Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sonoma, Here Sarah Comes!

In the world of contest cooking there is a handful of "biggies" that most contesters strive to attend. One of these contests is the National Beef Cook-Off which is held every two years. This year will be the 28th time this contest has been held. The contest selects the best beef recipe in all the US. I've been submitting entries to National Beef for probably 12 years now and have never been selected as a finalist. This year is no different -- for me. However, it's completely a different story for my daughter!!!

Yesterday our phone rang with news that Sarah has been selected as one of 5 teen finalists for the 2009 National Beef Cook-Off in Sonoma, CA!!! Can you believe it?!?!?!? She will be competing not only against the four other teens but 10 adults as well. In the teen division there will be one $5,000 2nd place prize and one $10,000 first place prize. Then, overall one of the 15 finalists will be chosen as the grand prize winner and will bring home $25,000!!!

Right now we cannot release any information about her recipe, but as soon as we are given the "okay" to do so, we'll be sure to let everyone know. Suffice it to say that she'll be making her recipe TONS of times between now and Sept. 23.

Because she's a minor the contest is paying for her and one parent to fly to San Francisco, hotel for four days and three nights, plus food and other expenses. Kevin was actually scheduled to be giving a paper presentation in Florida during this time, but he's arranging for another author to present the paper all three of us can be there to watch our little girl in her very first cook-off!

To say Sarah is on Cloud 9 would be the understatement of the year! We couldn't be more proud of her!!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sometimes We Fall Apart, But Come Together Again

It's been awhile since my last post. In that post you'll see that my mom was staying with us for a few weeks visiting. We had a great yard sale that mom helped get ready plus the general fun of eating out, shopping and such. The yard sale was on Saturday. Afterwards Mom tried to call my step-dad back in Iowa to fill him in on the day but could not reach him. Later after he had not returned her call she tried again without success. She thought perhaps there had been a storm that had the phones not working.

She left Monday morning for the 8-1/2 hour drive home. About dinner time I had not yet heard from her (she calls to tell me she made it home) so I called the house. When my cousin answered I knew something wasn't right. Upon my mom's return home she found my step-dad, Chuck, dead. To say it was a shock would be an understatement.

Adding to the shock was the fact that we would learn that my step-dad had been gone for about 3 days when my mom found him. During this time, my mentally handicapped aunt who lived with my mom and step-dad was in the house and unable to use the telephone to call for help and unwilling to try to go out of the house because Chuck's body was in the entry way.

I left for Iowa early on Tuesday morning. When I arrived, my mom said she wasn't feeling well which I attributed to stress and the fact that Kevin too was not feeling well so I thought perhaps they both had picked up the same cold/flu. Shortly it became apparent something more than stress was wrong with mom. She was complaining of one side of her body hurting more than the other so we were off to the emergency room. After some tests, we were whisked via ambulance to another hospital which has a heart center as mom's blood test confirmed she was in the process of having a heart attack.

The next several days are a blur. Mom was hospitalized from Tuesday through Friday night, released and then back in the emergency room again on Saturday. During this time I relied heavily on so many people who did everything they could to assist, from helping to arrange the funeral, to sitting with mom at the hospital, to finding boarding for mom's pets, to bringing home cooked meals, to helping sort paperwork, to making phone calls, to finding a lawyer, etc. My step-father was buried without my mom being able to attend the funeral. I know that will weigh on her.

On a positive note, the Handicapped Development Center staff as well as social services broke speed records and cut through more red tape than should have been humanly possible in finding emergency placement for my aunt. She is settling into a wonderful group home where it is just her and three other residents (plus a full time, fully trained house manager) in a huge rambling home. Her new bedroom is larger than our living room. And she LOVES it! On my last visit with her before heading home, she handed me a note she had written to me. She drew a big smiling sun, herself with a huge smile on her face and her new group home with a beautiful tree that sits outside the window. The words read simply, "Group home. Thank You."

Knowing Mary is happy and in excellent care allows my mom to focus on her own recovery. She is doing very well and each day I can tell she feels better. It is hard to crawl out from under an avalanche, but mom is doing it. Yesterday was an in-service day at Mary's center so my mom's friend picked her and Mary up and took them to lunch and out for a bit of shopping. It's amazing what a little bit of food and some laughing can do for the soul.