I Dealt with a Chicken Carcass

Raise your hand if you only shop "the outside" of the grocery store?  As in, you are an outsider.  I am raising my hand. 

I do occasionally have to pop into the inner aisles for something like olive oil or beans or nuts or raisins, but that's about it.  Produce, meat, dairy, eggs...that's where the real food is at.  The outside.  For a smudge over a year, I have stayed fairly strict about eating food that is food.  I've joked that if it comes from the ground or had a mother, I'll eat it.  But really that is the food motto I live by. 

Up until this summer, I never cheated except the day of a holiday.  Not the week leading up to the holiday.  The day of and the day of only.  Now here is where I must admit that this summer I ate some chips and salsa and chicken wings and splashed it all down with a cold beer.  It was summer.  It was necessary.  I also know I am at the point if I "cheat" one night, I won't be going and taking a head dive and falling off the whole wagon. 

I also ate a piece of Momma Debi's fresh homemade rhubarb pie.  With ice cream.  Because the pie was hot out of the oven and it was necessary.  But again, I know that since I have basically completely cut out white sugar for a whole year, my body is no longer addicted and does not crave sweet at all.  Therefore, one piece of pie on a Sunday night at the farm does not equate to also eating three cookies the next afternoon and a brownie the day after. 

And now that school is starting up again, I find myself being strict again.  Eating and preparing only food that is food.  Because food is for fuel. 

My friend Danae has been rethinking her ideas about food and is climbing on board for "if it came from the ground or had a mother" eating.  At first, she called me approximately six times a day asking, "Can I eat this?" or "What did you instead of that?"  Now, she is learning that eating real food is not as difficult as it sounds and that your body absolutely does learn to not want sweet.  She is also becoming amazing at finding yummy recipes online that are made with only real ingredients.  Her family's tummies thank her.  I just know it.  

The two of us have started getting together to try new recipes.  It's one big bag of win I tell you.  Because cooking is even more fun than normal when it comes with quality friend time as well.  And when it's over, we both have enough food to last a few days.  

Last time, Danae called me the day before and said, "Okay so I found this recipe for chicken salad that looks good.  But we need to make chicken stock.  Not buy it.  I think this involves a chicken carcass and I'm not sure how I feel about that."  

My reply was, "I actually have a whole chicken in my freezer that a friend gave to me from their farm and you know what, I think it's time I learned how to cook a whole chicken.  It's part of becoming an adult.  It has to be."  

Her answer was, "You do that part.  Good idea."  

So the day before cooking extravaganza, I grilled a whole chicken.  First, I had to take out the neck and other funny business items from inside the chicken.  This might have meant I had to give myself a pep talk about being an adult and I might have called Momma Debi for some moral support and I might have closed my eyes.  But I did it.  Then after it was grilled up, I took all of the meat off the bones and saved the carcass for the chicken stock. 

Saved a chicken carcass.  In my fridge.  Never thought I'd see the day.

The next afternoon, at Danae's house, we cooked the carcass and made homemade chicken stock.  Two fist pumps and a donkey kick for one more check on the "I'm an Adult" checklist of life.  

Turns out chicken stock has to cook for several hours.  Which gave us time to also make a stir-fry using vegetables from my garden and that sauce you see in the picture.  It's like soy sauce only it's made with good for yo' body ingredients.  

Mushrooms, carrots, and red onion were also added.  Not from the garden.   

And chicken.  Not from the garden.  I served it over brown rice and it was yum.  Somebody ate it right up.  I also steamed fresh beets from the garden to be a side.  Fresh beets from the garden are fabulous with anything.  I don't know what Danae served hers with but I know she said her family loved the stir-fry.     

And here's why it's fun to cook at someone else's house.  

There are little feet under a table.  With a cute smiling face above the table. 

There are concentrated faces and hands trying to figure it out.  With an uber cute vintage suitcase that I wanted to steal.    

There are wispy hair pony-tails to be done.  With a slice of nineties Celine Dion playing in the background. 

There is an adorable baby who wanted some visit and smile time.  And she also needed her diaper changed.  That part is not nearly as adorable. 

Cooking at my house is not nearly as entertaining as it is at Danae's house.  Chaos is not a part of my usual day and with three kids under the age of three, it is a regular occurrence at hers.  I get distracted by lovely dish towels and fresh flowers at my house.  While at her house, I get distracted by this, "Hey, hey, hey Amy...I think you have really taken enough pictures now and you should come play farm with me."  

Before whipping up the chicken salad, I did go play farm.  Farm and babies.  It only seemed fair. 

