Category Archives: Fine Dining

Good Gifts #2

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It would be nice if the grief journey were over, wouldn’t it?  Sadly, this is not the case.  In many ways, it is just getting going.  We all survived the Easter holiday but it was not the same without our Radish.  MCVWasHere and I managed to grill a butterflied leg of lamb, thereby making our mother proud from her heavenly perch.  I am pretty sure we screwed it up but it was tasty nonetheless.  Severe holiday let down set in on Monday  with family returning to The Other Coast.   After the shock has worn off, the active MISSING phase begins ninety days in.  Man, would Grandmere have delighted in the peas, carrots, and Easter Egg hunt …

Perhaps to prep me for this, a galaxy of friends sent me a gift every day.  EVERY DAY OF HOLY WEEK I RECEIVED A GIFT.  Surprise!  It was not Christmas but it sure felt like it.  And to think that this was not coordinated by friends, only two of whom know each other.

On Monday, a box arrived with four wrapped gifts and a note from one of my DF Chicks, MLD, a needlepointing and reading maven.  She was also my Heart Surgery Coach.  Thinking I would need these gifts later, I hoarded them for Sunday.  I confess to feeling through the paper – they felt like books.

On Tuesday, a flat package arrived from Martita, another DF Chick, and Thing 3’s godmother.  This I ripped open, thinking it was an Easter card.  Instead, it was gorgeous watercolor painting of a bunch of radishes, an article on them, and a long lovely letter of a personal nature on what grief for one’s mother looks like after twenty years.  I never met Martita’s mother but I still quote her:  “If they [gossips] are talking about you, that means they are giving some other poor soul a rest.” Although Martita and MLD are good friends, I do not think these gifts were a coordinated effort.  My sister MCVWasHere also gave me a Glassybaby, a pink “goodness” votive for my burgeoning Radish altar.  This was not actually a gift – it was for winning a round of the High Stakes License Plate Game – but since I’d forgotten about it, it still counts!

When Wednesday rolled around, I opened a package from Amazon, thinking Mr. Understanding had ordered yet another guitar instruction video.  But lo and behold, it was another book, this one a gift from Ms. Broccoli.  Called Designing Your Life – How to Build a Well-Loved, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, it is a Stanford University design class on how to create a life you actually enjoy living, the perfect gift for a family in flux.  Think “encore career”, or for me, middle aged starter career.

After three amazing gifts in three consecutive days, it dawned on me that the Universe was sending me a big fat message of LOVE.

But wait!  There’s more!  It’s almost embarrassing.  Almost.  I am just trying to make a point here.  Wait for it.

On Thursday, MCV handed me and my father each a gift from her college friend, Michelle.  This one makes me cry when writing about it – a beautiful compilation of Sally’s musings, photos, and recipes from her blog CookSallyCook.com.  Curated and organized with a table of contents, I was awestruck  by this gift.  Michelle and Sally had bonded over the ancient grain einkorn.   Who knew???  An heirloom, both the grain and the book.  Earlier in the day a Jackson & Perkins bulb garden arrived from Dr. Skin.  Bloom where you are planted.

Moving on to Good Friday:  a hand knitted, lacy, rainbow pastel prayer shawl from MoodRingMomma.  I do not know how my sister had the mental band width to create such an intricate gift.  I had been using a prayer shawl of Sally’s given to her by the women of the church.  It was toasty warm but I confess to finding the colors not to my liking, even thoughI did get in the habit of putting it on.  Another heart wrenching heirloom, imbued with tears.

On Saturday, MCV gave me a blue Glassybaby cocktail drinker (“splash”), another premio for winning a second round of The High Stakes License Plate game.  My in-laws sent a bento box tower of nuts, which I put in Mr. Understanding’s Easter Basket.  Mine, as you can see, was full.

On Easter Sunday, MCV returned to my Children’s Bible Stories,  given to me and inscribed by my Grandmarie on Easter, 1971.  She also gave me Anne Lamott’s latest and greatest book Hallelujah Anyway.

