee’s Photography blog.

Do you prefer eating foods with nuts or no nuts?  

I love nuts so I always choose them, but if it’s something for my kids, too, I leave the nuts out since they don’t like them (unless I want to make sure they don’t eat whatever it is!).

If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?

I hope I would be in a science fiction or fantasy movie. That’s my favorite to watch and one of my favorites to read.

 Who talks real sense to you?

My husband. Even when I don’t want to hear it he tells me the truth. And he’s very practical and pragmatic!

Do you have a favorite board game?

I love cribbage when I can find people to play it. I like to play card games even more though–pinochle, spades and a game my kids like–Exploding Kittens! (Luckily, Exploding Kittens doesn’t include real kittens!)

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Grateful for family and a wonderful Thanksgiving last week. I’m looking forward to starting to decorate for Christmas. I love Christmas!

What about you? What are you grateful for from last week? What are you looking forward to?

Thanksgiving reflections

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Iowa. It was the 50th annual celebration! All these years my father-in-law and mother-in-law hosted it. (Unfortunately, she died before she got to see the 50th, but she was certainly present in spirit.) It is her side of the family who have come all these years to celebrate and give thanks for wonderful family. This year nearly 100 people were there on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, there are always some members who aren’t able to come each year so we could have had even more people!

As one family member posted on Facebook: “How do you fit/feed 97 relatives in a two bedroom/one bath house?? You move the party outside, of course!” Even though it was only about 40 degrees many people were outside for the day. There was a heater and tables in the garage, two brand new port-a-potties in the driveway plus some of the food stations outside! We roasted four turkeys and two hams! Plus we had lots of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salads, vegetables, rolls and, of course, many desserts. No one went hungry!

What about all of you? How was your Thanksgiving if you celebrate that? What are your plans for this week?

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Chicken Soup

chicken-soupI made chicken soup last week. Although by the time I finished it was more like chicken stew!

I love soups and stews especially in the fall and winter. When I have time I like to start making chicken soup by making broth and ideally it’s a two-day process for me. I make the broth one day and the soup the next day. I use a whole chicken or at least chicken parts with the bones attached.

Chicken Broth

1 whole chicken or chicken parts such as drumsticks, wings, thighs (This time I made my chicken soup using two packages of bone-in chicken thighs.)

Note: I like to use the dark meat if I’m using chicken pieces because I like the flavor better in my soup. When I use chicken pieces I brown them first in my large stockpot or soup pot.

Add:

  • about six cups of water
  • carrots
  • celery
  • onions
  • garlic
  • herbs (fresh or dry–basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, peppercorns, dill)

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1-1/2 hours. Take off stove. Scoop out chicken pieces. Strain out solid pieces from broth and discard vegetables. Cool chicken and broth. Refrigerate broth.

When chicken is cool enough to handle remove chicken skin and bones. Tear chicken into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate chicken.

The broth and chicken have many uses. For example, the chicken could be used for chicken salad or chicken tetrazinni or other pasta dishes. And the broth for any recipe calling for chicken broth.

Both are easily frozen. Small portions of broth–in ice cube trays–and then put in a zip-lock freezer bag work great for small portions used in a recipe. Individual servings of chicken in small zip-lock freezer bags makes it very easy to add to recipes.

Jan’s Chicken Soup

  • Broth (if you wait until the refrigerated broth is cold the fat congeals and is easy to scoop from the top of the broth)
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Other root vegetables, if desired (turnips, rutabagas, parsnips)
  • Other vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, celery, winter squash)
  • brown rice, wild rice, noodles (as desired)
  • Herbs, fresh or dried (rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano)
  • 1 to 2 cans tomatoes
  • Additional water or chicken broth, if needed
  • Chicken

Bring the broth to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the vegetables that need the most cooking (carrots, potatoes, some kinds of squash). Add 1/2 to 1 cup rice (brown rice and wild rice both take about 45 minutes to cook–usually more time when added to soup since the soup may stop simmering when adding ingredients).  Add sweet potatoes and some types of squash after about 1/2 hour. Add tomatoes, herbs, additional chicken broth as needed. Simmer for about 1 hour.

Add vegetables (and noodles if using) that don’t need as much cooking (celery, cabbage, broccoli). Cook an additional 10 minutes. Add chicken. Cook until vegetables are done and chicken is hot. Serve.

