Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shhhh. Do you hear what I hear? The quiet?

Christmas is over.  I'm never sure how I feel about that.  In years past, roughly 20 minutes after the unwrapping began, the house has been knee-deep in wrapping paper and ribbon (realize, it takes me hours - nay, days - to accomplish said wrapping and appropriate  ribbon-ing) but this year it was Christmas at the Walsh's so the mess was in their living room.  That part was nice, although there is still glitter everywhere!

Grandkids provide all the magic and marvel that is the gift opening part of Christmas.  Conor," I'm four-and-a-half, Nana" is aware of and excited by each and every gift.  "Look, Mommy.  A Power Ranger Lego!  Look, Mommy.  Power Ranger Sheets!"  while Finley and Harper at two (pronounced by them as tee-you) are far more interested in the quantity under the tree.  As dress-up play is big right now, each of the girls received dress-up clothes.  Finley was wearing a striking one-shoulder gown set off by sequins and glitter and many layers of multi-colored tulle.  Upon opening the dress from Nana and Papa, she pulled off the one-shoulder gown and set about changing into the new frock.  Plans derailed by a tag in the dress, it was ripped from her shoulders in seconds and the one-shoulder dress was restored.  However, the dress-up shoes were a big hit.  Little bits of feather adorned the toes of said shoes and glitter besparkled the heels.  Harper, upon opening the piglet jammies Nana made, pulled off her cute little black velvet jumper and pulled on said piglet jammies - and refused to take them off.  Now, Harper had the same glitter-bedecked shoes as Finley...quite a fashion statement with piglet jammies.

This year was ever so unique in that Art and I decided not to exchange gifts as there's been no income since, what? March?   At least we have the prospect of increasing revenues for ClarkKjos in 2013.  (They would have to increase as I can't imagine things being much worse.)  Strangely, I don't feel the panic I think I should be feeling.  I really believe God has something in store for us.  I'm just not sure what that would be.  I've pointed out to Art, in my best Bogart accent, "we'll always have Mesa."  (Hasn't quite the same ring but it works, right?)

That's not to say I've not spent sleepless nights fretting, it's just that I realize my fretting won't do a thing to change what's happening in the Northwest economy.  While me having a job would stanch the fiscal hemorrhage, it wouldn't fix things.  And realistically, there is no chance I could earn as much as Art - legally, at least...(oh, who am I kidding?  Can a middle-aged woman earn even minimum wage working on 82nd Avenue?)

So on balance, I think this (lack of income) has been a good thing.  I'm learning to rely on God, I'm remembering how to live without new 'things' constantly and I'm focused more on my relationship with God and my husband.  Good things to be sure.

We've learned we have some very good friends, some acquaintences and some people who need to be removed from our circle-of-friends list.  We learned those who predicted the end of the world would occur last week were wrong - very wrong.   I learned I should have stopped celebrating at midnight once the world didn't end. It would have made for a much easier December 22.  Oy.

Thanks to all who shared such a wonderful Christmas season with us.  As Christmas fell on Tuesday this year (lame) and Art is travelling today (even more lame) there will be no Boxing Day party.  In fact, if you come over tonight, I'll let you buy me dinner.  Lucky dog!

It seems a bit late, but how often am I on time?  Besides, we should not limit 'peace on earth; good will to all' to one day, right?  So, Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh my. I'm a tomato-cooking fool, I fear!

But it's that wonderful time of year.  Tomato season is at it's zenith, zucchini are still abundant, brussels sprouts are coming on and there is just so much bounty coming off the farm on Sauvie Island, I can't stop cooking. 

Have I said before how very pleased I've been with the CSA we purchased?  It's been the best $17/week investment we've ever made.  Not only have we been delighted by the fresh-from-the-farm vegetables and the unique assortment we've had thus far, I've learned so awfully many interesting vegetarian recipes.  Who knew you could made a de-licious tart with Swiss chard?  Previously, I'm embarassed to admit, my only experience with Swiss chard was that time in the 70's when I, with assistance, took the bunch of chard, separated the leaves from the stem, breaded and fried the lot of it!  I cringe when I think of it today.  Thus far, my favorite chard-based meal was the Moroccan Bulgur and Greens. While it simmers atop the stove for several hours, it tastes and feels so very light and refreshing!  But back to today's cooking frenzy.

Typically, I'll gorge myself on fresh vegetables this time of year and lament the absence of same come January or February. This year I'm preserving much of this wonderul summer goodness. I'm hoping to have enough left to feast on it this winter.

