What’s Bringing You Joy Today?

Some years ago, I was in a journal group with about seven other women. One’s standard greeting involved a hug and the inquiry “What’s bringing you joy today?”

I’m choosing to focus on that. Struggling at times, but choosing to focus on joy, schlocky as it may sound.

Last night, a Facebook PM brought bad news about M, a classmate I’ve not been in touch with since graduation. Yet another cancer diagnosis, which grows very old, indeed. Today, Hubby is in a heated conversation with a coworker. I have Folk Alley cranked pretty high, and he’s still getting through. 

Still, there is joy in here. I’m working on staying in the moment, and having success today. Oakley is assisting me as I write this post. I just had a cup of lemongrass-coconut-vanilla green tea. Lunch will be delicious, I’m sure. We had a good walk this morning. It’s still early, so more joy is on the way.

I wish and hope the same for M. I have no way of getting in touch with her, and not being able to send cookies or drop off a casserole frustrates me to no end.  Her life turned out very differently from mine, leading her to an isolated community in the Colorado high country with her husband and seven children. She became involved with a religion that I frankly do not get while we were in college. I hope that she’s finding comfort and meaning in her faith and support from her church as this journey unfolds. 

Most of all, I wish her joy. 

Weathering the Weather

I think Cody the Small White Dog says it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-lthKQa5io&feature=share 

Woke up to a scant covering of snow, just enough to say that we received some, just enough to make early morning driving a growth experience. My sympathy is with friends in Minnesota who had to deal with frozen roads this morning and New England bracing for yet another meteorological butt-kicking. This is just ridiculous. 

It’s really bad when a person dreams of dandelions. Anything.

Anything that rises above the brown and white fields. 



Early Spring Food

I’m thinking about historical foods today. Not the kitschy vintage ones with Jell-O. Not the elaborate feasts of nobility and aristocracy. I’m thinking about what pioneers and peasants would have eaten at this time of year when the bottoms of the barrels of salt pork were getting scraped and the last of the potatoes had started sprouting alongside the remaining withered apples. Perhaps some legumes and staples such as cornmeal and flour were available. Perhaps not. 

Dandelions might have appeared on the table. Yes, they are bitter. I like a few leaves in my salads. I’ve never tried them cooked, but I’ve heard they’re good that way. 

If one lived near water, perhaps a fish could be had. Or maybe a smoked one from the previous fall would be available. 

Did they keep cows? Goats? Maybe a little hard cheese was on hand. 

This is the time of year when all of a cook’s creativity needed to be in play to make sure that everyone made it through to later days of spring when a somewhat wider variety of food would be available. Survival came first, and if you could make something appealing on top that, you had done your job well, indeed.

Thursday Thoughts

Oakley’s left hip has been acting up the last few days. I give him a homeopathic remedy for pain and inflammation, and a glucosamine supplement in a liver base as well as fish oil. Pyrs and blends thereof are prone to hip dysplasia, a condition where the joint doesn’t develop properly, increasing the odds of arthritis as time goes on. There’s also the possibility of a flair-up of an old injury.  At three and a half, he’s kind of young for visits from the Ritis family. Dr. P. wants to take x-rays somewhere along the line to see what’s going on in there. I won’t argue, not much. Not thrilled about the sedation, but I don’t see Oaks rolling over on his back with his legs positioned properly of his own volition. 

It will officially be spring in about 20 minutes. Someone please remind the weather. We woke up to snow showers this morning. Small flashes of green are fighting through the brown in the yard. I hope they gather the needed support to retake the ground. 

Doing a detox. Twelve days of herbs to clean out the channels. No huge diet modifications. Be interesting to se what happens when it gets done. 

Chicken for lunch today. In a salad. Likely the same for dinner. I am in one of my rare resistances to cooking. I’ll have the leftovers on a bowl of greens and other delicacies with a light vinaigrette. 

Welcome, spring.



The Last Post of Technical Winter

Keep in mind that I do NOT recommend doing this, but I can understand the temptation. 

Some years ago, a post-holiday newscast included a story from the “say WHAT?” file. A man had been taken into custody for attempted arson. The charge, not that unusual. The motivation: relatives who’d been hanging around and refusing to leave, even though he’d asked nicely, then not so nicely. No dice. The frustrated host doused the floor and walls of his home with rubbing alcohol, then started throwing lighted matches. One of the occupants of the house called the cops before any serious damage happened to the house or any of the people in it. 

I didn’t make that up. Really. 

That gentleman has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks, wondering if there was a way to make winter leave sooner. Today brought rain and the possibility of some snowflakes mixed into it is a possibility later on this afternoon. Tomorrow is the first day of spring and set to have some decent temps, but it’s supposed to be back into the cold air over the weekend. 

Today is also bringing a crockpot chicken for dinner. The chicken, onions, and carrots have been simmering in there since this morning while I worked on another assignment. I have to make a run to the store and pick up Oakley from daycare. He’ll get sweet potato with his chicken; I’ll have mashed cauliflower with mine.  It’s just what it sounds like: cook the florets until mashable and mash away with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Olive oil or butter are good additions. I throw in a couple of cloves of peeled garlic, too. Pretty yummy.

Tomorrow as I enjoy some leftovers in a salad at 11:57 CDT, it will be officially spring. I will be wishing this interminable winter farewell, and that the door doesn’t hit it in the butt on the way out.




