Stills

Family, grief, loss, Parenting, Toby

Lately, I’ve been trying to reflect on the last six months. The reality of six months makes me so incredibly angry. The months of September and October, I have no recollection of. Lucas turned 2 on September 4. I have two moments of that day that resurface in my mind – the first – standing on the deck, it was so hot, our family singing happy birthday to him; the second – standing in the kitchen looking out into the backyard as our nieces and nephews ran down off the deck to play. I remember blinking, leaning toward the window, thinking “someone’s holding Toby.” Waiting for one of our parents to walk down into the yard with him in their arms. But no one came. Now, when I look out the kitchen window, that’s the memory that plays in my mind.
There was a good stretch of time where I was finally sleeping. These past few weeks I’ve been waking up multiple times a night. I woke up one night last week, while Dan was away for work, and I swore I heard crying. Not Luke’s cry. It was a baby, the softest whine. I opened my eyes thinking I would see the monitor. Nothing. Darkness. And the sound was gone.

The waves of tears and uncontrollable crying have been replaced by a calmness that I absolutely hate. I feel numb again, like I did in those first weeks. I hate it. I feel guilty that I can’t cry when I feel like I need to. But then there are moments it is all I can do. I am sad, depressed, angry – nothing anyone says is the right thing.

I never experienced pain or loneliness until Toby died. You think you experience pain; you think the loss of someone you love is beyond words; you think people understand. We don’t. I unfortunately can say this, because I’ve been on both sides of this. 

You have no idea the pain of a grieving parent, unless you are a grieving parent. There have been many days this past month where my emotions are so bottled-up, feeling hurt, lost, and alone – the tears come when they come and there is no choice but to surrender to those feelings, because I don’t have the strength to stop them. 

I said before that six months makes me angry, and most days it does. When I look at the calendar or the date in the bottom corner of my computer, I instantly think another day away from you. My arms hurt. I feel the pain inside and out and then, like another wave of emotion, I feel guilty. How should I feel? Do people look at us and think we should be moving through this grief more smoothly or quicker? Am I being the best mom I can be for Lucas? People say, It will get better; time will help; it won’t hurt as bad.

Yes. Yes it does. It does hurt as bad. As bad as August 24. The flashes in my mind on any day are enough to knock the wind out of any mother. On a bad day? They’re a nasty nightmare. The sound of an ambulance siren. The lights, even if I close my eyes, the red and brightness, flash and I can’t breathe. Some routes home, I look out the window sometimes and feel like I’m not even moving, but the feeling in my heart and stomach is the same from that afternoon. There are no words for it.

Others say things, intending to be helpful, but aren’t. I’m trying to learn to take what is, and leave what isn’t.

The weather the past few weeks has gone from 30 degrees and snowing one day to 60 degrees and sunny the next. I think these glimpses of spring, of warmer weather, are bringing emotions with them. As much as the past six months have been unbearable, I’m starting to feel anxiety for the next six. Toby’s birthday. June. July. August. One year. Vacationing without him. Going back to the pool and parks where we spent 12 amazing weeks as a family of four.

Some have said to us, I don’t know how you do it? I really don’t know either. Some days we just don’t. We don’t leave our house. We stay inside with Lucas and our dogs, Murray and Theo, and do whatever we feel like doing. I used to long for those days, when we could enjoy the boys together. Laugh. Play. Sing. We still have those days, but now I long for Toby to be there with us. Sometimes when I close my eyes, my wish is that I’ll open them and he’ll be right there in the swing. That’s a still that’s in my mind. The still of his face in the car the morning of August 24 when I was taking our boys to daycare. He was smiling and laughing at Lucas. I hate hitting the light on Rt. 22. That’s the still that’s in my mind, except when I hit that light, I almost feel like I’m watching my life. All the lights, people, fast moving vehicles – they haven’t stopped, or even slowed. But if I look right or left, there’s no sound, there’s no color. It’s just still.

 As I continue to write, while it helps sometimes to get the feelings out and on paper, I hope that it will reach someone who’s maybe feeling the same. Whether in the first year of loss or the tenth. People go through many struggles. The loss of a child is a big struggle. A big, traumatic, loss. There is no fix for this. To lose a child is to lose the very heart and soul of you. My prayer right now is that this darkness that has come back will somehow make way for a time that will fuel me, us, to do things we never dreamed we could do. All while keeping the memory of our beautiful, blue-eyed, boy alive. And even though they hurt, I pray the stills never go away.

