Things I'm Thankful For

Harvest Moon

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In no particular order:

1) Confectioner’s sugar

2) A new book

3) Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

4) The smell of burning wood in a fireplace

5) The sight (and song) of a “Harvest Moon

and of course, family, friends, my dog, sunshine, the first crocus, milk chocolate, my own banana bread, deviled eggs and laughter.

When I'm Happiest

Oven roasted chicken

You Can Get Used To Anything

This would have been the easiest question in the world to answer if it was 3 months ago. I am not sure I have felt happy in a long time. Weather wise, I am happiest in the Spring with the kiss of summer almost upon us. The old, brown down jacket gets put away in the closet along with the gloves and the boots and I see the first purple crocus pop out from the thin layer of white snow.

I’d be happier if we were back in our home, making a simple dinner of roasted chicken, potatoes, a fresh green salad with arugula, lettuce, craisins, tomatoes, English cucumbers, broccoli and green apple, all tossed together like a three-ring circus. There would be a loaf of whole wheat French or Italian bread waiting to warm in the oven, banana bread and brownies for dessert and we would all talk about our day.

It’s going to take a long time before that happens since we are unable to live in our house; it has been so destroyed with wood rot and carpenter ants and termites that the entire house has to be rebuilt.(Oh, and of course, insurance won’t pay for a thing.)

I would have to say that I am happiest when I am in my own home, in my small, cozy nest. A home that means, family, safety, nurturing, love, books, freedom and familiarity, my favorite television shows and my dog snoozing and drooling on the bed next to me.

While we are already empty-nesters with one child, next year both kids will be in college. I wonder if the house will still feel like the same home it did before.

I have adjusted to not being home although it is not easy but I am trying now to just look forward to our new, old house with a new bathtub that has jets (hopefully) to easy my Fibromyalgia pain. Change is not something to fear anymore, you can get used to everything. It just makes you appreciate what you had when you don’t have it anymore.

Why did this have to happen? I have no idea, I’m trying to figure that out now. Maybe the lesson is that there are things in life that will always shake us up: go ride the rough waves as best you can instead of staying in the still of the shallow waters.

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The Sweet Scent Of A Perfect Peach

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower). Taken at garden...

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In my imagination I think we would be friends if only we lived closer together. I would give her, and only her, the true secret ingredient to my super moist banana chip/raisin bread. Her mouth would smile widely and crumbs would spill happily from her mouth as she ate it with delight; her big doe eyes would nod in agreement. I can’t compete with her cooking of course, she was born baking and cooking but there is no competition between friends. We laugh together at my lack of cooking skills and she constantly admonishes me and tells me she will force me to learn. Knowing her, I have a feeling, she will make me follow through.

On the side of her house I imagine her large garden where she picks her own deep, red  tomatoes from the vine and takes a big bite of one warmed by the sun. She has sunflowers, big tall, brown, vibrant orange and yellow, about fifty of them, near the rows of green peas and lettuce and carrots hiding in the moist soil. Next to them, sweet butter corn  grows tall and stretches to the sun like a morning yoga pose. Wildflowers grow nearby, purple, yellow, pink, white and the blue of a delicate robin’s egg. There are so many vibrant and intense colors in her garden, it’s like staring at a painting by Matisse.

I’ve never had the actual opportunity to meet an idol, someone I’ve cherished since I was a teenager, but I came close, by association, a few weeks ago. I spoke with her warm and friendly assistant and it was such a pleasure. Melissa, her assistant, told me something I will always remember. “She liked your writing and wants you in HER group.”  That lifted my spirits for days. While I could not go to the current workshop she was holding I hope one day to meet her and attend a different workshop.

I read her first book about one hundred times; a book that still sits on my living room shelf now,  forty years later. I share my house with my husband, a son who is soon off to college for the first time, a daughter who will now be a senior in high school and a nine-year old adopted shelter dog named Callie who is sleeping on top of my feet. That first book has been carted from my parents’ apartment to college to every city I have lived in.  We grew up together, she and I, for a forty-year time period, she just didn’t know me.

