Category Archives: Cooking

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 29

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List the happiest and funniest stories and news you’ve heard lately:

  • I cheered, just like everyone else, for the successful rescue of the young boys trapped in a cave. With water rising, monsoon season coming, and the whole world watching, it was high drama with a happy ending.
  • Rain, this week, was a relief for many of us around the state of Michigan. It has been a hot, dry season. Our “extreme fire danger” status has been lifted, which is excellent news in this season that brings so many campers to our woods.
  • My best friend, Linda, turned sixty-six years old yesterday. That’s almost unbelievable…and funny (though not unbelievably funny)…because my birthday is not that far away, and then I’ll be 66, too. How has it happened that we, who met in the sixth grade and bonded over a mutual love of mischief-making, have grown so old?  When we were both eleven-years-old, Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation made me laugh. Over the years, my best – rolling on the floor, laughing ’til my belly hurt, almost peed my pants – laughs have been with Linda. Our lives have carried us from marbles, pull-over sweaters and the Beatles; to husbands, housework and babies; to single-life adventures with teen-aged children; to all the things that make life enjoyable today. One of the best things is having Linda, who maybe knows me better than anyone (possible exception: my sister, Brenda), still in my life. We share interests in feminism, activism, art, cooking, gardening and books. And, after all these years, we still share some of the best laughs.
  • I have this Sunday off, for the first time since April. I’m almost giddy with all the possibilities! What I am not going to do is spend it sitting in this computer chair. So, as my mother used to say, “up and at ’em!”

 

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July 3rd, Fox Lake Road

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Tuesday, again. The last day of my “week-end.” It’s my last chance to catch up on my rest and get ready for the busy week ahead. The day to finish up all the home and yard projects I planned to get done on my days off. It’s blogging day. It’s the day I try to get to town for post office, transfer station and grocery store. As usual, one day doesn’t seem like enough time.

We’ve had a week of extreme heat, unusual for Beaver Island, resulting in a string of uncomfortably warm nights. There wasn’t a breeze to be found, here on the Fox Lake Road. My little fan barely made a difference in the oppressive heat in my house. I spent several nights tossing and turning, too hot to sleep. A storm came through on Sunday night, bringing welcome rain and cooler temperatures. I’ve been sleeping long and well the last couple nights.

This time of year, one of the busiest weeks of the whole year on Beaver Island, it is important to be rested. Businesses are stretched to their limits with thousands of visitors in addition to regular customers. The hardware store is hectic all day long. By the end of the long work day, I am exhausted. A walk or a drive to Fox Lake with the dogs, a bit of time to pull weeds from the flower beds and water the garden, then supper, a half-hour of cleaning time, and I’m done. I have no energy beyond that. All projects have to wait for my days off.

So, Monday and Tuesday are always busy days, and this week more than most. I finished setting up my bullet journal for July, with the month already underway. I finished a load of towels and another of rugs yesterday. I have dark clothes on the line now. I filled a wheelbarrow with weeds trimmed from around the stone-bordered flower beds, and started digging a new fire pit.

I have a large fire pit in the front yard, four feet in diameter, that I planned to use for pit-firing ceramics, and large bonfires with friends. I have never used it for either of those purposes. It is too big and deep to be useful for roasting marshmallows. I use it, mainly, for burning windfall branches and my household paper trash. A smaller fire pit will be more serviceable. The large circle in the front yard could be filled in and used as a flower bed, or simply returned to lawn.

So, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon digging a hole, and removing the sod from the surrounding area. I used the soil I dug out to fill in low areas of the back yard; I filled the wheelbarrow with roots to be hauled away. Today, I plan to empty the wheelbarrow, then fill it with large rocks to border the new fire pit.

Inside, I have two unopened boxes to deal with. They are filled with metal frames and pre-cut mats: almost all the materials I need to get two large paintings and a dozen small collages framed and ready to show. To finish, I’ll have to make time to stop at the hardware store, and cut a dozen pieces of glass for the collage frames. With the tourist season underway and a couple special art shows coming up, that has to be done right away.

Beyond all that, there are bills to pay and letters to write before I go to the Post Office. I need to gather up the recyclable trash to take to the transfer station. I should go through the magazine rack and get rid of those publications that have been hanging out since Christmas.  I have a short list of necessities to pick up from the grocery store, and should go through the cupboards to see what I’ve missed. I know I’m (dread!) out of ice cream! It would be smart to plot out a week’s meals so I can put lunches and dinners together with what I have on hand.

That’s what’s happening, or should be happening, on this third day in July, here on the Fox Lake Road. From the looks of this list, I’d better get busy!

 

 

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 25

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List the ways that you enjoy investing in your mind, body and soul:

[I read that direction last night, so I could think, before falling asleep, about today’s essay. I thought, “Ugh! I’ll be writing about meditation,  prayer and spirituality and other things that I think I should care more about, but don’t, trying to make it sound like I enjoy it, when I don’t…and I hate this assignment!” Maybe it was the word “soul” that threw me into such a fit of discouragement. I am still and always the product of my Catholic upbringing, after all. Anyway, this morning I read the same direction with an entirely different response!]

