i thank my friend

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Lily and Bryce sitting on our front step the day the Hale family moved.

We talked about it happening someday. We discussed support systems, family and the like. We also shared our fears of moving, beginning again. We knew that we couldn’t be neighbors forever, but up until the day they left, I may have naively thought it a possibility.

Let me back up a bit. When Cory and I moved to our neighborhood over seven years ago, I was a lone wolf. We quickly, and happily became a family and suddenly I was a lone wolf with a little cub. I knew the young woman across the street, but not yet personally. I knew she had what appeared to be a 2 year-old and, not long after we moved in, I observed a newborn in her arms when she would walk to the end of the driveway to pick up her mail. In those days I knew how to get to the grocery store, Cory’s office, my work, my parent’s house, and then back again. I was new and not yet connected to the community where we were growing our family. She seemed confident, capable and I was certain she knew her way around town. She had friends too, local friends who seemed to come by often. My friends had to plan weeks ahead for a visit, living over an hour away from me now. When I think back to that time I remember sitting at the kitchen table and watching the world outside. It breathed activity, lives in motion, routines and happenings. I wasn’t depressed, I wasn’t lonely, just idle-waiting, unbeknownst to me, for someone to pull me out of the house and teach me how to make a really good sugar cookie.

So, I will count my blessings and call myself lucky for the short six years I got to live across the street from my dearest friend, Tara. We bonded for the first time over sugar cookies and few of our million conversations happened outside of our kitchens. On our watch, we added more children to our families, sadly saw marriages end, but then new ones begin, picked every Ohio fruit available to us, sought parenting advice, watched countless television shows, exercised (quite faithfully for a while there;), shared viruses between us and our kids, shared recipes and lots of good food, dinners out, shopping trips and pedicures, playground dates and babysitting emergencies. We loved and cared for each others children as if they were our own. We embraced our fundamental differences and it made us more tolerant and loving human beings. I think we somehow managed to cover it all, and in a very short amount of time. We decided that things were just getting about perfect when they decided to move 1,700 miles away.

Today I know my way around. I love where we live and have made friends locally, really good people. Cory and I agree that it feels more and more like home every time we return after being away for a while and have vowed to stay here for a very long time. Tara and her family are still a part of my community, just the one that’s in my heart. I can’t run across the street to say hello or to grab an egg, but I can call her up or Face Time whenever I need to, which is most days. We still come home some evenings and I will catch myself glancing across the street and wondering, “Are Ben and Tara home?”…They are, but in a new home, establishing a new community where they are lucky to be surrounded by family and old friends; where those folks are now lucky to have Ben and Tara and their boys closeby.

I miss Tara deeply. Everyday. But for as much as I miss her, I am also overwhelmed by my gratefulness to her for bringing me a plate of sugar cookies that day, for coming into this house and helping to make it feel like home. She is everywhere here and always will be as long as we live in this neighborhood. So, I thank my friend. I thank her for love, support, and a kindness like I might have otherwise never have known. She continues to inspire me from afar to be a better wife, mother, daughter and friend and no amount of distance will ever change that.

Dinner #1: Meat-a-balls

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Lily and Grandma Theresa making meatballs last summer

Mmmmmm meatballs. I am sharing this recipe today because I have modified it some since I passed it to a few friends. Please note, this is not the recipe we published in our cookbook, however that is a great one too from my Uncle Joe.

Dena’s Meatballs

1 1/2-2lbs meatloaf mix*
2lbs ground beef (no more than 90% lean)
1/3 loaf stale Italian bread, ground into fine breadcrumbs (my grocery store offers a delicious rosemary pugliese I prefer)
11 eggs lightly beaten
1 tube of wet Italian herbs**
1 1/2 cups of grated Romano cheese (a little more never hurts)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Mix gently with your hands, shape into 1-2 inch round balls and bake for 25 minutes.

*about meatloaf mix: it is usually available in the meat department; equal amounts of ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork.
**about wet herbs: these are a must-find them in the produce department in a tube. I buy this brand.

Another last minute recipe note, I really do think freshly ground breadcrumbs really make all the difference in the moistness of the meat. Dried can easily be substituted but you may want to add an extra egg or two. Also, I don’t turn my meatballs while they bake, but my mom does. She likes them to stay shapely and round. Sometimes I reserve a large handful of the meatloaf mix and roll tiny balls that I am able to freeze for soups. This recipe makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen large meatballs and they freeze perfectly in Ziploc freezer bags. Next week I plan to post my recipe for quick pasta sauce.

the kitchen, tiled.

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We did it! We tiled the backsplash in our kitchen AND painted! It is really feeling like we have come full circle, despite the old floors (we foresee that project happening in about a year or so). Even with builder-grade linoleum, our kitchen is looking fantastic and, even more importantly, is a dream to work in. Cory cut and laid each individual piece of tile by hand and then I stepped in at the end for the glory when it was time to grout. The pot faucet, pictured above, does make me feel pretty glamorous, I must say, and the nifty stainless shelves we added are practical and stylish-we are super pleased with the turnout. A few more pictures…

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Grouting is a real pain, by the way and white tile, of course, doesn’t make it any easier. We had fun this day though and later it made our cocktail taste THAT much better.

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Cory also installed under-mount cabinet lighting. It uses tiny LED bulbs so it is very bright and incredibly efficient-we turn them on a lot.

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As I said, we love our shelves. The open storage forces me to be more organized.

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Behold the newly painted walls. This is a real bonus and a big, bright improvement! We love the chalk walls and have fun making lists and drawing pictures here and there. We lucked out last weekend at a Farmer’s Market in South Haven, Michigan and found a beautiful print by local photographer, Bobbie Bush. Things are really shaping up on this side of the house!