Showtunes

Yesterday and the day before that, I was all alone in my office at work. That’s a hard thing for an extrovert like myself. Very hard. I tried to compensate for the lack of the others in my entire department (almost everyone on the main floor) by singing loudly to the Showtunes station on my ipad.

I’m an excellent showtunes singer-alonger. I don’t know if I should admit that – but I just did. I sing with gusto. As if I could quite possibly win a Tony award in office-singing-showtune- accompaniment. It was awesome. You totally should have been there.

You see, almost everyone in the entire building was away at a staff retreat. I could not go. This is one of the hard things about living a million miles away from any family when you have children. You are stuck. No one says, “I need to see my grandsons/ nephew/cousins…send them over.”  And sometimes (like this past few days for me) a million miles away is a really hard place to be.

You know, not once when we were driving around, breathing the midwestern October air on our interview here, did I imagine I’d NOT be homeschooling the boys. And yet, here we are – boys in public school and me working. I love my job. I love the people I get to work with. This week I realized how much I counted on them to make my days brighter and so much more fun.

Which brings me back to showtunes. It’s true, you know. People who need people are the luckiest people in the world. We need others to make us stronger, braver, and more polished (even when the polishing process is a bit painful).  We need people to make us laugh, to comfort us when we cry and we need some special people who won’t judge when you scream and throw a pity party because everyone else got to go on a getaway and you didn’t. I know this to be true. I just lived it. Even if you are not an extrovert like this girl, you still need people.

And just for you, Melanie…I do have a great new recipe to share. It’s tasty. I made it two ways: regular and vegan.  Baking makes me happy. Make it soon. Share it with others. Thank me later.

Cinnamon Roll Cake (Regular version first, vegan substitutions in parenthesis)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cake Layer:

  • 3 c flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 &1/2 c milk (I used almond milk)
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 2 eggs (1/2 c unsweetened applesauce)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 c butter (1/2 c Spectrum Shortening or Earth Balance PLUS 1/4 t butter flavoring)

Swirl Layer:

  • 1 c butter (1/2 c Spectrum Shortening or Earth Balance PLUS 1/4 t butter flavoring)
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 2 Tbl flour
  • 1 Tbl cinnamon

Icing:

  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbl milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 t vanilla

Mix everything for the cake layer together first, adding melted butter last. Pour batter into a lightly greased 13×9 pan.

In another bowl, mix ingredients for swirl layer. Drop by large spoonfuls onto cake layer. Use a knife a swirl into the cake layer.

Put pan into oven and bake for 28-32 minutes.

While cake is baking, mix icing. Pour over cake after it has been out of the oven for 5-7 minutes, but still warm.

Enjoy! It’s great warm or cold.

~Janna

Back in Black

It’s been well over a year since I blogged last. March, 2012, to be exact.  I had nothing to say. Well, I always have something to say, but I was feeling too raw to say most of it.

Let’s get reacquainted, shall we?

In late December, 2012, I was finally diagnosed with what has been making me so sick. After seeing multiple specialists, I don’t know how many units of blood drawn, trips to the ER, and more…at last, I knew.

Food allergies. SEVERE food allergies. They tested me for 96 different foods, and at this time I am allergic to over 42 of them. Yes…42. It’s weird. I’ve always had some weird auto-immune issues – and had an allergy to chlorine since high school, but this is weird. I can no longer eat yeast, dairy, eggs, soy, legumes, sesame, celery, carrots, tomatoes (anything in the nightshade family, actually), all melons, all squash, fish, shellfish, nitrites, nitrates, safflower, garlic (the entire lily family, too), ginger,all nuts except for almonds, pineapple, coconut, and more. That’s all I can remember off of the top of my head for starters. Youngest son, who has struggled with asthma since he was itty bitty, has recently been diagnosed with a few food allergies as well. We are hoping that by managing his allergies, we can reduce his daily meds for asthma. Y’all there are so many awful things we are ingesting without thought. It’s gross.

It’s a pain in the rumpus. On one hand, it’s great to not be so mysteriously sick, on the other hand…the food is so terribly boring. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been in the ER for anaphylaxis 3 times – the last time, they almost had to put a tracheal tube in. Not cool.

Now, for what else has been going on. The boys did their first year in public school and it was awesome. They loved it.  This year, we have a sophomore, a freshman, and a 7th grader. The two older guys are both playing football and love it. We feel so blessed to have the great schools here. Going from homeschooling to public school has been a great thing for our family – but certainly was not done without much prayer first.