Vinegar, Salt, Lemons, Baking Soda

Uh, no. Not a recipe that went bad. Just some simple household staples that can clean inexpensively and effectively without messing up the environment or having to forfeit one’s firstborn child.

I’ve used all of them at one time or another. Especially the baking soda. I have a kitchen sink made out of a substance called Swanstone. I have no idea what goes into it. It just looked more attractive to me than the clinical stainless steel ones during the process of building this house. I scrub it with baking soda as needed and it still looks pretty decent after fifteen years. I’ve used salt, too, with good luck. Be warned that it’s more abrasive, though, and may be a bit too abrasive for some surfaces. 

Lemons, not so much personally. I’ve heard they can bleach out some stains, especially when combined with sunlight. 

Vinegar I’ve had luck with, especially with the microwave. Place a bowl that can withstand a 10-minute trip on the high setting in the microwave, and fill about halfway with plain ol’ white vinegar. Close the door and start the vent. Now, hit the start button and let it go. Leave the door closed for about an hour, both to let the fumes do the work of knocking the crud off and to let them dissipate. All you should have to do then is wipe the over out. I plan on trying a cleaner formula that involves steeping citrus peels in vinegar for several days. The theory is that the citrus oils boost the solvency of the vinegar while smelling great. Sounds good to me. 

One thing: these lovely simple household staples might benefit from a couple of drops of tea tree and/or lavender oil to boost the antimicrobial factor. 

And no planets or animals will be harmed in the process, either.

The Need to Carry On

It finally started thawing here yesterday. We have another round of something slushy late tonight or tomorrow morning, but it should melt quickly. John Denver said it best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOonHGpHLms

And do you care what’s happening around you? Do your senses know the changes when they come? Can you see yourself reflected in the seasons? Can you understand the need to carry on? 

We’re about two weeks out from the primary for governor here in Illinois. I can’t get excited about any of the candidates on either side. Governor Quinn took over when Rod Blagojevich was impeached. I’ll likely vote Green Party unless something really drastic happens. Otherwise, it’s a question of Coke or Pepsi.

Right now, we desperately need legislators who will take stands on a couple of important environmental issues. One involves a proposed fracking operation downstate. The other involves pit mining near Starved Rock State Park, about forty-five minutes west of me. The only thing that will come of either is pollution and birth defects. In my lifetime, there has been fire where Lake Erie literally caught on fire; Three Mile Island; and this winter, the Elk River poisoning. It pains me that nothing has been learned by this. 

There’s also the need to stand up to Monsanto and how they are poisoning the food supply. The Greens do not accept corporate contributions, which assures me that they are not in the pockets of the people who brought us Roundup. We know personally of several farm families that have been ravaged by cancer or neurological problems that can’t be explained by modern medicine. Enough, already.

In all honesty, yes, I am tired. I fully comprehend and understand the need to carry on. I’ve been fighting this since I was in upper elementary grades. Discreetly, because when one is raised by a parent who makes Ronald Reagan look like Bernie Sanders, that’s what you do. I am hurting from seeing the gains made in environmental protection thrown out in the name of lining a donor’s pockets.

I’ll tell you what. I’m going to have a little nap for the fatigue and lots of chocolate for the soul. And I will see you at the computer later and at the voting booth on March 18 and in November. 


Pasta con Broccoli, Por Favore

Are you acquainted with MHz? It’s a less well known public broadcasting network that we discovered by the grace of our converter box. Most nights find Hubby and me watching their “International Mystery” rather than the offerings on network TV. One night viewers might find a procedural from Germany or a walk on humanity’s dark side from Sweden; another a look at cultural clashes through the eyes of an Australian police officer.  

This winter’s salvation arrived in the form of Saturday afternoons with our favorite detective, “Inspector Montalbano.” In addition to catching the culprit, Salvo and the gang from Vigata have likely kept us from wandering off into the swirling whiteness engulfing the fields around our house throughout this too-long too-drawn out winter. Here’s a taste in the form of a promo from a couple of seasons ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js74ASrRbxM. 

While solving the murder offers plenty of twists and turns, there are some guarantees for each episode: Salvo will get into an argument with Livia, his longterm lady friend, and throw a cordless phone; Catarella, the officer who handles the phones, will irritate Salvo at least once and mispronounce someone’s name ; and Salvo will enjoy his food. One of his favorites is pasta and broccoli.

It’s become one of my favorites, too. Easy to make and on the table in less than 30 minutes. Pour some good olive oil into a small pan and slice in lots of garlic. I use anywhere from three to five cloves depending on size and my attention span. Add a good shake of red pepper flakes. Place over a low flame and gently heat until the aroma of garlic fills the room. Don’t let the garlic get brown. Now, fill your favorite pasta pot with salted water and broccoli. The florets of one stalk usually do it for the two of us. Bring to a boil, and then add the pasta. I’ve been using brown rice fettuccini. Takes about ten minutes to cook. When done, drain and pour the lovely garlic oil over it, grate Parmesan or asiago on top of it, and you really won’t care what the weather is doing.

Unless the electricity goes out and you can’t watch Salvo and company. You’ll still have a lovely bowl of pasta, but it’s just not right without the music, the scenery, and the humor of daily life in Sicily.