Good-Bye 2010; I Won’t Miss You.

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I know it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m supposed to have some quirky, funny wrap up of the year we have almost left but I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. I can’t wrap up this last depressing year into a neatly wrapped Christmas present tied with a big, red sparkling bow. This last year has been horrible and I can’t wait to see it leave us alone and go away. I don’t care about the Times Square ball dropping and the countdown. Nothing says partying to me more than having two cups of non-alcoholic eggnog, a few Ghiradelli dark chocolate brownies, slipping into my monkey night-shirt and deeply sleeping through the transition of one year to the next.

I admit that I was never much of a party girl for New Year’s Eve before but I do have a legitimate reason not to feel festive these days. My dad died on New Year’s Eve ten years ago. I can’t remember what I had for lunch today but I can’t forget that my mom called me on the phone ten years ago at 10:20pm and told me bluntly “it’s over.” At first I really didn’t understand what she meant. I can’t forget the look of my eight -year- old son screaming “NOOOOO” and  the innocent look in my six-year-old daughter’s bright blue eyes. I remember my husband storming into the room as I started wailing and rocking back and forth, for a very long time, sobbing and holding on to myself and to him. The next thing I remember I was in the fetal position on the bed, moaning.

Mornings after that were the worst for me. I hated waking up each morning, knowing that something was terribly wrong and needing a minute to remember what it was. That in-between state of dreaming and awake was like cruel punishment.  I had a husband, two young children and a puppy that needed me, that saved me and I needed them even more.

In the last few weeks I have felt the best in my life and the worst. My heart has been open and trusting and giving and it has been crushed, cruelly like a sharp ice pick  through young, vulnerable skin. I can see the blood dripping on the beautiful untouched, glittering snow but I can’t believe it. I don’t know what’s real and what’s fake these days.

I’ve grown-up quite a bit this year and I have made amazing progress about boundaries with my extended family. I am no longer the public defender, I have stepped down from that role. I will only comment on what happens between me and another person and everyone else is on their own. For me, this is huge.

Once in a while you take a step forward and then you stumble backwards, sometimes falling straight down to the black ice and breaking bones, sometimes lucky enough to catch an extended, sturdy, warm hand and walk away. It’s all we can ask for. Hope, Trust, Friendship, Love and Health. This is my wish for you.

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Plinky Prompt: What Do You Do When You Are Snowed In?

Snowed In

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SOMETIMES DOING NOTHING IS REALLY, REALLY NICE.

We were snowed in last week and with 20 inches of snow and nowhere to go I entertained myself by listening to music, writing, reading and eating. Maybe food doesn’t count because we always eat but isn’t it such a great excuse when you are snowed in?! I made brownies (excuse: because we are snowed in), I ordered pizza (because we are snowed in), I watched stupid television shows (again, because we are snowed in) and I made some phone calls….(because we are, you know the rest). Being snowed in isn’t really bad at all if it’s just for a day or two. I relaxed in front of our fireplace drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream, I cradled my 8-year-old mutt and didn’t concentrate or worry about anything. How do you spell “snowed in?” I spell it PEACEFUL.

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What My Home Says About Me (A Plinky Prompt)

Brownies stacked on a plate.

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Home SWEET Home

When my dad was alive he bought me a candle every Christmas. I still buy a candle when I see one that I love. We have a fireplace in the living room and on the mantel above it there are photographs of my husband and me, our two children and one of our dog.The house is cozy (real estate term for small) and “lived in” (a nicer word for a bit cluttered). There are books all over the house; books are my one addiction. The house smells like coffee in the morning, strong and rich. After meals, the house smells sweet like cookies and chocolate and vanilla. Right now I am going down to bake some chocolate chip brownies. Welcome to our home, please come and join us.

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Forecast: Snow And Pain

Ground blizzard conditions in Ontario. HWY 26 ...

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I never wanted to be a weather forecaster but I have found if I listen to my body, I truly, can predict the weather. This is not a fun job for me; nor is it a fun job for any people who have Fibromyalgia or another chronic pain disease. There’s a blizzard going on in the Northeast and before I heard about it, I felt it. I felt it in my tired and achy bones and muscles. I couldn’t stand up from a seated position without a lot of pain. I needed to hold on to someone’s hand because I felt off-balance. Some experts say it’s related to the barometric pressure changing. My degree in weather forecasting is not that advanced.

My bones, muscles and body hurt enough as it is. Today, my back and shoulders  and legs are aching and cramping horribly. I am having trouble getting up, sitting down, walking (shuffling) while holding on to the railing in my house for the stairs, one step at a time. I also have the infamous Fibro (Fibromyalgia) Fog that causes me to lose my train of thought or forget something that someone just told me ten minutes ago. It’s bad enough that it’s painful but feeling embarrassed and humiliated is another blog post altogether. I do not understand this mystifying illness; that said, it is hard to expect others to understand it as well.

