Friday, April 18, 2014

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp




The few times I noticed rhubarb in the produce area at the market I couldn't imagine it was edible.  Well yes, it does look like red celery and I don't have anything against celery but then I'm not the most daring of vegetable eaters.  Over the years I have spread my wings and have tried new vegetables with glowing appreciation.  Some not so well.  Like kale,  that I have tried in salad and have enjoyed but cooked I'm not going there.  Rainbow chard is a new favorite and I adore snap peas quickly stir fried in coconut oil and just at the end tossing sesame seeds in to finish.  Coconut oil is wonderful to use for stir frying!  I thank my daughters for their patient ways of teaching me about some new foods.

Back to rhubarb.  On the occasion we have been out to eat and have ordered a dessert to share,  we have tried a rhubarb crisp and I did enjoy it.  Especially with some vanilla bean ice cream on top!  Something different about it's flavor of just the right amount of sweetness and a tad of tart and the crumbled topping of oats, butter and flour.  

I was out shopping last weekend and I saw some fresh organic rhubarb.  I bravely picked a bunch up and thought to myself "I'm going to make a crisp.  I can do this!"  I bought some lovely strawberries and then of course thought "now I need a good recipe".   Of late when I look for recipes I do a Google search by image.  My thought is, if it looks good it just might be a great recipe.  So far that has worked for me every time.  I found a couple that looked good, then I read the recipes and picked one that sounded the best.

As so often happens, I didn't consider how much rhubarb to buy and I didn't have enough, at least by what the recipe said.  I had already started working and I was not willing to go back to the store and buy more.  It looked like enough for the amount I wanted to make so I just changed up the recipe and created my own.  It was wonderful!  I would make it again and not change a thing.  Here is my recipe and I hope you give it a try with the same success!


Strawberry Rhubarb Cardamom Crisp

Filling
2 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, 1/4 inch slices
2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, small pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 to slightly heaping teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground nutmeg

topping
3/4 cup old fashion oatmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For filling:
Spray ramekins / custard cups with Pam (or like).  Combine all ingredients, stirring to blend.  Let sit for 15 minutes to let juice form.

Divide rhubarb mixture among prepared dishes.  This recipe seemed generous and could do 8 dishes.  I only made 6 and had leftover filling.


Heat oven to 375 degrees

For topping:
Mix first 5 ingredients.  Add butter using your fingers or cutting in with pastry cutter, until small moist clumps form.



Sprinkle topping evenly over the rhubarb mixture in the cups.  Set cups onto baking sheet ( to catch the juices, it will bubble over) and bake for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbling and golden brown.  Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream


Friday, March 14, 2014

Grief 101 ~ Is this it?

     I've been doing some reading about grief as I'm perplexed by my silent mood.  I'm not depressed or at least it doesn't feel like what depression sounds like.  Still, I can't fully shake this feeling that perpetually is here following me like a shadow.  

     Each morning before I rise I lay there hearing Stewie shake is collar and the tinkle of the dog tags tell me "Get up!".  The day begins and I pad quietly down the hall, dark with the change in time (of which I hate to lose that extra hour of sleep), let the pups out, wake the computer to see the new mail, let the pups in, feed them, let them out again, and then make Ryan's lunch.  Day in day out.  I can't help but think that while all the years of doing this haven't always been the same as some years it was rising to pick up a hungry baby, or being woken by the jumping on the bed of our children, or the running down the hall of little feet,  but it is I who rises in the early morning to begin the ritual of a day.

     Somehow this death of my mom has tip-toed in my thoughts of how many years I have before I too have aged and can no longer do this early rising.  I don't have plans this will happen and actually once that thought creeps in I firmly tell it to go away.  What is happening is the essence of accepting that time is ticking on whether I want it to or not.  My parents are gone.  The quiet is deep and these days it is a place I do not enter on any level.  It's not that I don't want to think it over in my head, I just can't even enter that place.  I can't tell if the door is locked or open it's so dark.  The other night I couldn't sleep and I got up to have a bowl of cereal, read the paper, then back to bed.  I had turned out the lights in the kitchen and going back to our bedroom it was pitch black.  I reached my hands out so I wouldn't bump the walls or furniture and softly felt my way down the long hall and back to bed.  That is the dark I feel.  I keep reaching out so that I don't bump myself.  Maybe I'm suppose to though.  Maybe if I bump myself the grieving will move forward and away.  I don't know.






