Category Archives: Cooking

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 21

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List the best opportunities that others have given you throughout your life:

  • When I was in the first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Daly, walked me down the hall to the fourth grade room. There, I was made to stand in the front of the classroom, filled with all of those big kids, and read to them. The fourth grade teacher, a Dominican nun, introduced me. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like, “This is what a good reader sounds like. This is what you should be aiming for. Pay attention!” I was a shy child, and it was a terrifying experience. Still, I was given, that day, an identity that I would treasure:  “I am a reader.” Not only that, “I am a very good reader.” That self-knowledge, instilled in me at six-years-old, has been a strong foundation through my whole life.
  • My parents gave each of their children the opportunity to become an integral part of the family. We were not “accessories” or “bonuses,” but absolutely necessary to the smooth running of the whole operation. From basic housekeeping, helping with the babies, taking care of the lawn, planting and harvesting, to caring for the livestock, there was work for everyone. It wasn’t always fair (there is a story I tell about walking through the living room with a giant pile of clothes to be put away. My brother, lounging on the couch watching The Three Stooges, threw out a leg to try to trip me. When I yelled, he said, “Oh, come on, Cindy…make me a grilled cheese sandwich.” All of which was perfectly acceptable behavior in our house…for a boy), and it didn’t always work as well as it should have. We had arguments constantly about who was working harder, or who’s turn it was to dry dishes. There were charts and lists and allowances to try to smooth out the rough edges. It seemed like some kids managed to avoid all the worst jobs anyway.  But it was still a good opportunity. Though I was a lazy child, and one of the biggest “shirkers,” by the time I left home, I knew these things: I could take care of mountains of laundry from start to finish; I was great at folding clothes; the babies loved me, and I could get them to settle down and go to sleep when no one else could; I was a master at picking peas and beans; I was good at cleaning out and organizing drawers; I could  plan meals, shop for groceries and put a dinner together, plus dessert. Beyond that, there were many jobs I hated, but still knew how to do. Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, the chance to be a part of a large working family was one of the best opportunities I’ve had!
  • When I was thirteen, I was given a full-time babysitting job for the Leschuk family that lived across the road from us. I worked five days a week, from 7:45 AM until 5:30 PM, taking care of two young school-age children. I fed them breakfast and lunch, entertained them with books and games, and kept them safe. I was expected to do a little light housekeeping, too. The job paid fifteen dollars a week, which seems, today, like a shockingly small amount, but was a good wage for a thirteen-year-old in 1966. I raided their cupboards and refrigerator for tasty treats and unusual foods never found at home. I scoured their bookshelves for literature that wouldn’t make it through the censors in the Catholic bulletin. Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls were each bonuses of that summer job. I bought all of my own school clothes that year, and gained pride in my own self-sufficiency.

There have been a thousand other opportunities in my long life that I am thankful for, and far too many people to credit for them in this one list. They range from the good fortune of having my own family to the ability to go to college (thanks to my sister, Brenda, for encouraging me, and the Pell Grant and various student loans for helping to finance it!) to the chance to work as a waitress though I had no experience and was known as a klutz (thank you, Barb Beckers!) Most of the benefits, though, are variations on the knowledge and experience I gained from just these three first, early opportunities.

 

 

 

 

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Viking Chicken (April A~Z Challenge)

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I was on-line wandering around Pinterest a few weeks ago, looking for Bullet Journal inspiration. A new month was coming up, and I was planning to change a few things. I’m finally very pleased with my habit tracker. Though I’m still fine tuning the list of habits that I track (remove “strength training,” as I haven’t done it in 2 months; add “sweep” to see if it makes me more diligent about doing it regularly…), the layout is working for me. I like the sleep tracker I’ve been using, too, and I feel like my sleep patterns have actually improved since I’ve been keeping track.

I was thinking, though of switching to a weekly format for my daily pages. I clearly don’t need one whole page per day. For a while, I was giving each day whatever space it needed, but then I had to wait for one day to be finished before I set up the next day. I like to get my month’s worth of daily pages laid out at the beginning of the month, so I can fill in appointments, work schedule, et cetera. Most recently, two days shared a page, four days in a two-page spread. Still, I have often had extra room where I can scribble in a little drawing, or add a quotation.