We’re in the middle of a snow, blizzard emergency now.  I am praying for the electricity and power to stay on so we have heat all night. I’m piling on the blankets, flashlight at my side, candle at the ready….just in case.  It may look pretty outside with snow drifts and the sheets of snow coming down sideways in the light of our windows but it doesn’t feel pretty. It feels horrible, it’s like clenching your teeth in every body part. My neck is stiff and constricted, my shoulders are tight, I feel like the Tin Man of the Wizard of Oz but there is no oil to relieve my pain. I hope for continued heat for all my friends but especially my Fibromyalgia friends because we really know what COLD feels like.

Stay warm my friends, we’ll all get through this together. Huddle under extra blankets and lie still. There will be hot coffee in the morning or English Breakfast Tea with milk and sugar. It’s just the beginning of winter; we have a very long way to go.

Thank You, Erica

Candlelit Table for One

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I am not a paid restaurant reviewer so I am writing about my love of eating good food (not making it.)  I also have great admiration for those who cook incredibly well. Our friends, Mike and Erica, hosted a reunion a few weeks ago and old friends from the East Coast and the West Coast gathered together.  Erica made a divine appetizer of stuffed mushrooms based on Ina Garten’s recipe. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten and this is NOT the Food or Cooking Channel. We ate those amazing stuffed mushrooms with our eager fingers and never have I eaten such different tastes and textures in one appetizer. The sausage, olive oil, cheese, bread crumbs and mushroom appetizer combined with seeing old friends, talking, hugging and laughing, was a highlight of 2010 for me.

It felt like the kitchen scene from the movie, The Big Chill,  except no one died (although one person did leave the dinner table, head to the living room, wrapped himself up in a blanket, appropriated two pillows and apparently fell asleep on the couch for 3 hours.) I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Presently I fantasize about eating my favorite things in an expensive restaurant.  My husband and I would be seated inside a small dining room near a beautiful fireplace. A small bouquet of red and purple flowers sit prettily on the thickly starched white tablecloth where a soft candle would be burning.

To start, I would have jumbo prawns with cocktail sauce and a wedge of lemon (that had a paper coverlet on it to protect it from seeds.) In some circles the prawns would be the delicacy but in our family we have named the shrimp as the vehicle to which we get to eat the cocktail sauce. Another example of this would be that lobster is the vehicle to get to the melted butter sauce. You get the idea.

After that I would order a salad made with a lemon/olive oil, vinagrette salad dressing (the words truffle and champagne could be added although I don’t know exactly what they do.) Ripe cherry tomatoes, julienned carrots, red cabbage, and chopped parsley and chives would be on top. I love adding sweetness to things so for me, some craisins would be tossed in there as well.

The table is laden with “everything” flat crackers and warm, soft, dinner rolls with butter, room temperature (I hate hard, freezing cold butter)  shaped like sea shells. My entrée would either be the outstanding chateaubriand, like it is prepared at the  restaurant X2O or the divine filet mignon served at the Crabtree Kittle House, both amazing restaurants are located in New York. Rice pilaf or mashed potatoes would work nicely with this meal, but nothing fried and undignified as french fries and ketchup (those go with cheeseburgers only.)  Grilled brussel sprouts paired with a hint of maple syrup glaze and slivered almonds would be our vegetable.

Blood orange or lemon sorbet served in martini glass would be our palate cleanser. It would be served to help settle our wonderful meal and to leave room (not that this has ever been a problem for me) for dessert.  I am a sugar junkie and I like a variety of things so because it is my fantasy I am picking two desserts: a fresh fruit tart served in a marzipan shortbread crust with vanilla custard and a fluffy (never flourless) milk and dark chocolate mousse cake with real vanilla bean ice cream.

Thanks for joining me in my food fantasy. Here’s to 2011, with good friends and great food.  Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy and delicious New Year.

poor sad little girl

Sadness

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my heart aches for someone i have never met. poor sad little girl is in a hospital and i didn’t even know it, she never told me. little clues started appearing that didn’t make sense and she finally said “i guess i’m good at hiding things well.” i do not know this person yet i feel so sad for her, with her.

it’s nearly christmas and the new year and i wish poor sad little girl had a place to go to, or something to look forward to. i asked her to think of one teeny tiny thing that makes her happy, a book, person, or a television show, a food or a thought and she said she would have to think about it and would get back to me. that is heartbreaking; poor sad little girl should be able to say one thing at least that brings her even a tiny bit of happiness but she can’t and i understand that, i do. my life is far from perfect but i could in a minute mention silly things like eating multi-grain toast with butter, honey and cheddar cheese or the smell of a mug of jasmine tea or i could say that my husband and two kids and my dog make me happy but i was hoping she could find something all i wanted was for her to mention one thing but she couldn’t come up with one right away and she probably can’t but she will one day soon i hope.

