Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With gratitude...

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.  ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition

Like most people in this country I have so much to be thankful for.  I'm healthy and happy, have a healthy, loving family (including our furry children) and wonderful friends, a roof over my head and a garden, food on the table, a good job that I really like, and I really am so thankful for all of that.  I try to be mindful of that not just at Thanksgiving, but every single day. But there was a time in my life when I didn't know how to do that, so I started a gratitude journal.  Every day I would look for three things to be grateful for, so I could write them in my journal.  I didn't let myself use all the usual stuff; my health, the health of my children and loved ones, etc.  Not that I wasn't thankful for those things.  Just the opposite.  Those are the things we're all grateful for.  That part was easy.  So I looked for all the little things, the things I was missing every day, and never wrote the same thing twice.  I'll be honest - there were days when the fact that I got two green lights in a row counted as something to be grateful for.  But as time went on I started finding five or eight things every day.  Then dozens of things every day!  Things like the color of sunlight late on a fall afternoon, or when I dug up what I thought was a dead toad while gardening, and then right before my eyes he "came back to life" after his winter's hibernation!  Like the time I cut into a zucchini and the seeds were lined up in a heart shape, or like when you smile at a stranger's baby and she smiles back (or the stranger smiles back, for that matter).  Like the hundreds of little tiny things that are right in front of me every day, if I just look for them.  I don't write in the journal any more.  I don't feel like I need to any more.  But I do pay attention, and I do notice, and I am thankful.  Each and every time.

Happy Thanksgiving to my friends (both here and in blogland) and beloved family!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'm grateful I DON'T have...

Restless leg syndrome. 

Or a fungus under my toenails.  This poor guy looks like he has both!

I once heard someone say (or maybe I read it somewhere...I don't remember) that if you aren't  happy because you don't have what you want, then you should be happy because you don't have what you DON'T want.  Makes sense to me!  There are a lot of things I don't have that I really don't want.  A friend and I joke about Restless Leg Syndrome (me) and Toenail Fungus (her) being two things we don't want that we don't have and how grateful we are that we don't, but seriously, how many things do you NOT have that you DON'T want?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


 "Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional." - Chili Davis

When I was in high school I shared a room with my sister, one year younger than me, who was also my best friend.  We had the coolest room imaginable. When we moved into that house the room we were to share had a pretty, small scaled flower-y wallpaper on the walls that didn't sit too well with us hippie chicks.  We tried to talk our mother into letting us paint the room black, but she wouldn't go for it (surprise, right?).  We finally talked her into a dark blue.  Very dark blue. My sister and I painted the room ourselves and we painted right over the "old lady" wallpaper. Somehow, over time we, and our friends, found out that if you wrote on the wall it would scrape away some of the paint and the markings would come out white, the color of the wallpaper background.  So before too long, one entire wall, floor to ceiling, was "written" on by all our friends.  There were quotes and drawings all over.  It looked like a giant blackboard which had been well used.  We had our mattresses on the floor with lots of pillows, and flowing curtains and bedspreads that we made ourselves out of those cotton tapestries from India (oh, how I wish I had some of those now!), and Neil Young (me) or Rod Stewart (my sister) on the stereo - loud. Needless to say, we were envied by all of our friends and our room was a popular hangout.  Thanks Mom, for letting us do that.  Not every mother would have been that encouraging of our budding "style"! (And probably not surprisingly, my sister and I are both still into styling our homes!)  Sadly, as far as I know, there aren't any pictures of that room.

But I saw this on the blog "A Perfect Gray" this morning (via this pretty space) and the memories came flooding back:

ohhh...the memories!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Soup. It's what's for dinner...

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.  ~Garrison Keillor

I guess I haven't got this blogging  thing down yet.  I forgot to take a pic of my corn chowder last night, so I looked for a photo in Google.  This one looks pretty close to what my chowder looks like.

I've mentioned before (here? or commenting on another blog?  I don't know...) that I'm sort of a "flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" kind of cook.  Although I often get my inspiration from an actual recipe I find somewhere, I almost always end up veering off on my own.  That's why I don't bake much.  You have to follow directions - usually very closely - and I just don't do that well.  Short attention span or something.  I don't know.  Anywayyyy...over the years I've kind of made up my own recipes for some favorites, and Corn Chowder is one of them.  It is amazingly simple, and while it's best made with fresh corn, I often use frozen corn, because I love soup in the winter and it's hard to find local fresh corn in the winter.  I promise it is really, really close to just as good as fresh.  Oh, and a warning:  while I don't eat meat as a general rule, there is a small amount in this recipe.  I've tried making it without the pancetta, but it is not the same.  Two or three ounces of pancetta adds a ton of flavor.  It just does.  If you figure out a way to make this without it, let me know.

