July 2020–What already!

July 6, 2020

Time flies when you’re having fun. Or, evidently, even if you are NOT.

Week 17 of COVID-19 self-quarantine

Mind you, I’m not complaining, as the alternative to staying home and being healthy would be no fun at all.

In most of our states, positive cases of Covid-19 continue to increase, and there are still many fun-loving, don’t f**k with my personal liberty to have fun, wearing a mask isn’t fun, citizens out there helping ‘Rona’ spread her evil disease.

At least our complex pool is now open so I can do water exercises in the morning. My knees, which never bothered me when I regularly walked via treadmill, do not like walking on the pavement.

TIPS FOR SENIORS

Here are some tips for seniors-who like myself-are staying home for what might seem an eternity.

Complete at least three tasks a day that will feel like an accomplishment.

Examples are:

  • exercise– outside or in a pool if you can, at least 30 minutes a day #SilverSneakers Facebook page has some great exercise videos you can do in your living room.
  • minimize your possessions–give away, throw away enough stuff so you have at least one empty closet in your home. I know–what a concept!!
  • try a new recipe–something vegan or vegetarian if you don’t normally cook that way.
  • Eat some dark chocolate every day. Grab a handful and enjoy.

    My favorite chips

  • If you still keep paper (which I do some) clean out your file boxes. Reuse the blank backs as a note pad.
  • read a book in a different genre than usual–lots of free ebooks from your public library and other places
  •  deep clean your refrigerator–seriously, how often do you do this? It probably needs it
  • Keep a prayer list-meditate-or otherwise have a quiet moment
  • last, but not least–talk with someone every day–kids, grandkids,  friend, shout at a neighbor from the appropriate distance, or the mail person

Peace be with with you all. Stay healthy wear your masks.


Holidays, Tangerines and Politics

November 25, 2018
I hope y’all had a swell Thanksgiving with your respective families. From what I’ve been seeing Christmas season began in October now, with decorations going up in the shopping centers and streets right before Halloween.

 

The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion, the National Retail Federation estimates. I’m no fan of all the commercialization. However, I realize what I think matters not a whit.  More on Christmas economic facts if you are interested.

The hubby and I were on our own for Turkey Day but were in touch with all our relatives via the wonders of modern technology. We watched the Minnesota daughter and family put up their Christmas tree via live chat. I’m wondering if it will survive the two small boys and very large puppy until the 25th.

 

The kitchen was sticky for a week as Richard worked on juicing 6 gallons of tangerines from our two trees in our back courtyard. We also ate plenty and had multiple bags of gift fruit. (there were a few grapefruit and oranges as well)

 

Still busy with work both paid and unpaid. But, always make time for reading and live streaming on the telly.

 

I save quotes from books via my Kindle. Here’s one from Varina, by Charles Frazier. She was the wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States. V had a very adventurous and long life. This quote seems to explain not only our history but our present politics as well.

 

“Take a king or a president or anybody. Put a heavy sack of gold in one hand and a feather-light declaration about freedom in the other. And then an outlaw sticks a pistol in his face and says give me one or the other. Every time —ten out of ten—he’ll hug the sack and throw away the ideals. Because the sack’s what’s behind the ideals, like the foundation under a building. And that’s how freedom and chains and a whipping post can live alongside each other comfortably.”

 

I leave you with a quote from The Oregon Trail by Buck Rinker for whatever path you are on, whatever your passion is.

“Crazyass passion is the staple of life and persistence its nourishing force. Without them, you cannot cross the trail.”


Thanksgiving Remembrances

November 19, 2017

Lately, when I’m lying in bed waiting for sleep to come, I’ve try to remember pieces of my life–those memories I hold dear. Sometimes the unpleasant peeks around the corners of my mind trying to creep me out. But, all in all, it’s an exercise in remembering—about family, friends, great experiences, things I’ve done, places I’ve been…

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I dusted off the cobwebs surrounding holidays past and started thinking about the dinners I used to have with my family. It’s not possible to tell a lifetime of Thanksgiving stories in a small space. Even so, I can’t remember everything. And, on top of that, you just kind of had to be there to appreciate the traditions, the relationship with all their good and bad parts and the ubiquitous family jokes.

