Friday, September 25, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

This has become one of my most requested dinners!  It takes a little bit of prep time, but not near as much as traditional chicken cordon bleu and it's totally worth it!  The whole family loves it.  I never have leftovers.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. milk mixed with 1 egg
unseasoned bread crumbs

Dip chicken pieces in the flour, then the milk/egg mixture and finally the bread crumbs.  Brown in oil and transfer to a 9x13 pan.

Sprinkle over chicken and stir:
8 oz swiss cheese, cubed
8 oz ham, diced

Mix together:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c. milk
1 T honey dijon mustard

Pour over the top of chicken, cheese and ham.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

PTSD and Decorating for the Holidays

Combat PTSD is an odd thing. Even though everyone's situations are different, there are a lot of similarities I hear about as I'm talking to other wives of PTSD vets.  As autumn-time starts to approach, a lot of vets with combat PTSD can be really "triggered".  The summer is coming to an end, the holidays are approaching, the days are warm but the nights are cold... this can all lead to them feeling unsettled, which can aggravate their PTSD symptoms.

Another thing I've noticed, is that decorating for the holidays can bring about a negative change for those with combat PTSD.  I, myself, was feeling a little melancholy as I packed away my every day living room decor because I know that once the Halloween decorations are up the Christmas season will be here in the blink of an eye and my house won't be back to normal until after the first of the year.  

The holiday season always flies by!  If my brain, that doesn't have anxiety, can link together Halloween decorations with all the other things that will happen throughout the rest of the year, just think of what it can do to someone who dreads the hustle and bustle of the holidays!

When you have PTSD not only are changes (like the whole house being decked out for Halloween,) hard, but the holidays in general are hard as well.  The holidays bring with them a lot of extra stresses for the average person, but when you have PTSD, depression and anxiety (the three go hand-in-hand) the holidays can be a nightmare.  Crowded stores, busy traffic, the anxiety of buying gifts, neighbors dropping by, big holiday parties, the extra expenses, lots of noisy family coming over, etc, etc are sometimes more than a vet can handle.  Decorating for the holidays can start to bring about extra anxieties as they start to worry about everything that the holiday season entails.  I am someone who REALLY gets into the holidays, so I thought I'd share a few things I've learned along the way.

Here are a few tips for making things go a little easier with your PTSD spouse as you decorate for the  holidays:

1- Try to inform your husband ahead of time before you do things like pull out a dozen holiday totes and turn your house upside down, especially if you'll want his help, because you don't want him to shut down.  My husband has memory issues, but I still try to give him a heads up that I'll be decorating soon.  I remind him the week before, the week of, the day before and the morning of that I will be decorating.  Even if he doesn't remember the exact day it will be happening, the idea has had a little time to become familiar to him.

2- Don't expect him to keep up with you.  My husband is home with me full time.  Because of this sometimes I think that he can tackle a six hour project like I can.  This is just not true.  I use my husband for things like reaching boxes I can't reach and helping me pull stuff out of a storage room and that's about it.  Seeing hoards of holiday totes and decorations everywhere is extremely overwhelming for someone with PTSD.  They like small and simple tasks and the way I decorate is not small or simple.

3- Try to get it all done in a day.  In some years past I've let myself take my time while decorating.  Now I try to pick a day when I can get it all done in a few hours.  The rest of us can adapt to a few days of chaos, stepping over boxes tripping over decorations, etc, but if I want my husband to sleep at night I've got to get things semi in order by bedtime.

4- Play it by ear. If my husband is having a really bad week, it's just not going to work to decorate right now.  He will either need my undivided attention or the stress of decorating will be too much for him, or both.  That's ok!  As much as I love my house decked out in holiday fun, I love my husband more and sometimes things need to be scaled back or even done away with completely for a little while so my focus can be on him.  Caregiving is often about sacrifice and in the grand scheme of things, whether or not my Halloween or Christmas stuff was put up during a certain week or even that year at all doesn't really make THAT much of a difference.

5- That being said, don't let go of what makes you happy.  I really, really (like really) find joy in the holidays!  There are certain holiday traditions that are super hard on my husband and I've had to let them go, but I HAVE TO hold on to who I am.  When you are a caregiver it's easy to lose who you are because you're always worried about whether or not something will trigger them or how they're emotionally doing.  Don't let go of what you love.  If you think decorating for the holidays are a pain and it makes your husband unhappy, don't do it.  But if you really love it then it's probably worth the extra stress on you both to not let go of who you are and what makes you happy!

As we head into the holiday season this year I'm hoping to be able to share more about what it's like to be a caregiver to someone with combat PTSD.  Even if it's not totally applicable in your life, I feel it's important to promote awareness. If it is applicable hopefully you will realize that you aren't alone. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Halloween is coming...

Although my family throws tantrums about me decorating for Christmas in November, they beg me to decorate for Halloween in September.  I decorated around the 15th and Alyssa asked me what took me so long.  

My tower of pumpkin people make me smile every time I see them!

The top of my piano is always the most festive place in our house during the holidays.

