Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stuffed marrow, or is it zucchini!?

We have a lovely set of neighbours in our sweet little neighbourhood, and they often do kind things for us, like wedding soup when we're poorly, made an amazing Easter cake for the children, hand out cookies when we pass by on our walks around the neighbourhood and even decorate their yard especially for our children, since our circle is private and there is no reason traffic passes through unless you live here.

So anyways, they always have a super impressive garden full of delicious veggies and some fruits, but their zucchinis are the bomb. They are unbelieveably good, and did I mention HUGE!? 
When we got on the other day I decided to do a throw back to my childhood when my mum would make stuffed marrows for us. It's such a rustic, yummy dish, and so inoffensive, you have to like it. It also does not have to be meat either, so it's a vegetarian option too! Yay veggies!!
Ok, so to answer a question that i've been asking ever since I realised Americans claim to not have "marrows",  and our little lost in translation moment between zucchini and courgette. I did a little research. In fact, it IS what I thought.
The term zucchini comes from Italian, "zucchino" and you guys changed it up a bit. They are usually harvested around 15cm (5-6inches) long. The term courgette comes from the French, "courgette" (at least we didn't change ours by one letter! What's that about!?) They are more of the "baby" of the bunch, and are harvested "young" and about 14cm. BOTH come from the same plant, they are the essentially SAME thing.
Now for the term marrow. I have had many a discussion about this and been told i'm wrong countless times, but now after research I KNOW i'm right. Ah, the feeling of knowing your right. Bliss.
Marrow IS from the zucchini/courgette plant. It IS the same. It is simply a different stage of growth. Marrows are the semi-mature fruits which have reached full size. Meaning, they are as big as they'll get, but could stay on the plant longer, they just probably wouldn't taste too good.
Marrows are the BEST for stuffing as there is more vegetable to use. A full grown can be upwards of 38cm (that's 15inches!!!)
Ours was actually about 15 inches long, and here is the recipe I made up to use it!

Stuffed Marrow/Zucchini 

One large marrow (you could use zuc. but it might be a bit more fiddly!)
A jar of Home-made or store bought tomato basil sauce
1lb of organic minced beef/lamb or sausage meat
Vegetarian: Use any meat substitute (quorn etc), in a minced/diced style
One medium onion, diced
One chopped yellow pepper diced
Fresh chopped garlic
Your favourite herb mix. I love organic all-purpose from Krogers
salt and pepper to taste
Feta cheese (or your favourite type of cheese)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. Put a large pot filled with water on boil.
2. Slice the zucchini in half and dig out the insides till about 3/4 inch depth is left. DO NOT THROW THE INSIDES AWAY!! Take the insides and dice as well as you can, it can be a little mushy, but that is fine. Set those aside.
3. Once water has boiled take the zucchinis and dunk them for about a minute. I turned mine after a minute as they would not fully immerse since they were so big. While they are softening, get your large baking dish (mine is the white one in the pictures) and pour in enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish and then place your zucchini halves in there and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
4. In a sauce pan saute the onions, peppers and garlic along with the inside of the zucchini that you had set aside and then brown the meat or whatever vegetarian sub. you are using.
5. Add the remainder of the tomato basil sauce to the meat and veggie mix. Add your herb mix here, to however you like the taste. Salt and pepper to taste too! Remember seasoning is important, but it's also down to taste! Just don't over salt, there is no need!!
6. Take the sauce you have just made and stuff into the softened zucchinis. Once stuffed sprinkle with your choice of cheese and feel free to add a smattering of worcestershire sauce on top if you like that little punch of flavour!
7. Place in oven, covered with tin foil, for around 20-30 minutes. Since all marrows are different in size you should keep an eye on yours to make sure they don't overcook. Cook just until browned on top. If you prefer it a little crispy, then pop the broiler on for a last blast under the flames.
 The voila!! You are done! It is AMAZING. A lot of people don't like to add the insides, and i'm truly not sure why. It's amaaazing! No need for eggs and bread crumbs etc. Those are unnecessary heavy ingredients!
{Excuse the cell phone pics, I was feeling a little lazy!}

Thank you Shirley and Phil Prosperi for your donations to our big family. You have NO idea how much it helps, and you helped inspire a new favourite meal for us all now.
They really are the sweetest people and they are the type of people who restore your faith in genuinely kind and good people. We just adore them!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Monday, September 9, 2013

When plans change keep in mind His plan...

