Monthly Archives: August 2013

Poor Man’s

So, anyone whose followed me for awhile knows I like to cook.  Actually, I kinda love it.

But I love it when I have time for it, when I can put my tunes on and Juke and Jive to some Motown, 70s Rock or  Vintage Elvis.  I love it when I have time to putz and taste and simmer and stir and have everyone come in and out and ask … “just what is that, man that smells sooo good!”

During the week, I’d say I’m a functional cook.  I get in – get it done – and get out.

Working full time as I do, I’ve always had my list of “go-to” meals.  My preference is to cook up a bunch of chicken and a few sides and fix a big, hearty salad. Yep, I can eat a salad and chicken all week long. Hubbs, well let’s just say he’s a man and he needs some soul-filling foods.  You know, meat, potatoes, a bit of green thrown in for good measure.  And brownies. Or cookies, too.

So, many moons ago, when we met and fell in love, my list of “go-to” meals was considerably different.  Why? Well, at that time, it was me & a five year old.  Chicken, mac & cheese, soup, sandwiches, a bit of a roast here & there and we were good.

Not so with Mr. Man.

Being a Midwesterner, he came to the marriage with a hearty share of experience in the casserole department.  A list as long as his arm.   And, over time, he kept talking about this one dish his Mom used to make and his eyes would get all deep and dreamy and stuff and I remember thinking, “I just have to know what’s behind that look.”

So I asked her.  GM Jan, as we called her (she’d been a seamstress for General Motors; she was feisty and fun, a skinny smoker with a beehive and a closet full of shoes, but I digress.)

Pleased as punch, she shared her recipe with me.


The only in-law who, so far, wasn’t an out-law. And I made it, and adapted it, and well, here we are.

I made it last night for Hubbs and you would’ve thought I gave him the keys to the kingdom. His eyes lit up like a kids the night before the fair comes to town.  Rubbing his hands together he excitedly checked the bread and butter supply before announcing gleefully, “That’s perfect! I’ll have that for lunch tomorrow and maybe for dinner, too!”

And with that, my friends, I give you Poor Man’s:  Poor Man’s Chop Suey.

Who knows the calorie or fat content? Who cares?  All I know is this: every time I make it, the twinkle in his eye grows to a gleam and I might just as well be a star on “Top Chef.”

** MJ’s (and Jan’s)  Poor Man’s Chop Suey **

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Soy sauce
  • 2 cans cream soup – I used 1 cream of mushroom and 1 cream of celery
  • 1 can of water (just over a cup)
  • 1 cup of “Shredds” (shredded vegetables – carrots, broccoli, cabbage – found in the produce department)
  • 1 cup (or so) of cooked rice, any kind
  • Seasonings to taste
  • Optional: add slivered celery, mushrooms, water chestnuts, onion or almonds.


Brown beef, drain off fat and season liberally with Mrs. Dash, dried Onion, Rosemary and Pepper.  Pour in 1/4 cup of Soya Sauce (or more, to taste).  In a separate bowl, mix soups & water then pour into beef mixture.  Add veggie shreds and rice, mix well, tumble the whole hearty mixture into a 13×9 pan and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes until bubbly.  The rice will absorb the sauce as it stands.   Should serve 4 people but, in my house, this serves one grinning and delighted man for oh – 1-2 days :).

Poor Man's Chop Suey

Poor Man’s Chop Suey

Were you raised on casseroles?  Is there a dish you make for others but don’t crave yourself? Is there one you love but everyone else thinks is weird? (Mine is “Holpchi,” better known as cabbage rolls).

*This dish was Frankie’s favorite leftover; it’s been a month now and I miss that old grey-faced dog, especially when I cook.

To visit my Recipe vault, just click on the links below:

Categories: Animals, Faith, Family, Food, Grief, Home, Joy, Life, Men, Recipes, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 28 Comments

The highest seat of a Ferris Wheel

It’s here and I can feel it.

Autumn’s descent.

Lawns crisping. Leaves starting to turn.  A hint of fall in the air.

It’s darker in the mornings when I wake; just last week, the sun was up with me at 6:30 a.m.  Not so anymore.

We’re having a push of heat again, the hot, sweaty, humid stuff that clings to your face and makes your hair curl at your neck.  The push that fools folks into thinking summer’s still here.  That there’s still time for the lake, for the pool, for lazy days of summer.   But don’t be fooled. The countdown’s on.

Are you seeing signs of Autumn in your neck of the woods?

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

and, yes, I bought some!

Experts predict a bumper MI apple crop this year!  30M bushels!