On Monday, feeling bereft (which is just pitiful), I opened all of MLD’s gifts:  semi-cerebral brain candy* and a Mexican angel ornament that doubles as a nativity scene which went directly to the makeshift altar.   In the middle of my pity party, I took a nap and while I was dozing, the postman delivered a box of gifts from KT:  a key chain with Phillippians 4:4 on it (REJOICE!), a new CD by Olivia Newton John and friends called Liv On,  some paper goods from Magnolia,  and a favorite hymn printed on pink paper.  I actually knew the words.

I still cannot believe it.  Can you?

And then today:  a signed contract for the sale of our house in Ohio.  Cranky me, it seemed like another loss, the closing of yet another chapter.  Punto final.  Until Thing 2 said to me, “What if it’s an Easter gift?”  Indeed.  He did not know about all of the other ones …

So what do you think the cosmic message is, sent by a phalanx of Easter angels?  Here is my best guess:  READ.  FEED YOUR SOUL.  High brow, low brow, non-fiction, fiction, the Bible in adult and children’s versions.  Go to the beach and design your life.  Plant seeds.  Eat ancient grains and nuts.  Drink a cocktail out of a handcrafted colored glass and savor it.  Light a candle.  Say a prayer for your friends and for the world; wear an heirloom made with love while you do it.  SING!  OUT LOUD!    Frame all those extraordinary radishes and hang them where you can see them every day.  Have mercy on dear Anne Lamott and make your peace with her she’d meet you at the beach and chat with you about Jesus.  Miss your mother fiercely but remember she is in The Best Place, hanging out with the Mother of all Mothers, REJOICING.  She sent a cadre of love language speaking friends and family to remind you of the power of Resurrection, the unlikely gift of an empty tomb.

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*MLD’s book choices to lighten the heart of the Expat Princess:

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen

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Self Portrait of an Artist #2

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Tonight I am fixing “easy grilled chicken” from Naomi Duguid‘s beautiful book Burma.  This is NOT The Atonement Dinner. My last post before my mother died was about her being a Food Diva.  Regret.   I am not sure I can face The Atonement Dinner just yet.

This meal is a repeat, however, of the last meal I remember Sally fixing for me.  I even made the tangy red chili dipping sauce (of course she had dried ancho chiles in the cupboard).  I can only hope it is half as delicious.

Happy Friday.

 

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Possible Heart Nutrients

lord-stood-by-meThis is from Sally’s 2016 archives.   What are you doing for your heart?

This is what I am doing for mine:

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OK, I am not actively reading cook books.  Yet.  But my father is.  He had to go buy Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, ironically the one book that my mother didn’t currently own because she knew how to cook everything.  She gave it to everyone in the family – I have gone through several copies because the binding is terrible.   Dad’s  Mardi Gras waffles were stupendous.

Suggested reading:  Grit by Angela Duckworth.  Am only a chapter in but it is fascinating.  More on this topic later, but needless to say, SALLY HAD GRIT.

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Here, a recipe from Food52.com for grits.  You can add shrimp.  Or not.  You know what I would do, even though it is a Lenten Friday.  XOXO

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My Cross to Bear

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I began what is called a “grief journey”.  My parents’ pastor said to start one about six weeks after the death of a loved one.  By this I think he meant to start going to a support group, once the shock had worn off.  But for me, a support group is not the answer at the moment.  Writing about my mother is.  For I have come to the realization that my mother and I communicated through writing as much as through speaking, and perhaps more meaningfully so.  To wit, I have found some of my childhood and teenage notes to my mother which are at once painful, hilarious, truthful.  Mortifying.  Oddly, honoring Sally this way dovetails nicely with the Lenten season.  Planned?

New readers to the blog should note that we all use “love handles”.  Please feel free to pick your own should you leave a comment.  Otherwise, I might do it for you.

If you are joining me on this “grief journey”, we are packing lightly.    Jesus advised to only take “bag, belt, and sandals”*, relying on the goodness of others’ and the Holy Spirit to provide the rest.  As this was one of the central messages of my petite Camino de Santiago, it has never been more apparent to me, both materially and spiritually.  But for now, sweet readers, please remember that between the Radish and me there was no baggage.  Our hearts were are peace with one another.  Does it get better than this?

So, when I write about broccoli I am not writing from a place of condemnation but of genuine love.

