Ummm. Henry? That's not quite a swim.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Last Friday Mom and I went to a nutritionist to discuss how we can improve her diet so that she will gain weight instead of losing it. Apparently, in the elderly, diet is incredibly important because they often lose their appetite as they get older and maintaining proper nutrient levels becomes a challenge. Of course, the irony of this situation is not lost on me: Mom's trying to gain weight and I'm trying to lose weight. Trying to cook for both of us at the same time is going to be a challenge.
So when I offered to make sausage and eggs for breakfast and Mom countered with 'pancakes and sausage' I decided I wanted to come up with a healthy alternative that would be so tasty she wouldn't be tempted to leave a crumb on her plate.
I had a flapjack box mix made with whole grains, low in sugar, called Kodiak Cakes. Excellent product. I decided to ramp up both the flavor and nutrition levels by adding a teaspoon of Apple Pie Spice and a half cup of chopped pecans (high in protein and good fats).
The results were incredible. The flapjacks were light, fluffy, and the spice and pecans made them taste absolutely decadent.
As Mom enjoyed her breakfast, she found she had an audience of two, Henry and Coco.
These guys know that usually, if they're just patient, Mom will get tired of eating and they'll get the leftovers.
As you can see, Henry only had eyes for Mom's plate. And yes, that is a speck of pancake batter next to his eye. He likes to position himself in front of the stove to make sure he doesn't miss a bit of cooking.
But this morning, their loss was Mom's gain. She finished both pancakes and the sausage...well, maybe a small bit of sausage found it's way into Henry's mouth.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
We drove to Crested Butte on a rainy, cold day. Got there in time to grab a bite to eat and then spend the night. I hope that I'll be able to return sometime soon for a longer weekend to explore the area, it's beautiful.
Yet, despite its beauty, on that first day I worried about the dreary weather and the house I'd booked at the last minute that didn't have a fireplace to cozy the cold evening. I worried that my companions wouldn't have a good time, rather than what we had accomplished: we'd arrived safely, had a warm place to stay, Mom had joined us, even though just a few days before she'd not been feeling well. And thanks to the steady helmsmanship of Heidi at the wheel, we'd had an enjoyable drive, despite being in a car with four adults and two dogs...one of whom was Henry, a 150lb Newfoundland, who commandeered the third row all to himself.
Perspective is something I need to work on.
The real reason we'd come was to make the second leg of our journey the following day. And as I went to bed that night, I prayed that it wouldn't snow.
The next day, we headed north on Kebler Pass, a bit of road I'd waited a year to drive in autumn. It's also a dirt road that had become very muddy overnight. It hadn't snowed, but it had rained through the night.
As we drove along the road the sun made a run at breaking through the clouds. And somehow, despite my earlier concerns, the changing weather added to the beauty of the day rather than detracting.
Our intent was to see the forest of Aspen trees that turn a brilliant gold at this time of year. We made our way down the canopied road, eventually found a quiet spot and stopped the car so we could get out for a closer look.
It seems that we were a bit early, as most of the trees were still green, with only small bursts of gold here and there.
Still, despite the weather, the mud, and the green, it was a breathtaking autumn experience. There's something different about the atmosphere at this time of year, it's moody, romantic, wistful, welcoming as a wooly sweater and as inexorable as an ending.
The light gives things a more sombre quality. The contrasts of light and dark are delineated and stark. We learn that even on dreary days the colors of nature are better than anything we can attempt with human hands.
The shading as clouds and sunlight move across the sky create gradations of hues that would not have been apparent if there had only been sunshine.
And then there are those who join us, that make the journey so much better, no matter what the weather.
John and Heidi were here for a week's holiday. We hope they'll be back soon.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I have fallen in love with beets this summer. They are so beautiful and so tasty. And so easy to prepare. Instead of the usual boiling method, which is frankly rather messy, I decided to roast them.
