Saturday, August 31, 2013

It's tomato season again!

While tomato season typically marks the end - or nearly the end - of summer, I can't help but feel such excitement.  All those beautiful red fruit/vegetables.  We can't forget the yellow and orange tomatoes as well.  While I'd be hard pressed to, say, pick one to eat to the exclusion of all others, I think the orange cherry tomatoes are the sweetest, hence my favorite. 

There's nothing better than a sandwich with fresh tomatoes.  This summer I've begun roasting a 'bunch-o-beets' and slicing one - or a half - rubbing the bread with a chunk of tomato and topping with a sliced beet and crumbled feta.  Mmmm, the earthy fullness of the beet coupled with the juice of the tomato and the addition of the feta make it just a delicious alternative to the fake turkey sandwiches I've been eating.

And while they taste wonderfully sweet during the season, nothing beats a fresh tomato sauce over pasta on a cold, January evening.

On the food blogs I've become obsessed with of late, I've seen recipes and formulas for a simple, (or raw or uncooked or any variation on that theme) tomato sauce.  I spent much of tomato season last year experimenting.  By the time the farmer's markets - and our CSA - had stopped featuring them, I had a freezer full of one or two jars each of any number of sauces.  Tinkering with the recipes with each batch of sauce I produced, I finally 'perfected' what I've called Super Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce.  It truly is, as the name suggests, so simple, it's almost not cooking.

For today's exercise, I took  heirloom tomatoes, about two pounds, two plump cloves of garlic, a bit of olive oil and salt.  That's it.  The tomatoes are dropped into boiling water until the skins pop then dunked in an ice bath.  While they're cooling, I add the garlic cloves, minced, to the sauté pan with a generous glug of olive oil.  When the garlic is just beginning to become fragrant, I squeeze some, but not all, of the seeds into the sink, and crush the remaining flesh in my hands.  The flesh is added to the sauté pan, along with a good pinch of salt, for a minute or two until the flesh begins to break down.  At that time, I remove the flesh from the pan to a bowl, while the remaining juice is reduced.  When it begins to coat the bottom of the pan, it's time to return the flesh to the now-reduced juices.  Turn the heat off and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Presto!  Super Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce! 

Trust me. In January you'll pull a jar of this from the freezer in the morning, let it thaw during the day, toss it with hot pasta, add a drop of olive oil and be transported back to the waning days of summer.

And here's the finished product:

The first two jars of Super Simple Tomato Sauce for 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

It was Father's Day

when my daddy died; Father's day, 2001.  I was almost 45, he was almost 75.  I thought, at that time, nothing worse could ever happen.  In reality, that wasn't the worst thing that could, or would, happen.  I just didn't know quite what to do with the notion of Daddy not being around.  To whom would I turn for computer advice?  To whom would I turn when I was all. fired. up. about social injustice or local political idiocy?

I made it through the next few days in a haze.  I remember laughing as my daughters declared the next day a 'tear-free day.'  (Good thing.  I was cried out.)  As we met with the funeral director at the funeral home of Papa's choice, our family's gallows humor was evident.  I'm not sure Mr. Funeral Director understood, however.  For example, discussion was being given to containment of Papa's ashes.  What sort of urn did we wish to purchase?  As we perused the veritable Sears & Roebuck catalog of urns and caskets we briefly pondered the bronze-books-as-urn but I believed firmly that if we spent $1500 on an urn for Papa he would haunt us all.  I could hear him saying, 'JHC, Kathy, what the hell are you doing?  There are plenty of coffee cans in the garage.'  That's when Marc, my brother-in-law piped up and said, "Gee, we have that big Tupperware bowl. Couldn't we use that?"  Mr. Funeral Director gulped and struggled for words.  (Poor man.  What an awful way for him to start Monday morning, with the Heckman family.)

Ultimately, we left Papa's ashes in the box in which they'd been returned from the crematorium and later, after Mother died, we scattered them in a location which must remain secret as our actions were so very illegal that day.  (Nancy and I had commingled Mama and Daddy's ashes, put them in zip-lock baggies and took them to the...the place we had decided to scatter them...but as they no longer owned that locale, we had no right to do what we did.  I'm such a rule-breaker.)