Categories: Beauty, Food, Home, Quotes, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

It’s just this simple

We took a much-needed break this week with some time off.

No stress. No clocks. No dress code.

No meal plans. No chores. No particular place to be.

Wake when we wake, sleep when we sleep.

Eat when we’re hungry and stretch when we’re sore.

Quiet mornings sipping coffee as the fog lifts from the yard.

Happy evenings spent talking, laughing and connecting.

No phones. No distractions and no one else’s problems to solve.

We’ve gambled,golfed and gamed.

We’ve laughed, lunched and lingered.

We’ve napped, read and putzed.

And we’ve done it all … together.

Intimacy = into ME see.

Ahh Michigan summers!

Ahh Michigan summers!

“Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” ― Martin Luther

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Joy, Love, Men, Personal, Romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 26 Comments

On house-building

“An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family.

He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.

When the carpenter finished his work and the builder came to inspect the house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built none too well.

So it is with us.

We build our lives in a distracted way, reacting rather than acting, willing to put up less than the best. At important points we do not give the job our best effort. Then with a shock we look at the situation we have created and find that we are now living in the house we have built. If we had realized that we would have done it differently.

Think of yourself as the carpenter.

Think about your house.

Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall.

Build wisely:   It is the only life you will ever build.

Even if you live it for only one day more, that day deserves to be lived graciously and with dignity. The plaque on the wall says, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.”

Your life tomorrow will be the result of your attitudes and the choices you make today.” – Unknown

A friend shared the words above with me recently.  Little did she know how much I needed to read them.  Serendipity, yes, I think we could say that.

And to that end, it’s time.

Time for an absence of schedule. Time for a little less obligation and a lot more recreation.

It’s time to say “no” to phones, socks, clocks and conference calls.

It’s time for shared glances, twirly skirts, golf dates and date nights.

Every summer, hubbs and I take a “time out” to do all the above …and this year?

It starts …. tomorrow!

 * * * You are the carpenter. Your life is the house. How are you building it? * * * 

"Choose the guy who ruins your lipstick, not the one who ruins your mascara." -Unknown.  Me & Hubbs, an emjayandthem photo

Me & Hubbs: we sure have fun together.  (C) an emjayandthem photo

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Holidays, Home, Men, Personal, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The thing about Alices

So, I’ve been quietly mentoring a young woman who works in my office.

We’re not in the same work group or function or even “job family.”  But, there’s something about her that I recognize: a quiet dignity that screams, “I need a change. I can do more. See me. Please.”

She’s educated. Intelligent.  Articulate.

She’s also stuck, frustrated and scared.

I’ve encouraged her to research other roles within the company; we have a national presence, there are opportunities, but one must look for them.


Alice in Wonderland

I’ve explained the path I’ve taken, of volunteering to improve a process, of stepping in to help other departments, of being part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I’ve supported her as she applied for open posts and offered my help as she readied herself for interviews.

I’ve silently cheered when she stepped up and inwardly cringed when she talked herself out of new opportunities.

I’ve suggested she try a simple exercise called “to a tee.

I’ve taken it all in as she explained how busy she was with whatever and why she never did do it.

And … I’ve stepped away when I realized she just might just be an Alice.

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
       ‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Categories: Attitude, Determination, Growth, Life, Uncategorized, Women, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Persimmons & Pomegranates

I invited Intuition to stay in my house when my roommates went North.

I warned her that I am territorial and I keep the herb jars in alphabetical order. Intuition confessed that she has a ‘spotty employment record.’  She was fired from her last job for daydreaming.

When Intuition moved in, she washed all the windows, cleaned out the fireplace, planted fruit trees, and lit purple candles.

She doesn’t cook much.



She doesn’t have many possessions.

Each thing is special. I wish you could see the way she arranged her treasures on the fireplace mantle. She has a splendid collection of cups, bowls, and baskets.
Well, the herbs are still in alphabetical order, and I can’t complain about how the house looks.

Since Intuition moved in, my life has been turned inside out.
― J. Ruth Gendler, The Book of Qualities

So tell me, if Intuition came knocking … would you invite her in?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, fear, Growth, Life Lessons, Personal, Self Discovery, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

Support Group

I don’t hate my job at all. But this sure made me laugh:

drew carey

So tonight, we’re not going to the bar. We’re going to our friend Lynette’s summer party.  I wrote about her a little while ago, the 55-year-old trying to live with terminal cancer.

With that sobering news came talk of a bucket list. But her bucket list made me laugh because it didn’t reference sky-diving, travel or the like.  Her bucket list included: Tom Selleck, Bruce Willis, and Kevin Costner.  Huh? Yep, all the dreamy men she wished she’d-a-met.  Oh how we roared over that list.   That’s Lynette.

