Sewing Machines, Strawberries, & Becoming My Mom

Well, there is no denying it.  I am becoming my mother.  I can’t decide if that is mostly a good thing….or a frightening thing!  (Yes, Mom…I love you dearly.)

I’m actually pretty honored when someone comments on the similarities between me and my mom. She is one of the most giving, intelligent, hardest-working women I know; and I think she did a damn good job raising me and my sister.  (Yes, Dad….we wouldn’t be the same without you, either!)  Among other things, my mom taught me how to get things done (without whining), how to figure things out (using my own common sense),  and how to enjoy solitude. I also inherited her limited patience and stubborness; but, all in all, I think I made out pretty well.
 
Still, it does sometimes catch me off guard when I find myself taking on a hobby or task of hers….or simply saying something that could just as easily have fallen from her mouth as my own. I generally pause for a moment with a sigh while my mind swirls with thoughts of our connections and differences and the passage of time.

I think we all know that I am pretty determined…and, like I mentioned, stubborn.  So…when I got a bug in my butt a week ago that I need to learn how to sew….& Ryan responded to this revelation with, “Robin, I think it is cute that you want to learn how to sew….but seriously, when do you think you will have the time!?”….well, it was a  done deal.  I ordered my sewing machine that day.  Yes, last Wednesday evening….there I was…stopping into quilting shops, sewing specialty shops, and reading review after review online.  By 9pm…my machine was ordered and scheduled for Friday 5pm delivery!  No, I don’t waste any time.  Actually, the UPS man has gotten to know us pretty well with all of the baby goods we’ve ordered online and had delivered.  So on Friday…when he dropped off my sewing machine, he just shook his and laughed!  He followed his chuckle with, “You know….you can BUY baby clothes at the store, right?”  Yeah Yeah.  I know.  🙂

    

While Ryan was out golfing on Friday night…I took up sewing.  I had sewing blog after sewing blog lined up on my computer screen and youtube videos ready for instruction!  I won’t kid you…I was a little intimidated….mostly of just figuring how how to thread the dang machine!  Let’s be honest…I hadn’t touched one of these things since Jr High.  Needless to say, my gut was right.  I’m pretty sure I spent a good 1.5hrs just trying to thread the machine, load the bobbin, and bring up the lower thread.  I called Mom at the height of my frustration…though I knew darn well that she couldn’t help me at hundreds of miles away.  Somehow I just feel better after telling Mom how frustrated I am.  (Is that weird?!)  Regardless, it worked!  As soon as I hung up with Mom, my lovely little lower thread pulled up like it was supposed to.  Ahhh…relief.  

     

By the time Ryan got home at 930pm, I had 2 semi-finished burp clothes under my belt!  Perfect?  Nah….But dang close for a beginner!   With an all-day child birth class on Saturday…my sewing machine waited with anticipation until Sunday to fire up again.  While Ryan went out golfing all afternoon…I tackled some more burp cloths.  One would assume that I would start with the easiest versions (cloth diaper burp rags) but OH NO….not me.  Baby B is going to be spitting up in style!  LOL!

     

I couldn’t help but laugh at myself a few times as I worked on my little creations.  I knew that if I could see myself….I would look just like Marshy…sitting at the kitchen island workin’ away!  I guess it is inevitable, huh?  Thank you, Mom….for showing me that there is little we can’t do!

     

After working up an appetite (or ignoring my hunger pains as I finished “just one more stitch”), I began to crave Strawberries & Cream….another “little something” that always reminds me of my Mom.  Growing up, I remember Mom cutting up strawberries, sprinkling them with sugar, and covering them with 1/2 & 1/2.  I’m fairly certain I haven’t had this fruity snack since I lived at home.  SO…as I accepted “becoming my mom”…I thought, might as well have a Marsha-style snack!  If you are looking for a fresh, simple sweet-fix this summer…try some good ‘ol fashioned Strawberries & Cream!

STRAWBERRIES & CREAM

Serves 1

  • 10-15 Strawberries, rinsed and cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Cup of Half & Half

Place strawberries in a small bowl.  Sprinkle with sugar and partially cover with Half & Half.  Serve immediately. 

  

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

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Bringing Italy home to Iowa.

Our friends and family haven’t been shy about “warning” us that all of our travel will need to cease…or at the very least slow down…once Baby B arrives.  Some say it with a chuckle…others much more seriously…but each time, Ryan and I look at each other and think, “Yeah…we’ll figure it out.”  Maybe “they” are right.  Maybe we won’t want to travel as much.  Maybe we won’t be able to afford to travel as much.  Maybe it will just be too hard to travel with children…or maybe it will be to hard to travel WITHOUT the kids….I guess that is for us to find out sometime down the road.  In the meantime, we are so grateful for the traveling we’ve been able to enjoy…the miles we’ve gotten under our wings…and for all the places we’ve been able to see.