I started working at our church. When we made the decision that the boys were going to go to school, I told Mr Darcy that my extroverted self was not going to be okay every single day…alone. Within a week of telling him that, I was being asked if I was interested in working at our church. I love my job, I had my one-year anniversary at the end of May. It’s a great place to work and I really enjoy it.

We moved. This has been the most recent thing. I’ll blog more about it later. We had a great big house in a great neighborhood that Mr Darcy found for us to rent in about 3 days when we we moved here. We even thought we were going to buy it. But we didn’t. And oh, how glad we are that we didn’t. So glad. We purposefully DOWNSIZED (and are still in the process) the first of August.  We are in our new place for a year as we continue to reduce our load and are hopeful that we’ll find a wonderful old farmhouse at the end of it.

That’s all for now.  I’m looking forward to blogging again. I like to be able to get my thoughts out and have been cooking more as I attempt to revamp recipes so I can eat them.

Thanks for reading…

Janna

Scissors

Recently, I had a moment. Yes, a moment. I realized that I had been wearing my hair in a ponytail every single day. When had it started? I didn’t even know. I don’t really even like the way I look in a ponytail and my hair is seriously heavy, so what was I doing with all that long hair?

It was Saturday afternoon and I walked upstairs, inspired. I took my shower and promptly took the scissors out of the nightstand drawer and started whacking away at my thick, curly, misbehaving tresses. When it was all said and done, I took about 5 inches off. I applied some product, diffused the newly-cropped hair and checked myself out in the mirror. Not bad.(I actually said that out loud.) I already felt lighter. Not just my head, but my whole self. My mind felt like I had released it from burdens that it just couldn’t carry anymore. All with a few chop- chops of those scissors. Magical. After getting some makeup on and getting ready for church, I floated downstairs to where my beloved was watching basketball on tv.

Ask me now if Mr. Darcy noticed that I had just relieved myself of 5 inches of hair on my head. He did not. He did look at me a little strangely, but that was it. Now, as soon as I got to church, a friend noticed immediately. 🙂

Why do we notice some things and just absorb the other things as “status quo?” What takes us so long to notice subtle changes and maybe even the not-so subtle things that we come face to face with?

Why did a haircut make me feel like things were going to be okay in my life?

I have been having some “health challenges” for many months and have an appointment to see a doctor this week. I have looked up every weird symptom I have and I either have something I picked up in Africa (which would be really crazy because I have not yet been to Africa!) or some other dreaded, horrible thing. The internet can be a scary place. I’ve since stopped trying to diagnose myself on the internet and I am waiting until I see the doctor to figure this out.

In the meantime, I have been working on some core issues. They have become burdens that I was never meant to carry. Burdens that start with “what if?” and things I don’t need to think about. Fear. I have been in combat with fear and I haven’t been equipping myself the right way.

You know, faith is a growing process. You can’t just say that you have faith and that’s it. It’s constantly changing-emerging – hopefully it’s growing so it will permeate more and more of you. Fear destroys. It pulls up all the beautiful faith that you have planted and throws it away and mucks up the beautiful soil you prepared in hopes of a sweet-tasting harvest. You can’t have a sweet-tasting harvest when you are tending and fertilizing fear. I am making a choice to weed out the fear and let faith flourish.

Just like the scissors I wielded on my hair, I am boldly cutting away the fear that weighs me down by applying The Truth. The book of Hebrews says this:  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  (Hebrews 4:12) Everyone knows a two-edged sword is sharper than a pair of scissors, right? Right!

It feels good. The truth is liberating.

I don’t know what I will hear at the appointment but I know it will be okay. In fact, it will be better than okay. It will be an opportunity to praise the Lord, no matter what I find out. He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21) It will be a chance to get down on my hands and knees and work in my faith.

I can apply this scissor/sword combat to everything… EVERYTHING in my life. Not just weird medical symptoms. How about my children? My husband? My friendships (or lack of them in a new town?)  YES!!

He is with me always…even to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 28:20) (Or when my boys go away on a van with a STRANGER driving, or when my Mr. Darcy goes on a trip to the other end of the world, or even when I wish for a friend to sit with over a cup of coffee). He is with me always.

Them’s fightin’ words.

~janna

Yum from the slow cooker

Hello to you all and happy Wednesday!  Since it’s Wednesday and I am doing slow cooker recipes on Wednesday, I tried something new. Friends, it was GOOD. It was so good that I knew…I knew I had to share it with you. It is the best slow cooker pork chops I have ever had. Really.

