Category Archives: cooking

It’s that time of year …

not for celebrations and parties.  Not for get-togethers with good friends and people you may know.  Not shopping for bargains and gifts, not meeting up to have a good time and not for having a nice glass of wine with like-minded folks.

Well, actually, it is that time of year, but not for everyone.

For some, this time of year means eating a cold can of beans alone in an empty room without power because the electric bill wasn’t paid.  It wasn’t paid because the baby needed medication and there wasn’t enough money for medication and electricity.

For some, this time of year means standing on the street, in the cold, wearing street clothes and house slippers because there wasn’t enough money for rent and if there wasn’t enough money for rent, there certainly wasn’t enough money for a coat and shoes.

For some, this time of year brings memories that are bitter and hurtful; thoughts of years past that ran, one into the other, with no happiness or joy.

For some, this time of year means nothing.  It is simply the passing of time while watching the world go by, just like the year before and the year before that.

For some, this time of year means family, food, friends and fellowship.  It is these people who embrace the season and enjoy it as they always have, together with the people they love and are comfortable with.

But what about all the others?

Who, when they set down to their family table laden with food, surrounded by family, warm, cozy and perfect, think of those who have nothing, expect nothing and know nothing different from the emptiness they feel every year at this time?

I and many others call ourselves followers of Christ.  We say with our voices  how much we love and want to be like Jesus.

We sing praises, bless our food and continue on in the same traditions we have followed for years.  We praise Jesus and say we want to be like Him but prove time and again that we recite words we believe but don’t, deep down, mean and we fail the very Jesus we say we want to be like.

He wants us to share what we have; not just home, warmth, family, friends and food, but the very word that would bring others to love and honor Him.

Invite a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner.  Invite several strangers.

Let’s bring someone homeless to our home and make them, for one day, family.

Let’s show them that Jesus is real and that they are loved.

This time of year is our time, the Jesus follower’s time.  Our time to put our money where our mouth is.  To be hospitable, to offer shelter and food for those who are hungry and the ones the world calls outcasts.

It is our time to take in everyone, despite everything, and to show them Jesus.

If we, who claim to be the hands and feet of Jesus don’t show love to the oppressed, be certain that the evil one will.

He will entice and enchant them, then make them slaves to his depravity and hatred of all things good.

Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of beating us to the punch.  Let us be the Jesus we claim to want to follow and lead someone to Christ by being the hands and feet of the Savior.

Make no mistake –  Satan is working hard to win the souls of the lost and if we don’t work harder, he will win because he doesn’t give up if he doesn’t get a response on the first pass.

Be Jesus to the world and don’t give up just because you can find an excuse.  Having an excuse doesn’t excuse us, but overcoming excuses and finding a way to be Jesus to the world shows our true alliance.  We are with Jesus or not with Jesus.  It is as simple as that.

Everyone reading this post is welcome to Thanksgiving Dinner at my mom’s house.  You, for one day, will be our family, you will be warm and your bellies will be full.  Must love, or at least tolerate dogs, though, because our place is lousy with them!  🙂

Organization …

is not my strong suit

My desk at work is organized because I would simply fold in upon myself otherwise.  I find it difficult to focus enough to know where I am and what I am doing there, so being disorganized is not an option.

Not if I want to keep getting a steady paycheck (which is imperative to fund my real ambitions of photography, writing and travel).

My photographs are organized.

Brutally so.

With tens of thousands of photographs, literally, there must be organization or I would never be able to lay my hands on a particular photograph when I needed to.

As crazy as it may sound, when I look at an image, I remember the moment it was taken.  It is like a bionic power of some sort that allows me to pull from the brain pan recesses in perfect clarity something that happened on some obscure day in the past though I often have difficulty remembering what I ate for breakfast.

When I remember to eat breakfast, that is.

My house is not organized.

It is jumbled and chaotic, but I know where everything is.

I’m not big into “stuff”.  I have one photograph on my wall and the calendar is still on may of 2011.  To those that know me personally, this will not come as a surprise.  To the rest of you … close your mouths.  It’s not that big of a deal.