Today for example, I roasted tomatoes to freeze for winter.  The smell as they roast makes the 400 degree oven worthwhile.  I also made a batch of a very simple, fresh tomato sauce (as it cooked down, the juice tasted like the very best tomato soup I'd ever had) which should be devine come December. 

I also prepared a very interesting, spicy little spread; Calabrian Eggplant spread.  Apparently it originates in the tip of Italy's 'boot' and is just delightful!  Eggplant cooked slowly until it falls apart on it's own with the added kick of peppers.  It will be fabulous on a pizza this weekend.  (I'm going to have to learn to grill pizza.)

But tonight will, I think be my 'piece de resistance';  a tomato and goat cheese tart with fresh from the farm tomatoes, goat cheese from the farmers market today, a salad of farm fresh lettuce and, yup, fresh tomatoes dressed with only olive oil and pepper balsamic and good, albeit store-bought, bread.  Served with some fruity wine from sounds like heaven.  Oh yeah, fresh peaches for dessert.

Gotta run, I'm drooling on the keyboard...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer cooking (some'r not?)

I think summer-time cooking is just the best!  Owing in large part to our move to vegetarianism just over two years ago, and my acknowledged inability to garden in general and espeically on an 8-by-8-foot deck, we bought into a CSA this year.  It has been, at $17 a week, the very best food investment we've made.  I've learned so many new tricks and tips from the wonderful cooking coach I have at Sauvie Island Organics.  And I'm learning how to experience the bounty of wonderful, fresh-from-the-earth vegetables. 

Consider the lowly, oft-maligned carrot.  Who knew that fresh from the ground, with dirt still clinging, it could be transformed by a simple scrub into such a wonderful treat?  Truly, I found them to be better than...well, not BETTER than pecan pie, but a close thirteenth or fourteenth place to it. 

On the farm, especially after he retired, Daddy had a bounteous garden.  He planted something like 100 hills of potatoes (his little Irish daughter loves her potatoes) with the requisite zucchini and tomatoes.  The tomatoes from SIO have taken me back to the glorious late-summer days of my youth.  Farmers markets notwithstanding, I'd forgotten just how wonderful a fresh, REAL tomato tastes.  More than just the taste, it's the texture and aroma of a fresh-from-the-field tomato.  Heaven on a plate - or in my case this week, heaven on the palm of my hand.  Too delicious!

And, owing to the encouragement of the coach at SIO, I've learned to depart from recipes which I have always followed almost to the point of slavish devotion.  For example, I created a black bean salsa this week to which I added corn cut from the cob and in a flash of genius (Art says I'm too humble.  What?) I added cooked quinoa.  Now we have a delicious salad hearty enough for dinner. 

And of course, we have roasted beets which, when combined with potatoes (more of that Irish girl thing) and topped with perfectly poached eggs render themselves a delicious beet hash which we had for breakfast this morning - so pretty.

I could go on for hours (and pages) extolling the virtue of summer cooking - and I will, just not today.  The sun is shining, it's officially the end of summer and I need to play in the sunshine while it lasts.

Friday, August 17, 2012

August 17, 2008

For those who struggled with math as I did, that date was four years ago.  Wow.  And it was a day very  like this although, fortunately, today isn't as humid as August 17, 2008 was. 

On that morning, I awoke to the alarm at 5:00 a.m.  Yes, it was a Sunday and crazy early to get up, BUT it was also my (ok, OUR) wedding day.  However, as I tried to arise, I was weighed down by the oppressive humidity that morning.  'Swell,' I remember thinking, 'great day to be indoors.' 

I remember struggling with my hair that morning for a number of reasons, the first being the poorly- executed haircut I sported before I let Jasmin take over and make my hair fabulous.  The second, and probably more critical, was that my hair doesn't like humidity; it gets fuzzy.  Is this one of those great benefits of post-menopause or just evolving hair?  The answer is still elusive.  In any event, plans called for us to meet kids/siblings at the venue for our wedding reception, the site of our first date and the restaurant in which Art tried to proppse to me, Vino Paradiso.  The limo was waiting and all, I think the final headcount was 15, piled in for the drive to Cana's Feast Winery in beautiful downtown Carlton.

It was a beautiful time.  The cleric we'd hired to do the deed wore three hats: he performed the legal function, he played the guitar AND he sang.  Lots of bang for the buck.  Really.  Better still, he sang well.

