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A Final Tribute to My Mom

To all my friends,Eric, spoke as did my sister and some close family friends. I also had a chance to speak and would like to share what I said during the service. I first read the letter my son, Bradley, wrote to Momma before she passed away. Here is what I said following the reading…

We laid Momma to rest yesterday, Thursday, January 27, 2005. It was a beautiful service, and truly memorialized her life. There were so many flowers and plants - all of them gorgeous…in life, Mom would have been so thrilled with the flowers - roses, day lilies, irises….and so many in her favorite colors of purple and lavender. My husband,

"I remember when I was a little girl, around Bradley’s age, I worried about Mom and Dad because they were a bit older than my friends’ parents. I feel so blessed to have spent 36 years of life with Momma. She had a profound influence on my life. These are some of the things that will always remind me of Momma:

  • Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
  • Hobby Lobby
  • music - especially Spanish songs and oldies
  • peanut butter and bananas
  • a good game of cribbage
  • spinach - with just a touch of vinegar
  • Christmas
  • my ability to balance a checkbook
  • BLT’s with Dad’s homegrown tomatoes
  • the most recent "As Seen on TV" gadgets
  • my love for Southwestern decorations/nic-nacs
  • home canned green beans - don’t forget the bacon and onion
  • Howard the Duck
  • Sylvia Browne
  • the color lavender
  • grackels
  • frogs
  • Hershey’s Peanut Butter Treasures
  • strawberries
  • Wheel of Fortune

I will miss Momma’s laugh, her feistiness, her joy for the holidays, her love of my children, her cards in the mail, her stories about Dad, her frogs, her ornaments and her wit and wisdom. I know that now she’s our guardian angel in Heaven, but to me she’s been our angel all along."

It’s tough for me to believe she’s gone. When I think about it, my heart hurts. I think about how sick and in pain she was, and how, just a few days before she died, and well after she could no longer talk very well, she wanted to move to a chair from her bed. We wrapped her arms around me and I virtually carried her over to the chair in a "hug." When we got there, I could tell she was nervous as she was moaning as I was placing her in the chair. I kept telling her "I love you, I love you, I love you" in order to keep her calm. Once I got her sat down, she wouldn’t let go of me and, clear as a bell, said over and over "I love you, I love you, I love you" back to me. It was one of the last times my Momma spoke to me. I will treasure that moment in my heart forever.

I wanted to share one last thing - something that was printed inside of Momma’s memorial folder. It is so fitting for my Mom, given her brave fight with cancer:

He Only Takes the Best

God saw she was getting tired,
And a solution was not to be,
So He put His arms around her
And whispered "come with Me."
With tearful eyes we watched her endure
And saw her taken away.
Although we couldn’t bear to lose her,
We could not bid her stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard working hands laid to rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best.

I also want to say a heart-felt thanks to each one of you who has had us in your thoughts and prayers. Those prayers sustained us, and got us through some of the toughest days in our life. God bless all of you.

Merri, Eric and family


You Know You Are “White Trash” When…..

Please don’t take this as a profession to my "White Trashiness." Sure, there’s a corner of my world that I remember that involved a small town, cow-tipping, big trucks, ball caps, flannel shirts and potlucks….but I dun grown up!

You know you are "White Trash" when…..

  • You have a can of "Beanee Weenees" in your cupboard
  • You know, or know someone who has gone cow-tipping
  • You have had to use an outhouse (especially if it is in your backyard)
  • Your idea of home improvement is attaching a camper shell to your double-wide
  • You decorate your window with the sheet Aunt Phyllis gave you for your birthday
  • You repair a cracked window with foil paper (you know, cuz it’s purty)
  • You keep a can of Raid by the kitchen sink
  • The only picture you have of your husband Ernie is the one where he’s holdin’ up that plaque with numbers on it (and he don’t look happy)
  • The sight of blind kids playing the banjo doesn’t faze you
  • You have a horse tank in your backyard (and NO, it’s NOT A SWIMMING POOL)
  • You call butter "oleo"
  • You still have a rotary phone in your trailer, er, home
  • You use Aqua Net for that "all day" up-do
  • You never had a dentist, and now you don’t need one
  • You know what "7-Up Cake" is
  • You’ve ever made "spaghetti" with ramen noodles
  • Your idea of fine dining is eating out of butter bowls
  • You have a hairnet
  • You know the words to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
  • You know who the Oakridge Boys are
  • You wore cowboy boots to prom (or that "company" Christmas party)
  • You can relate and empathize with the girl on Montel who doesn’t know who the father of her child is
  • You are one of the guys that could be the father of her child


“White Trash” Wednesdays, Volume II

Sometimes a girl’s gotta be flexible. Most of the time, we’re fixin’ food for the family, but every once’n a while, visitors show up. The following recipes will help you be the most versatile cook in the trailer park!