   This was from a web site : http://www.connect.legacy.com/inspire/page/show?id=1984035%3APage%3A3305  called Legacy Connect.  The article was titled "The Work of Grief".  Yes, this made sense.  The opening paragraph explains this:

 
As a griever, you need to appreciate the fact that grief is work. It requires the expenditure of both physical and emotional energy. It is no less strenuous a task than digging a ditch or any other physical labor. The term “grief work” was coined by psychiatrist Erich Lindemann in 1944 to describe the tasks and processes that you must complete successfully in order to resolve your grief. The term shows that grief is something you must work at actively if you are to resolve it in a healthy fashion. It demands much more than merely passively experiencing your reactions to loss: you must actively do things and undertake specific courses of thought and action to integrate and resolve your grief.


 

 I read this and it felt like what I was feeling: 


 Sometimes the death of a loved one brings up not only grief for what you lost, but also grief for what you never had and now never will have. For example, if you had a very conflicted relationship with your mother, when she dies you may grieve not only for what you have lost, but also for the fact that you never had a better relationship with her, that she never was the kind of mother you wanted her to be, and that now you will never have even the hope that it could change and you could get what you want. In such a case you grieve for the past, present, and future.


  
How long will my grief last? 


In another article from Legacy.com I found this speaking of time.  Grief can be measured in Chronos time, as in weeks, months and years but also in Kairos time which is "The time within which personal life moves forward". 


What matters is kairos time. What insights have I had? What have I realized? What meaning am I making of this terrible loss? We each have our own “entelechy”—to use a term from anthropology—that means our own “immanent force controlling and directing development.”

Well this helps.  In some odd way then I don't have a date at which I will be over this grief.  I need to work through and seek my path, this journey of letting go of what I can not change.  Does this give me hope?  Yes.  Does this take pressure off of me?  Yes.  Is it easy? No.  I do better with directions and I'm unsure what will reveal itself as I "work through my grief".  




Friday, March 7, 2014

Topsy Turvy Days

I'm a bit topsy turvy these days.  Throw in a bit of lost, add some smiles, add some drifting daydreams, add time, stir gently and then pour slowly into bed at the end of the day.  Some days I forget to add more smiles, and I intend to blend in sweet memories that pop in my mind too, but there will be another day to do just that.

I'm amazed at times how tethered I was to my mom for the bulk of my life.  Without her here I have more time that I realized I would.  Perhaps it is only that since her passing I was thigh high in closing her home and busier that I expected.  Coming down from that frenzy just days before her home closed and everything needed to be out before the passing on of the house keys, I suppose I should have expected a let down physically and mentally.

It is good, really.  I'm good, really.  But I'm still sort of lost.  It's been years since the phone would ring multiple times of the day from my mom.  Odd calls that I think she just needed to hear a voice.  I'd like to think she needed to hear my voice but really I think she knew she could call me and say anything, critical or trivial, and I would be there on the other end of the line patient and polite.

I'm not sure of my thoughts or if I need to.  At times I feel like I'm emerging from a cocoon to be transformed with whatever possibilities I choose.  It's sort of scary too.  I'm not wanting to change "Me", I guess I just want to be me without the anxiety of waiting for the phone to ring, or trying to please my mom.  Seems silly thinking this way but even with her not being herself the last 3+ years, without her being able to call me or the inability to communicate at all, that presence of her was there.  Sometimes I'm still that little girl who is not confident in her own skin.

Overbearing parents, whether a mother or father, or God forbid both, is not to be taken lightly.  It isn't to say my mom was less loving because she could and was loving.  But other times it was more complicated.  If I could have one wish it would be for my parents, all of them, my dad who passed away in the mid 1980's, my papa who passed away in 1999 and now my mom to tell me me how they loved me. It would help even if I didn't like what they said.  I would like to ask my dad especially, why he didn't try to see my brother and I more, or to write or call us.  Why or what happened?    Did he ever think how we would feel because he didn't? I wish we had gotten to know each other, I wish I could remember him, how he hugged me when I was little. Did he play with me, read to me?

I wish Papa and Mom cared enough to explain the complications that might arise upon their passing.  How the heck can a loved one know how or what the process of closing an estate mean?  Why were we to be left in the dark only to feel more in the dark with each passing legal letter that comes in the mail?  I think I saw too many movies and read too many books where the attorney sits the whole family down and does the reading of the will.  He would be a kindly soul that would speak gently, clearly, and with sincere condolence to the family.  As with death the mystery of closure still drifts on.  All will be well.  I know this I just expected, and I guess there lies the problem, expecting, will go the opposite way of books or movies.  Legal ways are certainly more along the lines of the TV show "The Good Wife", as in how to make a legal blender of what can be said or written.  And because this is private, I can't explain other than it isn't just my family involved and therein lies the crux of this and the complication for us, and the slow process, and the lack of communication to us.  99% of the time I'm choosing to not let this effect me.  It will proceed.  