I have clothes on the floor, shoes on the floor and junk on the couch.  But my kitchen and bathroom are clean.

I rarely cook anymore, which is a shame because not only do I love to cook, I am very good at it.  That isn’t bragging, just stating the facts.  I am an excellent cook.  I just don’t do it.

But if one day the mood strikes, my kitchen is clean and my butcher knife sharp.

I think I started this whole post with organization. I’m not sure why that was even on my mind since there are only the three areas, work, photographs and kitchen that are organized.

My house, at any given time, looks as though a band of rogue monkeys swept through and had a free-for-all.

I don’t care.  If I’m ok with it, anybody who finds fault is simply a fault-finder.

If you are coming to see me, come ahead, if you are coming to see my house, make an appointment … about one year in advance.

I never understood and still don’t understand people who pretend to be what they aren’t simply to impress someone who likely wouldn’t be impressed even if you levitated while juggling flaming torches.

If being impressed by me is what someone is looking for, they will be sorely disappointed.  I live in my house and clean it when I feel like it, I wear clothes so I don’t get cold or arrested and I work so I can afford to do the things I really want to do.

Organization?  Not if I can possibly avoid it.

I’m much too busy living to worry about the small stuff.

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As the last light of the day …

ebbs behind the mountains and the now, multicolored clouds, I find myself on the back porch.

Grilling.

Making my lunch for tomorrow.

With the job I have been training for, I find that I could have Subway every day. 

One of my cherished fantasies.

But I find that, sometime over the past few years, I have become cheap.

Too cheap to buy lunch every day.

And I like grilling.  I love the smell of the smoldering charcoal.  It is even more prevalent this night as I forgot to bring it in last time and it got rained on.

Love those waterproof bags, but if enough wet gets on them, well, I don’t have to elaborate on that.

The chicken and onions are sizzling and the smell makes my mouth water.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow mostly because of my lunch break.

I feel quiet in my mind and peaceful in my spirit.

Thankful.

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My ox was in the ditch …

in this case, my “Ox” was the looming chore of cleaning out the refrigerator.  I haven’t cooked in so long, it became commonplace to buy a gallon of milk, let it go bad, buy another gallon of milk and push the bad milk to the back of the fridge.

And so it went.  For weeks.  For months.  For years. For decades.  For centuries.  Ok, so maybe I’m embellishing a bit, but not much.

There were untold gallons of undrinkable milk, containers of unusable yogurt, rancid cottage cheese, a carton of eggs that Noah may have gathered on the Ark and a few things that I wasn’t able to identify.

Sad.

Sorry.

Inexcusable.

All of the above.

This is an undertaking that has been needing, desperately, to be tackled for a long time.  A very long time.  I would feel hungry and think I might fix a bite to eat then open the refrigerator door and see that nothing had changed.  I would, again, find the task to be more daunting than I could wrap my mind around, close the door and settle for toast-chee crackers.

I performed the same ritual, again and again, with the same result.  I felt a bit guilty, but obviously not enough to actually get on with the task at hand.

Until now.

Today dawned rainy and gray and I found I had a yen to make some red sauce.  Not the “open a can and heat it up” kind, but the “from the tomatoes up” kind.  I was once very adept at homemade cooking and enjoyed it immensely.  I would like to do so again and didn’t want to smother this bright thought in my head.

Then I opened the refrigerator door.

This time, however, it wasn’t enough to settle for crackers.  I rolled up my sleeves, double bagged several industrial sized, toxic waste approved garbage bags and got to work.

It was an arduous and, as you can imagine, rather ugly scene.  I thought I was going to have to find a hired hand just to carry the heavy bags to the garbage truck, but a strong back is a terrible thing to waste.

After much scrubbing, rinsing, bleaching then scrubbing, rinsing and bleaching some more, I have found it to be a respectable appliance worthy of edible food.  It is mostly empty now, sporting only a few jars of condiments and some jalapeno peppers, but I intend to rectify that this week.

The freezer got a dose of scrubbing, too.  The sum of everything in my freezer equals half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, a pack of peanut butter Oreos, a wedge of Pecorino Romano and a bag of broccoli.