It would be nice, I thought, to have a whole week on one two-page spread. The problem being that there are SEVEN days in a week. Not six. Not eight, no. That would be too easy. Seven. Which does not divide evenly by two. So, I was looking on Pinterest to get some ideas of how others have made the ungainly odd number work. I got some good ideas, too. But not before I veered far off track. Pinterest, you know.

Anyway, as I breezed through day beds and studio spaces, encaustic art and weight loss plans, I was intrigued by a recipe titled Medieval Roast Chicken. I could see two ingredients (apple cider vinegar, 4-5 lb. chicken)in the photo, but the recipe wasn’t offered. So I went to Google to see what I could come up with. The Food Network had a recipe with that title, but the ingredients were different (no apple cider vinegar). But, down the list a ways, there was a recipe for Viking Chicken…so I had a look at that.

Viking Chicken is simply a chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika, cooked in a hot oven over a bed of fruits and vegetables. They suggested many fruits that would work, including lemon, apples, grapefruit, tangerines and mangoes. I had apples, and they were just starting to get a little wrinkly, so I was happy to have a use for them. The vegetables I used were the same ones they recommended: onion, carrot, and celery.

I baked it all in an uncovered roaster at 400 degrees for about an hour and a half. The chicken was moist and good, with a crispy skin. The onions hadn’t softened as much as I’d have liked, but the carrots and celery were done. I hadn’t expected to like the apples cooked in this way…but it doesn’t hurt to try something new, right? It turns out, I loved them! The salt from the chicken toned down their sweetness, and they weren’t mushy at all, but a nice flavor with the meat. I sauteed a mound of kale to fill out the plate, and was pleased with the whole meal.

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The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #17

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List the movies, books and TV shows that make you feel happy:

  • I just finished reading What my Mother Gave Me, with contributions by various authors. The book was a gift, which always seems to make the content extra special. The theme was a good one, and all the different perspectives were a joy to read.
  • The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Always a pleasure!
  • Anything written by E.B. White makes me happy. I’ve recently started reading a collection of his writings on dogs, and it keeps me smiling.
  • Though I never watched Sex and the City when it was on the air, I watch it sometimes on Netflix, and it entertains me.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first season of  The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
  • I did a little Meryl Streep movie marathon during a long weekend in my studio. It’s Complicated, Julie and Julia and Mama Mia are all happy films.
  • Billy Elliot makes me feel good.
  • So does The Fisher King.
  • I truly enjoy reading cookbooks. Some of my favorites are Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, The Little Paris Kitchen, Let’s Get Together, and An Everlasting Meal.

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #14 (and Day #1 of the April A ~ Z Challenge)

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[What?!? Something MORE than the 52 Lists? Yes! Crazy as I am, I have signed up to participate in the April A ~ Z challenge. That means I’ll be posting a blog every day in April. Except for Sundays. Other than THIS Sunday. Each day’s post will be themed with the coordinating letter of the alphabet, starting today, with the letter A.]

List everything you feel passionate about:

(Today, for sport, everything I feel passionate about begins with the letter A)

  • Articulation, via the written word. Which is why I do crazy things. Like commit to writing, longhand, three pages every morning as a start to my day. Like agree to write every day in a month that includes a twelve-day trip away from home with seven of those days on a Florida vacation.
  • A good book. I am very passionate about reading.
  • A good meal.
  • Alan Alda. Isn’t he the best?
  • Art. I enjoy making art, teaching art classes, looking at art and reading about art.
  • Agriculture. On such a small scale that it is probably better called gardening. In any case, I’m pretty passionate about it.
  • Animals. My two dogs in particular.
  • Ancestry. It seems the more I learn about my family, the more I understand myself.
  • Associations. Though I consider myself a loner, I treasure contact with family and friends.
  • Almost all word games. Including this one.