6 pork chops (I used my boneless center loin chops)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or something like it.
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed

I put all 6 FROZEN pork chops in the bottom of the crock pot. I sprinkled the Lawry’s on them – but just on one side. I dumped everything else right on top, turned it on low and put the lid on. Mine were on all afternoon. I think (don’t count on this) I turned the crockpot on before lunch by just a little, but I can’t remember. Hey, that was a long time ago in Jannaland! After about an hour, I stirred it just a smidge. After 2 hours, I stirred it again. At 5:00 pm, my superthick chops were done.

They smelled amazing. I served them with corn on the cob and salted edamame. I also had sautéed onions (because I love them) as a side dish. Everyone said “WOW!”  We will make these again. SO easy. I am wondering if the same technique and recipe would work for chicken breasts or if they would get mushy like they usually do. I also wonder how a pork roast would be in the crockpot with the same recipe. I’ll bet it would be tasty.

Did I mention how yummy these were?

Last night, I made a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit clone with our dinner. I simply added grated fresh parmesan and extra sharp cheddar as well as about 5-6 cloves of minced garlic to my basic biscuit dough recipe. Yes, white flour. They were delicious. You should make some. Well, only if you like delicious goodness in every bite.

That’s it for us over here. Tomorrow, my youngest turns 11. Oh dear. He requested ice cream sandwiches as his birthday treat. I did not try to make those homemade. Why would I? 🙂

Here’s hoping your dinner was delicious tonight as well!

~Janna

Carry-on luggage and other strange things

We just returned from a great getaway trip that I won. What? Yes…I WON it. It was a family reunion trip. I entered  when I lived in North Texas, so that’s where the reunion was held. Mr Darcy’s younger sister and her family flew in from the East Coast and we flew in from the Heartland. We had a great time.

In addition to everyone in Mr Darcy’s family, we were able to see my precious parents, my sister, brother in law and their 4 terrific boys AND my Great Aunt and Uncle who were in town for a wedding from South Carolina. I loved it! Even though our time was short, it was wonderful to be in the company of those we call “family.”

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the airlines have imposed a lovely thing called a baggage cost. Basically, even though you are going far away from your closet and dresser, you are not supposed to need clothes, shoes and your Chi flat iron. So, unless you can fit those items in your small carry-on luggage (and that seems to get smaller every year), you have to pay to bring a suitcase. My father in laws says, “no big deal.” But we are a family of 5. The airlines charge $25 each way to check luggage. That would add $250 to the cost of our weekend trip. Yuck. So we have become quite good at bringing only what we need in the carry-ons and I dream of wearing a giant trenchcoat with hidden pockets to put my flat iron and shoes in!

Even with the challenges of packing everything I might need in the equivalent of a Holly Hobby Lunchbox, I want to tell you something: I love the airport. I love rolling my luggage behind me as I walk from gate to gate and I love LOVE people watching at the airport. Such fun.

Now we are back and I am going to divulge a great weakness of mine. Sit down. Take a deep breath. Here it is:  It’s grocery-store sugar cookies with Technicolor frosting. Cannot. Resist.  We returned home to an empty fridge (I like it that way), so I went to the Kroger and bought our groceries for the rest of the pay period. I was just about finished when I strolled over to the bakery department. It was like a siren song as I floated over to the “reduced” rack they had. My eyes were glazed, transfixed on the 400 clear, plastic boxes of cookies – for 49 cents. I’d like to say that the smarter part of me resisted, shouting, “NO, Janna! The ingredient list in those cookies is like the recipe for poison! Your children are allergic to food dye! Lard is certainly in those pretty round, frosted cookies! That bright blue frosting is going to stain your teeth! You will get sick from all the tooooxxxxxiiinnnnss.” Well, maybe somewhere in my mind I was hearing all of those things, but a louder voice said, “49 cents for sugar cookies… delicious sugar cookies. Buy them, Janna. Eat them, Janna. Maybe share one or two with your family.”  Before I knew it, 4 packages were in my cart. I tried to hide them under a large loaf of sourdough bread and organic spinach, but the checker wanted to start a conversation about them as I tried to look anywhere but at the belt of shame, carrying my cookies to the bagging area. I nodded as she remarked about the great deal on the cookies. It was as if I believed not acknowledging the cookies made them somehow healthier. Perhaps vegan, gluten free, and certainly not processed flour and sugar. It didn’t work. I still knew. And I still loved them. Yes, that’s past tense. They are gone now. We have removed the temptation by eating them. I feel so much better now that they can’t taunt me from the counter anymore.