As you can see my chicken soup isn’t an exact recipe! I made similar soups with my Mom and then as an adult I made soups and experimented by adding additional ingredients (squash, cabbage and broccoli, for example).

What vegetables I add depends on the time of year and what I buy at the store or farmer’s market. How long the vegetables cook depends upon personal preference, too. My family likes the vegetables softer than if we were eating them separately as a side dish.

For the chicken soup I made this time I used carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice and wild rice.

Do you ever make chicken soup? How do you make it? Or would you rather just open up a can!!?

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The C word

The C word–such a scary word. Cancer.

The last month was difficult. A little over a month ago my husband suddenly had severe back pain that kept him from sleeping. He thought he might have kidney stones. We went to the emergency room and he got a CT scan that found inflamed lymph nodes in his abdomen. Who knew there even were lymph nodes there? Not me.

They thought he had a virus and weren’t sure why his back was hurting so much. They gave him pain meds and sent him home. Over the course of the next week the pain got worse and he went to acute care and back to the emergency room since the pain meds weren’t working. He was finally admitted to the hospital where biopsies were done, then a PET scan. The diagnosis came back–Cancer.

Luckily, the hospital we had gone to has a very good cancer center and we have a very good oncologist. He’s an older man and has a very calm manner and is willing to talk and answer questions. The type of lymphoma my husband has is very slow-growing. (Sometimes doctors just watch it for years before anything is done.) The back pain was caused by a small portion of the spine and rib which are also cancerous.

So much has happened since the cancer diagnosis: chemotherapy, radiation treatments for the back and he’s home from the hospital. This week he’s receiving the rest of his radiation and he’s pretty much pain-free. He will get three more chemotherapy treatments over the course of three more months.

He’s continuing to feel well and is very positive. I have a cold so I’m staying away from him. Our daughter who lives here is staying with us right now to help out. And our daughter in Illinois has come for a weekend. Our son who is in NYC calls almost every day.

So we are blessed with wonderful kids, a diagnosis that could have been much worse, a great oncologist, a great hospital.

But I have to admit hearing the Cancer diagnosis felt like a knock out punch. When I was a child and someone got that diagnosis it pretty much meant one thing: a painful death before too much time passed. It’s hard to get that image out of my mind even though I know great strides have been made on many types of cancer.

However, there are still many cancers which bring that death sentence. One of my husband’s cousins is bravely fighting her cancer right now. She started with Stage IV breast cancer two years ago. She had chemo and that held things in abeyance for almost two years. She has traveled (a trip to Ireland), spent time with her children and grandchild and other family and done many things she had put off. However, in August the cancer came roaring back–it’s now in her brain and in other parts of her body. She decided to aggressively treat it to buy some more time with her family. She came to a family wedding in Seattle at the end of September and is planning to be at the family Thanksgiving later this month. She’s an amazing, positive person who’s an inspiration to all of us–but especially to my husband and me.

The C word still scares me.

Veteran’s Day

We have a history of military service in our families: My husband and I were both in the military as were our dads. My dad and two of his brothers fought in WWII. One of my grandfathers was in the Cavalry (when they still rode horses!) in the Spanish-American War. One of our daughters was an Army officer in Iraq, Qatar and Afghanistan during her service.

We are in a very divided country, but today as we honor our veterans we are very thankful for a military that protects our country. I watched President Obama at the Tomb of the Unknowns today and agree when he talked about the important symbolism of the election and Veteran’s Day in 2016 in the same week. This was a very divisive election, but we in the U.S. have a peaceful transition of power. That’s so important.

A few days ago Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted “A paltry few Countries in the history of Civilization have gotten to choose their leaders. How lucky we are to be among them.” We are very lucky and even though my candidate didn’t win I hope that the people of our country will work together. I hope President-Elect Trump will realize what a great deal of trust our country is giving him. I hope he will rise to the challenge and become a President for all the people and not just the people who voted for him.

I hope our very divided country begins to listen to one another. We seem to only listen to the people who think and believe like we do–and then we’re surprised when we find out there are people who believe the opposite.

And I really wish Americans would understand what a gift they have been given–the right to vote. And I wish they would exercise that right–find out about the candidates and the issues and vote!