And just like that, I blinked and my blog turned 9 years old today. I am sure I’ve said it in the last anniversaries of this blog that if someone would have asked me if I would still be blogging NINE YEARS after I started, I don’t think that I would have believed them. My first post was September 4, 2008. This was my first food photograph. Is it me, or does that look like dog food with melted cheese on top?!
Tony was my biggest fan of the blog. Anyone we met, he’d mention “my wife has a food blog!” and he’d call me at work after he woke up and let me know if I had any spelling mistakes. His only complaint I think would be that because I am a food blogger, so many times I’d make a dish, he would love it, and I’d never make it again for varieties sake. But I realize I don’t mind eating the same things over and over.
Case in point: lasagna soup. I have Brenda of A Farmgirl’s Dabbles for coming up with the original recipe. If you have not tried this soup yet after the dozens (hundreds!) of times I’ve made it on this blog, you really need to get your shit together and make it this fall. I promise it will become a family favorite. I love how customizable it is – switch out the pasta, add the cheezy goodness, leave it out. Add veggies. The possibilities are endless!
One of Tony’s favorite dishes that I did make a lot for him was my Company Salisbury Steak. This is delicious, and I love that it’s a quick weeknight dinner.
It’s to no surprise for anyone who has been following me for any amount of time, that I kind of like beef. Like a lot. If you are afraid to cook steak at home, here is a look back on my post about how to cook the perfect steak at home.
I’ve tried so many different kinds of ethnic dishes too – you know, the ones that Tony used to say “what smells like ass?!” Chicken Tikka Masala is high up on the list of one of my favorite dishes that I don’t make enough.
I love breakfast foods – one of my favorites when I meal plan is potato crusted quiche. You can use canned potatoes, like I did in this recipe, or baked potatoes that were cooked earlier in the week, like this recipe.
One of my Mom’s favorite dishes of mine is the Cheese Souffle for One. It’s light, airy and delicious. And here’s more proof that my food photography has improved over the years.
I won $5,000 with my Buffalo Chicken Chili. That remains a favorite in the fall and is one of my most viewed recipes from September through November every year since I posted it in 2010. And everyone who has entered an office or block party chili contest, has won with this chili – at least 15 people that I know of. How cool is that?!
I’ve had the privilege of being in a Cooking Club that is going into our third year already. Courtney (hostess with the mostest!) has been a generous host. And it’s been nice getting to know Julie, Tina, Catherine, Mary Beth, Lindsay and Donna these past couple years and look forward to kicking off the beginning of year three in October. I’ve also tried and loved halibut and salmon, two things I just told myself I didn’t like and they are delicious!
When I started this blog Hannah was 16 years old. When she was 17, we bought her a car. Here is the video to that – still makes me teary when I watch it! You’ve seen her graduate high school, move out of the house at age 20, move back into the house at age 23 with Jacob and the dogs after Tony passed away. Oh, and did I mention that she and Jacob are getting MARRIED in October?! Jacob’s grandma is sick, she’s still getting tests done so we are unsure of her prognosis. And in true Hannah fashion she didn’t want anything fancy. They are getting married at the Court House on Friday the 13th, then we’ll have dinner out with my Mom, Jacob’s parents and grandparents.
Joe was almost 18 when I wrote my first post. I am just so proud of the man he has become, and can’t believe he’s been married to Lizz for nearly five years this November already! They too got married at the Justice of the Peace in Austin, and his Mom threw him and Lizz a reception that Thanksgiving weekend, that we were not invited to. I may or may not still be bitter about that one, but whatevs! I may not have mentioned it on the blog before, but Tony and Joe’s Mom didn’t get along at all. In fact, before I married Tony, Tony’s Mom did all the communicating with picking up Joe and then I took over when we got married. He and Lizz bought a house, have two dogs and a cat, and are living life to the fullest, which makes me so happy. I love Lizz so much as if she were my own daughter, and couldn’t be prouder of her starting her own vegan channel on YouTube showing what she eats in a day on a vegan diet. Go here and subscribe! Joe, I know your Dad was so proud of you!! I was also happy making you grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread, monkey bread and anything else with copious amounts of cinnamon.
Here is my favorite picture of Hannah and Joe – it was when Hannah graduated 8th grade. They look so much alike in this picture, you’d never know there was no blood relation at all.
