Wednesday, November 30, 2011

THE Salad

My mouth waters any time I think of this salad. All the different onions and peppers burst in your mouth. The first time I had it was at the Thompson's. I can't remember what else we had but this salad became made lettuce legendary. There is no name, so I named it: THE Salad. I made it on Thanksgiving and recalled how much I love it.

I have to share it.

Lettuce-- ice berg, Romaine, Spinach (sorry I left these other ingredients out of my post for so long.)
Cabbage-- you can use this, or not.

Tomatoes-- Cherry or Roma (I hold these out until right before serving or let people add them to the salad themselves so the leftovers keep.)

Slice the next three ingredients

1 REd Bermuda onion
1 Green Pepper
1 Yellow

Traditional Feta Cheese, crumbled
Parmesan Cheese  (The slivered kind)

Good Season Garlic and Herb seasoning.
White Balsamic Vinegar (Yes, you need Balsamic. White Wine Vinegar might work if you add a pinch of sugar. Supposedly. You won't find it at Wal-Mart. I found it at a larger Albertsons. Good luck! It DOES make a difference. It brings out that Feta cheese!!

Don't add the dressing until right before serving or do the same with the Cherry Tomatoes and let people add it before they eat! ( so leftovers don't get soggy and you can re-enjoy)

If I get a hankering I add other vegetables like carrots or mushrooms. Play around with it and see if you get other good combos!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bright Thursday

Despite a dark night before, Thanksgiving was a merciful day.

With most of the family at in-laws we had planned for a simple day. However when it was apparent that we'd forgotten to put the turkey in the fridge the day before, we realized how simple it would become. Coupled with the main cook out of commission the task fell to me.

Like I'd mentioned earlier, the night before had been in a word: Awful. Actually, I was awful. Granted I have been dealing with shingles but it when you give up mentally and decide to wallow in your circumstances and then spread the love, well it isn't pretty.

David McCullough, author of John Adams and well known historian said: "History is human." So in trying to record it, I hope that I can be honest.

So in light of human weakness the sun broke through my bedroom window -I was surprised that the day itself was invitingly warm.

The news of the turkey put the day in perspective and I was able to encourage Padre outside for a walk; what else would we do?? And I needed the encouragement to even walk.

Things always seem better after a walk.
* This was the last 30 minute walk I would do, Readers. My body needed to rest.

With a renewed look at life, we decided on getting a ham to cook for our Thanksgiving meal. Venturing out to Wal-Mart I ran into friends and more encouragement. There in the entryway was McKay, the young man who has inspired me on many occasions throughout my life.

When I called his name his face beamed and it lit a light in my heart that had seemed to have gone out. We hugged and he told me why he was at Wal-Mart and I smiled while he wiped the entire cart down with a sanitizing wipe.

In line we ran into one of my nurses. One that has always been especially empathetic and kind to me, willing to work with my poor veins and listen when I wanted to complain. She had just run a 5k for hunger. And it had been difficult. But we rejoiced with each other that we'd both overcome the discouragement and difficulty that comes when doing something hard. She expressed some of her own trials and it felt good to be able to listen to some one's burden and hopefully share it.

We drove home and I miraculously made Thanksgiving dinner. Watered down in comparison to the usual celebration but somehow it felt more "real". I really felt glad and grateful for the food. Instead of sitting down to a meal where I'd already downed a couple of mom's amazing rolls and then having a bit of everything, I was able to savor the simple feast before me.

Even my culinary mistakes ended up tasting good and I need to make a mental note to continue to do it that way. At least in the combinations that I'd devised. (I forgot the vanilla in the whipped cream but with the pumpkin pie and caramel hot chocolate it tasted divine)

So there is grace, even for Grinches. Maybe especially for them!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Holidays are Here

I have already succumbed to the lure of Wal-Mart's Christmas atmosphere. A couple weeks ago I was in for a routine errand; enjoying the festive decorations and music when, I became so comfortable, I went over and bought some pants for Jaden. He was doing quite well wearing shorts, mind you he wouldn't wear jeans anyway, but with winter approaching I had to break down!

The festive decorations, short lines and smart new organization of the store worked the consumer trick: I spent money the money right then, not even blinking an eye.
Luckily, I spent money on what he needed, had budgeted- But the whole time I was gorging on the opportunity to purchase, the different items around me started ratcheting up a Christmas list. Suddenly I was wanting more. Obviously, I needed to start my portion control purchasing; sooner than later.

I decided I need a plan to help me through the holidays- even a plan for the bell ringers who work for the Salvation Army. Because I feel the guilt when I have to walk passed them. Regardless if I have given money and there has been a shift change while I was in the store!

The first part of the plan is to be grateful and notice what I have. To let go of what I don't. The other day I was talking with my sister, complaining about not being able to wear contacts, wanting new glasses or "something" that would take away the "bite" of having to wear spectacles. She reminded me that during the Holocaust, the prisoners had their eye wear taken from them.


I don't plan on shedding my glasses, driving to Wal-Mart, and pointing out to Salvation Army volunteers that I didn't see them as the exscuse as to why I am not putting money into the bucket. However, I did linger without them a bit this morning and tried to comprehend the state of depression I could sink into if my world were a mere smudge of dull colors, whispers of movement, and the loss of a focal point. It would limit me in every way imaginable. True, I wouldn't be able to see what I was missing at the mall, being kept in the dark like that could have its benefits, but you get the picture.

My next manifesto: I won't go shopping during the evening when I am tired, hungry, and more likely to break down and buy. I have a small notebook to write down what I have spent already, to remind myself what will be under the tree or that we have gotten this past year that may as well be a reminder that we had an abundant year.