There’s no doubt in my mind, from her first magazine article in the New York Times that she would grow up to be an amazingly talented, gifted writer. True to herself and her family and friends. She grew as a writer and as a person, I wonder if people expected her to stay nineteen and if that was hard for her? We all change and grow, make mistakes, learn; stagnant is boring.

I think she would be warm and funny, intense about her work and friendly, she probably just baked apple muffins with a crumb topping and served it with sun tea. There’s a colorful tiled table that holds chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies that she whipped up in a spare hour;  sharp, white cheddar cheese and crispy pita chips would be nearby. Family and friends are always invited to her kitchen; there are always people and animals nearby.

I imagine sitting on a large white patio, rocking slowly on our rocking chairs and exchanging whispered secrets and watching the red sunset fall slowly into the water to form three lines of color, orange, dark green, ultimately black. I remember when my family and I used to go to Cape Cod, when our kids were much younger, at every sunset we would sit on the sand, other people around us, and we would wait for the sun to set. When it did, everyone clapped. That is my idea of heaven, living near the ocean, watching the sunset with strangers sharing stories, listening to Reggae music provided for free. Sitting still in front of nature as if we were in a theater waiting for the curtain to rise.

At night, in my imagination, we would creep down the stairs and meet in the kitchen unplanned. We would burst into giggles when we found out we were there for the very same thing.  I always snack after I am supposed to be asleep and I eyed a bowl of ripe peaches on a small, round table that she had recently repainted in pink-rose paint. That first bite of that juicy peach would make me happy, so happy I  can’t even describe it. This peach, this wonderful gift from nature was just perfect. It was ripe, juicy, sweet and had a silken texture. The juice rolled down my chin and I groaned with every bite of happiness. It was the sweet scent of a perfect peach with my new friend, laughing into the dark night.

Dedicated to Joyce Maynard and Melissa

Turkey Time

turkey sandwich from Thanksgiving leftovers

Image by kthread via Flickr

After Thanksgiving……Yummy!

We had Thanksgiving at our house this year so yes, I like turkey but when I am hosting Thanksgiving I find I am too busy to eat a lot.  After the guests left at around 7:30 I couldn’t wait to have my “real dinner.”  I had a mountain of turkey (c0ld), a little mayonnaise, cranberry sauce…..heavenly. Today, I am looking forward to it again, the chestnut, apple, raisin stuffing that my husband made, the leftover mashed potatoes, even the arugula salad. After Thanksgiving I love turkey leftovers and all the trimmings even more. A thick turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce makes me drool in anticipation. No meal would be complete without dessert(s): chocolate cake with amazing fudge-like frosting, apple-pie with a super, rich flaky crust, iced poppy-seed buns, gingerbread and banana bread with chocolate chips and raisins, Florentine cookies…..and more. I can’t wait another minute!

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An Honest Thanksgiving

Tender, juicy roast turkey - the main attracti...

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It will be Thanksgiving in just a few days. While we all are looking forward to moist turkey and my husband’s famous stuffing made with mushrooms and apples, raisins and water chestnuts, I have a small request. Please be kind and sensitive to one another. I don’t worry about what things will taste like; I know they will all be delicious. The only thing I worry about, quite honestly, is drama. Holidays can bring up all sorts of feelings: loss, bereavement, jealousy, resentment, sadness, and despair. Old wounds start to feel new, grievances and perceived injustices start to bubble to the surface. Before we dig in to the mashed potatoes my mother made (cough, cough, bought from a restaurant), and cranberry sauce let us think about each other first. During dessert let us try to rejoice in each others’ company instead of waiting for the air to get thick with tension as dense as brown gravy.

This year, for the first year I have actually mentioned to several members of the family that I am asking for a “drama-free” Thanksgiving. I have chronic pain, my husband has been feeling sad because of  lack of work, please try to remember this.  Work  alongside us, tell us things will be alright eventually. Life is not perfect but Thanksgiving should be about what we are grateful for, not what we lack.