When I was a child, depending on where we were living, my family drove to Texas for Thanksgiving to eat dinner with my maternal grandparents. My aunt and her family would come as well. My Uncle John was the family comedian—albeit most of his jokes were somewhat abusive, racist or at someone else’s expense.  My favorite foods were (and still are) my grandmother’s and subsequently my mother’s Southern cornbread stuffing and pecan pie.

A succession of family dinners continued throughout the years. Participants and places varied, but the tone stayed relatively (pun) the same throughout the years. That is up until my parents were no longer in the picture. It never felt the same after that. My aunt and uncle and their kids were pretty much happy to get rid of the obligation of our company. My siblings and I had families of our own. Many variations of Thanksgiving happened.

My family in the mid-80’s L-R Dad, Mom brother Jack, me, sister Louise, her (then) hubby Steve and my son Jack Berry

Several years when I lived in Austin, and was eschewing my parents’ traditions, my young son and I had Thanksgiving at Uncle Seymour’s with the neighborhood hippies and others. I previously wrote a little story about those times.

One trip I did remember makes me laugh every time I think about it: My brother drove me, my adult son and teenage daughter to have dinner with our sister and her family of much younger children. All the way down to Houston from San Antonio, we talked in an exaggerated Southern drawl. I don’t know why, but it was hilarious. When we got down to my sister’s house, they all looked at us like we had gone crazy. Ah, but what fun we had.

Or the time we drove to my sister’s and I got horrible diarrhea on the way back and had to stop at every gas station, and even construction portable potty, on the way home. Yeah, sorry, but that was an unforgettable trip and the last one down there, I think.

And more recently, the year hubby had a major seizure the day before Thanksgiving and was in a coma. I had to hand off the turkey to my son for cooking and I scrambled to fix everything else. I was very moved when my totally unreligious grandchildren prayed for their G-pa before the meal.

This year, it’s just the two of us. We have family in Colorado, Austin, and the frozen north of Minnesota. My brother and wife are going to Wimberly. The sis is still in Houston. It’s all good!

So, whatever your Thanksgiving looks like, I hope it is pleasant, tasty and memorable.

 

 

 

 


Healthy Eating Redux

May 29, 2016

First let me say, my mother was a superior cook. Every night she cooked a family meal and we all gathered around the kitchen table eating and talking. Many of our family favorites were from the Southern cooking repertoire she learned from her mother. Cornbread dressing, black eyed peas, pecan pie, tomato aspic, etc. She made the best fried chicken ever. So good that when she included a leftover piece in my lunch box the next day, it still tasted awesome. I remember she had a special container on the stove to strain the drippings from the breakfast bacon with which she used to flavor many of her dishes. What horror that sounds now, right? Her Red Velvet cake recipe is what the hubby uses to great raves.

chinese cook book

Lula Belle’s original Chinese cook book

Mom also made it a point to learn how to cook cultural food dishes from wherever we lived with Dad on his Army assignments. In Hawaii, she learned to cook Asian food including wontons and spring rolls and delicious rice dishes. When my dad was stationed in Pakistan, and we couldn’t go, she still learned how to create Pakistani dishes to serve my father when he got home so we could share the food culture.

Another component of my foodie upbringing was through my dad. Everywhere we lived, he had a garden. He loved tilling the dirt and learning the plants that would grow well in whatever climate we were in.

I specifically remember the garden in Hawaii. It was a rather large garden on a hill on one side of the house in which we lived while waiting for base housing. Much to his chagrin, there were many types of tiny beasties that will infect and eat your produce in that climate. While our native Hawaiian landlord gave him some advice, Dad managed to invent a tomato saver using my mom’s old stockings. The result of all this gardening is that we were privy to fresh seasonal veggies on the table most of our growing-up lives. He continued to garden until his last year on this earth.