Coins will be ready to pass out to bell ringers, and once that is depleted then I will be prepared with a smile for the volunteers, insteed of averting my eyes, and worried about what they think.

I will put good Christmas music on the radio to alleviate the anxiety of the day and to create the kind of mood that makes the season special.

When I eat, I will leave a bit of room to remind myself of the hunger that others feel in their lives at this time without family, food, let alone the gifts that seem to be important to me.

And I will write.

Boy Behind the Statue

Wilson Rawl. With one sweep of the cursor and I knocked out everything I just wrote about him. I guess it was to empasize exactly how hard it was for him to go back and re-write his book, Where the REd Fern Grows.

"Oh!" I thought. "Good, I don't need to keep a live journal online!" Thinking that fate had made up its mind for me. But after walking around the block in the frigid cold, I resolved to roll my sleeves back up and dive in again.

Whether it turns out the same, or not, we'll see. I some time ago to read the book with Jaden. Subbed in a 5th grade class that was in the midst of it and after my sister got a hound.. well, it just seemed like the time of year to do it.

Checking it out from a school library because the public library says I still owe a fine on a book I swear I paid for in CASH and seeing as I don't have a receipt; and I am too stubborn to go over there and re-pay it! Yes, Westside Elementary, I am a good patron of libraries! And you WILL get it back after the break!

Jaden didn't know if he would like the book. In fact, after I started it, he commented that he thought it would be sorta boring cause it looked old. But after the other night, he walked away with a new appreciation of life and dogs.

I'd pictured reading it by a fire for some reason. Maybe because the character starts out by one and recalls his youth as he looks at the silver and gold cups he won as a child with his dogs.

That aspect came true. Not because I labored in front of the hearth wadding up newspapers, etc. But that I was too tired the other night to finish it with Jaden. We had reached the beginning of the end, but my eyes couldn't stay open. I asked him if we could read it later, he moaned but agreed.

We were able to finish it the next night. We'd just walked in from the driving rain and wind after picking him up from a practice and there was the fire I'd imagined. Padre was kneeling down in front of the hearth putting in old office papers.

Thinking we ought to eat first, I held back the idea of reading but it wasn't long before I had my coat half off and Jaden was suggesting we read it, by the fire!

"Go grab it!" I said and cozied up on the couch watching the flames lick up the black cement blocks inside the fireplace. Without eating, we plunged into the final chapters, both of us unaware of what stood in store. My mind had blanked the details, he only knew the dogs died- but how?

It took a lot of fortitude to keep reading through the hard parts. Jaden started to stir next to me as the mountain lion scene unfolded before his eyes. He had to turn his face from mine, stand up and walk across the room- eventually leaving the room and me wondering if he would come back. REd faced he appeared again and I assured him it was almost over. But I half wondered if I should wait til he was older, when he could handle the story a bit better.

Choking back my own tears I steadied my voice and concluded the story just as the last flame curled up off the night colored log from the tree we lost as a result of the last storm.

It wasn't til the next day that J could process the book and explain what was going on iside of him; "Mom, I felt like my heart stopped. I had to get up and move so the circulation would come back, that's why I was walking around."

I drove him by the library and we looked at the sculpture of the young boy, Billy and his two dogs, Little Ann and Old Dan entwined around his barefoot legs. I always thought the sculpture of the dogs were on the skinny side. But that exudes the essence of Rawls own life, the life of his characters and really our own. I know I haven't had to live in a time where I was required to go hungry, but in a lot of ways I hunger for so many things in my life. And sometimes that is good, the raw hunger that keeps us moving toward our aspirations.

By the way, there is a CD of Wilson Rawls talking about his youth and how he came to write his books. He grew up in the Ozarks, barefoot and hungry as well. Writing on the banks of rivers and dusty roads; left home in his teens because his father couldn't afford to feed him or his siblings so he went in look of work. Riding the rails somewhere in Texas during a storm without much on he finally got off in a town to look for something to eat. He tried to find a soup kitchen and saw a man leaving a hotel who looked like he could afford to help him. He tugged on his coat sleeve and asked: "Would you be willing to feed a boy?"

That is all I know because it is only a snippet. But I am amazed that he went back and re-wroe the 4 books he burned in a fire because he felt they were silly and no one would be interested.

Gosh, I know that the book is ficiton, but I feel like somewhere in the Ozarks there really is an ax bedded deep in a tree with a lantern hanging from it!

Stay tuned

Dear Readers,
I was actually enjoying not sharing my thoughts online and even as I write I wonder if I ought not to just put them into my own journal, where they are safely tucked away, for someone who really needs to read them. In a far distant future when I won't be around to answer to it. !

But this last week has forced my mind and hand to, once again, climb back on the blog box.

In an effort to find THE book for right now in my life I chose one that I had read before called: Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Subtitled A Daybook of Comfort and Joy Pulling it from the bookcase downstairs I opened it to find many passages marked by my younger self. I recalled the hours spent reading it at the Chocolate/Candy store I worked during another time when I was too ill to go to school or work full time.

The book was easy to read, passages for each day of the year that I could either read ahead or skip to one that I wished.

A feeling came over me that this would be a good follow up to the other great book I just read with Jaden; Where the Red Fern Grows

The first quote to catch my eye from the book was what propelled me back into "allowing" others to read my work. It read:

"... in a time lacking in truth and certainty and filled with anguish and despair, no woman should be shamefaced in attempting to give back to the world, through her work, a portion of its lost heart."

Stay tuned.

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