I am the child that does not like cruciferous vegetables.  You would think a Jesus lover would.   Per Wikipedia, “The family takes its alternate name (Cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing”) from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross.”  But no, the smell of them is so noxious to me that I become nauseous, swooning with the vapors.  I could never convince my mother, who ate everything, that this was a biological reaction, one induced by a complicated set of factors stemming from my lack of a certain enzyme (her fault or my father’s?).  I even provided her with a scientific article** detailing this deficiency, one that afflicts enough of a percentage of the population that it needed to be studied.

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Above is a photo by The Radish featuring a cabbage and a freshly baked loaf of bread.

I am also the child who nearly passes out at a fish market.  Growing up, one of my worst fears was to have to sit in the main dining room of Lazio’s, a combined fish processing plant and restaurant.  It was where all the travelers passing through Eureka ate seafood.  (Eureka was never a destination, just a passing through kind of town – this was in the days before TripAdvisor!)

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I would beg my parents to eat in the bar, where the smell of fish would not annihilate the smell of my hamburger.  The Shirley Temple with the cunning little plastic mermaid draped over the side was the sole*** reason I survived these visits to Lazio’s.  That I lived in four foreign countries wherein salted cod was a primary staple is an irony not lost on me.

Yet my mother never gave up on me.  Hope sprang eternal for her vis a vis her daughters, her husband, her friends and family.

Just as my mother didn’t give up on my tastebuds she never gave up on her quest for my sisters’ to cut their hair.  My mother liked short hair on women and my father long.  Ever the mother pleaser, I have mostly worn my hair in a chin length bob, which seemed to be a happy compromise [please refer to my post of nearly a decade ago here].Each of us sisters has a childhood photo with us sporting a bowl type haircut.  Again,  mortifying.

Shortly after my mother’s funeral, I said to my sister MCV Was Here, “Just think, now you never ever have to worry about how short to cut your hair!  Mother is forever pleased!”

To which she responded, “You know, I was just thinking I should cut off all my hair.”

“@#$%^&* NO!!!!,” I said, “It was not your best look!”

This is what grief does to one, wanting to go to great or short lengths to please one’s mother even after she has passed on.   Say what?  Yes.  Irrational thoughts seize one’s mind.  As colloquial wisdom says, one should not make any big decisions for after a year of a loved one’s passing.  This includes cutting off one’s hair, even if it would arguably make one travel lighter, and readdressing the issue of cruciferous vegetables.

I leave you with my mother’s recipe for brussel sprouts, a.k.a. gag balls, which she lifted from the food website Food52.com and a recent photo of Sally at the hairdresser’s.   Peace on your journey today.

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*Matthew  10:10; Mark 6:9; Luke 10:4 [Synoptic Gospels].

**ironically, provided by my friend Broccolibooksandbed.  Click here to read for yourself.

***superbad pun, couldn’t help myself.

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Persian Aversion: An Ode to Martha

 

One of the oddities not mentioned in the After Your Heart Surgery brochure that a hospital gives a patient and their family before going home is that the patient will become a Food Diva.  If they were a Food Diva before the surgery, this aspect of their personality will become heightened, exacerbated, enlarged, inflated.  Once the pain is over and the patient returns home, small portions of any food not resembling hospital food will be requested.  This is natural.  But “requested”, perhaps, is too gentle a word.  Strongly suggested?   The very thing the caregiver is suggested to make, however, will offend the patient’s also heightened olfactory senses.  Chex Mix (TM) can send a patient into paroxysms of disgust.  Crockpot pork shoulder, lovingly rubbed with chili, garlic, salt, and cumin, can send a patient over the edge.  Who knew?

If one is not a natural born cook yet finds them self in a primary caregiver role to a Food Diva, this is a bitter pill to swallow.   Where does it say I have to be Alice Waters, Julia Childs, or Ashley Rodriguez?  To the patient whose primary love language is Acts of Service – The Provisioning of Healthy Meals to Your Family – to find oneself in the clutches of a merely serviceable cook of a caregiver is to find oneself gazing about the ramparts of the pits of hell.  Some snarky, possibly overtly aggressive, comments about pizza and the frequency with which it is consumed, just might be uttered by the patient: “You just keep eating your pizza.”  Food shaming at its best!