I don’t want to hear sullen complaints about the food or the appetizers and I’m happy to cook and clean, taste, stir, serve and clean-up. I will not be happy with arguments, whispered secrets said too loudly and explosive outbursts. Please just leave your coats and any agendas at the door and please, please think before you speak. Be courteous to everyone else. Don’t brag, insult, or be insensitive to other people’s needs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends. May it be peaceful, filled with great warmth, love, gratitude and great food. I am thankful for all of you.  Now, let us eat.

The Tin Man Known As Me

The Wizard of Oz - March 17, 2008 - Act I_180

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I am in a world by myself  of chronic pain, fibromyalgia and thyroid disease, yet I coexist with many friends. Friends that have similar ailments, some have the same, others that defy diagnoses but the symptoms define them. I have learned we are more than the sum of our symptoms but I have not yet learned exactly how to deal with it emotionally.

There don’t seem to be medications that  I can take (or haven’t been told about) by the myriad of doctors that I go to help relieve my pain.  First stop, the Rheumatologist for my autoimmune thyroid disease known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and for Fibromyalgia. After that, to the Endocrinologist for thyroid levels. My Internist, the Pulmonologist, the Opthamologist to check for narrow-angled glaucoma. I have seen more “ologists” than a healthy eighty-five year old person and I am not complaining for a second; these are the facts.

If people ask me how I feel, I am at a loss to describe the symptoms. The latest comparison I can make is The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, without the oil can. I am stiff, I hurt, I move at a slow pace. It is very hard for me to get in a car and get out, these are not smooth actions, often I am holding on and heaving myself up; sometimes once is not enough.  I have balance issues too. I keep trying new medications but haven’t taken one yet that truly works. These are immunosuppressant drugs that are supposed to help relieve the muscle pain and aches I feel all the time, the operative words are “supposed to.” They also take eight long weeks before they kick in…..I wait a lot.

Tomorrow, to “get me back on track” before starting the newest of medications that I don’t even have yet, I am supposed to take Prednisone, 3 days of 30 mg, 3 days of 20 mg, 3 days of 10 mg. I have been on Prednisone before and I have mixed feelings about it. While I had no bad side effects before, there is always that risk. The emotional risk, to me, is even harder. I felt SO GOOD on Prednisone when I needed it last year that when I started lowering the dosage, I actually broke down and cried. In a previous blog I referred to it as if I was in the old movie “Cocoon” where older people feel young again from a miracle and then suddenly a short time later they are themselves again, old, aching, and hurting badly.

Tonight I feel anxious, tired, discouraged and down. I think once I am able to sleep, I will sleep deeply. It is always a game: whether to nap or work through it. Today, I was determined to stay awake. I am  deeply worried about a friend who is very, very sick with cancer. I was too upset to nap so I decided to push through the pain and get busy.  I got myself out of the bedroom and went to the kitchen to bake home-made banana bread for my family. Mushy bananas, a little vanilla, some chocolate chips, some raisins and the basics, to occupy my mind, my hands, and most importantly, my heart.

“Master Chef” and FOOD Shows

Gordon Ramsey

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Last night, after watching Master Chef on Hulu, I dreamt that I had sex with Gordon Ramsey (or was about to). Really, I don’t know why but he was all loving and tentative and whispering sweet things into my neck and not yelling at me at all. Let’s set the record straight, the Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen would not be invited to my bed, lips, house, town, ever. Master Chef, Gordon Ramsey, was sweet and nurturing, tentative and very thoughtful. I was kind of disappointed when I woke up (no offense to my real life husband).

I have become more and more addicted to the Food shows on television. It started out just with the Food Network but I have branched out with Bravo, Discovery and The Cooking Channel or Food Channel, whatever it is called. I would like to star in Food 101, a show for us real people who have trouble making meatballs but we love to eat; except for odd things like goat and escargot and sushi, and rabbit.  I can still remember the time I tried a tiny piece of goat and gagged. I enjoy lobster in a restaurant but cannot kill one. The one time my husband bought lobster, I went upstairs. I refused to watch him drop the poor lobster in boiling water and I thought that if I didn’t see it I could eat it. Couldn’t do it, the kitchen smelled like the beach and I ate a cream cheese and jelly sandwich, quite happily,  upstairs in our bedroom, alone.