She’s that gal  — the one who’s always the first to help, who brings food to neighbors, organizes parties, bus trips to the casino, and fundraisers for veterans.  She’s bought baby gifts for girls who weren’t family and furnished the apartments of friends.  When hubbs’ mom passed away, she showed up with coffee, beer, food and money.  Money? “Trust me, you’re gonna have expenses you didn’t think about.” And we did.

Generous, yes you could say that.  But also a ton of fun to be around.  Direct. Smart.  Funny and sharp as a tack.

She’s a wife, mother, sister, friend, neighbor and G-Ma.

She’s all of those things and more.

But most of all, she’s our friend, and tonight’s not just Friday night, it’s her night.  And we’re gonna form our very own support group.  At her bar.

Me & Lynette setting up the hall for my 50th bday party

Me & Lynette setting up the hall for my 50th bday party. She booked the hall and handled the decorating. Of course she did. That’s Lynette.

Happy Friday, peeps.  Celebrate everyone in your life! Friday and every day. 

Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Faith, Family, Friendship, Gratitude, Grief, Life, Life Lessons, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Optimism in the face of adversity

It’s been 7 days.

7 days.

6 nights without a welcome home and 6 mornings without a scrunchy-faced hello.

No drive by “so what are you cookin’ today” moments.

No yard tours. No dinner aides. No coffee partners.

7 days.

7 days without my buddy.

And there’s just so much I have to tell him, so much.

So if I could, I’d tell him about a new project we’re working on and how much fun we’re having and he’d nod his head in agreement because he always knew that’s what I needed.  And then I’d tell him about working to find just the right person to fill a job that’s come open, and he’d nudge me and tell me, in his own way, to trust my instincts and how they’ve always served me well — after all, they were right on spot with him.  And then I’d share  the news that Mom’s looking at maybe  – just maybe – moving after 61 years on the farm.  And he’d stay silent and close because he’d know .. he’d know that a decision likes that deserves nothing less than respect and reverence.

And after we’d checked on all things outside and had supper and taken a walk that was just long enough but not too much for him, I’d hug him close and whisper the words I said to him every night of his life, “You’re the best dog anyone could ever wish for. The very best. And there’s just no one better.”

And with it, he’d close his eyes and sigh and smile, guard our secrets and he’d know, know deep in his soul, that he had the kind of life other dogs can only dream of.

A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. 

And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.” ― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

Frankie-bear aka Captain Cuddles

Sure miss Frankie-bear aka Captain Cuddles; an Emjayandthem(c) photo

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Friendship, Grief, Growth, Life, Personal, Relationships, Share, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Nana power

nana batman

Always said Nana’s had super powers!

Don’t get it?

Say the words above to the tune below:

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Fun, Life, Opinion, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

Farewell to a fur-ever friend

We had to say good-bye to our fur-ever friend, Frankie, earlier this week.

13 years & 22 days with the world’s greatest dog.

So lucky, yes we were.

Smart and hilarious, I found him at the Humane Society of West Michigan.   More about his adoption story here. In his honor, we are going to pay it forward and sponsor the adoption of another mutt for a another lucky family.  He was all about sharing and I think he would have appreciated that.

Frankie as a wee one

Frankie as a wee boy

Frankie arrived when our boys were 6 & 14; He was a first class salesman (he always got the order), champion bed warmer, professional greeter and happiest .. near us.

We enjoyed a great weekend with the kids & grands by the grill (his favorite), not knowing it would be his last.

Frankie's last grill night with us .. just last Saturday.

Frankie’s last grill night with us .. just last Saturday.

He developed a vestibular disorder suddenly,  which as traumatic as it was to witness, had to have been terrifying for him.  But I know in my heart that our presence, our touch, our kisses, tears, sorrow and hugs .. served to comfort him in his hour of need.

Frankie finds contentment easily

He enjoyed cuddles like this one the last night of his life

Thankfully, the situation was short-lived.

I’m grateful for that.

Thankfully, we were home.

I’m grateful for that, too.

It was obvious we had a decision to make that, as sad as it was for us, was absolutely right … for him.

He deserved no less.

And so we stayed with him as he passed on, petting him, kissing him, whispering words of endearment that will never be enough to say all that we really felt.

We bucked up, carried on and, with tears streaming down, did our best to convey our gratitude to the kind of friend you wish could stay in your life .. fur-ever.

Rest in peace, sweet boy.

Frankie’s farewell … an emjayandthem (C) photo

 “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ― Will Rogers


Categories: Animals, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Life, Personal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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