Art and I stood - ok, our cleric did too - in the searing heat during the 7 minutes, 23 seconds it took to get hitched.  Yes, yes, I know the others were in the sunshine too, but, YIKES!  I was wearing taffeta and at the insistence of the designer of my dress, shapeware.  Hot, hot, hot.  We held hands as we exchanged vows and made promises which was probably a good thing; it kept me from swatting at the fly checking out my now-fuzzy hair, but the fly also distracted me from the rivulets of sweat trickling down my back.  (Not very lady like, but there you have it.)

The caterer at Cana's Feast had been a bit freaked out earlier in the week at the ever-increasing head count for our wedding lunch.  I'd thought, maybe 10, but the final number came in at 22.  (Who were those people?  Did I know them?)

Married and fed, we returned to VP for the reception which, I think was slated to start at 2:00 p.m.  (If I'm wrong and anybody's reading this, will you let me know what the correct time was?)  Within an hour I was begging Tom, the manager at VP, to please, please, puh-leeze turn up the air.  He sighed and explained to me the venue was rated for 65 people.  Last time he began counting, he said, he got to 200, was scared, so stopped counting.  He suggested we ask people to leave.  (Really?  "Great to have you all come eat and drink on our dime, but you've been here 45 minutes already.  Time for the second shift.  Thanks for coming.")    I couldn't see that happening, but we did manage to move the party out to the sidewalk, which was wonderful.  Hot and humid but wonderful.

Art was bowled over by the appearance of his sister, brother-in-law and his mother.  They'd told him they wouldn't be able to make it, but had arranged with me to surprise him.  As I type these words and recall Art's expression, four years later, I'm crying again at the wonderfully generous gesture my now-brother-in-law made. 

Speaking of generous brother-in-law, after hours and hours of half-glasses of champagne/half-eaten plates of food/cake icing that slid down Art's neck/cake that fell into my decollete, it was finally time to go.  (gee, it sounds as if I didn't enjoy it.  But I absolutely did.  It was the best party we/I've ever had.  It was just a very long,  highly emotional day.)  Nasser and Debbie, my new brother-and sister-in-law explained they'd made dinner reservations for all the family/stragglers remaining.  (Very gracious, Nasser, but what I really want to do is take off my shoes and this bloody 'shapewear' and slid into the rooftop hot tub in our suite at the Vintage Plaza.)  But, to dinner we went.  It WAS lovely, but then, since Art, most of life has been lovely.  (Note, I said 'most.'  I'm difficult to live with, remember?)

Four years later, we've seen so many changes.  Wonderful changes, exciting changes and some not-so-exciting changes.  We've seen the birth of two beautiful granddaughters.  We've watched Conor grow from his six-month old infant self into a handsome (he says he's cute) super smart, curious, active boy.  Financially 'fat' times and financially 'skinny' times.  (Trust me, in this, fat is better.  Just sayin'.)  I watch each day for whatever new wonder God has for me.  Somedays I see it; other days I'm too busy being grumpy to see anything.

In closing, I'm married to the most wonderful man.  He's not perfect, I understand, but he's perfect for me.  We work hard to make sure our marriage continues to grow...he's stuck with me for a long time!  Thank you, Art.  I'm such a very happy and richly blessed woman because of that fateful February Saturday.  And it only took you "two-and-a-half-years!"  I love you, Arthur.  Happy anniversary, baby.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Hitchhiker

She was clad in a heavy-appearing black robe and flowing head-covering which trailed behind her as she ran, RAN, along Capital Highway.  The thermometer in the car indicated it was 93 outside, and she was running in a full-length black dress.  "Are you stopping for me?" her American-English-accented voice asked.  I reached across the car, opened the passenger door in the Mini and turned on the air conditioning.  (Yes, the top was down, but I fancied she'd at least appreciate the cold air on her face.)  "Why are you stopping for me" she asked.  "People don't pick up hitchhikers anymore, do they?" she continued.  I explained to her I'd not picked up a hitchhiker since 1976 but, and why I couldn't explain, the car had forced itself to the side of the road.  She fell into the passenger seat and explained she had missed her bus and had to be home time for...Her hesitation weighed on me.  I've been there; that relationship in which I had to explain each and every move I made during the day and account for my time - and pay the price when I couldn't account for those lost minutes.

I'd been in the ER Monday night.  As I lay on a gurney waiting for the tech to conduct the EKG, the Triage nurse asked me if I'd come to the hospital of my own accord, if I felt safe at home, if anyone was hurting me or keeping me from eating or sleeping.  I quickly responded I was in a very safe place.

