What’s Your Favorite Comfort Food?

oxtail soup

My mom’s recipe of oxtail soup. This is the batch I made for Christmas 2019.

With all the crazy stuff going on, I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. We have a divided country and no matter what side you’re on, you’re probably feeling unsettled, angry and distraught.

Add that to months of being locked down due to a global pandemic, this has been a strange time indeed. Then this year we sold our home of 28 years and packed up and left within 30 days to a new state. So much upheaval in my life. So what makes me feel good? Reading beach novels by Elin Hilderbrand in the sunny backyard, watching quail, walking, hiking, having my cat jump into my lap, praying and yes — thinking about cooking comfort food.

Here are two of my all-time favorite comfort foods:

I used to make chicken and dumplings from the recipe on the Bisquick box. My mom cooked it when I was a child and I’m sure besides the warm broth, tender chicken and butter melting off the dumplings, that’s why it’s a favorite. I haven’t made it in years though because my kids got tired of it — and my husband thought the dumplings were gross. But, I think it might be time to give it a whirl.

old fashioned chicken and dumplings

Photo from the chicken and dumpling recipe at Stay at Home Chef

Click here for the Bisquick chicken and dumplings recipe brought to you by Betty Crocker. Here’s another great recipe for old fashioned chicken and dumplings from scratch with more detail by The Stay at Home Chef.

Another one of my favorite comfort foods is oxtail soup. That’s another thing my mom cooked when I was young. It took me years to not turn up my nose at oxtails. I couldn’t get my mind around them as a kid. My husband told his friends that he married me because of my oxtail soup. “If she can cook something so delicious out of that — I had to marry her.”

oxtail soup cooking

Browning the oxtails first is one of the keys. Also, letting the soup cool and removing the fat is essential.

My kids didn’t like oxtail soup when they were young, either. But now that they’re young adults they love it. It’s also become quite trendy in restaurants. Maybe that helped. Christmas 2019, I had to order a mass amount of oxtails at several grocery stores. We were hosting the kids and my son’s girlfriend’s family of seven siblings and mom — many of them are hungry athletes. I cooked several large pots of my oxtail soup so it would be ready when they arrived. It was all gone before the night was through.

My oxtail soup recipe is not written down and takes a feel based on experience. Here’s my attempt:

Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Brown the oxtails in oil and place them on a platter with paper towels to absorb fat. Place them in large pot with lots of garlic and broth. Simmer for several hours, adding water or broth to cover, and take off the heat before they are tender. Put in the fridge and leave overnight. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove with a spoon the next day.

Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, or whatever you like and simmer until the oxtails and vegetables are tender.

The feel part comes in to not overcook or undercook the oxtails so they are tender and start to fall off the bone.

family portrait outside

Our Christmas crew from 2018 and 2019.

My daughter had a class in college where they were asked to share their comfort foods. I was surprised when she told me her comfort food was take-out machaca from Las Casuelas the Original! Not my home cooking!

What are your favorite comfort foods and do you cook them yourself or order from restaurants? Would you share recipes?

Take time to breathe!

I wrote this two years ago — well before the Pandemic days. Back then we had a crowd for Christmas and lots of activities to fill our days. We won’t be hosting my children, dad, and my son’s girlfriend’s family for Christmas. His girlfriend’s family includes seven siblings and mom. The two years they stayed with us were amazing.

This year, I am moving out of state and out of our home of 28 years. So, although we aren’t social butterflies, I am still busier than I’d like. I’m reminding myself TAKE TIME TO BREATHE.

Infant and toddler Christmas photo

My children’s first Christmas picture together.

It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.

Last night I was downtown for the Palm Springs Walk of the Inns and the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. I baked a double batch of snickerdoodles for the bake sale for the PSWC. Today I’m off to a luncheon fashion show with a friend at Wally’s. But, I really have so much stuff to do around the house to get ready for Christmas.

I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.

The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.

Balachine Nutcracker bunny

My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu).

 

One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!

Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.Toddler son and infant daughter's first Christmas photo

What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do?

What a week it was!

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Waffles at the park. Some unknown person decorated park benches.

