Friday Food. Nostalgia.

Standard

How many times do you smell something cooking or take that first bite of something and you’re transported back in time to a special occasion or your childhood, Grandma’s house or getting a quick bite before a doctor’s appointment?

Whenever we have baked sweet potatoes, pools of melted butter mixing in with the soft, sweet flesh I always think back to when I was sick. I was sitting up in my parents’ bed and on my lap was a plate with a hot sweet potato, butter melting as I mashed it in the skin with a fork. It is the best tasting thing in the world, and it makes me feel calm and better.

Speaking of food when you’re sick, chicken noodle soup is known by some as Jewish penicillin and the ingredients blend together to make the common cold disappear or at least wave away the symptoms so sleep will come.

Chicken Noodle Soup.
(c)2021

Other of my comfort food favorites include:

The perfect grilled cheese. Two to three slices of cheese depending on their thickness. Instead of buttering the bread, I put the butter in the pan as if I was doing French toast. Before flipping, I add more butter. I cover the sandwich with a pan lid until the cheese is perfectly melty. I have also used ghee instead of butter, and this is an excellent substitute.

Perfect Grilled Cheese.
(c)2021

Matzo ball soup. I use a box mix, which says to simmer for twenty minutes. I let it simmer for an hour, at least, sometimes longer. After the first half an hour, I’ll add baby carrots (fresh or frozen), some chives, and leave it until dinner time. Delicious.

Matzo Ball Soup.
(c)2021

Macaroni and Cheese. Kraft. The blue box. (The 7oz. one.) I use butter and not margarine and add milk for creaminess. I could eat this all day, every day, and I am the only one in my house who makes it right. (That’s not me saying it; that’s the rest of them.)

Macaroni and Cheese.
(c)2021

Fruit and Sour Cream. I don’t know when in childhood I started eating this, but it is delicious, and healthy, and comfort food at its best. I cut fresh fruit into pieces and put in a bowl, add sour cream, and that’s it! No sugar, no granola, no nothing; just fruit and sour cream. My favorite fruits to use are: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches. It can be all or some, but the bananas are a must. (I have no idea why!)

Fresh Fruit with Sour Cream.
(c)2021

Inspire. April.

Standard

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.

– NIDO QUBEIN

As I contemplated this month’s Inspire post I began with the discovery of this quotation, which led me to the three photos that appear below.

I think this quotation is perfect for this time of year, especially in this second year of pandemic as things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal. Some of us have been lost in a fog of uncertainty and some of us remain in that fog as we await our turns for vaccines, for the return of jobs, the new rules for openings, community gatherings as it becomes safer, and yet, we still wear masks (as we should), we still wash our hands frequently and use hand sanitizer (as we absolutely should), we continue to maintain our distance (as we should), and we’re in a space of feeling the year is passing us by (again).

We need to look at our present circumstances, and then start.

The Easter season is upon us, spring is springing up all around us, Ramadan begins this evening. It’s as if a new year is dawning, and there’s no reason not to treat this time as a new year, setting goals, making choices, smelling the flowers on a few new paths.

The photos below are three places I never expected to be. Having taken the photos is proof that I was actually in those places, but to me it still remains extraordinary that I was actually, physically there. Gazing at these three photos show me the magic that can happen and the magic that is inherently in a place.

The first photo is of Glenariff Falls in Northern Ireland. We found it quite by accident while looking for a place to eat – there is a restaurant behind where I was standing to take the photo. What was remarkable is that our cousins had given us directions to this very place, only we hadn’t realized it until after we’d eaten and went to look for the falls they’d recommended. These woods have a fairy feel and there are reminders of fairies throughout them including in the falls themselves. It was very peaceful and soothing just standing and watching the water fall from the top.

Northern Ireland.
(c)2017-2021

This second photo is just a road sign; however I was glad to get it when we couldn’t get to the town. We were running late to get to our hotel, still about an hour or more away, and it was raining, and at the beginning of a trip we always think there is more time to return than there really is. The sign depicts the longest town name, shortened for the sign as: Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll; also known as LlanfairPG, but known in its full glory as:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrnwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Small town, long name.

Ynys Mon, North Wales.
(c)2017-2021

This last photo is of the Menai Suspension Bridge. We drove across it from the island of Angelsey (known as Ynys Mon in Welsh) to get to mainland Wales and on to our destination. When I traveled alone to Wales in 2009 this bridge was the source of my greatest anxiety. I had truly wanted to go to Angelsey; I had heard of its beauty and there was an ancient cairn that I wanted to visit, but I could not make myself drive over this bridge. I could see it from my hostel along the Menai Strait, and I thought about for the entire three days I stayed there. I’d walk out to the Promenade and stare at the water below the stone wall, and then stare down the strait at this bridge. Every time I thought I might I didn’t. I just couldn’t do it.

As with the ferry that got me to Wales in 2017, this bridge got me to the mainland where I could complete my pilgrimage. I wasn’t driving, but it was still a monumental achievement and it’s part of one of the places that I started.

This mid-April is another new starting point.