Well, this is going to prove to be one of the hardest posts I've ever written. I've battled with whether to write it, or not, but the more I think about it the more I wonder if my experience happened to help me be able to comfort someone else, a friend, a stranger etc. I also feel, as a woman, it's not something I should feel alone with.
So, do you all remember my last post about my surgery? If not. You should probably read that one first for this to make much sense.
The craziest thing happened that day.
We had been at the pool all day, and as usual I had been in pain, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. I'm in pain all the time. I'm so used to it that i'm at the point where I conceal how I feel so well that people don't notice/realize that I'm not well. I never let the crippling pain I feel in my abdomen show on my face. I wait till i'm safe in my home to cry about the stabbing, burning feelings that I get and the constant cramping that goes on where my uterus is. (Please remember, i'm not an overshary person, I'm sharing because I hope that I can help someone else who is feeling this. I suffer from endometriosis and adenomyosis combined. It is crippling.)
Well, at the end of this particular day I had been feeling odd. My pain wasn't as bad as normal, but I felt strange. I suddenly had the feeling I needed to take a pregnancy test. So, Clyde stopped off at Rite Aid before we got home and grabbed one. I fed the kiddos when we got in, and in between sweeping the floors I took the test and left it in the bathroom to decide yes or no while I finished the floors. I had forgotten about it after getting back to my chore, until I heard the door squeek and Clyde came out to me saying "No freakin' way!!!".... I remember staring at him and immediately feeling angry, I told him to quit messing and this was one thing that his sense of hillarious humour was NOT welcomed in. He grabbed me by my shoulders held me and looked in my eyes. His eyes were full of excitement and gleaming. He told me, "You are pregnant Jessie!" .....
I felt my knees go weak and Clyde had to physically hold me up. I broke down and asked how this could happen? {I don't mean HOW....obviously I know HOW, but more in a how can this happen to us when i'm getting a hysterectomy in 2 weeks, kind of "how"}
This is where I am so aware that I married the most amazing man. He is the strongest man I know, while also being the sweetest man I know. He held me and not for a minute did he falter. He gave me the pep talk I needed and reminded me how strong our family is, how strong I am, and that Heavenly Father may just be a little more in-the-know about our family than I am, and to trust in His plan.
So, after maybe 5 minutes of sheer panic, fear and confusion, I allowed myself to feel the excitement that was hiding beneath the other stuff. I couldn't believe I was pregnant.
It was NOT planned, not even a little bit, but after convincing myself for the past few months to go ahead with the hysterectomy it reminded me how we are not in control. It reminded me to be able to run with the punches sometimes.
So, for the last few weeks I've busied myself with choosing prenatal vitamins, wondering if it would be a boy or a girl, thinking of where we would fit this little one in our house, who would share rooms etc. We talked about how we felt old, but aren't really. I think having 4 children in 30 months sure made us feel older than we are really. Hahaha! Keep reminding myself i'm still in my 20's, and not my 40's!!
I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant and after all the fear washed away, I couldn't have been happier. We couldn't have been happier.
Well, the day before what would have been the day my surgery was supposed to take place, I started feeling unwell. I knew something was wrong.
I was in so much pain that I ended up at the ER. After tests and lots of confusion and miscommunication between Drs and nurses etc., they had to tell me that I was getting ready to lose the baby.
On the day of my previously scheduled surgery I miscarried.
I couldn't believe the timing on top of everything else. It was hands down one of the most emotionally painful things I have ever experienced. It felt so cruel.
This is not something I could normally ever share with anyone. But despite how painful this is to write about, after a few weeks of healing and praying about how I feel, I felt prompted to share my voice with other women. I know that I would have appreciated hearing from other women to help comfort me, so I'm praying that this comforts even at least one other person.
I know that the pain we all might feel will be different, as not only is each case different, but each woman deals with life trials differently. All I can do is say how I personally coped.
Without going into too much personal experiences that I just prefer to keep sacred to myself, I wanted to share the basic things that comforted me at this time.
While I went through the miscarriage we stayed up in Pittsburgh at a hotel. We were blessed to know that my mummy happened to be in town for what was supposed to be my surgery recovery period where she was going to watch the children so I could lay in bed. Turns out it wasn't so different after all. We knew the children would not only be safe, but be having a blast being entertained by Nama who just adores them. This time was ours to heal, together.