As many of you know, I have a love-hate relationship with Adam Richman host of Man vs. Food and some other show with Pig Out in the title. I would share a SMALL sandwich with him but he will not be in my dreams.  Top Chef, with  Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio is another kind of fantasy. In this fantasy, I become Padma, I am Padma. I want to look like her, dress like her, basically I want to become her.

I am tired of cupcakes, I can’t stand the sight of another one so Cupcake Wars, which was a slight favorite at one point in my life is gone from my viewing schedule. All those 9,ooo pretty, silly cupcakes; I know I’m exaggerating but it’s getting annoying. The trend is really just about over, stop the cupcakes, turn off the oven, man up and eat a damn slice of cake or two.

The other show that I have turned people on to is Cake Boss. I want to BE a part of their family. No, seriously, I mean it. I love Buddy, his mother, his sisters, his wife, his guys in the kitchen, his bakery. Not only do I want to go there and buy one of everything but I would like to be invited to dinner every Sunday. Seriously. What a lovely man and a great family, sigh. I would NEVER fantasize about Buddy, because he would be like a brother to me, the brother I always wanted.

I was addicted to The Ace of Cakes but as much as I wanted to party at their place (because it always looks like a lot of fun at Duff’s bakery) I got bored with the introduction to the show, the cackling laugh, the same ‘ol, same ‘ol (just my opinion, ladies and gentlemen) and basically tired of the same, fantasy cakes: an airplane, a dog, baseball stadium, fire-crackers and way too much celebrity time. I think I really liked this show when it first started. Would I hang out with Duff and Mary Ellen? Anytime. Watch the show again? Not so much.

Some of you may be thinking that I watch too much television. You’re probably right although most are DVD’d. I spend a good amount of time in bed with a chronic illness so these shows, to me, are upbeat and entertaining, not to mention I love to eat. I’m a foodie, I am just not a great cook (okay, not even a good cook). I make a mean Banana Bread though, but make sure you don’t tell Bobby Flay.

Love Food Shows, Hate To Cook: What’s Up With That?

Dear Food Network and Bravo:

Can I consider myself a foodie if I don’t like to cook? In fact, I pretty much hate it. But watching it on television? I’m an addict. I guess the fact that I obsess about food, look forward to it, think about it, crave, it entitles me to be a non-cooking foodie. I think that I may be inspired one day to try real cooking; but not right now. I can get by on cooking meals for my family but it’s the basic stuff. Pasta and home-made cheese sauce (Ok, almost home-made: I confess I use Kraft American slices, individually wrapped.)I also bake the best and the most delicious banana bread in the world (plain, with raisins, chocolate chips or both). I can do a roast and I’m definitely fine with sticking a chicken (with kosher salt and pepper)  and a couple of squeezes of fresh lemon, in the oven. Baked potatoes? Anytime. My new favorite: a well-toasted english muffin with lite cream cheese and slices of tomato and a hint of salt and pepper. My beverage of choice with this? Need you ask? Yoo-Hoo, cold or room temperature.

I need to work for the FOOD NETWORK  OR BRAVO FOOD) station. Anybody here have any connections? I’m very likable, love to eat (although I have to say I might gag if I had to eat some of the things that they make on the show, octopus and goat, I can barely do lamb). But, for a job working, preparing, serving, ANYTHING with food I would (have to) be flexible. Seriously?  I am the most conscientious worker you ever have known. I’m neurotically early so if you wanted me there at 9am, guaranteed you would see my smiling face at 8:45am. Having grown up with a German mom and a Viennese dad, they taught us about punctuality. Being on time, in my family, is being LATE.  When we get together we all are 10-15 minutes early; it’s in our neurotic, eager to please, Jewish blood.

So, Padma, Tom, Bob, Eric?  Dick, Jane, Sally? Bobby, Bob, Paula Deen?  I want to do something I love, other than writing. That thing, is food. I could be a tester, a taster, a candle stick maker, whatever you want. I need a job and Oprah always said “do what you love.” You don’t doubt Oprah, do you? That reminds me, dear Oprah, I need a hook-up, with the Food Network or Bravo, can you help?