When I began my life in Austin as a hippie babe, I too became a darn good gardener. In both homes I had there, I maintained a large, prolific garden. I grew squash, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, beans (scarlet runner were my favorites) melons and more. Our resident neighborhood food guru, Clay, was already a vegan and among other dietary examples, fed his twin baby daughters almond milk after they got too big for nursing. We ate a lot of good fresh produce, turkey eggs, raw milk and other healthy foods. We shopped at Good Foods, the store which was actually the precursor to Whole Foods, and then at Whole Foods original store on Lamar Blvd. I made healthful cookies and other baked goods and stayed away from white sugar.

Somewhere along the way of life, I deterred from this path. Smallish incomes and three kids led the family to make the unhealthy mistakes many people in the same financial situation make—beans, potatoes, bread, pasta are cheap, fresh or organic produce not so much. If your teenager works at Church’s Chicken, you love the free leftovers every night.

Oh and did I mention I married a pastry chef? Most the weight I gained from this era is still with me.

Little by little I got back on the right path. I just started saying “no” to the pastry, cookie, cake stuff. I began eating gluten-free for my intestines’ sake and there went the pasta, crackers etc. The hubby and I shopped at Central Market for the great assortment of fresh and tasty produce.

Delivery produce box

For a year or so we had a weekly box of local, seasonal produce delivered to our door. It stretched our ideas of what exactly is eatable Yes! to beet greens and strange sprouts and big black radishes. We finally cancelled, feeling it was not economically in our favor to continue.

On our back patio, we created a small, but productive, container garden. We’ve had good luck with tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, peppers, chard, herbs and even okra. Plus, the house came with two tangerine trees that keep us in fresh tangerines for about 6 weeks every fall.

tomatoes

Container garden tomatoes

We tried shopping at some of the latest wave in ‘new’ farmer’s market offerings. I confess we slipped some.

What got me back on track is reading a non-fiction book by Barbara Kingsolver, a terrific fiction writer–Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The author and her family enter a life-changing adventure by moving full time to their farm in Virginia. They committed to eating only local, seasonal, organic, homegrown, homespun…well you get the idea. Albeit, they have a large growing area, already producing fruit and nut trees and a farming communityavm icon that grows, raises or makes all products which fit in the parameters of this foodie life. It’s an interesting and inspiring tale.

Granted, our budget is limited, but we are trying to eat better and cook with more healthy ingredients. So, it’s back to the farmers markets for us for fresh, local, seasonal produce, eggs and other products. Last week, I got some wonderful beets and blackberries. This week a sweet, sweet watermelon and a jar of honey. Semi-retirement is a boon for time to search for healthy, economical food options and hubby is excellent at cooking them into delicious, interesting dishes.

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

Garden eggplant, pepper, herbs stew/sauce

20160424_171050

A chard frittata with pear from CM


Gardening on Cement

February 28, 2016

If you’re as old as I am, you might remember the Beverly Hillbillies TV show. The Clampetts, a family of hillbillies–obstinately from Tennessee–found oil on their land, got rich and moved to Beverly Hills, California. Elly Mae, the blond and buxom daughter, called the swimming pool their “cement pond”. I call our back courtyard garden our “cement garden” in remembrance of Elly Mae.

2015 garden

Last year’s garden

For the past several years we have planted veggies in tubs and large pots. We’ve had good success with tomatoes, peppers, okra (bred for containers) eggplant, Swiss chard and a variety of herbs. This year we are trying onions. We also replaced the lime and lemon trees as the previous ones froze two years ago.

20160228_133004

2016 Spring garden just planted

We also have two fabulous, 10 foot tangerine trees in a real dirt patch on one end.

tangerine tree

Last fall’s crop of tangerine totaled about 170

As you can see we also have cactus plants, a Bird of Paradise and about a dozen Plumeria trees in various stages of growth. Our small front courtyard is a plethora of plants and a volunteer Loquat tree, which we think is cool.