And that brings me to Tony. I have come to terms with the knowledge that I came into his life when he needed me the most. He was sick on and off again from 2007 until he died in December 2014. I can’t believe this year will mark three years that he’s been gone already. He survived countless trips to the hospital, starting with a heart valve replacement in 2007. That illness took him a long time to get over, not only physically, but mentally. He almost died. He was having trouble breathing, I got home from work and took one look at him and said “we are going to the ER.” He said he didn’t want to go at night, and finally agreed to go the next day. They weren’t sure what was wrong with him. We were watching a John Wayne movie on t.v., when the doctor was doing rounds with medical students and minded if I just stepped out for a moment. Within five minutes lights were flashing, hospital staff were running into his room and I walked back in to find him flat laying flat on his back, tubes coming out of his mouth and he was unconscious. WTF?!
He was in the hospital for 18 days, but I didn’t want him to know that. He was so tired, whenever I was with him, he would just fall asleep. It wasn’t until the day of discharge, when a doctor came in who was just on call, but had to give us the go ahead to get the most coveted “going home” yellow envelope (you can’t leave the hospital without that one) and declared “so this is they guy who almost died!” I cringed, and Tony took one look at me and was dumbfounded. He never thought it was as serious as it was because I downplayed it because I knew he would cling to the fact that he almost died – and it also put a strain on our marriage because he thought he couldn’t trust me to tell him the truth because I “withheld” information about how sick he was. I thought I was doing the right thing, but he couldn’t wrap his brain about how long he was in the hospital, how he got there (he didn’t remember) and it was nearly a night occurrence for months that he would want me to recall the events leading up to his open heart surgery and the 16 days that followed.
This time of year is an emotional one for me. Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of my Dad passing away. Tony’s birthday is on the 22nd of this month – he would have been 57 years old this year. My Dad died when he was 59. I think they both knew they weren’t going to live long, and I find a lot of similarities in their personalities, probably why I was gravitated to Tony in the first place. In September of 2014 I had no idea he would be gone in three months. I left him to go to New York to meet up with Lauren, Shauna and Megan for Extended Stay America’s recipe contest with Sunny Anderson as the judge.
I was hesitant to go and leave Tony alone, but he begged me to go. I called him right before I was supposed to give my on air presentation of my dish. I was hoping he’d be able to give me a pep talk, but when I called him, he said four words “I don’t feel good” and then started throwing up. I literally about ripped the microphone off my shirt to get the hockey puck out of there, but he told me he would be fine and wished me luck. (You can see the recipe compilation video here). It’s always haunted me that those few days I was away was the beginning of the end. What if I had been home to push him to go the hospital? I knew he wouldn’t voluntarily go on his own.
That’s our last picture together. And not too long after that he was unable to communicate at all. It’s funny, because I don’t think we ever really said goodbye to each other. It was as if we both knew that it was his time to go. I remember after he closed his eyes a few days before he died, I told him it was okay to let go, that I would be okay.
I just miss him. His laugh, the way he made me laugh, his company. We literally spent every waking minute together that we could in nearly 14 years, and that’s still taking time to get used to. I used to not wait to come home to him after work, and now I find myself in no particular hurry to come home. I am lonely while not being alone if that makes any sense. I miss our every day banter, even his temper and the fact that he thought he was always right, no matter how much you disagreed. I want to assure you that in no way was our marriage perfect, because it was far from it, but we got each other on such a deep level from the beginning of meeting, that we never could imagine our lives with anyone else.
We didn’t get to buy a house on a lake so Tony could go fishing that had a giant kitchen window overlooking the lake so that I could watch him fish. He had so many dreams of what he wanted his life to be, and sadly he never saw a lot of those come to fruition. So I remind myself every day that there is a purpose of getting up and putting one foot in front of the other. He wouldn’t want me dwelling on the past for something I can’t change. And I am trying to do that. It gets a little bit easier every day.
So THANK YOU to everyone who has been following me whether it’s been a week, a month, a year or the whole damn 9 years. Your support over the years held me up and gave me so much comfort after Tony died, the cards, letters and gifts I have received from you are all cherished – from bottles of hot sauce, to my pillow from Kym that says “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
I better start pedaling that bike a bit faster to keep my balance.
I thought I’d do a small giveaway today – either a subscription of Weight Watchers magazine or Cooking Light – the winner’s choice! Just leave a comment – it could be anything from maybe a recipe you tried, or where you are from, or how long you’ve been following me. I’ll pick a random winner on Friday. Happy Labor Day!