Settled in the front of the Mini, I asked her where she was going, why she was running, if she was ok.  She was going, she said, to the library on Capital Hill, just up from the grade school.  Initially I said I would drop her at 99W and Capital.  "Oh, thank you" she gushed.  But what did I have to do?  I was going to order a new pair of prescription sunglasses - and I was peeved that owing to the vagaries of our economy, I had to opt for the lowest-cost-provider I could find, instead of the most convenient.  I noticed then that the temples on her glasses were taped together.  (seriously, I can't imagine they could fold for all the tape on them.)  "You know what?" I asked, "I'm not going anywhere time-critical.  I'll take you to the library."  "Really?"  She couldn't impose on me, she said.  No problem, I assured her, it's my  pleasure. I went on to tell her of the time I was stuck with a crappy car which broke down on the side of the road on a hot summer afternoon.  My daughters were with me and, because we were without cell phones in 1984, I put a baby girl on each hip and began walking down Walker Road (yes, in my heels and nylons for it was 1984.)  A car, a navy 1967 Mustang, pulled to the side of the road and asked if we needed a ride.  I found myself thinking I didn't care if he was the grandson of Jack the Ripper, I'd be off the road at least.  As he buckled Erin and Kristen into the back seat (with after-market seat belts, to be sure) and fired up his after-market air conditioning, I asked why he'd picked us up.  He explained he had a wife and kids about the same ages as my kids.  He hoped someone would help them if they needed it.  That stuck with me - obviously.  I can tell you the name of the Beaverton-based dentist today if you want to know.  (Thank you, Gordon Hoversland.)

As we neared my mystery passenger's destination, ("oh, that's it. No, don't  pull into the driveway.  You can let me out here") I asked her the same questions I received in the hospital.  "Are you ok?" I asked.  "Is anyone hurting  you?  Is anyone keeping  you from sleeping or eating."  "No, no, I'm fine," she assured me.  As she alighted from the car, I wondered.  Was she, is she, safe?

I don't know why I turned left on Capital this afternoon for, had I turned right, I would have missed her completely,  nor do I know why I stopped.  The car pulled itself to the shoulder, I know.  I know I was led. As I sit here tonight, less than a mile from her destination, I find myself prayful.  Prayful for her, her safety, those of any children she might have.   And it's not just HER.  I'm praying for all those mothers who are afraid and scared.  How can I reach out to them?

I'm troubled by my lack of resources.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dare I say it? Think it?

Am I becoming a runner this late in life? I've been running, with the assistance of the Jeff Galloway Easy 5k iPhone app and along with the good folks at Foot Traffic University, consistently since February 6. I realize (all you skeptics out there) it's only just over a month but, as I understand it, the first 21 repetitions of a new habit are crucial in the formation of that new habit. Thus far, I've done group runs, solo runs, runs with strangers (a young athletic engineer - yikes) and run(s) when I was sick and probably shouldn't have run. Save for the run when I was sick, I've enjoyed them all. I've run in Portland when the rain was streaming from my face so that with each exhale I created a mini-fountain. I've now run in Arizona when I was so warm and "I worked so hard and sweat so much" I never found myself thinking 'wish I could find a bathroom'. (sorry, Daddy. I couldn't resist it.)

I've lost at least 6 pounds (and haven't found any of them!)

I find running gives me, more than just time alone, a feeling of significant accomplishment. On each run, as I near 'that' spot (you know, the one where I think I just can't lift another foot) I tell myself, "it's ok, you can quit." But then the competitive part of me takes over and says, "what are you thinking? If you quit now you still have to get home. Whaddya going to do? walk into the neighborhood?" And so I continue.

And I think I've experienced the 'runner's high' we all hear so much about. No, not the euphoric I-can-do-anything-and-run-for-5-hours high, just a generally good feeling that lasts for hours. Great fun - and Art loves it when I'm feeling good! And speaking of that wonderful man, Art is so supportive of me in this. On Sunday, when I wanted to run around Tempe Town Lake, he graciously accompanied me with a book and a cigar (and the ubiquitous cocktail in a Starbucks cup) while I did my 45 minute run. (No,I didn't make it around the lake. I got lost, lost the path and wound up...I dunno, in some industrial neighborhood. Thank you MapMyRun, I was able to plot the course I took and count the miles.)

I like this running thing. Just think, I could be one of those 92-year old nanas (I'm hopeful I'll be a greatnana by then- listen up Conor, Harper and Finley!)crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Watch me on this journey!