I love roasting any vegetable because it's incredibly easy: throw them on a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, perhaps a bit of garlic or sea salt, and roast at 400 F for 20 minutes. Roasting brings out a sweet, nuttiness in any veggie and leaves the texture, which can't be said of boiling anything. For reluctant vegetable eaters, such as myself, roasting wins hands down. I'd go so far as to suggest that even kids would love roasted vegetables.
While my beets were roasting, I quickly prepared some breaded chicken cutlets. I pounded out four chicken breasts until thin, dipped them in an egg wash, then in seasoned breadcrumbs. I like to let them dry on a wire rack for a few minutes before frying.
Here are my beautiful beets when they came from the oven. The picture doesn't do them justice, but they're a brownish red and look good enough to eat right then. You'll also notice I roasted an onion in the same batch.
And here are my chicken cutlets, magically fried and back on the wire rack, resting.
I threw the roasted beets into a food processor with the roasted onion, freshly grated parmesan cheese and olive oil. Pulse until the beets resemble roughly mashed potatoes.
And dinner is served!
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
photo credit: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/pictures/view/81487125/
Sometimes there are coincidences that pull you out of what you'd intended to do and set you off on a new course of action. For instance, last week I'd written a quick two sentence post stating that I was taking a blogging holiday for the rest of the summer and that I'd be back in late September.
Then I received a post from my friend Elizabeth Harper at Gifts of the Journey.com. She wrote about prayer in a post entitled: Would God Send a Message in an Online Ad? When I went back to read the post again today, I scrolled down and was simply amazed at the lengthy and beautifully written comments by readers who felt compelled to share their own thoughts on prayer. I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who has since been inspired to use Elizabeth's post as a springboard for our own musings on prayer either in our own lives or as we've observed its impact in the lives of others.
Prayer, like much of our relationship with God, often feels very one-sided, lonely, mysterious, and perhaps like standing at the mouth of a cave and shouting into the darkness, hoping for a response. Relationship with God can seem like a lop-sided equation, a bet you make where you're not going to know the outcome until after death, and perhaps not even then.
So you pray and then pause to observe the outcome. If it comes, was it just a natural coincidence of timing and related to your own actions? Or was it divine intervention?
If you don't receive the answer you were looking for, was it God turning his back on you? God and the evil one engaged in some cosmic wager, as in the case of Job? Were you somehow undeserving or being punished for a sin you were or weren't aware of?
Why pray at all if the results are so uncertain?
I pray for the same reason that I've written in a journal since the age of eleven: a desperate need to get out of my head the thoughts that ramble around without ceasing or solution. Journaling and prayer become a pressure valve to release all those words that would otherwise drive me crazy.
But prayer becomes even more than that. It becomes the conversation that I can't have with anyone else. It is the flow of confession that I'd be embarrassed to admit, the fears that overwhelm me, the wisdom that I know is hiding right behind some obsessive thought, the clarity I need because I'm afraid I don't know what to do. It's my way of reaching out and asking for help from God because I believe that He is there even though I'm often met with silence so profound that it leaves me wondering why I even try.
And yet even in the depths of doubt, I can't help myself. I do believe that there is a greater wisdom at work in the world and that we can and should seek guidance just as we actively work toward solutions to our problems. Prayer does not absolve us of responsibility for our actions or outcomes, but I'd like to believe that it can provide gentle direction when we are lost.
Perhaps the greatest gift of prayer is discovering God's profound love for us. It's one thing to believe in an higher intelligence or universal mind. I think that's probably the easiest concept for an atheist to begin to accept. But to imagine a greater entity that actually loves us, is staggering. It requires us to believe that this entity must somehow know us as individuals, with all our foibles and fuck ups, and yet still find us worthy of love...love coming from a source of perfection, yet willing to love us in all of our imperfection. I suppose that is why Jesus Christ was necessary, to allow this perfect God to walk among us and experience us in all our glorious human-ness. And perhaps as a result of wallowing in all that human dust, God is even better equipped to love us more intensely than before. (Of course if you believe that God is Alpha and Omega, all-knowing and omnipotent, I suppose this is rhetorical.)