Menai Suspension Bridge, Ynys Mon to Bangor.
(c)2017-2021

Mini GISH Hunt

Standard

Back in April, I participated in a stay-at-home 24 hour scavenger hunt. We raised money for meals for kids who are out of school due to the covid-19 pandemic. At this moment, I am in the middle of a second stay-at-home mini hunt, this time for 25 hours. If you’re interested in joining the fun for our week long hunt in August, visit GISH and see what all the fussun is about.

These are the three items I completed. I also filled out an application for an absentee ballot for the June primary and November election.

Create a couch potato. (c)2020
Create a Haiku for washing your hands. (c)2020
Thank the essential workers in your town and tweet it. (c)2020

Friday Food – April: Recipes For The People

Standard

Chef Jose Andres, immigrant, restauranteur, activist, and advocate started a hashtag on Twitter during this quarantine: #RecipesForThePeople. He’s been posting recipes along with videos of he and his daughters cooking, showing how easy cooking for your family can be. It can also be fun, and a way to get closer to your family. One of the first recipes that I saw was Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Sauce. According to Chef Jose, it takes less than four minutes to make, and so I got the ingredients I was missing (we already had most of these basic ingredients in our pantry) when I went to the grocery store for my next scheduled trip, and had my son help me make it, along with help from Chef Jose himself (through Twitter-video!)

It was amazing!

It was fast; it was easy.

The whole family loved it!

You can find the link (along with his and others’ recipes) as part of the Food, Isolation Style post, but I will also include the direct link to his Twitter here with a list of the ingredients.

Chef Jose Andres’ 3 1/2 minute Angel Hair Pasta

Ingredients:

1 box (16oz) angel hair pasta

1 bag fresh spinach

Olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

2 large cans crushed tomatoes

Salt, pepper, sugar to taste

A larger pan than I used initially – LOL

My version of Chef Jose Andres’ 3 1/2 minute Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Sauce. (c)2020

Inspire. April.

Standard

Some things have changed since March’s Inspire post. A lot of things across this country and across the world. We can still move forward while in isolation though. I’ve seen online that some people are using this time to learn a new skill, a new language, write the Great American Novel, learn to cook. And some of us are simply trying to get through another day while trying not to suffocate in the constant presence of our families. I am somewhere in the middle. I am not taking up any new skills, but I am thinking about writing more. I’ve been cooking more in the last two weeks than in the last two years, which is a welcome change to both my family and myself. I will share some of our recipes as the days go on, just as I would in a regular year. I usually spend my mornings attending daily mass (on Facebook Live) and then watching and screenshotting Governor Cuomo’s daily press briefing. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something to help my community, and I have received positive feedback from it.

On the other hand, I’ve also found myself full of anxiety, with my brain going into overdrive, and not being able to shut down for sleep. Even in the dark, I’m wearing an eye mask. I think the light pressure on my head helps calm me down enough to fall asleep. Our family has been very lucky in our circumstances so far, and I will probably write and share about that another time. Easter and Passover are around the corner, and we are preparing for both. My next shopping trip will be Thursday to gather all the goodies for Easter dinner and Easter baskets. I am hoping to see my son, but time will tell. (He is a first responder and so he is working every day. I don’t know his holiday schedule yet.) I started a new book called The Boston Massacre. You know, some light reading.

Stay Home. Save Lives.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.

Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

– Helen Keller

Graphic provided by NAMI on Instagram. (c)2020

April: Quiet, Rebirth, Reassessment: Reflection

Standard

​I reassess how things are going at various times throughout the year. I think some of that attitude is due to therapy, the constant thinking on how I’m doing, how I’m feeling, what’s new, what’s stale, etc.

I usually start with Rosh Hashanah and look back again at New Year’s

Spring is another good time to reassess how things are going, personally, professionally, spiritually, whatever needs assessing. I’m constantly assessing and reassessing my prayer life (when, how, what’s working, what’s not), my family life (discipline, family time, housekeeping, vacation plans, if any), and my writing life (outlines, content, major changes). Those are probably the three biggest for me.

What in your life needs a reassessment?

Ask yourself these questions:

Is this still working for me?

If not, what is it that’s not working?

What changes will help me move forward?

What can I do to do/be better? (Sometimes, it’s simply a minor thing, like getting up half an hour earlier or even wearing a favorite scarf or pin.)

The sun is shining more, the winds have died down, and it’s a bit warmer out (not this year in the Northeast, but we can hope for the coming change). It’s a good time to make changes when we’re coming out of our winter shell.

What changes will you make this month?

April: Quiet, Rebirth, Reassessment

Standard

​April.

Spring has sprung. For a day and then the snow comes again, dumping, flurrying, and then gone in a sweep of wind.

April showers bring May flowers, but I find that the showers come in March with the daffodils, April is mud season, and May is very purple and yellow, at least in my backyard.

April is quiet. The kids are still in school without the end of the year frenzy.

Birds are chirping, bunnies are burrowing, squirrels are fleeing, and mice are leaving garages and attics. The shutter is half falling off and the gate is bent; the driveway is oil-stained and the weeds are limp.

The tea is warm, though.

Reassess. Recharge. Re-emerge.