MoodRingMomma and I were at our collective caregiving wits’ end the other night.  I suggested to our mother that we could eat either a) crock potted chicken thighs in green salsa from her own website cooksallycook.com or b) Stromboli from the Italian restaurant a stone’s throw away.  MoodRingMomma added that she was willing to cook c) chicken curry.  A veritable smorgasbord of options, with a green salad on the side!

But no, The Radish wanted effing ground lamb kebabs on flatbread with roasted tomatoes from Naomi Duguid‘s cookbook Persia.  No matter that we did not have the skewers the recipe required, a grill, or ground lamb.  Hamburger would do, mixed in with the grated onion, mashed into pasty little sliders by my very own dish pan hands, and cooked on the pancake griddle.

I later commented that really, this very labor intensive  dish, was a Persian version of a poor Greek’s gyro, one we could probably get as take out.   I felt it needed some tzatziki but all agreed that the sumac spice was essential (this, of course, we had on hand).  Nonetheless, the Radish was pleased with the outcome and the smell did not offend.  She enjoyed watching MoodRingMomma cry over grating the onions and me mashing the meat paste into “kebabs”.   There was no sitting at the feet of Jesus for these sisters.

It was shortly after this that I had a hissy fit on the phone with my other sister MCVwasHere, during which I explained that everyday with a heart surgery patient is like being on a roller coaster.  Up one hour, down the next, with loop de loops, hanging upside down for extended periods.  This is no reflection on the heart surgery patient.  It is the nature of the beast. But no doctor tells you this beforehand, of course.  A heart surgeon touches your body exactly twice: once to cut on you for 4-5 hours and then again to remove the staples, and maybe then he or she  might even make a different healthcare worker do that nasty bit of business.

My ten year old nephew, overhearing the conversation, piped up and said,

“Wait!  You’re on a roller coaster????”

Like we were whooping it up on vacation at DisneyWorld.  It still makes me laugh hard.

Sometimes life demands that a Martha show up instead of a Mary.  Marthas get sh*t done.  Martha would not have hesitated to wipe up the blood and crust from the wounds of Jesus but she might have been resentful that she had to unload the dishwasher and milk the yak too. I am not so sure that That Other Mary would have been up to the task, something I will inquire about in my personal one-on-one conversation on the other side.  For today, Sweet Jesus, let me make it to Christmas.  At least there have been no poopy diapers.

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Shopping Suggestions:  you are cutting it close, shoppers.  I think you can still order Naomi Duguid’s books Persia or Burma, which are part travelogue, part stellar photography, and part recipes.  Even if you never cook from them, they are beautiful books.  Alternatively, order some baklava from Shatila.com.  I like to think Martha served both Jesus and her sister a piece.  YUM!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Signs and Wonders

 

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Do you think God can speak to you through license plates?  I do.  But only if you are paying attention.   (I refer you to my previous post on my other license plate signs here).

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I took Thing 3 to the barber for a haircut.  Bill the Barber is a story unto himself, which I will save for another day.

When leaving his salon, a generous word for his work space, Thing 3 and I headed to the Mexican ice cream shop in town,  Delicias Michoacanas.  They make the most excellent ice cream with intriguing flavors. I was not going to try the corn, but was hoping they had rose petal.

As we were pulling away from the curb, I saw a license plate that said:

COUNSLR.

“Look, Thing 3.  That’s probably a lawyer.”

“Or a shrink,” she replied.

“Or maybe the Holy Spirit.  That’s another name for it,”  I said.

Fifteen minutes later, waffle cones dripping with coconut and coffee ice cream, we saw another license plate.

WITNESS

“Wow, Mom.  Maybe you should finally start your law career.”

“I’m not sure that’s what that means.  But now that we’ve seen two license plates, you know there has to be a third.”

On we drove to the  AT&T store, mentioned in last week’s post.  These signs were occurring at the same time as the Unconscious Coupling.  As we were walking into the store there was this one:

WAY2BZY

“Hmmm.  Well, that’s the third plate but I don’t know what it means.”  Am I too busy? Yes, due to events beyond my control.  But normally, I try to pace myself and leave space in my calendar for things that come up, such as lunch with a friend, a heart surgery, or moving a household.  You know, the little things.  This is easier for me than, say, my sisters as my nest is now empty and I don’t have an income producing job.

