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Losing Something… Someone You Can’t Replace

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Today, I take a step back from the past 9 months of AS struggles, successes, and frustrations to reflect on losing something… someone you can’t replace.

A week and half ago I was met with the end of an era. My grandmother, 90 years old, and the strongest most amazing woman I have ever known left this world for another. Today I write in remembrance of her- all that she was and everything she stood for. I reflect on how a few days ago, my mom called me into the closet of my grandmother’s apartment to show me a piece of paper with the phonetic spelling of Ankylosing Spondylitis handwritten in my grandmother’s writing. She always cared so much and worried so much about all of us. She was the epitome of love and caring. And today, I share with you my speech from the funeral, in the hopes that if you didn’t know her, you will understand, maybe even a fraction, of how awesome she was.

My brother, myself, my cousins- we are so extremely lucky. We were able to spend a good quarter of our lives with Grandy and Grandmother. When we were younger, we were involved in quite a few activities. Through every event, every concert, every game, every musical, and every play, no matter what, grandmother would be there, alongside grandy. 5:00AM Harvest Breakfast at the HS? No problem. They’d be there at quarter of…. Graduation ceremony in blistering heat? Don’t mention it. There with smiles and bursting with pride. Basketball game with coaches screaming and parents demanding more playing time for their kids? They were there in their element- cheering and yelling, wearing their green and white to support the team. Before every home game I’d be going over plays in my head, and my teammates would say, hey, I just saw grandy and grandmother- they’re sitting in the usual spot! That’s just what they did. My grandmother wasn’t just my grandmother it seemed, she was everyone’s grandmother.

A mere week before she passed away, all of the grand kids were able to spend some time chatting with her. When it was my turn, I walked over and the look on her face was just priceless. There she was, not able to jump up and walk around, but that look. that expression said it all. It summarized every single time I had seen her for the past 28 years. A huge absolutely huge, ear to ear grin. That look of “I was looking for someone to make my day, and here you are.” That feeling as though you were the only person in the world that mattered. She always had the look.

After exclaiming how happy she was that she was able to see all of her grandkids that weekend and asking how my weekend was, she looked at me and said “Meghan, I want you to know that I am completely at peace. I am comfortable, I am happy. and I am ready to see Grandy.” We spent the next two hours talking about life; work, the new house we moved into, traveling, adventures. She told Andrew and I about the days of traveling around the world with Grandy. And still, at 90 years old, she recounted the most intricate details of their travels. The appearance of the “water guard”  outside their door in Thailand. The grandeur of the Taj Mahal. The people they met, the places they visited, and the things they did. My grandmother had the most amazing memory, a trait which I believe my brother has inherited. She was like a walking diary and the stories that she had to share you could just listen to for hours. She experienced so much throughout her life and genuinely loved every second of it.

I could literally stand up here for hours and share with you story after story about the memories of my grandmother like the time and meticulousness that she spent decorating eggs at Easter or the year she made me pie crust for my birthday (just the crust, simply because I loved it). There are stories about the drawers in an old cabinet that she would stuff with little toys for the grandkids to play with while the parents were talking and there are stories about the jars of gumdrops she kept on a shelf that was just too far out of reach- and yet, her step stool always seemed to be stored underneath that cabinet– personally, i think she did on purpose so we grandkids could reach them. These stories will no doubt be shared with not only her great gandchildren but every generation from here on out.

The day my grandmother left this life was a gorgeous day. It was chilly, but the sun was shining and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. It was what some might call, a perfect day. It matched my grandmother to a t- she was always perfect. Perfect in everything she did, everything she said, all the love she showed. She loved with such passion, she listened with such care, and she always gave everything she had. Although we don’t know her exact thoughts as she drew her last breaths, I’d imagine they were something like– I had a wonderful life, I did everything I came to do, my grandchildren are happy, I’ve seen them all grow up into beautiful adults, my daughter Beth is everything and more than what I’d hoped she become. Her final thought was probably, George, I’m coming home.

Despite feeling as though my Grandmother was a gift that was taken away from me, in all actuality, I realized that my grandmother was a gift that was given to me. And when I think about it that way, I find comfort.

I love you more than anything grandmother. You were a beautiful woman, a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, and a true inspiration. Thank you for everything.

The most loving couple you could ever meet

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Winter Squash Risotto

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Two of the gifts which received for Christmas included a wonderful Vegetarian Cookbook entitled, Mediterranean Harvest (Author: Martha Rose Shulman) and a beautiful knife set. Naturally, we have been anxious to both of these to use. So, on Christmas, we randomly turned to three pages and wrote down three meals that we would try to make this week. Tonight we made the first of these, the Winter Squash Risotto. I had been wanting to try risotto for a while, having never done it, and we figured this would be an excellent recipe because winter squash is in season! Below is the recipe  along with our changes/additions to the recipe in the cookbook. I must say, it turned out wonderfully and was so delicious. I’d definitely recommend it; it is hardy with just the right amount of sweetness.