Traditional Spaghetti-O’s, Family Style

1 large can of Spaghetti-O’s (the plain kind)*

*can be increased based on size of family

Open can of Spaghetti-O’s and pour into big pan. Heat through, and serve in bowl(s).

Trailer Park Sleepover Spaghetti-O’s

Several cans of Spaghetti-O Shaped Pasta (dinosaur is a favorite!)

Open cans of Spaghetti-O’s and pour into big pan. Heat through, give plenty of spoons to sleepover guests and eat right out of pan.

Company’s Comin’ Spaghetti-O’s Dinner

2 large cans of Spaghetti-O’s with Franks

Open cans of Spaghetti-O’s and pour into big pan. Heat through and serve in that fine Correlle serving dish Aunt Mae gave you last Christmas. Serve with slices of Wonder Bread and a bottle of "Mad Dog 20/20."


White Trash Wednesday

Hi All,

Even with all of the recent events with my family, the one break I’ve decided to take is to participate in week two of "White Trash Wednesday." I look forward to having fun with the gang! Here they are: Beautiful Atrocities, CrankyNeocon, Daisy Cutter, My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, Nickie Goomba, Riehl World View, Six Meat Buffet , and Vince Aut Morire.

See ya’ll soon!
Merri


A Letter to Nannie from Bradley

Hi all,

Things have been pretty crazy here since my Mom passed away. We’re doing okay - lots going on both to prepare for the memorial services and to prepare my dad for the next leg in his journey.

I wanted to share out a letter my 7 year old son, Bradley, wrote to his “Nannie” days before she passed away. He had just read a book called “Saying Goodbye.” This was a good book to help Bradley understand what was happening with his Nannie. Here’s what he wrote (I’ve included his exact words - no spelling corrections here!):

Dear Nanny,

Remember when you and I were together and went to Golden Corral?
It was fun the time when you gave me lots of hugs.
I wish we had you longer.
I feel really, really sad because I love you.
I hope your comfy in heaven.
Thank you for being nice to me.

Love,
Bradley

His pain and grief are my own. I don’t think I could have said it any better.


We’ll Miss You, Mom

My mother-in-law, Gena Woodward, passed away this morning. She was 76.

We love you Mom, and we’ll miss you. But you’re free now, in a place where there is no pain and anguish. Where you can still watch over your grandchildren and sit down to lunch with your own mom and sister again.

Thank you God, for granting my wish, and letting her leave this world warm, comfortable, and surrounded by her loving family.

And thank you to everyone for their wonderful thoughts and prayers in this rough time.

posted for Merri by Eric


“White Trash” Wednesdays, Volume I

A few of my blogosphere friends decided to come together to celebrate "White Trash" Wednesdays, a brainchild of Dan’s at Riehl World View. Preston Taylor Holmes at Six Meat Buffet sums it up best: This "essentially boils down to a chance for some of us caucasian-types to celebrate/expose the dark underbelly of our white bread culture."Cranky Neocon, my dear hubby, Eric, at Vince Aut Morire and Beth at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Anyone can join in, but I guarantee that I will have the best recipes. After all, I *do* live in the Midwest, in the middle of the corn belt. We also have more trailers per capita than, well, I could have ever imagined!
Ingredients:
1 package of hot dogs, on sale
1 pack of store brand buns
mustard, catsup, relish, onions or other vegetables for garnish

That being said, what better way to celebrate than to celebrate the cuisine that makes us "white trash folk" who we are? Throw the prime rib, crab legs and shrimp cocktail recipes aside, I’m a closet user of macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, hot dogs and other high quality cuisine. Did you know that Kraft has a Macaroni and Cheese in about any shape you can imagine? Yes, EVEN Spiderman!

Also joining in on the fun is Gordon at

My debut dinner menu centers around a nice meal that represents most of the food groups (yes, catsup DOES count as a vegetable):

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (Family Size, of Course)

Ingredients:
Stuff inside the box of Mac and Cheese
8 Cups of Water
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup milk

Instructions:
Bring water to a boil. Add macaroni from box and cook until tender (7-9 minutes). Drain, do not rinse. Return to pan and add margarine, milk and cheesy powder. Stir together until mixed well. Serve with Hot Dogs (recipe below).