As we got in the car, Thing 3 said to me, “I think you really might need to reconsider the law thing.”

No sooner had she spoken those words than a car bearing this plate drove by:

NOTLAW.

I do not make this up.

I had a witness.

I will not be practicing law.

I did, however, finish all my Continuing Legal Education, so I will be renewing my law license, to what purpose, I have no idea.  I am already WAY2BZY to figure anything else out.

Thoughts?  Suggestions?

Shopping suggestion:  Mexican ice cream or my seasonal favorite, candy cane!  It won’t melt as fast if you are living in an area affected by the Polar Vortex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Holy Spirit was popping during Thanksgiving Weekend.

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Dinner Party #1

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If you didn’t manage to watch the sermon I posted on Lazarus Saturday, here are the Cliff Notes*:

Lazarus has just been raised from the dead after mouldering in his tomb for four days.  Jesus had not rushed to his rescue – he wanted him good and dead – so that when He raised Lazarus, the witnesses would really get the message.  To celebrate, family and friends have a dinner at Lazarus’ home.  During the cocktail hour** Mary, Lazarus’ sister, is so thankful she wipes Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume.  Judas chastises her (he thought the money better spent on the poor) but Jesus says,

“Leave her alone.  She bought it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”  [John 12:7-8] 

Students of literature will recognize this as foreshadowing.  Mary is anointing him for his funeral, as a high priest would.  (Go back and watch the sermon video.  Fr. Jason Prati does a much better job explaining it than I. )

Mary’s sister Martha is serving the meal as Mary lolls about, wiping Jesus’ feet with spikenard.  Just kidding, Mary is not lolling.  She is literally pouring out her gratitude for Jesus’ raising her brother from the dead.

The apostle Luke [10: 38-42] tells an earlier story of Martha and Mary.  In this vignette, Jesus tells Martha she is “distracted by her many tasks”. Professor Amy-Jill Levine’s interpretation of banquets [Luke 5:29 footnote] suggests that dinners were held for “instruction”,  “ suggesting symposiums”.  In response to Jesus , Martha actually asks Him to tell Mary to get off her *ss and help in the kitchen.   He tells Martha that no, Mary is doing the right thing by chillaxing at his feet.  This event precedes Lazarus’ resurrection and takes place in Martha’s house.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Martha owned a house. For sure, she had household help but instead of delegating,  Martha was busy making sure  everything was just so.  There is no question in my mind that Martha was the oldest child.  

In the Johanan story, though, I think that at the dinner party for Lazarus, Jesus is happy she is serving.  Since it is Lazarus’ house, and he has just been raised from the dead, you can bet everything is in disarray.  There were probably dishes left in the sink and no food in the house.  But Martha makes sure everything is running smoothly.  She is the hostess with the mostess and there is food to get on the table.  You can almost see her roll her eyes at Mary, once again at the feet of Jesus, emoting, emoting, emoting.   Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to relax, either.  He lets her do her thing.  I  imagine Martha reconciled to her servant’s heart as well as reconciled to her little sister’s heart being her own.   Hopefully, Martha’s ears were peeled as she poured the wine.  

This evening, a woman at church opined that Martha was the old way of doing things and Mary the new.  That pretty much sums things up, wouldn’t you agree?  

No matter my fondness for Mary, today I have channeled Martha.  With a 72 hour staycation with no one in my house except for my errant animals, I have matched 3,000 socks, cleaned the laundry room, done 5 loads of laundry, spot cleaned carpet, taken straggling Christmas crap to the basement, returned a sleep study machine, yoga’d, and cleaned the “self-cleaning” litter box.   There are 2,000 socks still to match, the dishwasher to unload, and twin guest beds to make up for the weekend.  Consider it preparation for Passover, getting the yeast out.  A resurrection is coming but as I wait I am LOLLING with a glass of pinot noir, mindless television, and working on a needlepoint project.  It’s all about balance, friends.    

This post is dedicated to one of my favorite hostesses, godmother to Thing 3, Martita.  She gets her pseudonym from this story and in homage to Martha Stewart, who was well named.

Herewith concludes Day 36.

* I am not sure Cliff Notes still exist.  I was on a limited budget in college and might have bought them once.  Today there is the internet. 

**My interpretation. 

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