What a whirlwind week we had for Christmas. It was fun, but I’m exhausted. We had our second annual Christmas with my son’s girlfriend’s family. We are a family of four and they are a family of nine, plus my dad. Looking back on the past few days, I did a lot of cooking and dishes. It’s a good thing I like to cook — and I don’t mind cleaning up!

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Some of the fun stats from our week included the food we went through:

7 dozen eggs

6 dozen Honeycrisp apples

1 full-size prime rib

2 hams

8 packages of oxtails for soup

8 packages of sweet Italian sausages for sausage and peppers

1 giant pot of split pea soup

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We also enjoyed my son’s charcuterie and veggie platters before each dinner.

I can’t say how much fun it is to be around an energetic, athletic, intelligent and musically-talented family. I’m inspired and in awe. Also, I was amazed to see how well everyone got along — all the time. Coming from a small family, I feel like I missed out on something by having only one sibling.

I will admit as much fun as the past week was, I’m glad to have my quiet and solitude. I’m ready to start the New Year and get back to my work.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the siblings who are professional musicians. Although the lighting is terrible, here’s a snippet:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Waffles in his Christmas sweater.

What are your thoughts about family togetherness for the holidays?

A sharp reminder to enjoy the moment

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Oatmeal Scotchies I made this week for a bake sale fundraiser.

Today I got a sharp reminder to slow down and to enjoy the moment. I was waiting with a heavy armload of Christmas packages for more than 15 minutes in a line that wrapped around the inside of the Post Office. I thought my arms were going to give out and I couldn’t wait to put them down. I was looking forward to the coveted spots along the counter where I could slide my packages as the line inched along.

A loud crash and sharp crack startled me. I thought someone had knocked their packages off the counter onto the hard tiled floor. I was shocked to see a woman laying flat on the floor ahead of me in line. The sharp crack was the back of her head hitting the hard floor. Moments earlier we were chatting about the long line and Christmas rush.

“Call 911! Call 911!” several people called out. We stared at the Post Office employees as they waited on customers and stared back. The supervisor came out to peek over the counter without a phone in hand. Fortunately, a person in line had called 911 before the supervisor was aware what was happening.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly…

The paramedics were there within minutes and the woman must be on her way via ambulance to the hospital. The supervisor grabbed her package and the woman was able to hand her a credit card to get her package mailed before she was carted away on a stretcher. So she was conscious at least. I don’t know if it was a stroke or in the very least a concussion.

The woman didn’t look much older than me. As I work myself into a ball of tiredness and fatigue preparing for Christmas, I realized that could have been me!

Here’s what I don’t need to do: I don’t need to volunteer extra hours this time of year (which I have). I don’t need to have every gift perfectly wrapped and under the tree. I don’t have to get every room in my house in perfect shape for my guests. I don’t need to go overboard on decorations.

Here’s what I need to focus on: being together with family and friends. It’s not about checking things off the list in perfection. It’s about savoring the moments and not getting lost in the mayhem. We need to embrace the Christmas spirit and remember what the holiday is all about.

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I caught this moment of sunrise lighting up the mountain and palm trees during my walk. 

 

 

 

This time of year, take time to breathe!

christmas 2

My children’s first Christmas picture together.

It’s that time of year and feeling festive, I agreed to go to more events than normal. But while I’m bouncing from event to event, I’m stressed thinking of all the work I have at home to do.

 

Last night I was downtown for the Palm Springs Walk of the Inns and the Palm Springs Woman’s Club. I baked a double batch of snickerdoodles for the bake sale for the PSWC. Today I’m off to a luncheon fashion show with a friend at Wally’s. But, I really have so much stuff to do around the house to get ready for Christmas.

I have to find a tree! I have to clean out my kids’ rooms for the guests (We invited my son’s girlfriend and her family to stay with us Christmas week.) I have to meal plan and grocery shop and yeah — shop for presents, too. So many to dos are filling my lists. It’s freaking me out a bit.