And now, twelve years later, I look back at the fun stuff with Daddy.  I remember him teaching me to drive, in the '65 Chevy Apache half-ton short-bed pickup.  It had three-on-the-tree, a manual choke and no synchro into first.  ('JHC Kathy, you're going to rip out the goddamn gearbox.')  I look at the new relationships with cousins from Ohio (and California) - most of whom I've never met - and I look at the restoration of a relationship with my sister from Daddy's first marriage.  All these things would have caused him such delight. 

Thanks, Daddy.  There's not a day I don't think of you or hear you in my head (or worse, coming from my mouth.)  Thanks for the lessons you taught me, ('JHC, shake hands like you mean it')  Thanks for loving our mother and sacrificing as you did for us.  You taught us great and valuable lessons.  I miss you Daddy.  See you, well, not soon, I hope, but I'll see you someday.  Til then, ANTICIPATE!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What the?

Set out on this morning's run after checking MapMyRun and decided I'd stick with the Fanno Creek Trail - I've experienced such success there of late.  Set off from the Garden Home Community Center, ran past the Frank Estate, rounded the corner, crested that little hill and BAM!  Right into the tractors and backhoes and workers.  Of course, there were four guys standing there watching the guy on the backhoe (and these guys really get paid? For standing around?  Can I get that job?)  I must admit I couldn't help feel they were snickering at my confusion. 

Oh, THAT'S what all those signs posted for the past two weeks meant when they said the trail, or that portion of it, would be closed until ''maybe mid-July", (really, that's what the sign said, maybe mid-July).  Rats.  What a perfect excuse to cut short today's run.  BUT, I've got that half-marathon clock ticking away in my head so I ran up through the neighborhood to Garden Home Road and hopped back on the trail three blocks down the road, then reversed the bob-n-weave through the neighborhood at the western end of the loop.  Still got my mileage for today, it just wasn't as scenic as on the trail.

The advantage, I'm discovering, of running through neighborhoods is one finds so many great houses.  Who knew there were so many little gems hidden off busy streets?

For those keeping track with me, three weeks and two days til Race Day.  I'm anxious about it, my knee, my hip...all those old-lady-esque complaints.  But I'll do it!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Forty-five


Wow.  On this day in 1968, (it was Memorial Day, then celebrated on May 31, not the Monday preceding) along with my parents and my white rubber boots, (not super-cool go-go boots but common rain boots), I made my first-ever visit to Newberg.  It was a tiny farming community with but one traffic light and a population of just over 4000 inhabitants.  My parents were charmed by the beautiful, rustic quality of the farm house, a building erected in 1904 with neither insulation nor electricity (fortunately, it was later retrofitted for electricity).  The weather was typical Oregon spring; cold, wet, dark and depressing.  We made the long – L - O- N - G drive from our home in southeast Portland, (a zip code President Johnson had previously declared a ‘poverty pocket’) and followed the directions we received after calling the number listed in the For Sale by Owner ad:

 “Ten acres of Producing Filberts & MarionBerries along with large Family Orchard.  Private water district, newer septic, comfortable, historic home, laying hens and numerous outbuildings.   To view,  Call XXX-XXXX.”

They did, (call) and the rest is history.  We finally found Newberg, made the turn on Villa Road, (“just follow the signs to the hospital then turn left at the end of Villa onto our lane ((how Mama loved that term – ‘our lane’)) just 1.2 miles past the hospital”  (Funny, it was never described as ‘just a mile or so past’ it was always 1.2 miles.)  The bumpy driveway and driving rain gave way to our first view of the farmhouse.  Truly, from the exterior it WAS a lovely sight.  Stately old white house with cheery café curtains at each window, wide front porch, (“look, Chuck, we can hang the porch swing right there”)  and a home ablaze in lights.  The entire picture was one of welcome. 

Car doors open for a scant second, two young boys were at or side, greetings flowing, “Hi, I’m Banny and that’s my brother Babid.  I’m four-and-a-half  but I’ll be five soon.  Babid will be seven next week.  Wanna go see our stick cave?”  (I’m not exaggerating…that’s how he spoke.) 