  • I like mild forms of exercise, in modest doses. I have the tiniest little yoga routine that I try do each morning…but if my back is aching or other activities are pulling me away, I do an abbreviated version of the tiny routine, and have no regrets. I like a bit of Pilates: some stretching, and simple balance and flexibility exercises. I enjoy lifting weights for strength and definition, though the heaviest weights I use are only five pounds. I like walking, swimming and bicycling, but not for speed or distance. I like to avail myself of the fresh air, open spaces and scenery while doing something that is good for me, but I’m not out there to break any records.
  • I enjoy walking. Not for exercise (though that is a bonus, no matter), but with my dogs, a camera, and a couple mesh bags in case I find treasures along the way. For the familiar walkways, the sound of chipmunks and birdsong, and the joy of two dogs sniffing along, walking feeds my soul.
  • I take pleasure in cooking a good meal. It’s better – though rare – when there is someone to share it with and to appreciate it, but still.
  • I make things. Calling myself an artist, it might seem that creating a drawing or painting would give me greater pleasure than, say, crocheting a pair of slippers or making an ornament out of baker’s clay…but it all seems to come from the same place, and the emotional reward is similar.
  • I write. Every morning, or just about, longhand, in a black and white covered theme book. Morning Pages lets me spill out whatever is on my mind, for no one else to see. Sometimes, I surprise myself with a bit of exceptional writing. Mostly, I whine or rant, or write down crazy dreams.
  • I read. I have, at this moment, two self-help books (Sorted by Gillian Perkins and How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White), a creative expression book (The Creative Formula by Holly Shaw), one book of short stories (Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson) and one historical novel (We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter) underway, so there is always something to read that will suit my mood, and the time that I have.
  • I garden. I grumble about the work involved. Work that is never done, it seems. My aching back and my throbbing knees grumble separately. Still, gardening enriches me. It feeds me. And it provides a steady link to childhood, and to my father. Dad was the gardener in our big family. I say that, knowing that most of the weeding,  watering and harvesting duties fell to his children, and that it was Mom that had to – with bribes and threats, begging and coercion – see that it was done. It was Mom that, with rolled eyes and big sighs, greeted bushel basket after bushel basket of beans or cucumbers or tomatoes or corn into her kitchen. Mom coordinated the work crew – again chosen from her children – and orchestrated the tasks that would get the vegetables cleaned, steamed and canned for the winter. Still, Dad was the gardener. He negotiated with Magabelle, who owned the half-acre lot beside ours, to use the land for his garden. He traded electrical work for truckloads of manure. He rose early after his late shift at the factory to plow up the space. He plotted out the garden each year with stakes and garden twine. When company came, Dad, grinning and with long strides, walked them out through the garden to proudly show it off. When I’m in the garden, I know my father is nearby, and I know that he is pleased.

Happy Father’s Day!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #22

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List the things you prioritize before doing what really makes you happy:

I imagine a life of rising to coffee, then yoga, then writing, that would then give way to a long walk with my dogs and a spin around the yard and garden before going to the studio. There, I would have time to fully develop concepts, try out guesses and whims and ideas that come to me in dreams, read, explore and grow. Another run through the garden, to gather vegetables for an evening meal, then a shower to signal the end of my work day. Dinner, then, mindfully prepared and enjoyed. Cleaning time next, then the rest of the evening for relaxing activity. I think a life like that would make me happy. But…

  • I prioritize things I have to do. Because my life falls apart if I don’t. Things like laundry, and dishes, and sweeping the floor. My life is so much better – and happier – when these things are done, I even incorporated “cleaning time” in my imagined ideal life. Then there are the seasonal “have-to”s. Like planting the garden or mowing the lawn. When it’s time, other things have to be put aside to make time.
  • I prioritize things I ought to do. I go to funerals. I make an appearance at benefits, showers and retirement parties. I attend the annual meetings of the Beaver Island Boat Company. I am a sitting member of the Amik Circle Society, and serve as secretary at their meetings. I occasionally attend township meetings. I vote. These are obligations. Still, there is satisfaction in fulfilling them.
  • I prioritize the things I need to do. I need to have a job with a paycheck I can count on. Though art sales and art classes have supplemented my income for the past thirty-five years, and I have imagined a hundred different scenarios (and tried out more than a couple) where art-related activities could support me, realistically, I need a job. I will probably have to hold a job for the rest of my life. I call it the “work until death” track. For more than twenty years, I worked as the morning waitress at the Shamrock Bar & Restaurant; I have been working at Powers Hardware for the last sixteen. Though I work because I need to work, I am fortunate that it makes me happy, too. I saved a few lines – I can’t remember the author, but have that written down somewhere, too – that would be perfect for my eulogy: “I slept, and dreamt that life was joy. I woke, and found that life was service. I acted, and found that service was joy.”
  • I prioritize joyous things that come along. Sometimes, it’s a grandchild or two, coming for a visit. Sometimes, it’s a day when I’m simply too exhausted after work to walk the dogs, so I load them into the car – along with a camera, a beer and a book – and we go to Fox Lake. We have the place all to ourselves, the dogs are happy and the water is beautiful, so I stay, ignoring all the things I should be doing. Most recently, it was last week, when two of my sisters and one cousin arrived, to open the farmhouse for the season. I didn’t get into the studio, even for a minute. I didn’t get my lawn mowed. I didn’t get my windows washed. I didn’t continue any of my organizing or deep cleaning. The trade-off was an entire week of family time: dinners around Aunt Katie’s farmhouse table with people that I love; good conversations; evenings of euchre, Bingo and Scrabble; laughter; good hugs; wonderful companionship. Worth every bit of time I could give!

Though my imagined “happy life” is a far cry from my life as it is, I am happy, and my priorities contribute to my contentedness. So!

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.

 

 

 

 

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.