Week 4: Blue Apron Meal Delivery Service Review

2017, Cooking, Family, Food

Hi everyone – we had our final box of Blue Apron meals delivered on Friday and I’m really bummed to say we had a major mishap in shipping. When I opened the box, we had sweet pepper and apple cider vinegar that had leaked all over the dry ingredients on the top portion. It completely ruined the one meal bag’d ingredients. I ended up having to throw away the Spiced Chicken Chili ingredients because they had gotten all soggy sitting in the liquid. Blue Apron does a good job packing their food so that the protein is all on the bottom and kept frozen during delivery. There is a cardboard sheet that separates your dry ingredients on the top of that on the bottom. The liquid had drained all into the bottom of the box, and while everything was packaged it was soaked, sticky and smelled from the vinegar.

I took some pictures of all of this and sent Blue Apron an email, letting them know about this packaging mishap.

While their response was professional, I was a little disappointed. You’re paying about $60 for each box and they shipped something that ruined ingredients for one meal. Could they not have even just resent me another bag of the fresh ingredients so we could at least make the meal that was somewhat unsalvageable?

Here was their response email:

 

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Maybe it’s because I work in customer service, but this was very “canned” in my opinion and just left a bad taste in my mouth for their service (all puns intended).

We did make the Cheddar Cheeseburgers and they turned out very well. There was a delicious Romaine Salad with this meal and we loved it. Dan cooked these. They suggested placing the hamburger buns in the oven, but he does a neat little short-cut that makes the grill marks on them and requires no oven! He places them, insides down on top of our 4-slice toaster and lets them grill on there for a few minutes – they are terrific!

Here’s my half-eaten burger 🙂 and the empty half of my plate that was covered in romaine before I remembered that we hadn’t photographed any of the meal prep for this one! (Blogging fail!)

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I’m sort of bummed to have to end this 4 week review on a negative note. We enjoyed trying Blue Apron. Would we use it again? Yes, probably, but not continually. Maybe we’ll give it a shot in the summer when they have some recipes that utilize the grill. We love cooking outside and with how the majority of these meals turned out, I’m sure Blue Apron would have some great recipes with in-season ingredients.

 

One of the great things that Blue Apron does that we loved is you can search for a recipe online or through their app and find out everything you need to make the meal at home and making a trip to the grocery store yourself. This is actually a nice freebie!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review series as much as we’ve loved cooking and taste-testing for you. We’d love to hear your experiences on meal delivery services and even some of the specific meals you or your families have enjoyed in the comments below!

Thanks for reading – Happy Cooking! 🙂

Week 2 & 3: Blue Apron Meal Delivery Service Review

2017, Cooking, Family, Food

This weeks Blue Apron box had Chicken & Bean Enchiladas, hamburgers and shrimp pasta.

The enchiladas were good, but unfortunately two of the tortillas that were sent in the package had holes right in the center of them, so they weren’t usable to fill and roll. Luckily I had some in the pantry, but if I wouldn’t have, we could have only made two tortillas.

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These were pretty good, but could have used some guacamole or sour cream. They were a tad bit dry.

Dan cooked the hamburgers, which had great taste and were a good size. The cabbage slaw that was with this meal was good, but just too much, from a portion perspective. The sweet potato fries for this meal were minimal, not like the first weeks portions, which were just enough. His review was “Pretty simple to make. The burgers were really good. Way too much slaw with this one. (which I agree)”

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The final meal was the shrimp pasta. This one was also pretty easy to make, not as much prep work as a few of the other meals we’ve had. I will say there was a ton of pasta. We probably could have had another meal with the left overs, but we didn’t have extra shrimp.

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Overall, this weeks meals were OK. I think the first week meals were better. This next weeks box arrived yesterday and I have to say I’m pretty excited for the one meal, cauliflower pizza. It looks delicious and it’s not a pre-made pizza, there’s actual dough! 🙂

Week 3’s box arrived and had Cumin-Crusted Pork, Sicilian Cauliflower Pizza, and Seared Chicken and Pan Sauce.