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #8

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List the things you like to do that don’t involve technology:

  • I like to read. I always have. When I was six, my mother crawled under the kitchen table  where I was having a sobbing fit because the words I was reading did not make any sense. She looked at what was going on, and with a smile – and a level of patience she was not always known for – explained to me that K-N-E-W was pronounced “NOO,” not – which was the source of my frustration – “CANOE.” It was common, over breakfast, for me say, “Please pass the Corn Flakes,” simply because I had already read everything the Rice Krispies box had to offer. I still like to read the cereal box, when I have cereal. Books were not allowed at other meals when I was a child, but I often rushed through dinner and dishes to get back to a good book. Now that I’m an adult – and often dine alone – books and magazines are grand accompaniment at the dining room table. I always think of books as miracle-workers. From a very young age, they gave me an idea of how other families behaved and how the world worked. I have looked to books to learn a skill, make a repair, or solve a problem. They have given me vast insight into other places and other people, imaginary and real. Books have given me hope when I saw no hope.
  • I like to walk. I’ve become very familiar with the changing scenery down the Fox Lake Road through all seasons of the year. Still, there’s always something fresh about it. A change in the color of the sky, the brightness of the sun or its position overhead makes the whole view brand new. Sometimes I choose a heart-pumping pace; other times I meander. There are days when my mind is full of problems that I am trying to solve. Sometimes, the purpose of the walk is to get away from them. And, sometimes I sing, loud and off-key, for the distance.
  • I like games: board games, card games; word games; dominoes; dice. Solitaire is okay, if there’s no one else around.
  • I like working in the soil. Gardening offers many benefits – that I also enjoy – but in the early spring, when the ground is just warming up, long before the promise of flowers or vegetables, I am out there, on my knees with my hands in the dirt. And I am enjoying myself!
  • I like exercise…a little. And that’s how much time I devote to it.
  • I like to cook.
  • I like crafts. Crochet, mostly, but I’ve enjoyed knitting, sewing, and embroidery, too.
  • I like art. I like the “doing” often as much as the “making” in that often the act of pushing paint around the surface, or shaping clay is every bit as meaningful to me as the product that may come of it.
  • I like writing. Though I use the computer for most of the writing I do these days, I have several volumes of sappy, melodramatic and angst-y journals that I wrote by hand through most of my adult life. And, if the hours in my days ever expand to allow time for it again, I’ll add it back in. There’s something about the physical act of putting words on the page – different than typing them onto a computer screen – that makes it more meaningful.

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness)Project #3

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List the things that you are really good at:

  • Cooking. Nothing very fancy, but always good.
  • Baking. Sweets, mostly, but I also have several good bread recipes that I use regularly.
  • Writing.
  • Letter-writing. People say a letter from me makes them feel like I am sitting right there talking to them. My mother encouraged her children to write letters to our grandparents in Chicago. I really took to it. I enjoyed telling the news, and was always happy to be rewarded with a letter in response. My best friend and I always wrote to each other through summer vacation. We were quite dramatic in our recitations, and went through thousands of exclamation points in each letter. I had pen pals throughout my life. When I first moved to Beaver Island, Mom reminded me that I wrote a good letter, and told me to be sure to keep in touch. I did, updating family and friends of our adventures here, and of how my daughters were growing. I wrote my daughters whenever they were away from me, through their childhood. I’ve gotten lax in recent years, with letters giving way to phone calls, Email and instant messaging. I still have a list of letters to write, in answer to cards and gifts I received at Christmas. I always appreciate receiving letters, so should be better about sending them.
  • Growing things. Again, nothing fancy. My house plants are not exotic, but simple green plants that usually make the lists of “easiest houseplants.” Still, other than sometimes having to droop a little to remind me to water them, they thrive. Outside, again I choose hardy specimens that suit my sandy soil, and – with very little special attention – they make me proud.
  • Drawing. Though it is one of the skills that needs to be practiced, to prevent getting rusty…and I’m pretty lax about that, too.
  • Color theory. I have studied it, of course, but it is one of those things that I’ve always had a knack for. I remember Doug Warner, an instructor in one of my earliest college drawing classes, on the first day that we worked with pastels, saying with surprise, “Oh, my, I can see that color is your forte!”
  • Organizing. Though the level of dis-order that I live with would seem to make a lie of that statement, I am very good at making sense of big mounds of disparate items.
  • Arranging. Whether pictures on a wall, items on a shelf, or furniture in a room, I’m very good at arranging things. With my combined abilities in color theory, organizing and arranging, I might have done well in a career as a interior decorator.
  • Reading. It’s easy to be good at things you love, and I have always loved to read. I’m also good at reading out loud, which is related, but different.
  • Customer service. I was an excellent waitress for more than twenty years, because I truly enjoyed the job. I was happy to do my best to make each customer’s experience outstanding. For the same reasons, I am good at my current job at the hardware store.
  • Entertaining myself. Though I sometimes get lonely, I don’t pine away for companionship. I can enjoy games of solitaire for hours on end. Add a few books, writing materials and a few art supplies, and I’d be just fine on a deserted island.