Since I am such a...shall we say creative cook, and I don't usually measure anything, I've estimated measurements here.  Feel free to change things.  Oh, and I like spicy.  If you don't, feel free to cut back on the red pepper flakes and jalapeno, although I'm not sure I would leave it out completely.  Might be too mild and sweet.

Corn Chowder

6 cups corn kernals (fresh or thawed, if using frozen)
1/2 to 3/4 cup half and half
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and very finely diced (to taste)
2 to 3 oz pancetta, finely diced (Italian bacon - I find it in the deli at my grocery store)
1 sweet onion, finely diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth (I use Wolfgang Puck's - it's awesome!)
Red Pepper Flakes to taste

In a soup pot, using a small amount of olive oil, saute pancetta, bell pepper, jalapeno, and onion over medium-low heat, until veggies are soft - about 5 mins.
In the meantime, put 5 cups of corn and the half and half in blender (you may have to do it in two batches) and pulse a few times until fairly smooth and creamy.  If it's too thick add a little more half and half.  It's amazing how thick corn gets when you put it in the blender.
Add the creamy corn mix, the rest of the corn kernels, and the broth to the soup pot and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until heated through and the whole kernels are cooked.  Add S&P and red pepper flakes to taste (you may not want these if you don't like spicy).  Serve with a nice, crusty bread.  This usually makes enough for our dinner and we each get lunch out of it the next day, so maybe four servings.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sunday mornings...

"Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life."
Marilynne Robinson (Gilead)

Most mornings of my life I'm a jump-out-of-bed-and-get-going kind of person.  I go to the gym before work, and the BF goes to work early in the morning, so there's not a lot of time for chit chat or even for having a cup of coffee.  But on Sunday...well, that's a different story.  When the BF and I first started living together we accidentally started something that has now become the highlight of the week for both of us.  Sunday mornings, the first one to wake (usually me) gets up and gets the coffee, and two cups, and comes back to bed.  We then spend the next hour or two laying in bed drinking coffee together and catching up on the week.  Sometimes we talk politics, or tell each other about something we heard on NPR, and sometimes we tell stories about when our children were young or even stories about when we were young. We laugh a lot. Little Jack snuggles in with us, Sadie in her bed next to us, and sometimes Louise will even sit on the end of the bed.  They seem to enjoy this time as well.  Soon enough it's time to get up and go out for breakfast, but that hour or two spent having coffee in bed never fails to start my Sunday in a relaxed frame of mind, and isn't that what we all want for our Sundays?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

 "There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling".    Mirabel Osler

Fall is really here.  Cold, dark, mornings and earlier sunsets.  The leaves are turning and the garden is settling down from it's crazy and riotous summer antics.  On my early evening stroll through the garden yesterday I noticed a few blooms, though.  The roses, although much healthier looking than they have been since May, still are not blooming.  Any day now.  And they'll bloom through January once they start. They've been known to bloom in snow around here!  Anyway, here's a little look at some of what is still blooming.

The Hydrangeas are fading fast, but I love this phase where they turn a beautiful shade of green.

One of the Sedums, getting ready to bloom, along with a Purple Heart.

A white "Encore" Azealea, and of course, Mums!

This was supposed to be a white Coneflower! Oh well...still pretty.

Some more Purple Heart - I LOVE those little flowers - and a Gaillardia.  Oh, and some weeds! Hehe...just keeping it real!

I'm not sure, but I believe this to be some sort of Hibiscus? The flowers are white and look very similar to a Hibiscus.  Earlier this summer some moth caterpillars wiped this entire shrub out in one day, but it's come back nicely.

More Mums, and a potted Pomegranate - I'm experimenting with that.

One of my favorites, the Canna Lily.  I have several types and colors in the garden, but this is the only one still blooming.
I'm enjoying what's left in the garden for now, and already thinking about what to add next year.  Now if the mosquitoes would just get the word that fall is here...

p.s. don't forget to vote!