In all their glory

Cookies!

Is there a 12 step program for grocery store sugar cookie consumption?

~Janna

Am I Culinary Genius?

This post will be somewhat brief because I am not feeling all that well. Bummer.

Just a few moments ago, I had a moment that will hopefully go down in culinary history. I had leftover shortbread mix from my bar making the other day and I wanted/needed to use it up. I had plans for date bars but decided at the last minute to only make one 8×8 pan of that. I chopped up about 2 cups of pitted dried dates (from Sam’s Club) in my food processor and added it to about 1 cup of water in a saucepan. I cooked it until it bubbled and thickened up. Dates are so sweet that I didn’t need to add any sugar. After it bubbled for a minute, I took it off of the heat and spread it in the pan, over the shortbread layer. I finished it just like the others from two days ago.

Now I was left with one pan of crust. What could I do? Within minutes, it hit me. I put about 3/4 cup of Sunbutter (made with sunflower seeds) into a saucepan. We have two boys who are allergic to peanut butter. I added about the same amount of chocolate chips to the pan and stirred until it was smooth. I poured that over the crust and finished it off like the other. If this turns out, I will be so thrilled. If it doesn’t, I am hoping the boys will eat it anyhow. But if it turns out…oh, how I hope it turns out!

I just pulled it out of the oven. Middle son says it smells good. My smeller isn’t working so I can’t tell you if it does. H and C just taste-tested. They said the Sunbutter is a bit overpowering. (Seriously, that was exactly what H said) so we sprinkled more chocolate chips on top and put it back in the oven to melt them.  Mr Darcy walked in  and tried one and said he likes them!

I think they still need a bit of work, but I am on to something here. What else can I put in between the two layers of shortbread?

~Janna

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Late last night, I snuck downstairs to put my guys’ cards and candy on the kitchen table. I found Star Wars cards online and printed them up. So cute – even one for Mr Darcy.  A few weeks ago, I bought a box of conversation hearts candy and I have had them hiding in my desk area. It’s scary around my desk area so no one enters….unless they want to steal my tape and then they are full of bravery!

Yesterday, I made some bread. I made two loaves of sandwich bread, 5 bread bowls, about 25 tortillas and I made a loaf of this:

for my babies

For lunch, I sliced this up and put it under the broiler with some shredded cheese and one pepperoni slice per piece. I served it with leftover poppy seed chicken and the boys were thrilled. I was thrilled. We were all thrilled.

Tonight, we’ll have chili in those bread bowls along with a heart shaped cake that I am making as I type this. I used this recipe. However, instead of using the the dark or bittersweet chocolate it calls for at the beginning, I am using some Abuelitas Mexican Chocolate. Yum. I think the cinnamon in that chocolate will be so nice after the chili, don’t you? I brought the Abuelitas all the way from Bville. If you click on the hyperlink, you’ll see what I am talking about. I think you should be able to find it at most mainstream grocers, if you are interested.

You know, Valentine’s Day is all about L.O.V.E.  If for some reason, you just aren’t feeling it, you don’t feel loved, or this day just is stinkola for you…I want you to know that you are loved. The One who created you- loves you more than you could imagine.  He can’t stop loving you.

It’s true, you know. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. It’s better than any heart-shaped boxed of chocolates, or roses or sappy love song. But if you need to read His love letter for you today (and really, who doesn’t?), here’s one of my favorites:

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will rejoice over you with loud singing.

In Hebrew, the word rejoice is translated as giyl or gul and it means to spin about wildly. Dancing.

Yes, this is how He feels about you. YOU. He’s so in love with you that he dances around you. Can’t you just imagine it? The closest I can imagine is that it’s like when I dance around my husband when I am so excited to be going on a vacation….like when I danced in the car after bringing Mr Darcy home from the hospital when he had surgery for what the Dr was certain was lymphoma-but wasn’t…when my boys dance and jump and shout around me when I say I’m serving cake for breakfast…when I danced around, crying with joy as I realized I was going to be a Mommy…We dance a lot at our house, for lots of different reasons but His dance? It’s better, stronger, louder and certainly more rhythmic than all of those. He dances around us, loving us, smiling and rejoicing.

You are loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

~janna

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