I drank A LOT of tea, which calmed my anxiety and tummy. I tried all types of herbal tea and settled on a few of my favourites which I will share another time. {I literally could do a series of posts on herbal and fruit teas!}
I cried, a lot. I tell you this because I feel it is important. When we were still waiting in the ER for the results of the hormone levels I remember chewing on my mouth to hold back the tears, I could feel them stinging behind my eyes but I wanted to feel strong and like I could handle it no matter what the answer was. I was rehearsing how I would react to each possible result when she told me. But when they walked in the room, they didn't need to tell me, I could tell from the look in her eyes. It was pity, but for some reason, I was glad of her empathy at that time. She put her hand on my leg and just nodded that the results were not good. I literally collapsed and let the tears go, and I immediately felt relief. Letting go of those tears was important and with something like this, it's good to rememebr that no one expects you to be strong. It was ok for me to cry, and I sure did. I cried it out, said over dramatic things and questioned everything, then I waited for my husband to sweetly tell me I was talking absolute nonsense and to pull myself together. Which I did.
It's quite simple really, I learned that it's best to cry it out, say all the silly things that are in your head, and let the person who is with you, husband, mummy, sister, best friend, whoever it is, bring you back to reality. I knew he was hurting too, but he knew that I needed him to lean on and to be my rock.
I know some may believe that having an earlier miscarriage is not so bad, and maybe I would have thought so before it happened to me, but I couldn't have been more wrong if that was the case.
Within the two weeks of us knowing that I was pregnant we had whittled down our boy and girl names to about 4-6 each, discussed nursery colour/theme ideas because they would have to share, we had decided to sell our collection of strollers and buy a new one, I had changed my diet and started taking vitamins because I cared about making sure this little one knew their mummy cared from the minute she knew they were in there. So, quite simply, I was attached, and felt like this little one was a part of our family already. We had told the children and they were SO excited to have this big secret JUST for our family and would put their hands on my belly all the time and ask how big the baby had grown pretty much every hour. We were all so excited.
Despite all that, I know that my Heavenly Father has a plan for our family, and He knew that this pain that we all went through was something that we needed to experience. It felt so unfair that it happened on the day that my surgery had been scheduled. The day my life had been supposed to be taking a huge step towards finally feeling normal, pain-free. The complete opposite happened, and I felt like i'd never been in more pain. But the lessons I learned from that day are priceless and I wouldn't give them back for the world. I grew closer to my family as we clung to eachother for support. My mum held me so tight, she admitted she had no words and I appreciated her honesty, and that fact that she didn't try to string words together and just let her arms do that instead. My brothers both reached out in the simplest of ways that meant so much to me. If anyone knows my brothers, discussing anything like this is the utmost awkward subject yet both had a couple words that comforted me in ways they probably never knew. My dad sent me a text that was so perfect that I saved and will always keep. Clyde's mum spoke with me and comforted me with encouraging words and reminded me that I was a strong mummy who could handle this. I slowly realized that this experience led me to have these close moments with my family and to see sides of them that I admired and may not have experienced otherwise. Clyde reminded me of what our church teaches about these sweet little spirits that don't make it to live on earth with us and again, that was something that I needed to hear and made me grateful that I married this man in the temple and am sealed to him. My husband knows the Gospel so well and he knows when to bring it up to me if he thinks it's something I need to hear. I know that I will meet this child someday, and so once I had come to terms with all this, and almost healed I made myself a plan.
1. Heal. Emotionally and physically. So we stayed a couple more nights in the hotel and talked, talked and talked, ate macarons, watched movies and drank tea.
2. Get back to my beautiful, healthy children at home and squeeze them all real tight. Then explain to them what happened, and take this awesome opportunity to explain how loving our Heavenly Father is and how blessed we are to be an Eternal Family and to teach them about heaven and that they can pray about all this if they have questions. What an amazing teach opportunity this was. I am thinking about doing a post about how we spoke to the children about this as it was a really touching experience that might be helpful to other parents in this position.
3. Pick myself up, dust myself off, get back to our life and trust that there is a great plan for our family and that each of these life experiences happen for a reason and that someday they will make more and more sense.