These pumpkins really match my bedroom or bathroom better than my living room, but I put them up anyway!  I made them from a shower curtain!  They are large and fabulously shabby!

I love black cats!

This shiny Halloween tree was a $2 thrift store find this year.

Halloween touches everywhere!

Even my kitchen is getting into the Halloween spirit!

When do you decorate for Halloween at your house?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Homemade Pita Bread

We love pita bread at our house, but I'm often disappointed by store bought varieties.  Sometimes they're soft and yummy and sometimes they're stiff and taste like cardboard.  I decided to make my own and I'm so glad I did!  They do take time to rise, but they're totally worth it!  They even make a pouch when you cut them in half.  I was so proud of them.  If you use whole wheat flour add a bit of vital wheat gluten to the dough to help them stay soft.

Homemade Pita Bread

1 c hot water
2 tsp yeast
2 1/2 - 3 c flour
2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil

Mix the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl, and let rest for a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour, salt, and olive oil. If using a stand mixer knead for 8 minutes on medium using your dough hook, adding more flour until you have a smooth dough. If using your hands sprinkle a little of the extra flour onto your counter or cutting board and knead the dough by hand for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic adding more flour if needing to keep the dough from being too sticky.

Spray a clean bowl with cooking spray or rub it with oil and set the dough inside turning to coat all sides.  Cover with a clean damp dishcloth and let rise until double.  Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece into a circle about 8 inches wide.

Cook on a hot skillet rubbed with oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on one side, then flip.  Cook 1-2 minutes on the second side then flip back to the first side for another minute until they look done.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Am I Still a Writer?

Am I still a writer?  This question has plagued me the last couple of weeks.  I used to refer to myself as a writer, but I rarely take the time to write anymore.

A couple of weeks ago I helped my husband write a talk for sacrament meeting.  He jotted down the gist of what he wanted to say on notepaper and I put it together, added in quotes and scriptures and just made it flow... So many people commented on how well written his talk was and although he really gets credit because he did an AMAZING job, and I promise I'll share the talk with you soon, it got me thinking about writing again.  I really enjoyed helping him take the message he wanted to share, use his words combined with my talent and make it into something fabulous.

I was in a group support meeting for caregivers on Saturday and the therapist referred to me as a writer and I asked myself the question, Am I still a writer?  I love writing, helping my husband with his talk reminded me of that.  I want to consider myself a writer, but to be a writer don't I need to actually write something?

It's been an interesting year.  I am happier than I've ever been.  I love being married to my best friend, but there are also many challenges that come with being a full time caregiver to a disabled veteran.  One of the things that constantly gets drilled into the heads of caregivers is to make the time to take care of yourself.  Writing is therapeutic for me, so I've decided I need to make it a priority again!

Last week in church my husband started nudging me and telling me I should go up and bear my testimony and I said, "I don't have anything to say."  He snorted and responded, "That would be a first!"  He's right.  I do always have something to say.

On this blog I have recipes and craft ideas to share.  I have vintage finds to show and tell.  I have parenting stories, caregiver stories, ptsd stories and testimonies to bear.  I have women to connect with and friendships to make and strengthen.  I AM a writer!  I don't want to lose that part of me so I'm here to publicly say...   I'm blowing the dust off this old blog and putting it to regular use again, not because I feel guilty about it or because people are asking me to, but because when people ask me what I do I want to be able to say once again, I'm a writer!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dutch Oven French Toast

This recipe is so good!  We were camping on the 4th of July, but I still wanted to make something festive, so I decided on a red, white & blue french toast made in the dutch oven!  It was delightful!  You can also cook it in a 9 x 13 pan at home in your oven.

Dutch Oven French Toast

Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a hot dutch oven.  Add 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon and stir.  Cut a loaf of Texas Toast bread slices into halves or quarters and layer on top of the butter/brown sugar mixture.  

In a bowl, mix 2 cups of milk, 6 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1 cup of berries.  I used a mix of blueberries and quartered strawberries.  Pour over the bread.  Cover and cook at 350 for 30-45 minutes until done.  Serve warm with syrup and whipped cream!

We are having so much fun camping this summer!  I love enjoying the simple life here and there away from technology, phone calls and doctor's appointments!   We're heading out again this week!  I love my teeny tiny camper kitchen and how basic everything is when you're out in nature.  It makes me feel like a pioneer, which is actually what we're celebrating on the 24th of July.  

Happy Pioneer Day!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fresh Strawberry Cobbler

I love fresh strawberries!  I especially love fresh strawberries when they're on sale for .99!  We've started buying most of our fresh produce at the Mexican market because their prices are so much better than the regular grocery store.  When strawberries go on sale I often freeze them for smoothies, but this time I thought I'd use them in some recipes.  I decided to make a strawberry cobbler for breakfast this morning and it was fabulous!  It got gobbled up and we were tempted to lick the pan as well!  Double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan.

Strawberry Cobbler

Mix together in a square baking pan:

1 lb strawberries, washed and quartered
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. corn starch

In a small bowl mix:

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. oats
1/3 c. whole wheat flour (or white)
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. hemp hearts, optional

Sprinkle on top of prepared strawberries.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.