<![CDATA[J. W. Swartz - Begin Again]]>Mon, 09 Apr 2018 23:47:40 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Favorite Grilled Brie and Jam Sandwiches and Cream of Tomato Soup]]>Wed, 24 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/favorite-grilled-brie-and-jam-sandwiches-and-cream-of-tomato-soup​My daughter Emma and I are teaching a Parent and Child cooking class series together. These are the recipes from the first class held a few weeks ago. 
​The recipes were a hit, and though the class was small, not one person had tasted Brie before! We love this combination. It provides homemade comfort but doesn't take a lot of time or effort to make.

Soup Ingredients
29 oz can crushed tomatoes
14 oz can condensed chicken broth
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP chopped onion
¼ tsp baking soda
2 C. heavy cream or half and half
In a large pot, sauté the butter and onions until translucent. Add the tomatoes, broth, sugar, and soda. Simmer for 1 hour. Heat the cream in the microwave and stir in right before serving. If you substitute milk, you must heat the milk separately then add to the soup or it will curdle.​
Sandwich Ingredients
Bread-any kind works but we prefer sourdough and/or wheat.
Plum jam, or any other kind you have available.
​Butter one side of two pieces of bread, slice Brie to desired thickness. Place first piece of bread butter side down into a skillet preheated at a medium temperature. Place Brie slices on bread, spread jam and top with second slice, butter side out. When bread browns, flip and brown other side.
<![CDATA[I Love My Life and Other Lies]]>Fri, 22 Dec 2017 14:00:00 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/i-love-my-life-and-other-lies
I love my life.
It turns out, that phrase rolled through my mind unheeded for many years. Every, single, day. It was a thing I took for granted.
I was completely unaware of this. I had no idea that this phrase, I love my life, came and went several times a day. Unaware, that is, until the Sherriff’s officers showed up at our home at 3 am to tell us the news. Our son died in a home located just two miles up the road, in a different neighborhood, but in the same community. After 2 years, 9 months, I still have never driven by that house. I still can’t.
For months after we lost Kole, the voice kept saying, “I love my life”, but it was a lie. The voice made me cry. It made me angry. I tried to stop it, each day. I changed it in my head, I yelled at it, I refuted it. “I would love my life if only…”
If only Kole was still here.
We ran into Kole and his girlfriend Bri earlier that night, the night he died. If only we had insisted they join us.
If only, when Emma texted him and asked him for a ride home that evening, he’d said yes, instead of going out.
If only the gun had been locked up.
We were told Kole checked the gun to be sure it wasn’t loaded, but didn’t check the chamber. If only he had.
“If only” is difficult game to deny, and deny it we must, because there is no “if only”. “If only” is the biggest lie of all.
Holidays can be hard, but they can still be beautiful. Here are some things we do that get us through the difficult days.
  • Our daughter, Emma, chooses a photo of her brother, and she places it on the dining room table. Our home is situated in such a way that the dining room table is in the middle of everything. We light a candle and place it by the photo. It burns all day.
  • We talk about him, remember him, and we laugh.
  • We surround ourselves with people who loved him, too. This helps, because they don't act uncomfortable at the sound of his name, and they have their own stories, laughter, and pain to share.
  • I take some time, usually early in the morning, and I sit quietly and allow myself just to miss him.
  • I try to allow the above for other members of my family.
  • We name it, "I just miss Kole." Sometimes, this is enough.
  • I take flowers or a wreath to his resting place. I know he wouldn't care, but it makes me feel better.
  • We walk in the snow.
  • We make "angst-ty" tea. When our daughter, Emma, was having a difficult time, she identified a certain kind of tea that helped. She dubbed it her Anx'ty tea. Now I keep it on hand, and it helps me, too. For us, she chose a local tea called Evening in Missoula. For you, you choose.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to talk to someone. If your friends or family can't handle your grief, and many can't bear the second-hand trauma these conversation sometimes create, then find a good counselor. I recommend one experienced in dealing with loss and trauma. This situation is different than some other reasons we seek counseling, so find one with experience in what you need.
I do love my life, but I am still heart broken. I understand now that I can feel both at the same time, a feeling many of you know. How do you ease the sorrow?
<![CDATA[Comfort Food]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 21:30:44 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/comfort-food
I can't explain why, but the holiday always have me craving my Gramma's stew. It is healthy, easy to make, and feels like you are doing something good for yourself when you eat it. I make the stew every year in the couple of weeks before Christmas and it always hits the spot. Serve it with your with crusty bread and butter. Yum!
Gramma Mary's Windmill Stew
1 to 2 lbs ground beef (I use elk)
​1 onion-diced
1 clove garlic-crushed
1 bell pepper-diced
3-4 celery stalks-diced
2 potatoes-diced
2 carrots
1 can crushed tomatoes
4 cups beef broth
1 TBSP Italian Seasoning

Brown ground beef or elk with the onions, garlic, and celery. Add all the other ingredients and simmer on medium-low for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the veggies are tender. Serve with your favorite bread.
​What's your favorite holiday comfort food?