Back to the what started it all.  The chicken salad that caused me to have a chicken carcass in my fridge.  All I could think while we chopped and diced and looked at a computer screen for the recipe was this better be mighty tasty.  

And tasty it was.  Cooking a whole chicken and dealing with the carcass was worth it. 

I can't imagine what my grandma would think if she saw a computer in the kitchen.  She would shake her head and say, "Oy."  But I do often think of her when I cook because she was definitely an all natural cook.  She grew, canned, and froze almost everything she fed her family.  I know she would be proud of Danae and my cooking days because we are using food.  Real food.  And we are cooking.  Not buying pre-made, pre-packaged, pre-going to give you a heart attack food.  

Being an outsider in the grocery store is a win.  It's fairly easy for me because I really only am required to take care of myself.  But Danae is making it work for her family and finding that the benefits far outweigh the extra time it can take.  I'm proud of her for starting the process. 


Plaid, Pink, and Strawberry Shortcake

Dear Ella,

You have a twinkle in your eye and you are hilarious.  I hope that you always know you are the best thing ever to your parents.  Because you really are.  And may you always be a little bit of a stinker sometimes because it's the stinkers of the world that get things done and go far.  

Dear Travis and Lisa,

Your little girl could entertain all day long and I love that you encourage her to be herself.  And you two are fabulous parents.  Thank you for letting me capture some memories of this time in your family's life.  


Grasping at Summer Straws

School buses with squeaky brakes are back to making their morning and afternoon rounds, picking up  in the early rise of the sun freshly pony-tailed, breakfasted, face washed, rested kids and dropping off messy haired, hungry-ed, dirtied, tired kids at the end of the day.  

Usually this time of year, I am gearing up to kick off another year filled with fourth grade chicken wings.  Getting class lists, name tags, folders, and silly face pictures all ready to go.  But this year I am packing up my classroom into boxes to be stored.   

I was hired to be a Performance Strategist for our district and will be working at two different elementary schools.  Three days a week at one and two days a week at the other.  No classroom, no chicken wings, and no fourth grade.  But I do have two new office type rooms, a variety of data based programs to learn, two new staffs to assist in their journey of student learning, and a whole troop of chicken wings to do star-jacks in the hallways with when I need a kid fix.  It's an entirely new step in my education career.  A stepping stone to see if I want to take the next leap into administration...a way to let my toes skim the water without fulling jumping off the dock.  I'm hoping it's the best of both worlds.  

So as my summer draws to a close, I find myself grasping at summer straws trying to squeeze the life out of those last extended coffee quiet mornings and long warm nights.  Last Wednesday evening delivered that big time summer feeling.  It was one of the last times for the Wednesday night ritual and it's like everyone, including the sun and sky, was trying to make it last just a bit longer.  Holding on to the freedom summer offers.  The staying up late, getting dirty, and being on your favorite horse.   

Cherishing those moments of getting up the courage to try something new.  Even if it is only petting a baby goat.  

Being thankful to have precious quality time between a grandma and her grandkids.  Because the times they are small and are willing to reach out for your hand are fleeting.  

Laughing at a little boy who entertains on the back of a pickup bed.  Laughing even more because his big brother thought he needed some big boy undies over his diaper.  

With his Auntie Em gladly accepting a kiss in the setting sun because pretty soon he'll be too busy being a big boy for real to wrap his little fingers around our necks and jump his little Elmo socked feet up around our waists.   

Witnessing the always stomach pit inducing act of saying goodbye to friends.  Because it's time to head back to college for one while the other stays here to finish up her high school life.  The hugs and tears and sadness make you turn away but quickly they are transformed to laughing tears because of the reminiscing of memories made and moments logged.  Remembering the fun.      

Two crazy daring girls who push each other to the maximum and are always there for each other when one stumbles.  And even though it's time for them to part ways for the year, the knowing that next summer they will be back on those horses running full speed ahead has to be comforting to them both.  

It's the time for change.  New adventures and new challenges.  I'm beyond excited to head into this new chapter of my life.  It feels right and if there is one thing I have learned over the last twenty-eight years, it is to trust my gut.  And my gut told me it was time.  Time for new.  Time to stretch myself once again.  

Why would I ever want to let myself be too comfortable and too complacent right?  Isn't it the unfamiliar and the change that pushes or almost forces us to keep becoming better and stronger people?  I sure hope so.  Because I'm ready to take on this new job and donkey kick my way to a satisfying, productive, and happy inducing school year.