I probably should have looked at the menu and switched a few things up. I’m not crazy about pork or pork chops. They were dry, even with the pan sauce. One positive thing has been the use of blood oranges in a few recipes. This is an ingredient I wouldn’t think of using, but it has been very good and brightened up the dishes. We’ve also learned we’re not fans of fennel or farro (It reminds me of that cereal ‘puffed wheat’ that I ate as a kid – yuck.). It was dry and pasty. Especially paired with the pork.

The Seared Chicken was good. Any chicken that we’ve eaten from Blue Apron has been really good. Another thing that has been a new cooking experience has been Kale – and we’ve really like it. I think that’s one thing we’ll be adding to our grocery list for dinners. Luke has also eaten the chicken and vegetables – I think that’s just a given with toddlers though.

Our final meal was the Sicilian Cauliflower Pizza – this was by far the best meal we’ve had from 3 weeks of meal trial. Luke really liked it. It was super easy to make. I loved that they  used actual dough, not a pre-made pizza crust, and you could really taste the difference. We enjoyed cooking this one, as a family, which was a big difference from the other meals because of ingredients, cutting, and the prep work. I kept the recipe card for this meal so I can get the ingredients and make it again. I was a hit in our household!

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All in all we’ve enjoyed the last three weeks trying different ingredients and meals with Blue Apron. We have one box left on our 4-week trial. We’re still not certain that we would continue our plan, just because of the price and all that’s involved for preparing, plus we’re cooking something different for Luke every night. But I think those pros/cons are different for every family.

 

One thing that Blue Apron has started to do is wine pairings with your meals for the month. And, keeping with their great concept of portion control, the bottles are sized for two.

It’s 6 wines per month, $10 per bottle. Three red and three white. I don’t think it’s the cheapest, but if you’re interested in trying some new wine and the right pairing for your meals, this is a nice perk. Also, not having tried it yet, I’m not sure if you have the option to update or switch what you’re being sent, like you can with the meals. If anyone has tried the wine from Blue Apron, let me know your thoughts and if it’s worth the money to try it with your meals. I’m interested in feedback on this.

I have a few codes that Blue Apron sent me for free meals. If anyone is interested in trying Blue Apron, comment below or send me an email: ourhappyplaceandco@gmail.com.

Week 1: Blue Apron Meal Delivery Service Review

Cooking, Family, Food, Home, Lifestyle

This is our first time trying Blue Apron and a chance to see how well it works for our family versus the normal weekly grocery shopping and (very last minute) dinner choice. For those of you that share in our curiosity of “is it worth it?” here’s your chance to read about our experience and see if you’d like to give it a go.

Blue Apron Week One Meal Box

We had the 3 meals per week for two people, which is priced at $59.99. I was able to preview my menu, switch out meals, and pick the day for our delivery. I received an email the day before our delivery telling me our box was on the way and it arrived on time. I also downloaded the app to my phone (I highly recommend).

Week 1 Blue Apron Box Produce

First up: Beef Tacos & Radish Salsa

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The meal card for each meal that came in the box was helpful for pulling all the ingredients out, but after opening the app and reading some of the tips/reviews – I found that the steps and directions within the app were much easier to follow and didn’t have you doing “unneeded” prep. The Prep Time was 15 mins and the Cook Time said 25-35. I set my stopwatch on my phone to see how evenly this matched. (we’ll come back to that later)

I like that the portion sizes were perfect for two (Luke ate something else for dinner); we didn’t have leftovers or a lot of waste after preparing the meal. The beef was already sliced and ready to be seasoned, which was extremely helpful.

There was a lot of prep involved in making these and each step took a good bit of time. The sweet potato wedges were really good and we’ll definitely be making those again – also, portion size with just using one potato – perfect.

Overall, I’d give it a 6 out of 10 for ease of cooking – the time frame was definitely off. It took me an hour and 10 minutes from start to plating the meal. I’d much prefer something that was a little closer to 30 minutes to prepare and was glad that we had something else for Luke because he’d never last that long waiting for dinner on a weeknight. The other negative was the amount of dishes I had after making this – it was a bit over the top.