i want to nurture everyone, save them, make them happier, it is just part of my personality and it comes naturally to me? perhaps it is because i am a libra or because i am intuitive and sensitive. sensitivity is not necessarily a good thing really. you feel things strongly but you don’t just necessarily pick up on other people’s feelings you feel them too. too much so that it ends up affecting your own life and you need to find a delicate balance and shake yourself back to your own reality and know that there is a difference.

don’t give up poor sad little girl, and all the sad little girls out there, don’t ever give up and please try to remember that things will get better, really they will. there are people who love you and  each of you have a purpose in this life just sometimes we all get lost a little bit and we need to find our own way. and i know that you can and that you will, just hang on tightly all of you.

poor sad little girl, i am glad this year will end in a few days time. and i wish, like magic, that you wake up in the year 2011 with twinkling eyes and soft white hands and at first a tentative smile but then a broad smile like a slice of fresh pink watermelon.

this is my prayer.

DEDICATED TO MY SWEET GIRL, ALI and for all the Ali’s in the world. Love, “MUM”

The World Just Changes A Little Bit

Burning match (cerilla ardiendo)

Image by John C. Shaw via Flickr

I just received news from my sister that her friend Allison passed away last night. I knew Allison but had only met her once or twice. She was a very warm and charming woman who was my sister’s neighbor. She leaves behind her husband and a daughter, the age of my nephew, Jon, 21. She died of breast cancer.

I have a friend that lives around the corner who is also dying of cancer. She too had breast cancer and then brain cancer. We don’t ask questions, they are a very private family. No matter what her condition is she tries to attend, her children’s basketball games or important events. She doesn’t care about being seen in a wheelchair or weighing barely 90 pounds or the fact that her mouth dragged down and over to the side, why should she? She is one of the best moms I have ever met. She will be with her three children as long as a single breath is left in her body.

Two years ago, when she was still able to walk, unassisted, my neighbor and I would each run to our windows to keep track of her. If we saw her walking alone, one of us would crush our feet into sneakers and pretend that we had walked too, and join her to keep her company. She wouldn’t ask for help, but we knew that we couldn’t let our friend walk unsteadily alone. She refused to use a cane; but she was happy for the company; we were happy to see her.

If we made “extra” food for our families, we would simply drop platters of freshly roasted chicken, baked ziti and meatballs at her door with a loaf of warm french bread or a tray of fudge brownies. When she could only drink liquids my new specialties became soup; peach soup in the summer, chicken soup in the fall. They never asked for meals but they always welcomed it. We would call before we brought a meal over and ask if it was a convenient time; sometimes we left it on the wooden bench near the door. We never saw our friend on these visits; we didn’t have to.

My best friend from high school, Paula, had breast cancer and finally now, after about 6 or more hospitalizations, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, infections and reconstructive surgery, she is trying to heal. It has been a long road for her. Another friend, Margie, with thyroid cancer, said she doesn’t think about celebrating her five-year anniversary of being cancer free; her oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering said that “once you have cancer, you are never cancer free.” I don’t want to believe that but it is sobering.

I am sorry for my friends, I worry in advance for all the important women in my life. I am grateful for every healthy minute of our lives, and I understand how fragile and unpredictable life is. I am incredibly grateful. The world changes a bit, doesn’t it, when another person dies, when a soul leaves the body. It’s like a candle or a match, one after another, forcibly being blown out while it is still burning bright. It seems that their lives are extinguished way too early, too violently and too harshly. Snuffed, taken away, burnt, dead. “I knew she was going to die” my sister said sadly to me” but somehow it isn’t the same until it really happens.”

Dedicated to all cancer survivors and those we lost who live on in our hearts.

“The Best Thing I Ever Ate” (Food Network-Holiday Edition)

Egg Nog Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

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It’s holiday time and what would the holidays be like without “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” Holiday Edition, on the Food Network. I’ve rounded up some of the holiday favorites that were talked about on the show by various talented chefs.

For one chef, it was spaghetti with seafood and bread crumbs, (clams and mussels, squid, shrimp, sea urchin.)  Another chef”s favorite were butter tarts, starting with a mini pie crust (baked in muffin tins) butter, raisins, and  brown sugar, I think I am drooling.  For another chef it was beet and carrot latkes for Hannukah. As one of the chefs said ” Hannukah has oil,  Cristmas has butter.”  I never knew that there could be non-potato latkes but I would try them if someone made them for me; I can’t promise that my children would. A rack of pork, pork loin roast with ribs, (don’t forget to brine the pork if you know what that means) and add some herbs and honey and serve with a  compote made of apples and pears, mustard and a pinch of cayenne pepper. It looked delicious but everything looks delicious on television.

