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Hi!  I'm Noreen, wife, mother of two amazing, almost grown, daughters, content creator, cook, baker and sister in Christ. Welcome to my Kitchen!   I hope you stick around, enjoy the recipes and share them with those you love!

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Today, my mother has been gone for one month.  It doesn’t really feel like she is gone.  When I say gone, I mean to say that she died.  She did not go away on vacation to some far-flung land to bask in the sun and drink gin and tonics all day.  Although in my mind I hope that she is doing just that.  In her version of heaven there is no snow and the world is all beach.  Warm, sunny beach.  Where you only get tan and never get burned and you never have to eat soup.  Only crab cakes.

I digress.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are cleaning up both figuratively and physically.    Life goes on for those of us left here without her.  We still have to work and cook and clean and all the things that we do.  We must tidy up and put away the things that were hers.  But how do you clean up a life when it ends?  These are the things adulthood is made of.  The things that nobody talks about.  The things that you, yourself, do not even realize until you are, in the midst of doing them.  Do they make us stronger?  Maybe.  Do they make us sad?  Probably.  Do they make us stop in our tracks while carrying out the task at hand and cry like a child?  Most definitely.

My oldest daughter Molly and I took the time to clean out my mother’s clothes so that my dad did not have to do it.  My mother LOVED her clothes and she was always very well appointed.  She was a lady, without question.  Always making sure she was “presentable”.  Mom always knew how to dress and took great pride in taking care of her wardrobe.  The iron was her best friend.  Sadly, this apple fell far, far from the tree with regard to the iron.  I do own one, but it only comes out if the clothes sat in the dryer too long.  Mom ironed weekly.  I iron on an as needed basis.  Which is to say, not very often.  At this, she would shake her head and roll her eyes and tell me that she had taught me better.  Indeed, she did.

Open the walk-in closet.  Turn on the light and behold, even though this closet is shared with my father’s things my mom’s clothes take up what I would say, is 75% of the room.  It smells like her and if I close my eyes, she is here.  Two tiers of clothes, a wall full of shoes a rack full of neatly folded sweaters and t-shirts.  The hanging clothes are arranged by color family and they are divided.  Blouses and shirts on top, pants and skirts on the bottom and long items like dresses and robes occupy a portion of the side where my dad has been allowed to hang his clothes.  I am certain this is the case with many married couples.  I think my dad can spread out a bit now.  Even though I know he may not.   

So many clothes!  So many shoes!  Out of all this, I only wished to have one thing.  Out of a myriad of blouses, slacks, sweaters and pumps I only wanted one, specific item.  The ugly skirt.  Looking at it now, it isn’t really “ugly”, but came to be known by its moniker long ago.  Specifically, when I was a sophomore in high school, circa 1982.  A shopping trip for an Easter dress is to blame for the ugly skirt.  I remember my mom pulling the skirt from the rack and exclaiming with delight at how lovely it was.  Me, being a petulant 16-year-old, took one look, rolled my eyes and made a gaggy face, accompanied by the sticking your finger in your mouth action to show the potential nausea inducing quality of said skirt.  I also, probably said “gross!” or something like that.  So, of course, my mom took it right to the fitting room to try it on.  The skirt in question is a wrap skirt, popular for the day and it was black.  All well and good, except, in my opinion, for the green red and gold swipes randomly placed about it that looked as thought it had been used by a painter to clean his brushes.  To my 16-year-old eyes it was indeed, ugly.  So, you know, being the good mother that she was, she bought that skirt and she wore that skirt.  Often and every single time she wore it she laughed at me.  As I write this, I can see her laughing at me. 

I was 16 then and that skirt was the worst in my opinion.  Over the years we joked about the skirt and my mom never got rid of it.  30 plus years later, two major moves, one across a state and one across the country and still the skirt remained in her closet.  I can only imagine how many closet purges that skirt made the cut through.  Something tells me that the only real reason it remained was because of its name.  Every time mom put on the ugly skirt, she most likely, recounted the conversation and the jokes over the years.  Perhaps the ugly skirt was a part of her connection with me.  Maybe, over the years when she wrapped herself in the ugly skirt, she was wrapping herself in the happy memory of why she really kept it. 

Ten bags of my mother’s clothing, shoes and accessories were packed up and donated to the local women’s shelter thrift store.  It was our hope that it would bless those who needed it and sometimes fall through the cracks.  My mom led a blessed life, just like I do and even though packing up her things was difficult, it was another step in the process.  My mother no longer needs these clothes.  She has transcended the need for such trivialities as clothing.  

If you wonder, dear reader, what has become of the ugly skirt, fear not.  It is the one thing I wanted from my mother’s closet.  It was the only thing I told my dad that I wanted when he asked if we would help to clean it out.  When I did, he looked surprised, as if to say, “you want THAT?”  I had to.  The ugly skirt will live on.  I, however, will not be wearing it. After all, it still is kind of ugly.  I will be keeping it in a box of mementos dedicated to my mother.  Upon the suggestion of a friend, I placed it in a plastic bag to preserve her fragrance.  Olfactory receptors, being what they are, it is a way for me to have mom when I need her.  If only to hold her skirt and smell her perfume.  In the great vast scheme of things this skirt means nothing to anyone but me.  It will never be a family heirloom and it may confuse people who might come across it in the future with no one to recall the story of the ugly skirt, how it was procured and how it came to be named.  The skirt is only important to me and it will not be purged from the closet or from my life.  The ugly skirt gets a reprieve.  It stays because in it’s ugliness it represents the beauty of who my mother was and that is good enough for me. 

March 14, 2019

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WELCOME TO MY KITCHEN! I COOK REAL FOOD FOR REAL PEOPLE LIKE YOUR MOM OR YOUR GRANDMA DID BECAUSE THAT IS HOW I LEARNED FROM MY PASTRY CHEF MOM AND FANTASTIC, OLD WORLD GRANDMOTHERS!IF YOU ARE HERE  FOR THE FIRST TIME, I INVITE YOU TO HAVE A LOOK AROUND AND EXPLORE SOME OF MY QUICK, EASY TO UNDERSTAND AND DELICIOUS RECIPES!  COME SPEND SOME TIME WITH ME AND MY FAMILY LEARNING HOW TO COOK, PURE, WHOLESOME FOOD! I HOPE YOU TRY THESE RECIPES AND I HOPE YOU LOVE THEM!  HAPPY EATING!

Chicken Tortilla Soup Pressure Cooker Recipe, Noreen's Kitchen

Cleaning Out the Closet

but keeping the ugly skirt

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1 Cup good quality mayonnaise
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

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