Next up, West African Peanut Chicken with Sautéed Kale and Rice. For this recipe I went right for the app directions and had read the tips earlier in the day, prior to dinner prep. We’ve never made sautéed kale before. It cooked fairly easily, but it wasn’t our favorite. I also combined some steps, which I think helped minimize the cook time. I’ve found that a staple of Blue Apron meals is to use the fond left in the pan in the following steps, which does help with the taste and spice. This was in every recipe this week. Also, the sauce for this – there’s a lot leftover, so we used it for our rice but ended up throwing a good bit of it away.

Blue Apron West African Peanut Chicken

Prep and cook time were about 50 minutes for this one – Blue Apron estimated 60mins+. The chicken cuts were a very good size and portion was actually a little more than I wanted for the rice and kale.

Lastly, we had Orange & Mirni-Glazed Cod with Warm Barley and Broccoli Salad. This dish was our favorite of the week. The cod was frozen when it arrived, but stayed fresh all week and were both decent size portions. Again, I used the app immediately and this meal was probably the most quickly prepared in comparison to the other two from the week.

Blue Apron Meal 3 Orange and Mirin-Glazed Cod

The use of the Cara Cara Orange in this recipe was great and to our surprise the barley and broccoli salad was super easy to make and had great flavor. I did think the portion size on this one was a little large because the barley was very filling, so we did have some leftovers.

This meal was also very colorful when it was done, with everything that was mixed in. There were not as many dishes to clean up as the other two and cooking time was around 40 minutes – Blue Apron estimated 50mins on the card, so fairly close.

All in all, we enjoyed our first week of meals. The convenience of not having to go to the grocery store or worry if we had every ingredient in the house to make the meal was a time-saver. The recipes this first week seem pretty accessible for beginner cooks or those looking to shake up their weeknight meals for themselves for their family. I also feel like Blue Apron is good for the winter because local produce isn’t as abundant and the produce in these meals were very fresh. One thing that I did find surprising was that the carb intake on each of these meals was super high. As a diabetic and someone that counts carbs at each meal for insulin dosage through my insulin pump, I was a little disappointed that there were so many carbs per serving. Each meal was over 50g of carbs per serving.

From the kids perspective, I think if you had children that were older – maybe 5 and up – they would enjoy helping cook. There’s a lot of prep work with each meal, mixing, washing, cutting, etc. For Luke, who’s only 2, it just wasn’t feasible. Also, I went onto the app mid-way through the week and switched up our pre-packed box for this next week, looking for some recipes that maybe Luke would like to try and also some with side dishes that were a little more what we like to eat. Very convenient to be able to do that each week.

Those that know me know that I’m not a chef. The new recipes we do try are often suggestions from friends or family (and a lot of time prepared by my husband). But I did find this to be therapeutic for me throughout the week. It gave me a chance to unwind a bit, reflect on my week, brainstorm on blog topics, listen to some music and make a good meal.

There were quite a few tips on the app that were helpful and I ended up following versus what was written on the recipe card, so if you’re cooking with Blue Apron – definitely download this app (Hint: preparing the corn tortillas in meal one).

Also, something I learned through the app – there’s no commitment. If you are booked for the weeknights or out of town, you can simply go into the app (or sign in online) and skip your Blue Apron delivery to another week. No problem, no penalties.

We have 3 more weeks of deliveries and have to say, for someone that isn’t an enthusiastic cooker, I’m looking forward to trying next week’s meals and seeing how they are and if the cook time minimizes.

This could be a great housewarming gift or birthday gift for someone who likes to cook, or even a great at-home-date idea. And like I said before, trying this in the winter time is great because of the fresh produce they send in the boxes and is not likely to find around here without paying an arm and a leg.

That being said, I’ve been given “2 free meals” to give away to a friend. If you’re interested in trying Blue Apron, comment below and I’ll be picking two individuals early next week to receive these meals. Please place your email in the comments as well so I can send the invite over to you.

If you’ve tried Blue Apron (or any other packaged meal service), I’d love to hear what you think and why you are or aren’t a fan! And, if you’re a parent and have found meals through Blue Apron that your kids like to eat and/or help cook – please let me know those too. Would love to try a few of those for Luke while we’re giving this service a shot.

Be on the look-out for my review of Week 2. Happy Cooking!

*This post is not sponsored in any way.