Inspire. September.

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BACK TO SCHOOL

And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.

Meister Eckhart
On the cusp. (c)2020

This back to school will be quite different from years past. My youngest starts high school, and yet won’t see the inside of the high school until January. She opted for fully virtual school while my other child in school opted for in-person/remote hybrid. Even back to school night will be virtual.

The above picture I chose was from the last day of our vacation. It is on the cusp between both summer and fall. Its place is so far north that is on a second cusp, balanced between the United States and Canada. It is a home away from home although we’d only stayed at this hotel the one time.

Reading and absorbing Meister Eckhart’s words, I will strive to be more in balance; to start something new; to find the magic of beginnings, and keep moving forward.

This year will be challenging.

It will be hard.

We’ve come through worse, both personally and as a country. We can do this – – – together.

Two days ago, we began school here. We have our agendas and our schedules, our chromebooks and our notebooks.

Yesterday marked forty-nine days until Election Day. As I said then, create your voting plan, and implement it. I was going to do a mail-in ballot, but I think my current plan will be for early voting. I have the dates and the locations, and I’m ready for this new beginning.

This week includes a doctor’s appointment, a therapy session, and the first part of a four part Cursillo workshop and concludes with the observation and celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. That holiday is my personal traditional time for starting anew with plans and changes and goals.

I’m wary… but excited.

I feel goodness and hope. I hope you can feel it also.

“Friday” Food. August.

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It seemed as though all we ate were chicken wings, mac & cheese, soft pretzels, ice cream, and donuts! Everything was amazing! I’ll have several posts in future days with information if you travel to the western New York area. Some things can even be ordered through the mail!

Listed in clockwise order:

  1. Roast beef and gravy on a weck roll. (Say Cheese! The Comic Book Cafe.)
  2. Pizza Logs. (Anchor Bar – the home of the original Buffalo Wings.)
  3. The Mighty Taco quesadilla with sour cream.
  4. Niagara water.
  5. Char-BQ chicken wings. (Duff’s Wings)
  6. Bavarian Pretzel with mustard and cheese. (NY Beer Project)
  7. Manhattan Mac & Cheese with garlic bread (NY Beer Project)
  8. Small (really! small!) Birthday Bash Ice Cream. (De-Dee’s Dairy)
  9. Angel cream donut (like Boston Creme with vanilla cream inside). (Paula’s Donuts.)
Some of the regional and delicious foods we had while on vacation last week in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and its environs, NY. (c)2020

Inspire. August.

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August’s inspiration posts were delayed by the entire month, but I am determined that this post tonight at the latest. It is the last day of August and there is still inspiration to be had.

August began with my being sick, some days quite ill, and I went to the Department of Health to take a covid test, which fortunately came back negative.

We’re still receiving updates from my children’s school and they are almost ready to return; one virtually and one in an in-person hybrid model.

We also were able to take a much needed family vacation, which we understand is a privilege in these uncertain times. I credit that to many things, not the least of which is the seriousness that New York State took in combatting the coronavirus. We remained in New York, and that gave us the ability to travel and to do so without a fourteen day quarantine anywhere else we may have gone. It wasn’t our original plan, but we were all together and we had a great week.

I mention this because the one thing I want to share with you for the August inspire post is a museum that we visited that I would encourage everyone to visit. I will write more about it in later days, but here is a small glimpse:

The Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center is located at 825 West Depot Avenue West in Niagara Falls, New York. It has only been open for about two years, and was reopened on July 18th after Covid closures.

It is very reasonably priced: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors (62+), $6 for children 6-12, and Free for children 5 and under.

There is limited parking shared with the Amtrak station and it is on the Discover Niagara Shuttle, a free service in the city of Niagara Falls that operates May through October. They’ve recently reopened after Covid closures.

The Heritage Center is a beautiful balance of the heartbreak of slavery and escape from bondage and the people who helped them flee. It is at once inspiring and emotional. In one instant, a story caused me to weep while others made me feel joy at their new lives in Canada.

It is a small venue, but well worth the time. I would return again to enjoy the few things that were not available due to covid restrictions.

Inside the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. (c)2020
We are *this* close to freedom.
Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. (c)2020

Election Connection: 15 Weeks: Civil Rights Icon, John R. Lewis (1940-2020)

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“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

John Lewis, Twitter, 2018
John R. Lewis, House of Representatives. Public Domain. (c)2020
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Labyrinths Heal; The Rain Reflects

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Early on in the pandemic, when we’d just begun the lockdown with work places shutting down, restaurants closed, and schools closing, we were only just getting used to having the kids at home, shopping once a week, avoiding people as much as possible, including even our son who lived on his own, plus being in a constant low level state of anxiety, keeping ongoing lists in my head, living, breathing, reading, and writing everything I could about coronavirus 20/7 with four hours leftover for sleep. Often, I couldn’t get through that minimum of four hours. I tried watching the White House’s coronavirus briefings; I thought they would be useful and informative. I thought they would quell my anxiety of those early days of unknown. My priest called them “dark days of confusion,” and they truly were. We’re still in them sometimes now. Those briefings didn’t help; they left me with higher levels of anxiety.

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“Friday” Food. June. Summer Salad

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Summer Salad, photo taken by my daughter. (c)2020

I’ve put Friday in quotation marks since today is Wednesday and this Friday Food is a few weeks late. It didn’t seem appropriate to continue with business as usual last week. I’m slowly returning to writing and publishing.

I mentioned in my recent quarantine and baking piece that my daughter had some assignments from her FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class during the remote learning part of the school year. In my day, I say in my best Grandpa Walton voice, we had Home Economics and we cooked and sewed aprons. Same, she replied.