Hot Dogs

Instructions:
Take dogs out of package and put a couple of holes in them (you can use your teeth - if you have any). Put them on paper plate and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on your taste. Put in bun and garnish.

This menu is complimented by Kool-Aid (the green kind is a nice complement to hot dogs). I also highly recommend serving with Ding Dongs for dessert.

You will be able to get this to the table in less than 30 minutes, which will give you time to watch your favorite shows on the Gameshow Network!


In and out of the Blogosphere

Hi friends and fellow "foodies,"

As noted in a previous post, my mom is terminally ill, entering into Hospice care recently. She truly is not doing well, and we forsee her being with God in a matter of weeks, maybe even sooner possibly. I spend as much time as I can with her, but I like coming here to post as it gives me some connection with "normalcy." I may not be able to post daily, however. I just ask that you stay tuned - I haven’t gone away, and will be back to my normal "routine" as soon as I can.

Thanks so much for your understanding!
Merri
RachaelRayRedux


Chicken and Dumplings

My thanks go out to Emma in the blogosphere - this recipe is for you!

Ingredients

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small carrot, grated
3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces
8 cups chicken broth
a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (or a ½-1 tsp of dried thyme)
kosher salt, fresh ground pepper to taste

Dumplings

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup water

finely chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

Warm a large wide pot and pour in EVOO, two turns of the pan. Put in the onion, garlic and carrot, cooking in the oil until softened. Add the chicken pieces, broth, thyme and salt and pepper, simmering until the chicken is tender, 30 minutes or more. Remove the chicken and set it aside. When cool enough to handle, skin and bone the chicken and shred or cut it into bite sized pieces. If desired, skim the chicken fat off the surface of the broth.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the flour baking powder and salt. Using a food processor, pastry blender, or two knives, cut in the butter until it is the size of very small peas and distributed throughout the dry ingredients. Add the water and knead 8 to 10 times. If the dough seems too sticky, add a little more flour. Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares.

Bring the broth up to a rolling boil, drop in the dumplings, cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dumplings are cooked through. Toward the end of the 10 minutes, put the shredded chicken back into the pot. Be careful not to overcook, as it will cause the dumplings to fall apart. Stir in some finely chopped flat-leaf parsley to brighten the flavor.

My 2 Cents: Some people ask why I put the carrot in my recipe, which is somewhat different than a "traditional" dumpling recipe. I like the depth of flavor it adds to broth. Even though it will mostly cook away since it is grated, the flavor remains. I would also add that I cut the dumplings fairly small in order to speed the cooking process up. Growing up, my mom would actually form the dough into a larger ball shape, and just cook them a bit longer. It is tasty either way! Lastly, you can speed up the cooking process by purchasing a roasted chicken from the grocery store and using it instead of a fresh chicken. I would recommend that if you do this, cut the wings off the bird and simmer them with the broth for a few minutes in order to get that "cooked all day" flavor. Just scoop them out when you would normally scoop out the chicken in the recipe.


Alaskan King Crab Claws

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

This recipe is so simple it doesn’t seem real. My hubby and I love crab legs (complimenting a nice steak, especially!) and were dumbfounded when we watch an episode of Good Eats and saw this recipe. We were both thinking "not the microwave…it’s king crab legs!" It really does work!

Ingredients

6 Alaskan king crab claws, thawed
2 sprigs dill

Instructions

If necessary in order to fit in microwave, cut claws at joints. Wrap 3 claws at a time in a damp paper towel, along with 1 sprig of dill, and then wrap in plastic wrap. Place wrapped claws in microwave 1 package at a time and cook on high for 2 minutes. Remove and unwrap carefully. Serve immediately.

See? Simple, isn’t it? And yummy….it steams the crab legs since they are wrapped in the dampt towel and the plastic wrap. We like to eat ours with some melted butter. We melt some butter on a pan slowly and put some crushed garlic and lemon juice in so the butter is infused with those flavors. We strain and put into a bowl for the table.

Enjoy!


Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Okay, this isn’t your "normal" chicken noodle soup recipe. I LOVE homemade chicken noodle soup - the thick noodles, the tasty veggies and tender chicken. I love it, but usually don’t have the time to spend in the kitchen. So a few years ago, I got a copy of Taste of Home’s Quick Cooking magazine and came across this great recipe. It is simple, but also very good. I like to serve it with a nice crusty, warm bread.
In large pot, bring water and bouillon to a boil. Add noodles; cook, uncovered until tender, about 10 minutes. Do not drain. Add soup and chicken, heath through. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream. Sprinkle with parsley and pepper to taste.

My 2 cents: I’ve grown to detest bouillon cubes - mostly because I need to beat the hell out of them to get them to "melt" into the water at the speed I would like it. there’s also something very unnatural about food squished into hard little cubes like that. I found something better. In the same area of your grocery store that you buy the cubes, you can find chicken base. I use the brand called "Better Than Bouillon." They make both beef and chicken base (and perhaps others, but I’ve used the beef and chicken regularly). Their chicken base is made from roasted chicken and concentrated chicken stock. It has a better flavor and "melts" very easily as it is in more of a paste form. It is easy to measure and is easy to substitute for the cubes. I would definitely recommend it!

Recipe Courtesy of Taste of Home’s Quick Cooking

Ingredients

2 quarts water
8 chicken bouillon cubes (see my note below about bouillon cubes!)
6-1/2 cups uncooked wide egg noodles (I use No Yolks and they work great!)
2 cans cream of chicken soup (Campbells, please! The low-fat works, too!)
3 cups cubed cooked chicken (I use a rotisserie chicken I get at the grocery store)
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
fresh parsley (dried works in a pinch)
fresh ground black pepper

Instructions


My Mom, the Family Chef

I was thinking today about which recipe I wanted to post, but was having a hard time trying to decide - mostly because my mom had to make a very hard decision today. My mom has cancer. She’s been battling lung cancer for quite some time now. They first discovered it when she went in for her double-bypass. They thought they got it all, but during a follow-up visit to see if her heart was okay, they saw that her lung was not. They took a third of her lung after that. We thought we were in the clear. Mom got pretty healthy after that - healthy for a woman in her 70s, that is.

Well, about 13-14 months ago we got bad news. Mom’s lung cancer was back and it was back with a vengance. Not only was it in her lung, but it had moved on to her liver. Inoperable was what we heard. Let’s try chemotherapy. Let’s see if we can lengthen her life by reducing the tumors. Here we are, today, and Mom made the decision to agree to Hospice care. I can’t imagine making that kind of decision - it was hard enough being there to support her while she made that decision herself. Now it’s all about treating pain and the person - not the disease. All about gaining closure on the things that happen at the end of a person’s life.

My mom. She’s endured so much - many failed rounds of chemo, runs to the hospital, doctor appointments, meds. I see a woman who has been so strong the majority of my life now a mere shadow of what she had been. Walking is challenging - shoot, standing up is. She can’t eat - she’s down to 94 pounds. I know she’s in a lot of pain. Hospice will be good for both her and Dad. If Mom makes it to April 2, they will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

I think back to growing up as the baby of the family. As is the case in most families, celebrations always centered around food. My parents had the opportunity to see so many things while my dad served in the Air Force - their tours took them to multiple bases in the US as well as bases in Germany and Spain. Mom has some of the best recipes from both Spain and Germany. Dad also brought back recipes from his tours in Thailand. I grew up in a house where cooking and meals were important. We always sat down to dinner together, no matter what was going on. Mom has shared stories of me, barely old enough to walk by myself wanting to help in the kitchen. Okay, maybe it was the batter on the spatula that called me, but I was in there, learning what Mom knows.

Without my mom’s influence, I would not have learned the "art" of cooking. She has taught me about how to make gravy, how to can tomatoes, how to make pasties, the importance of garlic and the clear impression that Jasmine rice is the best rice in the world. There are recipes that have been in our family for years that I will be able to pass down to my girl - and she’ll know that they came from her Nannie. These are the things I think I’ve taken for granted. Now that I know her time with us is limited, all of a sudden they are so important to me. I also think about the things I need to learn from my dad - like his secret Thai pepper steak sauce and that recipe for Carne Asada.

I want Mom to be comfortable, and to spend this time with our children, her grandkids, and reflect on the amazing life she has lived. Not too many people now can say that they lived through the Depression, multiple wars, life with no electricity to computers and convection ovens. I treasure the time I’ve had with her and only hope I can teach my daughter half of what she has taught me.


