Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Just looking at those images will trigger wonderful memories for my immediate family. Memories of scampi, escargot, sliced chicken salad with green peppers, garlic bread, Bolla Valpolicella, veal marsala, veal parmesan, fettucine alfredo, spaghetti with meatballs, spumoni, cheesecake, and coffee. Birthdays, graduations, homecomings, celebrations, and just because we had a hankering. The long drive down and back, tipsy parents, great conversations, the 2+ hour meals, feeling like a grown up, the paper placemats of Italy, the teensy bathrooms that were renovated, the tv in the lobby, the carts full of food, the restaurant's owners always greeting us when we arrived and coming to talk to us at our table, the same waitress for years, Pop's generous tipping, eating with "Champ" and Jeanie, always people waiting to get in, the wine cellar room, the room with mirrors, the wrought iron little fences, doormen who helped us out of the car, the narrow parking lot, weren't there mints?
Yep, Pino's. The restaurant central to our family for years. Nowhere has replaced it in our traditions or memories. So important that when Mama Hungry came to Houston for the first time, we took her there. But I think that visit with Mama might have been one of my last, as the restaurant inexplicably closed not too long after.
And today, in a nostalgic Google search, I came across the website! Complete with pictures. And a history. And jars of sauce for sale! Yep, you can buy Pino's sauce in stores all over Texas. I think I know what I'm adding to my Christmas list!
Even though there's no way a jar of sauce can compare with the memories.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
- Make gingerbread houses
- Bake sugar cookies
- Go caroling on the phone
- Make teacher gifts
- Deliver treats to doctor/vet/etc
- Deliver Secret ELF gifts
- Make thank-you cards
- Mommy's birthday party
- Look at holiday lights
- Send Christmas cards
- Gifts for others (via church)
- Donate savings jar to an organization
- Make glug for Santa Lucia day
- Leave out shoes for Saint Nicholas day
- Watch holiday movies
- Holiday read-a-thon
- Write letters to Santa
- Go see the Nutcracker
- Make latkes
- Stay-up-late Solstice party
- Wrap presents
- Snow ice cream
- Play Christmas bingo
- Make Christmas candy
Monday, November 28, 2011
Well, this weekend, they went above the call of neighborly friendship: they spent almost 6 hours getting all the leaves out of our yard. First it was the mom and her son, who finally went home with a fever! Then the dad came to help out. By dark, the leaves were finally all gone. It looks beautiful. Better than beautiful, as our yard went from fall to winter, with the Christmas decorations the only thing left in the yard. They even carefully raked out the kids' fort!
It was a long, hard afternoon for them, but we loved having them around (I bet we slowed down the work some with all the conversation!). We're even more grateful to have them as neighbors and friends.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
The gorgeous turkey is out of the oven. And so the chaos begins: dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, roasted vegetables, gravy, and rolls all need to be finished.
Goo is helping Mama. The kids are coloring with Ma and Gong. And I'm "supervising."
Gommie and Pop just called from Aunt Banana's house to say hi. They're having breakfast and will soon be heading to my sister's MIL for the day. We just had egg sandwiches for breakfast and are now playing games (chess and Lego Meteor Strike). Mama's prepping the turkey and we're thinking about heading outside.
Thanksgiving is here! And family almost. We're doing last-minute clean up and Mama is starting the slow cooker mashed potatoes a la the NYTimes. I'm trying to get in my 45-minute treadmill walk. Bud is writing "The First Thanksgiving" and also making centerpieces. Sis is writing a list of all the fun things she wants to do, such as games (chess with Goo), biking, Gratitude Tree, arts and crafts, and play fort. It's going to be a wonderful day.
Join hands and sing a happy song,
Join hands and sing a happy song,
We are one family.
"We're thankful for the food we're going to eat.
We're thankful for the people that we meet.
We're thankful for the world that is so sweet.
We are one family."