The recipe she wrote, shopped for and prepared was this delicious Summer Salad. She may have called it Strawberry Chicken Salad, but I can’t remember. It was easy and overall not too expensive. I let her get whatever she wanted for it since it was a school project and didn’t complain about the price. Besides, once she took her photos, she would be serving it to the rest of the family for lunch, much better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or frozen waffles that we usually scrounge up during the week.

Ingredients and Directions:

1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken tenders. Cook in a skillet with olive or peanut oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, no more than 1 tsp. of each.

1 head of lettuce or 1 bag of mixed greens

1 container of grape tomatoes

(You can add one cucumber, but I honestly can’t remember if we did. I happen to love cucumbers!)

1 lb. strawberries

1 pint blueberries

Freshly shaved parmesan cheese

Croutons

Dressing – I chose honey mustard. (My daughter actually doesn’t use any dressing.)

Mix the salad together, add your favorite dressing and enjoy a light and satisfying lunch!

Enjoy!

Mini GISH Hunt

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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

Is It Really Quarantine If You’re Not Baking Bread?

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About a week into quarantine, I told my kids that we’d make bread. They groaned. We had all the ingredients – at our first grocery run before isolation I got a bag each of flour and sugar. I don’t know why; it just felt like a staple I needed like milk, bread, and eggs. I just thought I should have it in the house as if I were Ma Ingalls and baked fresh bread every morning (which I do not).

The next week, I said it again. Hey kids, do either of you have any FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class assignments? Let’s bake bread. They groaned. We did not bake bread.

Another week went by and my daughter asked to go to the supermarket; she had an assignment that she needed to prepare and photograph and submit for FACS. I cheered. We’ll bake bread! No, she said after she groaned; I’m making a grilled chicken salad. Fine, I said, but you need to make enough for all of us to eat lunch. She groaned again.

I watched people all over Twitter and Facebook baking bread. Some used regular rising yeast, some used self-rising flour, some used starters, mostly sourdough starter, a lot made banana bread. A lot. Why were my kids immune to the call of the fresh smell of baking bread. Sure, I could have made it on my own, but we can buy bread. I didn’t need fresh bread. I hated the kneading, and my dough was never smooth like in the photos or on the Food Network, and I wanted it to be a family project. Me and the kids, measuring and watching the dough rising, kneading like we used to do with playdoh, and then baking it at three hundred fifty degrees for thirty to forty minutes. Why wouldn’t they cooperate?

Five years ago, I would have had them. They’d put on the too-big aprons and they’d get flour on their faces, and they’d burn their fingers trying to pull bits of bread right when it came out of the oven. Five years is a long time in kid ages. My two youngest are fourteen and fifteen, and they had no interest in baking bread with Mommy.

We have to, I said more than once. Everyone is baking bread. Everyone, I whispered. Is it really quarantine if we’re not baking bread? They looked at me in that way that teenagers look at their parents – the face that is partly pity and partly embarrassment; and not of you, but for you. I let them walk away.

We were cooking at least I thought with a shrug. We made pasta, Chef Jose Andres‘ Angel hair with tomato sauce (he called it pomodoro), chicken Alfredo, meatloaf, homemade meatballs, lasagna, roast chicken, pork in orange sauce, even my own leek and potato soup.

And still no bread.

Until….

I have a friend in Oklahoma who made a starter and offered it to her friends, like a chain letter. You get the starter, you grow it, and then, after ten days, you bake your bread, and you share the rest with your friends leaving one cup for you to continue the starter or freeze it for when you’re ready. for more Hmm, I thought, sure why not.

About two weeks later, a small postal box arrived at my doorstop. My starter was here! This was day one, and the directions couldn’t have been easier: do nothing.

I can do nothing.

For ten days, I mix the starter in the bag and I feed it twice. At the second feeding it’s ready to divide and use.

I put on my red apron, I got covered with flour because really what choice did I have – that stuff gets everywhere! One of the best parts of this type of bread is that apart from the starter, I already had every ingredient in my house.

I mixed it smooth. There is no kneading; it has a batter consistency and it poured into the loaf pan easily. I covered it with cinnamon sugar, although I feel as though in the end I should have mixed the sugar with butter to give it a streusel-style topping. I will try that when I make this the next time, and I will definitely add my results in here with an update (but not for awhile). I baked the bread on Wednesday, and I still have a full half of a loaf left. I think my family hasn’t figured out where the bread is or it would be gone already.

Apart from the community of what seems like the entire world baking bread simultaneously, the act of baking the bread is its own therapy. It brings out the homesteading, the nurturing, the nesting that just naturally happens in days of trauma, especially this shared trauma we’ve been facing. This feels different, though, maybe not as natural as other moments, and there is a level of stress and an undercurrent of fear sitting on the surface; the unknown that awaits. Like a rising tide lifts all boats, bread rising is an act of faith. You can follow the directions, mix all the ingredients, knead and rise, and it works or it doesn’t. Sweet breads are a little different, but there is still the wonder of making something from your hands and then sharing that with the people around you, whether that is physically with your family or here online with the people who make up our community.

I got the starter and I followed the directions. I added the ingredients. I mixed. I poured. I spread. I baked.

It hadn’t taken much for the house to smell like a bakery. A little cinnamon and vanilla goes a long way. The smells combined with each other – the cinnamon mixed in with the vanilla – and then it spread throughout the entire house until it was just there; it was consoling, comforting. It calmed. It’s quiet work reassured that things are okay and if they’re not okay right now, they will be. They will be.

Twenty-twenty’s been a year, hasn’t it? We’ll get through it in our own ways and yet still together.

It will take time, but we’ll be okay.

And there will always be bread.

For anyone who wants to make this bread, this is the link for the ingredients and directions as well as a few photos from my baking venture.