<![CDATA[The Day of the Dead Parade]]>Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:09:13 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/the-day-of-the-dead-parade
This week's post provides a clear view of Missoula culture, from the lens of a cell phone.
I'd never attended the parade before. In true Missoula fashion, there were many in attendance, despite the wind and blowing snow. Participants of the parade carried banners, signs, and skeletons. They handed out candy and flowers. Some danced to the music of the brass band, others laughed and celebrated. Some appeared to be crying beneath their face paint. Even the spectators wore paint and masks.
​It is said Dia de los Muertos is thousands of years old and originated in Aztec, Toltec, and Nahua cultures. They considered mourning the dead disrespectful. To them the dead were still members of the community-kept alive in memory and spirit. That feels like a comfort to me, though I do not prefer such a singular response to death and grief.
I feel my loved ones near sometimes, I dream of them, I laugh and remember them, and I miss them with my whole heart. I still cry, and there is no shame or disrespect in that, either.
​What about you?
<![CDATA[Pumpkin Oat Pancakes]]>Sun, 15 Oct 2017 14:18:11 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/pumpkin-oat-pancakes
Yum. I discovered this recipe when my kids were little and it is a family favorite. As the air grows colder, and the Autumn colors light our view, inevitably one of the family will request these pancakes for breakfast.
My family is cursed with food allergies. Emma, Kole, and I all have/had different ones. I will spare you the details, but Emma's allergy is wheat and she now carries and epi-pen.
​Fun stuff, food allergies. It feels nearly impossible to cater to them all simultaneously. In this week's post, I will publish the wheat free flour mix I created after years of practice. This mix allows me to bake for the family and accommodate Emma's allergy without sacrificing flavor. I substitute this mix straight across in all my favorite recipes.
​**Disclaimer-I do not make wheat free crust yet. I am not a crust maker in general, so I haven't tried it.

Jenna's Wheat Free All Purpose Flour
​2 1/2 C. Oat Flour
​2 1/4 C. Brown Rice Flour
2 C. Potato Flour
​1 C. Tapioca Flour
​ 4 tsp. Arrow Root
​1 1/2 C. Sweet Rice Flour
​Mix with a whisk. As you can see, this is a generous portion. I mix it on baking day as my canister will not accommodate the full portion, so I need to use some prior to storing it for other baking and recipes!

​Pumpkin Oat Pancakes                                         
1/4 C. Oats                                                                     2 tsp. Baking Powder
​1 C. Buttermilk                                                               1 Egg
​1/4 C. Wheat Flour                                                        1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 C. White Flour                                                             1 tsp. salt
​1 tsp. baking soda                                                         3/4 C. mashed pumpkin

In a mixing bowl, pour buttermilk over oats and let sit for 15 minutes. Mix all ingredients-batter will be thick and chunky (oats). Cook on the griddle, at 325. As the batter is dense, cook time is longer. These pancakes taste great with apple topping or real maple syrup!
​**If you use the wheat free flour mix, substitute for both flours-1 1/4 C. wheat free mix. Wheat free pancakes often need extra liquid-I added an extra cup of almond milk in this version but buttermilk or regular milk will also work.
<![CDATA[Jenna's Garden Penne with a Kick]]>Mon, 02 Oct 2017 02:43:19 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/jennas-garden-penne-with-a-kickOur daughter, Emma, is our spicy girl. She loves food far more spicy than either my husband or I. She is also very adventurous in her food selections and creations. I began with a recipe and then continued with my own flair. Let me know if you try it and what you think!
Jenna's Garden Penne with a Kick
​Ingredients1 red onion chopped
1 Roma tomato, diced
4 oz. pancetta, chopped
1 can tomatoes
1 yellow zucchini, halved and sliced
6 oz. uncooked penne
2 cloves garlic
1 Thai chili pepper
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
5 oz. fresh spinach
1 TBSP raw sugar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Drizzle olive oil in a pan on medium high heat and add pancetta, tossing occasionally, until slightly crispy, 2-3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, zucchini, and chili pepper to taste and cook until fragrant. Add canned and Roma tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and simmer.