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
We've done a clean-up, finished the plain strawberry jello (Bud is stirring it right now), and baked the chex mix (oh, that scent takes me back to Gommie making huge batches before an adult gathering, probably a bridge party. I didn't like the mix or the scent.)
Pumpkin "Indian" Pudding
Okay, then, read right here at Cindy Post Senning's website (yes, that Post family), The Gift of Good Manners, to make it better (thanks to Motherlode for the link).
Right, not yesterday with the kids as planned. Time and energy were in short supply, as was motivation; they were making their own Wizard of Oz novels (more on that soon).
So this morning. I started with the rolls, a new recipe, Big-Batch Quick Dinner Rolls (no worries, I trust King Arthur Flour)--simple ingredients, big batch, enough for everyone. It wasn't technically a bread machine recipe, but I adapted. And it seemed to turn out just fine. There are three pans of eight, sealed and safe in the freezer, where they'll stay until bedtime when I'll pull them out to defrost (it doesn't say, but I'll probably defrost in the fridge). Two pans for us, one for Mama Teacher. I hope it works. And I'll let you know.
Big-Batch Quick Dinner Rolls
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
- counting blessings not sheep, to sleep
- writing a letter to someone who changed your life for the better
- play "it could be worse"
- say or do one grateful thing to each member of your family
Now to start cooking it all . . . .
In an hour, my Driver is taking me to the grocery and helping me shop for all the regular ingredients. And this afternoon, the kids will help me make some of the dishes--jello, cranberry sauce, and the like. Because the holidays are here.
Monday, November 21, 2011
I have a blog reader named Shelley, who comments periodically, and whose blog, My Little Chickadees, I visit. We've never met, though we did both take the online 30 Day Vegan Workshop. At some point, I realized we were both in Connecticut. I just didn't realize how close.
On Saturday, I went to a Slavic festival at the church of a friend, Mrs. S, and then blogged about it. Shelley commented that she thought I was at her church.
Well, Shelley, you were right. I asked Mrs. S, who asked her SIL, who is a lay leader in the congregation, in your congregation!, who asked her daughter. And the daughter knows (knows of?) you, your husband, and your children. All based on your first name and the picture on your blog! You apparently live one town up from me.
Not only am I completely surprised by the coincidence that you read my blog and know people I know and live so close (I won't say more, as I try to keep this relatively anonymous), but I'm amazed by the network of Mrs. S, who pieced it altogether in about 6 hours. I mean, there's now only 2 degrees of separation between us and yet we just randomly connected online.
I've been singing the Disney song in my head all evening.
(Maybe we should meet up in person sometime (or did we already brush elbows on Saturday?))
Sunday, November 20, 2011
And tonight, I'm having a thunderstorm.
My pain has increased since seeing the PT, who did more harm than good, despite being a great listener with an appealing theory; I regret going and am paying for it daily. Hindsight. And church just isn't the same--I stood by myself eating at our Thanksgiving supper, not wanting to hover over the adults sitting at other tables, but also not wanting to be all alone. I felt so awkward, though everyone is always nice and asks how I am. I'm tired and lonely and frustrated and angry! And now there is a big brouhaha with a playgroup moms holiday party we've been planning since September--delays, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, general confusion, disappointment. I've been so looking forward to it (even though we canceled my favorite part, the cookie swap, to please some people). And now who knows what will happen.
I know, with weather practice, that I'm supposed to acknowledge the "weather" and move on, without getting caught up in the vagaries of it.
Tonight, at least, I'm stuck in the rain without an umbrella.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
These are the ingredients of many of my favorite childhood and early adulthood dishes: chocolate chip cookies, cheese dip, Ranch chicken, chicken spaghetti, broccoli noodle soup. Mmm, mmm, good.
I haven't made most of those dishes recently, eschewing the unwholesome ingredients without locating an adequate substitute.
But now I think I've found some. Coconut oil. Colby cheese. A white sauce with mushrooms.