A few weeks have passed now and my healing is better and better. I appreciate that it happened to me for a few personal reasons, but i'm still trying to figure it all out. There are a lot of unanswered questions that I will continue to pray about, but my faith has not waivered. I am stronger for it. I have a better understanding toward women now, and if ever this is something someone else needs comforting for, I now feel like I am equipped with experience and hope that the lessons I learned may help someone, sometime.

I hope that no-one misunderstands this post and finds it distasteful. I passed it by my husband and mummy to check that it wasn't an overshare, but both agreed that after what I went through, the fact that I was looking for something good to come out of it, that this might be part of that. I am aware that early stage miscarriage is more common than we think, and so there must be women out there who wish they could relate with someone or find someone who understands their pain. I do. (I do not intend this post for someone suffering a late term miscarriage, as in my opinion, that is entirely different and I know is not something I could have coped with in the ways I suggest in this post. Please note this.) We are a blessed family, and never for a second do I doubt Heavenly Father's plan for us. I know there are great things to come, I just hope we're ready for them! <3

As many of you know, we are coming off of facebook this week and so this blog will be my main place for family updates etc. Please feel free to subscribe, or put us on your reading list. My email address is so feel free to email me whenever about whatever. I love to hear from people! I hope not to lose touch with people as a result of leaving facebook, but I felt that facebook was making me lose touch with my daily life and it's time for me to take back those hours lost and put them to better use during my day.

Thanks for reading the blog, leave a comment if you read it as it's always nice to hear feedback, and specially with this being such a personal blog today, i'd love to know if it meant anything to anyone that I shared it.

Love to you all and again, email me to stay in touch!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

A big decision for a better life.

Hello One and All!