20160228_142634

This is what you can do with a little space and ingenuity.

 


Banana Nut Bread with a Story

September 4, 2011

Or, how I got my Fannie Farmer Cookbook (1969 edition)

In 1966, during my sophomore year at college, I was invited to participate in the work-study program. I was paired with the new sociology professor, Dr. Bullion-yes, like the cube. During our initial conversation, he pulled out the bottom drawer of his file cabinet, handed me a magazine, and asked “What do you think of these?” Gracing the cover were pictures of young women volleyball players, inside were more athletic women–all totally naked. A quick mental assessment made me think “This is probably a test.” I said, “Nice, while they look very healthy, I’m not interested.” I must have passed, as I went on to work for him for 3 years with no other offers to view naughty magazines.

In those days, on the Southwest Texas College campus, students mostly came from small, rural towns. The guys were studying agriculture, the women aspiring to become teachers. There were no blacks on campus. Dr. Bullion spent several years opening minds and hearts on the civil right issues in his classes. He held the first class on Black History and introduced us to African-American writers and poets. Bullion would stand on his desk and holler out Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Du Bois. Quite impressive. He instituted the first, and I think only, student exchange week with Prairie View A&M, which at that time was an all black college near Houston.

But for all that liberal attitude about race, he somehow missed the part about women’s rights. For graduation, he gave me a copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Even then, I thought something about that was wrong, wrong, wrong. Was he telling me ‘now you have a college degree, but you really need a husband?’ Am I supposed forget about a career and learn to cook so I can be the perfect little wife? I was incensed, but kept the book as a memento of Dr. Bullion and his insightful, action-filled teaching style.

So, as life if full irony, I eventually grew to rely on, and love my Fannie Farmer Cookbook (not necessarily just to cook for the men in my life). It was the only cookbook in my home, until I married a chef and his gazillion cookbooks. It’s cover has long been missing. Some of the pages are attached with paper clips, torn and stained with spots of ingredients past. It’s simple and easy with timeless recipes that never fail me.

Here is the recipe for banana nut bread that now my grandkids love to make.

Banana Nut Bread

Some like to add 2 tablespoons melted butter to the batter. (I do)

Mix in a bowl

3 ripe bananas, well mashed

2 eggs, beaten until light

Sift together

2 cups of flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Add to the first mixture. Add 1/2 cup nut meats, coarsely chopped. Being Texan, we always add pecans.

Stir well. Put in a buttered 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake 1 hour at 350°

Enjoy every morsel.


Real Homemade Ice Cream

February 16, 2011

This afternoon, on the way home, I drove past a Marble Slab Creamery.  The neon sign was blinking “Homemade Ice Cream.”  And, I’m like, “I don’t bloody think so!”  Homemade ice cream is made like this…

Mom lovingly stirs up the ingredients on the stove, scalding the milk just right.  Dad gets out the hand-crank ice cream maker.  The milky mix is poured all steamy into the canister, lowered into the wooden bucket full of ice with homemade ice creamrock salt on the top.  Old quilts are laid over the bucket so the kids can sit on the top and keep things steady while Dad cranks with a strong, firm pace.

Thirty minutes later, the top of the canister is pried off and everyone takes turns spooning up the most delicious, creamy ice cream ever, bar none, no comparison.  Really.

Here’s the recipe handed down from my grandmother.

Three Quart Freezer Ice Cream–Hand Crank

5 eggs beaten

2 quarts milk-scalded

Add 1 tablespoon flour to 1 3/4 Cup sugar and add to the milk

Add the eggs.

Cook 1 minute.

Add 1 can Carnation evaporated milk and 1 tablespoon vanilla

Feel free to add Texas peaches or other fruit.

Hand-crank with love.

That’s homemade ice cream.