Actually, I've only tried the first two--substituting equal parts coconut oil for Crisco and equal parts Colby cheese (or 3/4 Colby and 1/4 American) tossed in a little flour for Velveeta in dishes where it's not the main ingredient (i.e. I don't think it would work in cheese dip as well, but I might try it, perhaps with Colby-Jack). The coconut oil was indistinguishable from Crisco in a quick bread; the Colby was far more complex than Velveeta but the right consistency. And I understand that the white sauce with mushrooms is a good substitute too. It's worth a try.
Of course, such substitutions make sense because these convenience products were originally shortcuts for home cooks tired of (or looking for cheaper or easier substitutions for) lard, melting cheese, and a roux.
I guess more than getting rid of old friends, I'm actually embracing the originals.
Yep, Bud, let's have a do-over, starting now.
We've had two lively discussions in our class forum, one on the meaning of prayer for each of us and one on conflicts regarding prayer requests, both of which end up centering on who hears prayers and why we pray. Being UUs, few of us have traditional concepts of a deity as omnipresent, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent; in other words, we don't think a) there is anyone, i.e. an intercessory, who hears our prayers and b) that prayers have a direct, predictable, or controllable outcome.
I wrote, as an introduction:
I am very new to prayer. Raised an atheist (in Texas!), I've been a UU for about 8 years in my local brick and mortar congregation in Connecticut, where we observe silence and rarely address the "spirit of Life and Light." Of course, I saw prayer as a child at football games (always "In Jesus's name we pray") and such, but never prayed or understood prayer (or the theology behind it), especially because I don't really believe in a personal, responsive divinity. However, struggling through my own recent health challenges and watching friends and family also deal with challenges, and having also started down a Buddhist path of meditation (which is almost the opposite of prayer--the emptying of the mind of thoughts instead of the focusing of it--I'm still contemplating this), I find myself wanting to acknowledge, to reach out, to address, to thank something . . . else. I read Simply Pray by Erik Walker Wikstrom, which I found a great introduction for a neophyte like myself, especially as he addresses prayer for those who don't believe in a traditional prayer-answering God but instead use it to be mindful, grateful, etc. And so I was thrilled to see this CLF class. . . .
This paragraph, from the beginning of Wikstrom's book, solidified for me not only what I was hoping to do, i.e. connect with something sacred, but also how, by just doing it, and encouraged me to overcome the obstacle of having nothing to pray to:
"If you long to connect with the Sacred, if you desire to live a life that is more in touch with the Holy, stop listening. If you have given up on an anthropomorphic deity--the old white guy with the long white beard, or any of his stand-ins--yet can't figure out what to put in its place, stop looking for something and start simply looking around you. Notice those places in your life where you have felt yourself in the presence of the Holy, remember those experiences in which you have heard your connectedness; seek in your own life--your own feelings, your own moments--those places where you have encountered, or are encountering, the Sacred. In other words, simply pray. Pray without any preconceived notion of what you're doing or why. Simply do it, and see what happens."
Before I considered prayer an option for me, when people would ask me to pray for them or their loved ones, I would say yes, but wouldn't use the word prayer (likely "I'll keep you in my thoughts"). But instead of explaining to them that I didn't believe in an intercessory divinity or even in the power of prayer the way it is often commonly understand (as in having an effect on that divinity), I translated their prayer requests into my own spiritual practice, which was, for the most part, to think of them, keep them in my thoughts, wish them the best, remember them in their time of need, light a candle during "Candles of Community" at my brick & mortar church, etc. It was never a good time to discuss theology, especially because the phrase "pray for me" is used colloquially, almost secularly, by believers of all stripes.
Now, while I still do the same things, I consider it prayer, no qualms about thinking it so. What has changed? Me. I'm not as literal in my approach to spiritual language anymore (though I recognize that some might be appalled at my definitions!); UUism has opened me up to experiences, to terms I rejected out of hand before (I guess I was something of a fundamentalist atheist!). Do I believe my prayer goes to a higher power? No, but they often do. And I do it for them. Focusing my mind in a statement of intention of hope or love or peace, call it a prayer, is for me more about the recognition and acknowledgment of my fellow human being than of a divinity. And I am grateful when they do the same for me, not because a deity has thought of me, but because a friend has.
