It was an emotional weekend.

Friday night on my way home from work, my cousin Patty messaged me that her Mom, my Aunt Pat, passed away. That’s her on the to row on the far left.  

She’s my Dad’s brothers wife.  My uncle died when I was a freshman in high school.  My Dad died ten years after that, and our families somehow drifted apart to being just a “Christmas Card” family.  But thanks to social media, and this blog they know what’s going on with us and we can keep in better touch with them, although truth be told, I could do better about that.  My cousin Patty is so funny and fun and when we met for my cousins’ sons graduation party in Michigan two years ago for this picture below, I told her “I’d love to come stay with you for the weekend.”  And well, that was nearly two and a half years ago.

Aunt Pat 1

Saturday morning I got up to go to Weight Watchers.  I was down .4 – so there are miracles!  Everyone is all abuzz about the new Weight Watcher program.  It rolled out yesterday, but it’s rolling out based on your weigh in day, and my app won’t change until Saturday.  The kadults were already gone when I woke up, so I figured they both had to work.  I did a bit of grocery shopping and when I came home, I walked into the kitchen, and saw this.

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Hannah is so thoughtful – on the third anniversary of Tony dying, she bought me flowers, these super soft slippers and this card.  I love her.

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A while later she came back home and asked me if I wanted to go with her to drop lunch of at Jacob’s work and then go visit Jacob’s grandma.  Nonna went to a hospice facility on Friday – I know I’ve talked about it, but the reason Hannah and Jacob got married as quickly as they did was because Nonna’s cancer had return, and they weren’t sure what her prognosis was.  

When she entered hospice on Friday (amazing facility in Barrington) they thought she had about a month to live.  They were going to stabalize her pain medications, etc. and the thought was that she would come home later this week.

We barely walked into Jacob’s work when Jacob’s Mom called and said “you need to come now” and wouldn’t tell us anything else.  When we walked down the hall and turned the corner and saw people outside Nonna’s door, we all knew she was gone.  She didn’t last a whole day at the hospice facility.

That’s Val, Jacob’s Mom, holding Nonna’s hand.  

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Nonna got pregnant with Val when she was 15.  She was fiesty and a fire cracker.  Here she is in 1964. 


When she was 21, she was walking down the street with Val in Chicago and it was raining and she had no umbrella.  Papa (Jacob’s step-grandpa) saw her and asked to give her a ride to where she needed to go – her first reaction was to say “fuck you” even while holding her young daughters hand.  He insisted because it was raining and she finally said “fuck it” and got in the car.  They spent the next 44 years together.

I am so glad that she got to see her #1 grandson get married.  He was his biggest cheerleader and a source of stability and a sometimes unstable upbringing.

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A question I got asked a lot after Tony died was if I was going to stay in the house.  While I wasn’t as handy as Tony, I handled everything else.  The cleaning, the meal planning, cooking, paying bills, our budget.  I don’t think Tony ever looked at a piece of mail since the day we met.   Jacob’s grandpa is going to be lost, because Nonna did everything too – and without her income, he may not be able to afford the house they rent.  

So I did what I do best, and that’s cooking food for him.  I decided to make a batch of my Dad’s Chicken Brunswick Stew.  It’s hearty, delicious and a hug in a bowl.

I do use boneless skinless chicken breasts (instead of bone in like my Dad does) and I add a 6 ounce can of tomato paste and Tabasco sauce and a touch of cayenne for a bit of kick.  

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Chicken Brunswick Stew

A hearty chicken stew that only gets better over time. 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course dinner
Servings 10


  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 48 ounce canned tomatoes diced or pureed
  • 5 large carrots diced
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds red potatoes peeled and diced
  • 1 can corn
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco


  • Place the chicken breasts in a stock pot and cover with enough water to cover.  Cook over medium low heat for about 15-20 minutes to poach.  Remove from water and let cool, then using two forks, shred the chicken.
    Throw out the poaching liquid, and put the remaining ingredients in a large stock pot and simmer for 60 minutes.  The soup will thicken the longer it cooks.  Right before serving, place the chicken back in the soup and simmer for 15 more minutes.  

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While I was making this soup I was thinking about my Dad, and can remember him standing over the stove, stirring the stew and us laughing about something.  I thought about my Aunt Pat and how strong she was.  After she lost my Uncle, she remarried and outlived her second husband.  She spent her time in both Michigan and Florida and I regret not spending more time with her over the years.

I felt bad for Jacob because his grandma was his #1 fan (I’d like to say I am #2!) and I know he will make her proud.  He graduates in April and will be starting graduate school soon after.  

I had Jacob’s Mom and Papa over for Sunday dinner last night, which may turn into a regular event, which makes me happy because I don’t know if you know this about me, but I feel that food is love!   Tomorrow on the blog I will have my recipe for grilled chuck roast – so good!

As I woke up this morning, while emotionally drained, I feel a renewed sense of purpose.  I think I’ve been just riding a wave of living since Tony died.  I’ve been holding tight to the surfboard as the waves have come and go, but I think it’s time to just let go and see where the waves take me.