While we anticipate our “travel” schedule to be different once the baby arrives, we already look forward to the vacations we will sneak away on as a couple…and others that we will enjoy with Baby B.  And when we can’t get away…we will bring some of each of those destinations into our home…and our kitchen!

As some of you know, Ryan recently returned from 10 days in Italy.  It just KILLED me that I couldn’t travel with him.  I mean, come on….of ALL places….ITALY.  But, at just over 32/33 weeks…I figured it would be best to stay put in Iowa.  🙂  Lucky for me, Mom came to spend the week with me!

When Ryan returned, he surprised me in a couple of ways.  First…he brought presents!  I honestly was NOT expecting presents.  We both travel so much that bringing home “tokens” of a trip fell by the wayside looonnngg ago.  But…this time, he had 2 little treats packed away in his bag.  First…he pulled out a little Christmas ornament.  The ornament was a little red scooter.  Adorable!  He reminded me that when we were in Italy last year, we had forgotten to pick up a Christmas ornament (our little tradition whenever we travel together) and since there are scooters EVERYWHERE in Italy…he thought it was quite appropriate.  I’d have to agree.

The second gift was a gift for Baby B.  I about cried just at the THOUGHT of him bringing her a present (seriously, these hormones are out of control).  And then…he pulled out the most adorable little hat.

I love it!  Turns out Ryan walked several miles around Rome trying to find a children’s store…one with the perfect little piece for Baby’s wardrobe.  While this picture might not do it justice, I don’t think he could have found a more suitable gift for Baby’s first summer!  Thank you, “Dad”, for being so thoughtful and picking out a little something for Baby. 

If I wasn’t surprised enough by the 2 little gifts, I was further surprised by Ryan’s comments on his meals in Italy.  To be very honest, our meals in Italy were much of the reason we loved Italy so much last year!  I expected that Ryan would come back and torture me with stories of all of the delicious meals he was able to indulge in while he was away.  Instead…he said just the opposite.  While he had a few really good meals…the majority were lacking.  He went on to explain that the meals just weren’t up to “our tastes.”  At home, we’ve pinpointed the flavors that we love and customized each meal we make.  Over there…well, some were just too bland for him…missing a little of this or a little of that.  As we finished the conversation, he said, “So…can we make one of OUR Italian meals this week?!”  Without hesitation I said….”ABSOLUTELY.”

So…that week, I whipped up a batch of Caprese Salad as well as a new recipe, Chicken Cacciatore.  The original recipe is by Giada (my fav!) but adjusted to our tastes!  We loved this recipe! 

CAPRESE SALAD

Serves 2

  • 2 – 3 “On-the-vine” tomatoes, sliced ~1/2 inch thick
  • Fresh Mozzarella, sliced ~1/4 of an inch thick
  • Fresh Basil leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt/Pepper to taste
  • Salad greens (Spring Mix or Arugula) – Optional

If you are looking for a more filling “salad” with your meal, start by laying salad greens in a thin layer covering the bottom of your serving platter.  If you are looking for a lighter appetizer, skip the extra greens!

Next, slice tomatoes and mozzarella.  Layer mozzarella on top of tomatoes.  (One slice of cheese for every tomato slice).  Lightly salt and pepper to taste.  Tear basil leaves and top each of the tomato/mozzarella slices.  Gently drizzle EVOO over the plate.  Follow with Balsamic Vinegar. 

CHICKEN CACCIATORE

Serves 4

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (Sauv Blanc)
  • 2 ( 14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice (Garlic/Olive Oil)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of whole, peeled tomatoes without juice, crushed by hand
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves, plus another 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1lb of Linguine
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Romano Cheese
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. 
 
In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame.  Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side.  If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.  Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. 
 
Season with salt and pepper.  Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, and oregano.  Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.  Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces.

                       

 
While the chicken and sauce are simmering, boil the fettuccine noodles as indicated on the package.  Once boiled to al dente, strain and set aside.
 
 
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.  Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. 
 
Divide the noodles into single servings, top each plate with a chicken breast and spoon the sauce over the chicken.  Finally, sprinkle with romano cheese and fresh basil! 
 
 
 
Serve with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy a little bit of Italy…in your own kitchen!
 
Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.