So it appears that i've been off the radar for a little while. I can only apologize and insist now that i'm back, and i'm fairly certain i'm staying. ;)
So it's been a busy year, and blogging seemed like a luxury that I didn't have time for. However, I am taking a little leave from work (photography) for a little while here. I have had pretty poor health, and despite my surgery back in February, I've actually been pretty poorly. :( I have officially been diagnosed with a condition called Adenomyosis. I have touched on this previously, but after a visit to a specialist in Pittsburgh McGees Womens hospital, it was all made rather official. I have it pretty badly, and am in pain, it's safe to say, 24/7. The pain is rather like someone is taking a knife to my stomach over and over, whilst pooring boiling water onto my whole abdominal region. Delightful, non?
Anyways, long {emotional} story short, I have come to the conclusion that my health, happiness and overall quality of life will be better off if I have all the stuff that is bothering me, removed. Gone. In technical terms, a hysterectomy. Urgh. I know. So final. But it is what it is. We have prayed and thought about it long and hard. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for us, and when we made the decision we felt at peace. This is all I needed to know. I have, over the last few months, come to terms with the fact that my family is complete. We have a wonderful life together, lots of noise fun, everyone gets along, and i'm finally able to read a magazine here and there (where I would normally have been balancing a baby whilst trying to get things done that were harder to get done with so many little ones. Basically, life is getting easier. Smoother. So this hysterectomy, despite being emotionally devastating, is neccessary. My children need me to join in with the water fights, teach them the moves to gangnam style.....I need to do that cliche "because i'm nearly 30 and i'm panicking about getting old" 5k run etc etc. and this is the only way to do those things.
I don't think it's all about the whole "no more kids" thing, it's also about all that "stuff" making you a woman. I know nowadays they keep your ovaries (sorry if TMI, but this is kinda a TMI so your hormones are less messed with, but still. It's just the idea of it all. To be honest, coming and writing it all down has helped. It's calmed the nerves a little. Maybe voicing it finally is making me realise all the things that will be possible once the deed is done. Although, i'm only doing that 5k run if someone is throwing coloured chalk dust at me, or i'm racing through millions of bubbles. I've come to expect that now after seeing all my "nearly 30yr old" friends completely their 5ks. ;)
So anyways, this was just a quick, somewhat deep, little catch up to let you know I'm baaaaaacccckkk, and to expect me here lots more while I take this little break from work, and enjoy my children, my home and some time away from shoots and editing. *Le sigh* BRING.IT.ON.
My mother will be here in just under 2 weeks as she is the one who will watching the kiddos while we go to ATL for the surgery. She's here for a good while, so i'm planning some activities to do with her. Mainly help me sort out my mess of a basement kind of activities, but shhhh, we won't tell her that quite yet. Mwuahahahaha!!
Well....i'm off to paint my nails, it's Sunday tomorrow and I need to look somewhat respectable, and since I'm not about to wash my hair (blow drying and straightening sounds too much like hard work right now) I need to have cute nails to distract other peoples eyes away from the birds nest to my delightful bright blue nails!
                     Goodnight blogger pals. xx

{Wise words that I needed this last month}

Friday, March 22, 2013

Picture this....

I've been playing with my camera a little over the last few days and wanted to share some of the outcomes!

Welcome to a snippet of my life....{click on the image to make it larger}

 His laugh. I can hear it from this photo. ♥

 Every day, after his nap, he comes downstairs and lays on the couch and watches
 cartoons until the grogginess is gone.

Poser. Max, our resident long-haired chihuahua, who believes he is King. When booking a vet appointment the other day, they asked me his age, I said nearly 7yrs and she said "Oh, so he's getting to be an old man then!", I hadn't thought about it, and now i'm starting to notice the little grey hairs poking through in his eyebrows and muzzle's crazy how pets really become part of the family. ♥

Our newest recuit...Piper. She is a border collie lab mix, and was rescued from our local shelter.
We just found out she is older than what we originally thought, and is approx 6 months old. She is the funniest dog, and keeps everyone entertained with her antics. 
Hoping to have her trained properly in the next couple months so she can channel her energy properly. These big dogs need attention and exercise, so we want to learn properly how to work
 with her, since she's a little different than a chihuahua! ; )

 I have been jealous of this little man's lips since he was born.
 The colour swatch is pulled from his actual lip colour...lush.

Gosh, I love this little girl! She has the sweetest spirit. I'd want to wrap her in cotton wool 
and protect her from this world if I didn't have a feeling that the world might be needing
 strong little girls like her someday... ♥

Oh my goodness, he melts me. I love everything about this picture, from his sour mouth reaction, to the binky clasped in one of his ridiculously huge hands. 

After nap time (around 2pm) is when they are allowed to use anything electronic, so it's quite the connundrum to decide between a learning tablet and cartoons! 

Well, there are a few photos for you, I'd love to hear a little feedback if you feel like commenting! It's always a little intimidating seeing how many people have viewed my posts, but then silently wandered away...I'd love to know what you think! Do you like this style of photography, or do you prefer a cute backdrop and posed pictures? 
Have a great weekend friends!! It's Friiiidaaaaayyyy!!!!! : )