Escorted to the back door, (“Oooh, look, Chuck.  Look at that cute storm cellar door.  I’ll bet it would be great for storing vegetables from the garden for the winter”) , a lovely woman nick-named  Army, one-half of the current ownership of the farm, opened the back door allowing the heady aroma of fresh bread, a baking pie and a perfect stew bubbling atop the stove to envelop us.  Clearly, she was a master marketer.

Mother and Daddy were enchanted by the farm.  Never mind virtually every window in the house was cracked, never mind the house was heated – first floor only; there was no heat upstairs – by a wood-burning furnace (Army assured us she just ‘banked the fire overnight and tossed a bit of paper and some firewood in the morning.’  I think she, well, I won’t say she lied, she exaggerated a bit.)  Never mind my parents knew nothing about farming (‘how difficult can it be?  Just drive the tractor when you need to plow, spray some chemicals when it’s time…’)

The farm was never what I wanted; I envisioned rolling wheat fields, horses and saddles when in reality it was dirt farming in the truest sense.  But I lived through it and it makes for some great stories.  It allowed for my parents to have a comfortable retirement and a great place for my daughters to spend summers, free.  Free from Mom and Dad, free from responsibility, free from accountability.  I recall one example in particular.  Erin, the quintessential eldest child was helping Nana with some domestic task for which Nana rewarded her with actual, cold hard cash.  Not wanting to slight Kristen who wasn’t able (maybe wasn’t willing) to help, Nana doled out the dollar bills saying, “here, Erin.  This is for helping me.  And Kristen, here, this is for…I dunno, breathing.”

Some good memories of the farm, (the epic waterfights at the end of a long day picking berries that ended with everyone in the pool, the near legendary parties Mother and Daddy held after a day in the filbert orchard, the day we co-mingled Mother and Daddy’s ashes and, in violation of the law,  scattered them on what was left of the farm (the orchard was there. The berries were long gone).  Some not good memories, (that first filbert harvest took us until December 22 to complete.  December 23 we began pruning the filbert trees.  It was decades before I liked filberts.) 

Today is a very different day in terms of the weather alone.  Thanks for the memories.  Thanks for the lessons.  Thanks, Mother and Daddy.  Thanks.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lessons from February

I learned so much in February.  I learned:

it's possible (and even recommended) to enjoy a Super Bowl party without over-consuming food or alcohol.

I met an amazing man seven years ago.

Tosca is a beautiful opera.

I gave birth to a beautiful daughter who would become a devoted young mother 32 years ago.

it IS possible to pack for a week in San Francisco in less than 20 minutes and with only three pairs of shoes.

how VERY important it is to check ALL pieces of luggage to be sure one's prescription drugs aren't hidden in a deep, dark pocket of said luggage.  That would have saved the $91 spent replacing antibiotics for the sinus infection I nursed all week.

no matter how delicious it is and how long it's been since I last ate fish, eating 6 ounces of seared ahi in one evening wasn't a great idea.

why it's wise to wear flat shoes in San Francisco.

how very fun it can be to just hang out with girlfriends for a day.  On top of a double decker bus.  Without a cocktail.  (Until the Buena Vista, of course.)

my eldest sister is amazingly fit and quite an inspiration.

I have an amazing husband.  Not only does he love me every day, he loves me when I'm not taking care of him very compassionately.

my amazing husband takes VERY good care of me when I'm sick.  See how blessed I am?

upon return from the aforementioned week in San Francisco how very important it is to find and remove ALL tissues stuffed in pockets during the week with a sinus infection BEFORE washing.  No lint brush will be sufficient to remove all those bits of tissue.

While I'm certain I've forgotten at least one other, more important lesson from February, I learned I lost four pounds - in San Francisco, to boot!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blech

Ok, I think it got me.  I've been saying for several weeks that, owing to my level of impatience with people who are germ-phobic or always sick, I'm certain to get sick - really sick, and soon.