Monday, February 13, 2012

So many thoughts

It’s quiet here... and I have sore muscles. I’ve mounted (again) the effort to reclaim the health and fitness I possessed in 2005. At that time, I was a very healthy 17% body fat. I've backslidden to be sure, but I’m not currently the 36% I was when this began on April 19, 2001. I stepped on the scale at Weight Watchers that day and watched in horror as the scale finally found it’s balance at 184 lbs. That week I’d experienced the deaths of three friends from lifestyle related diseases. I realized I was setting a deplorable example for my then not-quite eleven year old son. The moment of truth on the scale was demoralizing to understate things. It took me 20 months to lose 50 pounds; I’m an incredibly slow (but steady) loser often losing one-quarter pound a week. (Really? I can spit that much!) At one point I was reminded I’d not gained three pounds a week, why would I expect to lose like that? (because, if we’re telling the truth, I CAN gain three pounds in a week. Heck, I can gain five pounds in a weekend!) But, finally, the Saturday morning came; I stood before my fellow losers and was feted as my 50-pound loss was recognized and celebrated. Yay me! But then came maintenance! In some ways, I had great motivation to maintain. I’d seen a woman with whom I’d worked when I was fat and she was skinny. She sized me up and said with a snicker, ‘well, let’s see you keep it off, now.’ That was almost all I needed. I say almost because in the ensuing 10 years I’ve gained (and lost) dozens of pounds (many of them several times to boot) but a very unwelcome 20 have returned and aren’t leaving of their own accord. Yes, intellectually I know what happened. I became careless with portion size/food quality and most important, activity. In retrospect, there were times when for a good two weeks I’d go to the gym every-stinkin’-day (excluding weekends, right?) But the workout was always tired and lame. A half-hearted bike ride beats nothing, I would tell myself all the while realizing my bum was overflowing the bike saddle. But then I found a yoga studio in Arizona. I bought the Groupon; 20 visits for $20. (Face it, I’m cheap.) I found I really enjoyed it. What a shock! The last time I’d tried yoga was as I was leaving the 180’s behind. I settled my considerable rear in the yoga studio expecting a long, lovely stretch. Wow. I was totally unprepared for that entire experience. I crawled to my car unsure which part of me was more uncomfortable. Needless to say, I didn’t go back. Which brings us to now. I’d found the scale creeping ever so slightly higher every week. I didn’t go back to Weight Watchers, although I’ve been paying a monthly fee for unlimited meetings and an online community, because I was embarrassed and because I heard the sneer of that long-ago coworker. I don’t know ‘what’ changed but it’s a whole new game now. I bought new running shoes and they actually made cute little insoles for my shoes. I learned I need to wear at least a half-size bigger shoe so I don’t lose my toenails (who knew?) but I'm vain and struggled to admit I bought a size 7 (shoot, if I could buy a pair of pants in a size 7, I'd be jumping around.) I signed up for (and actually attended the first meeting) a running group and registered (and paid for) my very first road race. I’m doing the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon July 4th weekend. Which means I’m running. Not just turning on the Couch to 5k app and walking for 30 minutes, feeling very virtuous. Running. Yikes. Saturday morning was my first run with them. Bearing in mind I’m NOT an athlete and haven’t considered myself athletic since junior high, I was anxious. I found no one there laughed at me; no one expressed skepticism that I could really do this, and conversely, I found people in the same fitness boat as I, people with whom I could run (and walk because, really, running 3 miles is much harder than I thought it would be) and best of all, I could talk while I was running (and walking) because I wasn’t trying to impress anyone…well, maybe that cute little boy who rode his bike to the running store then acted as a ‘pace mentor’ encouraging us. But he’ll be old someday, too, right?) As we’re stretching in Waterfront Park, I was thinking, hmmm, I can do this. But then we began running across the Hawthorne Bridge. Strange, I never noticed bridges have a rise in them. Let me tell you, they do. I feared my lungs would just stop inflating from the sheer fatigue of me breathing so hard/frequently. But I stuck with it. We crossed the bridge and I found something of a pace across the Eastbank Esplanade. And you know what? I made it. I finished the run with the group. No, I wasn’t the fastest but I wasn’t the last one in, either. I enjoyed it and was even able to do an easy walk/run yesterday. I took a 90 minute yoga class this morning, enjoyed my current favorite lunch (quinoa and chili beans with kale) and am off for todays’ run. I’ll make it this time. As in 2001, I’ll do this. I’ll be back at my goal weight by June 15 – and then, I’ll run my first half-marathon! I can’t wait. It’s gonna be a great summer!