This week has focused on labyrinths (not to be confused with Labyrinthe, the Jim Henson/David Bowie movie Mama and I watched yesterday when she wasn't feeling well) and on dialogue prayers (i.e. talking to the divine, however we conceive it). I've explored labyrinths before (here and here) but never so consciously as a prayer--we are supposed to think of a prayer/thought/idea and then trace our finger around a paper labyrinth while concentrating. I can't wait to see what the next three weeks hold.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
What do these have in common?
They are all audiobooks that we have listened to recently. We have all become aficionados of the media: Mama listens to books almost two hours a day during her commute, the first to embrace audiobooks and the one to choose all the ones we hear; the kids, who almost can't ride in the car without their recent book; and now me, the last to embrace them, who listens while I walk on my treadmill for 45 minutes everyday. I had heard Mama's stories when she drove me to various appointments or the kids' when we all went somewhere together, and all of them talk about what they were listening to. But I've never much been one for really enjoying audio, beyond music--I don't listen to NPR, I read it. But I had to find some way to pass the time on the treadmill and it was too much to read sometimes (with my head bent); music alone is never enough and I can't always find someone to talk to on the phone). So, I'm listening to my first book, The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier. I don't follow every word and find myself wishing I could see a name, a phrase on the page, or wishing I could re-read or skip sections. I can't control the pacing, the emphasis, or the inflection, which is determined by the acting of the readers. Audiobooks are somewhere between reading and performance (movies, theater, tv) for me; neither fully literary nor fully dramatic, neither fully within my control (i.e. my interpretation of the written word) or fully beyond it (where I am a passive recipient of another's vision). I know none of the research on hearing vs. reading a book and am not sure I much care at this point. But I feel, for me, that it's certainly not the same, though I'll be curious to see what the cumulative effects are--will I remember audiobooks better or not, will I uncover the literary value if I hear it instead of see it? Of course, originally, all stories were transmitted this way; but we are now much more a literate society (okay, yes, some would say we are not as literate as we once were, but overall we are less oral). Still I'm glad of my audiobook so far, enjoying the story about medieval artists and weavers and a real work of art more than I would a similar hour of tv. But I can tell I haven't embraced audiobooks altogether . . . because I still plan to read the book someday.
It is powerful. It is true. It is useful. I found myself agreeing, "Yes, that's how it is," or planning, "That will totally work for me," on every page, as Bernhard recounts her own struggles with isolation, longing for health, frustrations with limitations, and sadness about loss, and then explains the various techniques she employs to still her mind as she embraces compassion, equanimity, and loving kindness for herself and others. Some of my favorites:
- Drop-it Practice: Summon a thought of the past that troubles you ("I wish I'd been able to go on that trip") and then drop it, focusing instead on something present, preferably sensory. Do the same with a negative or troublesome thought of the future ("What if I don't feel better for Christmas?")
- Byron Katie's Inquiry Practice which ends with a "turnaround": take a thought that troubles you and turn it into its opposite and contemplate ways that it is true, such as "I hate being in pain" becomes "I don't hate being in pain because there is less pressure to do what I don't want to do" (just a random example).
- Four Sublime States Practice: apply the four sublime states (karuna, metta, upekkha, and mudita, or compassion, equanimity, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy) to your troubles to slow or stop the wheel of suffering (dukkha). My favorite is metta, or equanimity, or this is my life, not good, not bad, just as it is.
- Weather Practice: recognize that life, and your emotions and thoughts, are like the weather, unpredictable and variable and impermanent. You can rage like a thunderstorm and then smile like the sun.