But it’s clean.

With that unseemly chore completed, I was able to get on with the fun stuff.  The tomatoes are even now simmering, along with red wine, fresh basil from my porch garden, anchovies, a garlic clove and an onion that somehow survived the prolonged neglect.

I felt the familiar thrill of making the knife dance across the cutting board while avoiding my fingers and I’m pretty sure I started humming.  I didn’t have any fresh cilantro to put in it, but I will, for next time.

It’s too early yet for the scents to make the mouth water, but in a bit of while, it will smell like glory.  My “Ox” turned out to be a blessing and I am thankful to have cleared out the cobwebs, so to speak and taken something, even if it is only red sauce, back.

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On this, the first day of 2013 …

After The Storm

I haven’t left the house other than to walk to my mom’s for some sausage balls and homemade chocolate chip cookies left over from last night’s New Year’s Eve celebration.  But not leaving the house on such a dreary, rainy, wonderful day doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished anything.  I did a lot of thinking.  I thought about taking my Christmas tree out today.  Since it was, however, so rainy, cold and dreary outside, I decided I could handle looking at the lights for one more day.  I’m going to miss that beautiful old tree when it’s gone, but nothing can go on forever and while I love the tree, I have missed the view out the window.

Besides thinking, though, I got many things in the house done.  General cleaning, straightening and taking stock of my pantry.  It seems that I have some baking soda, a few bottles of spices and a bag of flour.  Not conducive to cooking anything of any substance.  I’d like to try to get back into cooking, otherwise, I may have to break my cardinal rule and eat a hot pocket.

Besides coming to the conclusion that there is no truly edible food in my house, I’ve been getting my hiking gear oiled and cleaned, ready to get back to weekends in the mountains.  I am confident that when I see the Orthopedists in a couple of weeks, he will clear me to get back to the trails and hard places that I love to go.  I was complaining a few days ago about the belligerent 9-year old I had to wrestle into submission in order to obtain a flu swab, but I think he did me more good than harm.  I actually believe he helped put that pesky, out-of-place bone back where it belongs.  Guess I owe the brat a thank you.

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I cannot even voice how much I miss nature, the mountains, the rocks and trees, the waterfalls, the arduous climbs and the smell of the earth in every season.  So far, I have missed Winter completely, but lucky for me, Winter really only officially began a few days ago.  I long for the bare branches of the trees as they stand sentry over a barren earth, biding their time until she blooms again, bringing forth life and a different kind of beauty.  She calls to me; Mother Nature, that is.  She calls to me as the light changes, shifting over the mountains, shadows forming and dissipating almost in the same moment.  I long for the adventure of what I will find at the top of the next hill, around the next turn, behind the thunderous sound of water falling for hundreds of feet.  I dream of standing alone with nothing but the glory of nature surrounding me and find myself nearly trembling with anticipation to get back to it.

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While I have been out of commission, I have exercised at home, keeping my legs and thighs strong and ready for the hikes and climbs that I so dearly love.  Yes, in a couple of weeks, I think I will be able to stop those mind-numbingly boring, in-home routines, strap on my heavy backpack without feeling like my shoulder will detach itself from my person, grab my tripod and head out with my trusty Pentax to see what I’ve missed while I’ve been gone.  I wonder if  my favorite places have missed me as much as I’ve missed them.  I’d like to think so.

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Political correctness …

has really cramped my style.  There are things I want to know, questions I want to ask, mysteries that I want to unravel, but since the world has decided that everything is taboo, it seems that I’m not allowed to ask.  If I ask what the significance of a certain dress is for, I am frowned upon.  If I ask what the red dot on the forehead means, I am given the cold shoulder.  I don’t ask because I find it odd or disturbing; I ask because I am curious.  I really want to know.

I want to know what someone from India has for breakfast on an ordinary day.  I want to know what someone from Germany holds dear in their heart.  I want to know why and how and who.  I am curious by nature and have a hard time keeping my questions to myself, but find that more often, instead of answers, I am given silence.  Why is it that we have to be so separate.  My blood is as red as the next person’s.  My heart beats, my lungs fill with air, my eyes see, my mouth speaks.