I'm not sure I'd say I'm really sick, more like kinda sick.  Sick like I would go to work if I got paid for working and didn't have any sick time.  I'm just slow today.

Erin called me early this morning (which, as every mother knows, is never a good thing.)  She's on the Coast for a work event and Morgan was home with the kids and planning to meet her at the beach for a lovely evening at Salishan with his bride.  But Erin came down with whatever is going around (not nasty like the flu, just nasty like 'I have a headache and I'm all achy') and Morgan is sick now so I went to the Walsh's, fed the kids breakfast ('Nana, I want frosted Mini Wheats.  Fin gets the almond milk, Nana, here's my milk.') ((Have I shared how delightful and precocious I find my grandkids?  Especially Conor; goodness he sounds as though he's 8.)) helped Finley dress and got everyone to school.  Whatever would I have done without Conor to direct me to school? 

Poor Fin was sobbing as I left, "Nana, I don't want to go to school." Visualize great, huge tears streaming down her cheeks as she said this.  I'm sure she'll be fine - at least that's what I'm telling myself.  I'll pick them up after naps, we'll buy a present for Conor's friend who turns 5 tomorrow, we'll make pizza for dinner and Nana will curl into a little ball and sleep at 9.  My running group begins tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

To share or not to share?

I've decided, as when I first went public with this blog, to share with my follower (really?  I have a follower? Someone other than me reads these meanderings?) my most recent weight-loss effort. 

As most know, I began 2001 riding the crest of a wave...not a good wave.  This wave found me, on April 21, 2001, 44 years old,  unemployed and knocking on the door of 200 pounds.  Not a good look on me.  The day before, I had lost the third of three friends that month to lifestyle-related diseases.  Two heart attacks and one cancer.  I had watched as my son, along with me, grew bigger and more unhealthy.   Strange, because, intellectually, I KNEW what to do; eat less and move more.  But I always had an excuse.  I remember buying breakfast in the cafeteria in my office building.  I would have a plate of hash browns telling myself, "It's pretty healthy.  It's just potatoes." (Psst, and the fat in which the potatoes were fried.)  Probably not my best choice, y'think?

So, on April 19 I hauled my sorry self to the Weight Watchers meeting in Beaverton.  Horrified, I watched as the weights on the scale settled at 184.  Oy.  Even pregnant, I'd not been that heavy.  Now, to be fair, I had weighed more.  When I broke my neck in Marck, 1976, I tipped at just over 200 pounds.  But I digress.

It was a struggle, emotionally and physically.  I was laid off the next day, April 20.  My Auntie Lynn died the day after that.  Two days later my son and I were dispatched to Arizona to help Auntie Millie, bereft at the loss of her sister and her husband, deal with what was on  her plate.  (Little did we know then, Auntie Millie was beginning her descent into the special hell that is Alzheimer's.)  My daddy, whom I adored, died less than two months later.  And it was hard.  Gaining weight was easy - save for the discomfort of over-eating and the feelings of self-loathing that mounted with every pound.  At the end of my first week following the WW plan, I'd lost...one-quarter pound!  Really?  All that for 4 ounces?  Wisely, the Leader explained to me I probably hadn't gained two pounds a week, it was going to take longer to lose than I'd planned.  (little did she know. I could gain five pounds in a weekend!)  A week later I decided to join a gym.  I realized I had a chance here; I wasn't working and I had some wiggle room financially.  I could focus on ME getting and being healthy.  As I signed the contract authorizing electronic debit from my checking account for the $24 monthly fee (which included towel service.  That way I could shower and use THEIR hot water, right?  I'm cheap, not dumb) the 'Fitness Associate'  assured me I needed to buy the training sessions offered so I could work with a personal trainer.  I explained if I did that, I would have to go back to work right away and wouldn't be able to develop the discipline I would need to do this Every. Single. Day.  He countered saying if I didn't hire a trainer, I'd never make my fitness goals.  That was it!  The challenge was on!

Every morning thereafter, I dropped my son at school and drove, without thinking most days, right to the gym.  Ten minutes on the elliptical became 30, five minutes rowing became 35.  I was on a roll.  But then the day came.  A bee-you-tee-ful trainer stopped me in the ladies dressing room.  She wanted to tell me that she'd been watching me and could tell I'd lost weight.  Yay!  Such encouragement!