It is a good question to ask yourself: what things are you really good at?

Yesterday…Today

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Today is one of those misty days that makes the landscape appear hazy.  Everything looks as if it’s shrouded in gauze. Everything feels damp. Even the air is moist. A quick walk around the yard through the melting snow, and my feet are soaked. I slide out of wet shoes, and put them near the heater to dry. I peel off the heavy, cold and dripping socks, and replace them with thick, soft, warm ones. This is a day to have a pot of soup on the stove…a loaf of bread rising on the table.

Yesterday…did I even make it outside? Maybe, briefly. I didn’t pay much attention to the weather then, or the many times I opened the door to let the dogs inside or outside. I tackled a few chores, but left a list of things undone, too. Yesterday, I got the idea to make slippers…like the slippers I used to make for my husband and daughters when my family was young…for Christmas gifts. Everything else went by the wayside.

First I pulled down the basket of yarn from the top shelf, where it has sat, neglected, for weeks. My last project was a giant sock to fit over one unfortunate grandson’s cast. Before that…I can’t remember. It was maybe a year or more since I’d crocheted.

As a young mother, I crocheted every day. Out of each week’s grocery budget, I’d buy one skein of yarn: a different color every week. All of my projects were improvisations, based on the yarn I had on hand. I made hats and scarves, slippers and ponchos. I made piles of granny squares to be fitted together into afghans. I made stuffed animals and puppets. I plotted needlepoint designs to use up all the bits and scraps of yarn. For every single finished project, I always had a dozen that I’d abandoned half-way through.

Yesterday, after assessing the available yarn, I decided the slippers would – out of necessity – be not quite identical. I used two strands of yarn: one four-ply, one two-ply, and when I ran out of one, I attached another. I finished two pair of slippers, and started a third, while watching about four hours of programs on my computer. I drank coffee until I’d emptied the pot, then water, then wine. It was a lovely, self-indulgent day. I don’t dare repeat it!

Today, I have to get busy! I have to complete the tasks that should have been done yesterday, plus all the ones on the list for today. I have cards to write, and phone calls to make. There are rugs to shake and floors to sweep, and laundry to be put through the circuit. I have a collection of staple foods still sitting on the kitchen counter, where they’ve been since I emptied the old cabinet that housed them…to make room for the freezer. There is compost to be taken out to the bin near the garden, and recyclables to be loaded in the car.

If I get to the point where I can say “enough, this will do,” with the housework, the garden still needs to be put to bed for the winter. The long hose needs to be picked up, rolled, and hung in the garden shed. Vines – from beans, peas, squash and tomatoes -need to be pulled up and disposed of. I have to, then, cover any open spaces with straw, to keep the weeds from taking over. There is at least one shovel and a three-pronged cultivator still standing out in the weather.

If I happen to manage to get all of that done, I have a back-up list. It includes things like re-arranging and repairing the kitchen cabinets, painting the floor, and cleaning the car. And now, of course, there are slippers to work on, when there is time. And the studio, always, with projects and plans awaiting. It’s unlikely that, on this day,  I’ll have time for any of that. Especially since – first on my list – I have to get that bread dough started…and get vegetables cut up for the soup!

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