I spent my years in elementary, middle and high school fighting cliques, trying to belong in a place where I really didn’t.  I really thought that, once I reached adulthood, those things would pass away.  There are things I want to learn, people I want to photograph and cultures I want to know more about, but I feel thwarted by a bigotry, prejudice and hatred that isn’t mine.

I know folks of different nationalities and cultures, different colors and countries, but I, because of the standards the world has set, am an outsider.  I don’t want it to be that way, but try as I might to find a way to change it, I continually find myself on the outside looking in.  I would be honored to be invited to sit at the table for a traditional African American New Year’s Day dinner.  To participate in the beauty of the preparation of an Indian wedding.  To partake in the awe of a German Christmas tree decorated with candles.  To walk in the vineyards of Italy and see the beauty that is there, learn what makes them beautiful and listen to the song that the growing vines sing.  I want to sit in an Irish Pub listening to the storytellers as they weave their magic and feel that I am a part of it all, not an outsider, not an American, not  anyone except who I am.  How satisfying it would be to sit at a long table, whether I speak the language or not, with a culture not my own and just absorb it, draw it into myself and hold it in my heart for all time.  I want to understand the color of red in the paint of Easter eggs in Russia.   I want to know what the traditional foods of Hanukkah represent, what the words to the songs they sing  mean.   I have so many questions … and no one to answer them.

I am not politically correct.  I call a spade a spade and am not afraid to speak my mind.  I only wish that there were others, ones who were willing to share, so that what I know of would be more than what I know of.  I am willing to learn if someone is willing to teach me.  I am willing to open myself to the possibilities of endless fascination, but before I can, there must be those willing to open themselves to the possibility that everyone does not harbor a heart of hate.  I am a child of God, that is true in the purest form, and as such, I want to know all there is about the world I live in.  I cannot help it.  I want to know.  I want to learn.  I want to know.  Surely, in all the world, there are others like me.  Teach me and I will learn, and as I learn, I will teach others.  Together, one at a time, we really can change the world.  Come … Let us reason together.

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A heart for all mankind … a heart for knowledge … a heart for truth

Cooking for one isn’t for everybody

Cooking for one.  There are tons of books and videos on how to cook for one.  How to make a dish so that it is sized for one person with leftovers for the following day.  Well, I have news.  When you cook for one, but have leftovers for another meal, you are cooking for two, but if calling it cooking for one with leftovers is enough for you, then go with it.  When my husband was living, we cooked together.  Sometimes he would amaze me with dishes that even the finest restaurant couldn’t touch.  I told him many times that I would put him head to head against the best chefs in the country any day of the week.  Cooking was a joy and a pleasure, but then it became a chore.  I can find no pleasure in cooking anymore.  I want to.  I want to be able to concoct things from a little of this and a little of that, but I just can’t seem to find the desire.  I still have the skills and the know-how, I just don’t want to.  I don’t want to cook something that nobody but myself can smell or taste.  It is one of the odd changes that took place in my life after the death of Jim.  Cooking used to be a balm for a bad day … huge, complicated Italian or Indian dishes, Thai chicken and curry beef … but somewhere along the way, it became a burden instead of a pleasure.  At first, I felt a bit guilty, as though I were letting someone down, but then I realized that there is nothing wrong with me or the way I feel.  Can I still cook?  Sure I can, and with the best of them, but do I want to?  Very rarely.  Instead, I call my mom to see what she’s having for dinner.  Many things have changed, cooking being the least of them.  For the first time in my life, I am honestly, truly on my own.  I have no one to answer to, no one to please, no one to cook for and no one to make conversation with.  At first, it was frightening, but as time passes, it becomes liberating and I find myself embracing the thought of being alone.  I realize that while I was trying to get used to it, I got used to it.  One can’t expect to adapt overnight.  It’s been two and a half years since I lost the love of my life and I am just now starting to  live without him.  If you’re still struggling, don’t beat yourself up.  The time will come when you will realize that life goes on and you can either live it or let it pass you by.  Choose wisely.

John 16:22And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

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