“Stuffed” Pork Chops Recipe

Recipe Concept Courtesy of Rachael Ray

I love Rachael Ray’s show "30 Minute Meals." I have found a number of recipes that are now "regulars" with my family. There are times, however, that some of the ingredients she uses don’t really "fit" with the food combinations my family enjoys. The following recipe for stuffed pork chops is no exception. I love the recipe idea - pork chops that you can make quickly on the stove with a stuffing you place between 2 thin chops. You can see the original recipe here. I don’t care for celery, though, and I’ve never been fond of apples in my stuffing, so here is my version of "stuffed" pork chops:

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil, plus some for drizzling
2 slices bacon, chopped
10-12 small mushrooms, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped sage leaves, or 1 teaspoon ground dried sage
2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried leaves
Freshly ground black pepper & kosher salt
2 store bought corn muffins
8 thin boneless center cut pork loin chops

Instructions

Preheat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and bacon to the skillet and cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and onion and season the mixture with herbs, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium. Cook vegetables 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Crumble the corn muffins into the pan and combine stuffing. If you find the stuffing a little dry, you can drizzle some chicken broth, skim milk or even water into the pan until it is moist to your liking. I like mine on the moist side, so I’ve found a need to have some chicken broth on hand as well (but I’ve used milk and water and both are equally good).

Preheat a large skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. Drizzle chops with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chops 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Do not over cook. The chops should be firm but still giving off juices.

To assemble stuffed chops, set a thin chop on dinner plate or serving plate. Mound the pork chop with stuffing, allowing some to spill onto the plate, then top with a second chop. Repeat with 3 remaining servings.

What I serve this with: The meat and the stuffing are pretty filling. I will usually pair this with a salad, or a nice veggie dish such as asparagus or green beans. On Rachael’s show, she makes some smashed potatoes, and at times I will include those as well, along with a nice pan gravy made from the pork chop drippings (yum!).


Merri’s Not So “French Dip” Sandwiches

This is a pretty tasty sandwich that can be made fast!

Merri’s Not So "French Dip" Sandwiches

These are so simple. Sometimes, we need to eat quick, but we don’t want the standard fast food fare. This almost seems faster than fast food!

Ingredients

1 jug of concentrated "Au Jus" sauce (we use one called "Johnny’s" - it is AWESOME), 8 0z
16 oz water
1 lb high quality cooked roast beef, sliced about twice as thick as sandwich sliced (from the deli)
fresh ground black pepper
Steak seasoning to taste (we use McCormick’s Montreal Steak seasoning…yum!)
slices of swiss or provolone cheese
hoagie buns, sliced lengthwise and slightly toasted

Instructions

Place the au jus sauce, water, steak seasoning and pepper in a larger sauce pan, and bring to a simmer. Simmer approximately 5 minutes. Add the roast beef and continue simmering until heated through (approximately 5 minutes…you don’t want to overcook the roast beef or it will get tough). Remove from heat.

Using tongs, pile meat on top of a hoagie and add cheese slices to your liking (sometimes at this point I will place the sandwich half with the cheese on it under the broiler until it is melted…yum!). Ladle out some au jus sauce into a shallow bowl for dipping.

You can make quite a number of variations - different spices or other ingredients will change the flavor of your au jus. Let your creative jus’s flow (alright - I know it was a bad pun…you don’t have to tell me!)!


Rachael’s Macaroni & Cheddar Cheese

Recipe Courtesy of Rachael Ray

…this one is for Emma out in the Blogosphere (oh, and it’s tasty, too!)!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil, 1 turn of the pan in a slow stream
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, a couple pinches Salt (kosher, of course!)
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes or to al dente, with a little bite to it

Instructions

Heat a medium, deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into the oil, add flour and combine. Gently cook, whisking flour and butter together, until smooth and flour has had a chance to cook, about 3 minutes. Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Gently bring milk to a bubble while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese a handful at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne. Taste and add a little salt, if you like. Add cooked pasta to sauce and coat completely by turning over and over in the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Place baking dish under a hot broiler and brown the cheddar cheese on top.

My 2 Cents: I love this recipe, but in true Merri form, I tend to alter things a bit. I can’t always get white cheddar locally, so I’ve substituted other types of cheddar with success. I imagine that other cheeses can be substituted easily, too. One other thing - it is a *must* to put ground black pepper with my macaroni and cheese - can’t seem to get over that. So….I usually add ground black pepper at the same time I’m adding the cayenne and nutmeg.

Thanks for the idea to post this recipe, Emma! …and thanks, Rachael!


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