Because, yes, I do believe that God loves us deeply and infinitely more than we could ever imagine, especially when it seems as if we are standing alone and shouting into empty space. As someone who is well acquainted with that position, I will tell you that I cling desperately to my belief in God when I feel most alone and in need of some assurance.
If, like me, you're the gambling sort and decide to throw caution to the wind and pray at the mouth of the dark cave, where do you begin? Is there some magic ritual, such as saying the Lord's Prayer three times aloud each day as a friend once suggested, that will guarantee an audience with the Almighty?
The short answer is yes. And, of course, no.
The better answer is that prayer is most effective when it is authentic and comes from your heart. I started to write 'honest' as well, but I'm guessing that sometimes we're inclined to lie in our prayers, just as we lie to ourselves. And as I think God can see through those moments of self-deception, let's just say that we should be authentic.
Of course, prayer serves many functions in the course of our spiritual life. Praying together in church is sometimes all we need to feel part of a larger community, one of many voices lifting up praise or beseeching in one corporal voice. Other times, prayer is a private act of gratitude where we 'thank God' for the safe return of a loved one, or go through a daily recitation of all that we are grateful for, but which we don't want to take for granted.
As to the mechanics or setting for our more 'serious' prayers, I think the best way to pray is that which works best for you in that moment. I have prayed on my knees. I have prayed by speaking aloud in a one-sided conversation, as I walked with Henry, my Newfoundland, through the woods. I have prayed in a letter to God written in my journal. And most recently I have fallen asleep as I repeated incessantly, "Please God", in a whispered prayer that expressed so many fears of the future that only those two words were necessary, because God knew the rest.
And then what?
How do we know if God heard our prayers, or if He will do anything about them?
I guess we/I don't know. That's where the mystery or challenge of faith comes in. I hope that God will answer my prayers, that He does care, and will show his compassion in some tangible way. But I also feel that part of the strength of prayer is that it allows us a private communion with God that in and of itself is a comfort.
I believe that God loves each of us. And that when we go to Him in prayer, that He reaches out and communicates that love to us in such a way that it impacts our lives for the better. I believe that we can deepen our relationship with God through prayer. Perhaps that is one of its most important functions. Not asking for this or that, but to come closer to our Creator, and through that relationship to grow and live better lives than we would have without it, or without the experience of God in our lives.
Monday, September 5, 2011
I had friends coming over for an impromptu after-work drinks and appetizers on the deck, and wanted to throw together something festive, fun, and creative. 'Creative' meaning: using what I had in the house since I didn't have time to run to the grocery.
Let's start with the margaritas.
I had tequila. But I did't have lime juice or frozen limeade or that fancy margarita mix that has a certain weird aftertaste.
But thanks to my love of gimlets, I had a bottle of Rose's lime juice.
In place of Cointreau I used the juice of one freshly squeezed orange.
Here's the simple, yet incredibly tasty, recipe:
1 part tequila
1 part Rose's lime juice
1 part sparkling water
Juice of one orange
Mix well. Chill. Serve over ice or blend with ice in a blender for a frozen margarita.
I promise you.....once you've had a homemade margarita, you'll never buy another pre-made mix. They're that good.
Now to the quesadillas. I was inspired by a recipe for pepper quesadillas from our last cookbook trial: Julee Russo's Great Good Food.
First, I blended goat cheese, fresh basil and parsley from my flower box garden, a small handful of pickled jalapenos.
Then I added a red pepper that I'd roasted.
The pepper mixture was spread on my flour tortillas.
Then I layered on some shredded chicken.
And some shredded jalapeno jack cheese. I then placed another tortilla on top and baked them in a 400 F oven for ten minutes, or until the cheese was melted.
You then cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve to your guests.
So where's the picture of my finished quesadillas?
Go back to the first picture.
See those magaritas?