Another sworn favorite: the seafood cobb salad featured at Nordstrom’s. Yes, the department store. I’m sure its absolutely delicious but the “best thing you ever ate?”  I will have to take a trip to Nordstroms, AFTER the holidays. My opinion only but it’s a salad! Nevertheless, to each, his own. The next favorite first made me groan and then grin. It was a pannini, made in Nashville. I believe  it was called “The Elvis,” but don’t quote me on that. Bacon, peanut butter, banana, parsley and honey, served grilled on sour dough bread. At first it didn’t sound appetizing to me, but it sounds just nutty enough ( pun intended) to be amazing. Apparently the key ingredient is the parsley, who knew?

Duck ragout with home-made pasta, saffron, and a duck egg, is another chef’s favorite and one more: Indian pudding, served warm, using cornmeal instead of flour, molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg and served with vanilla ice cream. I can practically smell the molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg right here at my computer.

My favorite holiday tradition are the foods that bring back happy memories. They are not my favorite foods that I ever ate (look for that in an upcoming blog) but they are steeped in tradition. In our family, Christmas morning begins with scrambled eggs (we fight about how they are made each year, some wanting itsy-bitsy specks of eggs, constantly stirred, others ( like me) prefer the smooth, velvety mounds. Bacon, again, some like it half-cooked and others like it practically burnt. I think the annual arguing, not fighting, is part of the entertainment and a ritual in itself. After the eggs and bacon comes the highlight of every Christmas: Pillsbury’s refrigerated cinnamon rolls, with sweet sugary icing that comes attached in a little plastic cup.

Many years ago, when my sister and I were young, our parents frosted the cinnamon buns. I remember when our parents allowed us to take over. A few years ago (oh dear, it’s probably ten years by now) we passed the tradition down to our kids, “the cousins.” Whether its pork belly or barbeque, waffles or Peking duck,  food and tradition bring families together. For us, the cinnamon rolls and icing are key, not because they are our favorite food but it’s what we remember, together, with great love and fondness, as a family.

The Joy Of A Lovely Cup Of Tea

It's Teatime!

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I’ve always been an avid coffee drinker, super Starbucks strength. I have a cup of strong coffee every morning, without fail, made the same exact way, with Fat Free Half and Half and one packet of Truvia. I’m hooked on coffee in the morning but only drink that one cup a day, which I am sure is equivalent to 3 cups of coffee if made by anyone else.

Why is that you can have a “good” cup of coffee but a “nice” cup of tea?  The only time I used to drink tea was when I had a stomach ache and then I would begrudgingly drag out the tea tin. Stomach ache = peppermint tea. A cold= Lipton tea with lemon juice and sugar or honey. That was it. I never enjoyed it, it was like a prescription for an illness or ache.

Just recently my son received a goody box from England filled with all types of delicious Cadbury chocolate and a small plastic bag with tea. He offered me the te so I decided to try it and made myself a cup. It was strong, earthy, bold. I didn’t use milk, or honey or sugar. I sipped it with delight. After that, I dove in the cupboard and reached all the way in to the back shelf to get the old container of tea which housed my own collection. I was pleased to find that I had an assortment of tea:  Lipton, Peppermint, Lemon, Orange Pekoe, Chai, Chamomile, Green and Black tea, Sleepytime tea and my new personal favorite, Jasmine tea. The scent alone of Jasmine tea is enough to ensure a great, big, smile of relaxation and a deep, soothing breath.

I find coffee drinking a sociable act but a cup of tea for me in the afternoon is quite solitary yet peaceful. It has become my new afternoon ritual. It gives me the opportunity to gather the day’s events together and gives me time to rethink and relax before  making dinner.

I still  use the one of the same mugs I use for coffee  but it doesn’t feel right. Tea requires a more dainty,  pretty cup. I need to buy one, a pristine, flowery tea-cup, perhaps one found in a thrift shop where I can imagine it was owned by a gracious older lady.  I drink tea differently too. While I happily slurp my morning cup of coffee, I sip tea, gently, lovingly and with more respect.

Now I have two things to look forward to each day, one in the morning when I am barely awake and one in the afternoon when I could use a break.  I sniff the scent of the tea container smelling rose, fruit,  nuttiness, a soothing peppermint. It can match my mood, it can comfort my soul.

In this world, that is scary and unpredictable, it’s comforting to have a new routine that gives me pleasure. We all need to make nice things happen for ourselves and appreciate them. I put my troubles aside, I sit down in a comfortable chair and I quietly sip my tea. It’s like sipping a little piece of meditation.