The entire tree thing seems too much. There’s a tree seller down the street and during an evening walk, my husband and I stopped by to look. I only want a little tree, nothing stupendous. Just a four-footer or so. I just about choked when I saw the price tag on the smallest tree on the lot — $225! I remember when I’d pick up a tree in front of the grocery store for $30. I’ve been against fake trees on principle all these years. But, I think those principles are now telling me that it’s a crime to buy a real tree and pay a small fortune just to have the garbage man haul it off in a couple weeks. It seems so wasteful to destroy a tree, too, for a few week’s pleasure.

christmas 1

My son in the Palm Springs Christmas Lights parade in the Nutcracker Sleigh next to the Sugar Plum Fairy (pink tutu).

 

One funny story about the Christmas tree lot near our house: I remember when my kids were young and one night we walked there to pick out a tree. My husband carried our toddler son on his shoulders. I was pushing the stroller with our infant daughter while holding on to our Rottie’s leash. We walked the few blocks to the tree lot and began walking in an out of the rows of trees. Something jumped out from under one of the trees — scaring me to death! It was Sherman our black cat! I guess he couldn’t stand being left out. I had to walk back to the house with baby and dog in tow, herding the cat home, too!

Now with my busy schedule on my mind, it’s my saving grace to take time for myself. I’m grounded with my morning routine of walking, praying and writing. I am forcing myself to swim at noon Masters a couple days a week. And then I find a moment to sit in the back yard, close my eyes, listen to the birds and breathe.christmas

What’s your secret for staying calm through all the Holiday fun activities and things you have to do?

It’s Christmastime and I’m Ready!

katsmile 1

First brother sister Christmas photo.

I worked like crazy to get ready for Christmas. In addition to my usual decorating, card writing, baking and gift buying and wrapping, I had the added challenge of getting bids from roofers and a handyman to repair the roof and our closet.

Then, my daughter came home a few days ago and it’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since. I’m fighting myself to take time to appreciate the moments she’s here and not worry about everything that needs to “get done.” It’s a fact that I’m not going to finish the rewrite of my mid-grade novel or complete the other writing projects before Christmas—or soon after. I will in good time. And that’s okay. I need to enjoy these few days with my daughter and husband before our girl returns to school out of state.

I realize how blessed I am that she enjoys coming home, wants nothing more than to take a walk with us around town and the park. She likes hanging out and helping me.

It’s time to celebrate the season and be grateful for the time I have with my family. Last night we were treated to a wonderful dinner by my dad. I looked around the table marveling that we had three generations who like being together. I miss having our son home, too, but we’ll be together later next week.

Merry Christmas and if you don’t hear from me for a few days, I’m spending the time with my loved ones.

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First Christmas photo shoot with a real photographer.

Is there anything more important than spending time together with your loved ones? When is it time to say enough with the preparations for the holidays and take time to enjoy them?

 

When is it enough already with posting photos of our kids on Facebook?

 

kattowel

An example of a photo my daughter would not like me to post on Facebook.

 

Just to be perfectly clear, I post lots of photos of my kids. That said, I read an article this morning where an 18-year-old is suing her mom and dad for posting her life on Facebook. It will be enlightening to see if she wins her case. 

I’ve also read articles where it’s dangerous to post your young children’s photos on FB. Here’s an interesting read that explores the pros and cons of posting kids photos from the Wall Street Journal.

My daughter doesn’t like it when I post old photos of her on Facebook. I need to ask her approval before posting any pictures of her.

I’ve got some great old photos, too. I find them all sweet, funny, cute. She says friends on her swim team scour parents FB pages to find embarrassing photos to tweet.

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Christmas 1996. How could I possibly resist posting this?

My son blocked me from his FB, because I didn’t approve of things he was posting and made the mistake of telling him about it. Because I was blocked, I missed the post where he tried to give away our cat and got quite a few takers. You can read more about that here.

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Olive the kitten my son tried to give away online.

Isn’t it amazing how different our children’s lives are growing up with social media? We had a chance to escape the pressure of posting selfies, sushi and all the fun and smiles, all the time. We hung out at pizza parlors, long after our salads or slices were finished. We went to football games and dances in the small gym afterwards. We spent time together. We laughed and talked. When we weren’t face-to-face, we had an old-fashioned telephone and talked for hours. We also had downtime and privacy. Lots of it.

I wonder what is going to happen to our kids whose lives are on display? They don’t know anything else and even if we stop posting their pictures, they’ll do it on their own.

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