Ingredients:
7 cups Vegetable or Chicken Broth (We made vegetable broth from  
     scratch. The recipe can be found here.)
2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter (We used olive oil)
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, chopped (We used about 1/3 of a medium
    onion)
1 pound winter squash, any kind (We used part butternut and part
    acorn)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups arborio or carnaroli rice (We used arborio)
1/2 cup dry white wine (We used a sustainably farmed chardonnay- it
     cost $6 for the bottle)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, optional (We used this and I highly recommend it. It was 4 leaves)
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (We used 1/2 cup)
Freshly grated nutmeg (We didn’t put this in- didn’t have it in the pantry at the time)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (We basically pulled about 10 leaves off and chopped them)
Salt and pepper

Steps:

1. Place your broth into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer on the stove. You’re going to leave it simmering throughout the whole process. You will need a ladle nearby (we used a 1 cup measure). Make sure you like the flavor of the broth- if you make your own, ensure that it is well salted.

2. Heat the oil or butter/oil combination in a large nonstick skillet. We used a large frying pan, as that’s about all we had besides a wok. This recipe makes a large portion of risotto so be sure your pan is large! Add the onion to the oil and and cook it, stirring occasionally until the onion begins to soften. This takes 3 minutes on medium (1 notch away from being straight down for our stove- or a number 4).

Olive oil and onion

3. After the 3 minutes in step#2, add the squash, garlic, and about 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until the squash begins to soften, about 3 minutes (our squash took more like 5 minutes).

Squash and garlic

4. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains of rice separate. Now, what exactly this means, I am not sure. We basically stirred and cooked until it appeared as though the rice grains were not sticking as much to the squash (about 10 minutes).

Squash mix and rice

5. Stir in the wine and cook stirring constantly. The wine should bubble but not to quickly (we found that we had to turn our heat down a pinch for here on out). When the wine has evaporated (aka there is no liquid in the pan), stir in a cup or two of broth so that it covers the rice and squash (our pan used two).

Broth added to the risotto

6. The broth should have a light boil (by this I mean not a rapid intense over the top of the pan boil, but a slow, won’t overflow, just beginning to boil, boil). Basically you cook the risotto and stir often until the liquid is absorbed. Then, you add the sage and another cup of broth. Again you stir and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

7. Continue to follow this process of adding broth and stirring/cooking until absorbed, then adding broth again until the rice is al dente or cooked to your taste. While the cookbook calls for 20 to 25 minutes, I probably cooked, added broth, and stirred for more like 35 minutes. You can taste and adjust seasonings- it was at this point that I added fresh ground pepper and salt.

Cooking and stirring the risotto

8. When the rice is cooked to your liking, add 1/3 cup of the broth along with the Parmesan cheese and the parsley. You would also add the nutmeg at this point. Immediately remove the pan from the burner. Mix the risotto well, taste it, and adjust salt/pepper/other seasonings as you deem necessary. The rice should be creamy and you should serve immediately.

Finished risotto

Again, this dish was absolutely delicious and I would recommend it to anyone who has a little bit of time to put into creating a delicious meal. Easily, removing the cooking your own broth would save about 45 minutes from chopping to boiling to simmering, but the homemade broth was worth the effort as well!

I just came to say hello

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A few days ago, on my delayed (yet again) flight from DC to Indianapolis, I started dreaming of the yester-years of writing and journaling; I used to keep solid journals, especially while on trips. I would write down every possible detail and note that I could think of and although it took up a lot time, every once in a while I’ll come across one of those journals and be so glad that I took the time to jot down my thoughts. It’s a great reminder of all the fun and crazy times in my life. So anyway, after a brief trip down nostalgia lane, I came to the conclusion that I should attempt to capture my thoughts in a blog.

It is important to point out that i have had many blogs over the years on a variety of themes; college, travel, running, cooking, being green, etc. I always became overwhelmed by trying to update all the blogs all the time. So this time, I am focusing on one blog where I will try to capture a smattering of things going on in my life. There are a few events in my recent past that I’d like to include as well, more so I remember the details, then to make you jealous about the cool and awesome things that I get to do/be a part of ;0).

I hope you enjoy my musings as I take a short backwards stumble down memory lane mixed with a few hopscotches and sprints (albeit, short ones) down the path/road/trail that is my future. Enjoy!