Boil water and cook penne as per package directions.
Add fresh spinach to sauce after the pasta goes into the water and simmer while the pasta cooks.

​Toss penne into sauce. Serve with shredded parmesan cheese.

<![CDATA[Devastated, Excruciating]]>Mon, 18 Sep 2017 12:00:00 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/devastated-excruciating
I was looking through my writing and found the section below. I wrote it a week after Kole died in a section about "things I didn't know", and it feels like something many people can understand. It also applies to the hurricanes and wild fires we have experienced as a nation.
Intense grief is physically painful. I can feel every second. Every. Single. One. Each causes physical pain. It's like there is a sledge hammer on the inside of my rib cage, pounding from the inside, trying to break out. It feels heavy, crushing, and agonizing. Ten minutes passes; to me, it feels like an hour. There are words for which I have an intimate understanding for the first time: excruciating, devastated. I didn’t know it, but I never truly understood the meaning of those words until now. They roll through my mind as I take one more step each day. One more step away from the days when my son was alive.
The YouTube video I linked has a beautiful and haunting feel and the words devastated and excruciating come to mind here as well.
​Perspective shifts and changes with experience; we all experience this at some point or another. We often do not choose the perspective shift, it is thrust upon us.
We endure together.
Montana Strong

<![CDATA[Emma Rose]]>Mon, 04 Sep 2017 12:00:00 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/emma-roseMy girl. 
​Kole and Emma spent one year together in high school, he as a senior and she a freshman. One day, a friend gave Emma a wallet as a gift, and it was sitting on the kitchen bar.
​"Look, Em. It's just like your brain: random and colorful!" Kole told her with his teasing grin.
​Emma opened her mouth and closed it, unable to respond. To this day I believe that was a fitting description of Em, she is smart, sweet, sassy, and creative. And it's a great line-I may have to use it some day in one of my novels.
​A few months after his death, Mamalode published Emma's eulogy for Kole's funeral. Emma added an introduction, but otherwise, those were the words she spoke to the more than 2,000 people who attended the service.
​When we were planning the service, I knew I couldn't speak. I simply wasn't capable of it. But when I asked Emma if she wanted to write the obituary, she declined. Instead, she requested to speak, it was something she had to do. She was 15. Brave. Kind. Broken hearted.
​Emma left for college recently, another milestone in our lives. She began in this world as a younger sibling but is now forced to walk alone as our only surviving child. She feels the pressure we try very hard not to place upon her.
My girl. 
<![CDATA[Begin Again]]>Mon, 28 Aug 2017 12:00:00 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/begin-again
I self-published two novels, Leaning and Bound. I played with blogging but never committed to a topic or a format. I couldn't image what I could have to say that might strike a chord, or be interesting or new. Lack of commitment? Lack of confidence?
A new beginning.
Many consider a beginning a time of growth, of expansion, of new life.
My perspective shifted in the early morning hours of March 15, 2015 when officers from the Sheriff's department showed up on my doorstep. My son died that night at the age of 19 in an accident involving a fire arm. I still can't talk about it without crying, 2 years, four months, and 12 days later. Not that I'm counting.
​Every step since has been like a new beginning because my world is different. It feels different. And sometimes, I need experiences to be very different from when Kole was alive. This new beginning feels difficult, not new or beautiful.
​When Kole died, and for many, many, months afterward, the colors of the world muted for me. Everything felt smaller. It felt like less possibility resided in the world.
​I didn't stop writing, but I did stop writing publicly. Some of the private writing will become public in this, my new beginning. It will be laced with pieces of my sad journey, but will also include happiness, recipes, photos, and favorite stories of varied types.
​I hope some will join me on this journey, as it is a trail I do not walk alone, but regardless, I will be here.
<![CDATA[Bound by J.W. Swartz-Available now!]]>Mon, 20 Jan 2014 22:10:07 GMThttp://jwswartz.com/begin-again/bound-by-jw-swartz-available-nowPicture
I finally did it! The second installment of the Montana Series was published today. 
Click here for the print version and enter the code QR4X7KTG for a $2 discount.
Click here for the ebook version.
The ebook will be promoted from January 27 through February 2 on Amazon and will be offered at a discount. I recommend the print version; Jennifer Golan's cover is beautiful. 
I would love to hear from you so please email me or publish a review on amazon after you finish reading the book. Enjoy!