Finally, after 16 months, months when I would gain or not lose an ounce for weeks at a time, I reached my goal weight.  I even dropped below goal, settling 50 pounds lighter than when I'd walked in the doors at WeightWatchers and the gym.  My WW Leader asked me what had kept me going throughout the past year-plus of scale struggles.  I explained to the group that on the day before he'd died, my daddy had taken my hand and said, "Kathleen, you've lost weight."  "oh, Daddy," I countered, "it's only four pounds."  "You look good, Kathy, keep it up." That kept me going, knowing my daddy was pleased.  (I'm crying as I recall that conversation.  When I shared it with the group at WW, few eyes there were dry, either.)

I stopped at my former workplace one day just after reaching goal and was preening before my former co-workers.  One of them, actually, the manager who had hired me, smirked and said, "well, let's see you keep it off." 

One would think that would have been life-long motivation - but it wasn't.  Slowly, ever-so-stealthily, the pounds crept back until I found myself, following a broken shoulder in March 2012 and a broken hip in November, within 25 pounds of that terrible number I'd not seen since 2001. 

It's no easier this time.  Especially as I'm not yet allowed any impact activities.  (I'm allowed to walk but pain prevents more than 30 minutes at a time.)  I wondered whether to share this effort with anyone.  Maybe no one noticed I'd gained 25 pounds?  But I shared.  I told Art after the first week when I'd lost a half-pound.  I shared with a girlfriend last night that, over two weeks, I'd lost 1.8 pounds.  She did a little applause thing.  (Thanks, Camille.)  Officially, I'm on the way back.  And when I can resume running next month weight loss will be faster.  You'll see less of me next week!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolutions

Are you a resolver?  Do  you spend the days leading up to December 31 planning your resolutions for the new year?  Do you find yourself saying similar things every year?  "This year, I'm going to give up drinking...water, that is."  "This year, I'm going to go to the gym EVERY SINGLE DAY...for a week so I can say exercise doesn't work for me."  "This year, I'm going to consume only plant-based, organically grown foods...bearing in mind wine, whiskey and tobacco are plant-based and I'm sure they're organically grown."

Typically, I join the 'resolvers', those who clog the machines at the gym the first few weeks of January.  Ordinarily I'd be saying, "THIS year, I'm actually going to lose (and not find) the weight I have found (again) over the past 12 years."  But not this year.  I was watching a woman the other day and caught her in the midst of an obvious portion of her daily routine.  Under most circumstances her countenance would have just bugged me.  As she comopleted the task at hand she wore on her face a little half-smile.  Why would a half-smile bug me so unreasonably?  I couldn't figure that one out.  Then I realized I was probably envious.  Not of what she had or how she looked, but I was envious of her decision to smile.  For I see the smile on our faces to be largely  a product of the decision to find joy - or peace - in the daily-ness of life.

So often I find my brow furrowed not out of worry or pain but - dare I say it? - habit?  Why is it so much easier to appear downcast or sour than joyful?  We all know that it requires more muscles to frown than to smile (43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile) but why does a frown come more readily for so many of us, well, for me at least? 

We are never told by God that He wants us to 'be happy'.  Instead we are commanded to 'be joyful always:' (1Thessalonians 2.20)  That's a tough order for me.  But that's my resolution for 2013; to be more JOYFUL.  To find the JOY in an afternoon with the grandkids.  (Well, that was easy.  Maybe this joy thing isn't that difficult.)  To find JOY in a moment (or 30) sitting in traffic, viewing it as a chance to simply sit.  To find JOY in the fact that I can arise from my bed each and every day without help, (for there was a time last spring after breaking my shoulder when I couldn't get out of bed under my own steam, I needed Art to push me from behind.  Sigh.  Those were tough days.) To find JOY in yet another day, (yes, even a day of rain!)

So, if you see me on the street (and I'll be running again by month's end - yay!) and notice a smile on my face, know I'm just choosing to be JOYful.

EnJOY!