- Labeling Practice (my name for it): state objectively what is happening when you are upset or troubled. For instance, if I stand outside and fret about not being able to tumble in the leaves with the kids, I would say, "Woman, outside in the yard" and go from there, having grounded myself in the present.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
No-Knead Harvest Bread
Sounds like something in a authoritarian state ruled by a dictator, where pro-democracy protesters fight for their freedom and very lives?
Except, of course, this was New York City.
I was disappointed, depressed, ashamed. But like many enablers, not enough to do something about it directly.
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small sweet potato, diced
8 oz cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (if canned, drained and rinsed)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups stock
Saute onion and bell pepper in oil. Place in crockpot with remaining ingredients. Cook on LOW6-8 hours.
Vegan Slow Cooker
Monday, November 14, 2011
And Mama Teacher's school's nurse blames it on a new law in Connecticut: the Green Cleaning Products Law, which requires schools to use eco-friendly, safe cleaning products instead of their usual bleach, petroleum-based products, and anti-bacterials. The teachers can't even have wipes or hand sanitizer (though, I re-read the law and it seems these might be exempt. I'm no lawyer though).
And it shows. At her school alone, whooping cough and Fifths Disease have gone around twice, plus chicken pox, strep, and now pneumonia.
I'm not actually saying that's a bad thing though (except for the pregnant teachers). Rather it points to the lack of immunity of children, something that clearly needs to be boosted. So, beyond being green and safe, this new law seems to be healthy too, just not in the way I think they expected.
Anyway, that's why I posted about making a wish at 11:11 on 11/11/11. Actually, 5:55 is the usual wishing hour in our house, now that the kids aren't home for 2:22 or 3:33 and are outside playing at 4:44. We find ourselves eating dinner everyday and making wishes on the digital clocks at 5:55. Bud will wish on the microwave and Sis on the stove (and sometimes these are a minute apart) and then they tell each other when it's safe. And they're very careful not to tell anyone their wishes, though I understand they each have a list of them in their diaries.
I like how for just a minute we stop everything, pay attention to time, and embrace the moment.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
- the kids running to hug me when they got home
- talking to a friend on the phone
- getting email from another friend
- riding in the car and chatting with another friend
- yellow and red fall leaves creating an orange glow outside
- seeing a hawk land on a tree branch
- watching squirrels chance each other around our tree
- "the biggest plate of nachos ever"
- coconut ice cream
- listening to my audiobook as I walked on my treadmill
- the kids enthusiastically congratulating me as I sat for longer than two seconds before standing up
- play baseball in the waning light (and having each kid hit several homeruns)
- seeing Mama midday
- hot tea in my favorite mug
- two purring cats
- my new slip-on shoes (very supportive Merrills)
- receiving support and encouragement from my PT friend
- taking pictures of the leaves
- looking forward to a three-day weekend
- thinking about our Thanksgiving menu
- weather just warm enough to wear a skirt
- my soft pink blanket
- Harry Potter Legos
- thinking about holiday cookies
- chili recipes (and finding some frozen in the fridge for dinner!)
- dance party!
- pot pie crusts
- inspiring readings (like, right now, here)
After the appointment, which was both reassuring (because I think she's partially on the right track with the causes of pain) and disconcerting (because it hurts), I finally got in touch with my much-beloved previous physical therapist, who's been out of the country for the last six plus weeks. And she had even more good points: therapy shouldn't hurt like that and there should have been some improvement in four visits. But best of all, she observed that my new PT is trying very hard to release muscles that don't want to release without addressing the underlying cause. Which encapsulates my fear in a nutshell: I'm afraid these visits are going to cause more harm, in addition to the pain and discomfort that follow each visit. So my old PT suggested her own therapist, who is magical and, in her words, fifty times more intuitive than she is. Wow.
Sure, it's more appointments and evaluations, and new decisions about whether to see PT #1 and her specialists or PT#2 who comes highly recommended. Or meet the second while continuing with the first? More confusion. More decisions. But at least it's something.
Though, it's not much of the break I'd hoped for.