So why am I feeling topsy turvy then?  Because I'm adrift in becoming me.  It's a big year ahead.  My son, our last one with graduate this year and head off to college in the fall.  Another milestone.  I'll let this flow.....and all will be well.  I know this and feel this.  Whatever comes my way .....

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What we inheirit

I closed the door to my parents home for the last time this past week.  Aside from the furniture the new owner chose to buy from my brother and I, it is empty.  I didn't feel anything. 

This apathy of feelings is confusing to me as I am a very feeling woman.  Am I covering up the potential rainstorm of emotion to come once I have rested my weary body?  All the packing of bags and boxes, the countless trips to the local Thrift store in my town to donate and donate and donate much of my parents books, kitchen tools, linens, clothes, dish and glassware items was staggering.  Our families tried to absorb what we could,  yet it seemed like the drawers, closets, amoires, and cupboards seemed impossible to empty as I pulled out countless amounts of belongings. 

Time....sometimes it has felt like forever that the home would sell.  I was able to "enjoy" the holidays with my family, then back to work once January appeared.  Then mid January an offer.  The Trustee had lowered the price once more and that seemed to bring in new lookers.  In the end it sold for what it should have instead of the inflated price it started with. 

A short closing of 30 days and back I went with urgency to emptying the house.  My brother came to organize and have his items shipped to their new homes, which was to two of his sons and his home.  I hadn't emptied book shelves and thankfully the new owner was a lover of books and was delighted to keep many of the Franklin Mint books.  I was thrilled to not have to pack them up and load in my car!  The Thrift store and Friends of the Library know me as the woman who lost her mother.  They kindly say words of "it is such hard work to empty our loved ones home", followed by "thank you for thinking of us and donating!".  I'm more thankful that they are here to take all that I have brought them. 

Over the course of almost four months I have been bringing box after box home then the furniture began once the home sold.  30 days to empty three full floors of furniture.  My sleep cycle went kaput.  I would wake up with severe anxiety night after night.  How will this all get done?!  Yet here we are and the home is no longer a part of our family any longer.  The furniture is placed or will be received by the new recipients very soon.  I've hardly had time to think about what it is to have my mother's pieces residing in my home.



I hear the Grandfather clock ticking in our living room that has been in our home for one week.  The clock I have in the past connected with the ticking of my mom as she faded away as it stood outside her bedroom door at the top of the stairs.  When she past away in August I told my mom's housekeeper, who had been retained for a short time, to not wind it.  I didn't wish to hear it or see it's "eye" that went left to right with every tick-tock.  My brother was to take it but his wife really wasn't wild about it and so it came to me.  Now I am getting use to it's presence and of it being alive once more with it's chime on the hour.  My Love and I have been fussing with it's timing so that it chimes when it should.  I'm getting use to winding it, using the little key to open the tall door where the old weights hang as well as the heavy pendulum.  And somehow it fits in my living room.  As though it was waiting to be here.  In the room is the Asian chest that while I liked, my Love was marginally not wild about.  It too fits.  Of course there are other pieces of furniture that are temporarily being stored in the room.  It is quite cluttered as well as my dining room which has furniture and boxes and house plants that now have come to me.  Where to put so much of this?  I walk in the room and walk out.  I'm not ready to open boxes I've so recently packed up and to sort through.  I need to just be present in my home, to be quiet.  Tick-tock, tick-tock......

The gifting of our parents possessions feels almost wrong.  They are gone and they can't take it with them.  Someone must now become the new owner.  But these tangible gifts have memories of where they once were and when they appear in our homes, they at first seem quite out of place even when they look lovely.  Am I worthy of taking care of them?  Did I deserve to be the one to use my mom's crystal and silver that she had used on her dining table for special holidays or parties?  It all feels rather odd and a little uncomfortable as though I have taken it from her.  

When I gaze at the tall pine hutch with it's multi-pane glass doors, where inside I have placed the blue and white Chinese pottery that I adored, I can't help but feel happy to have it here in my home and at the same time I know that it would not be here but for the fact that my mother is gone.  These tangible items can never fill the void of ones parents.  They can not replace the hugs, the "I love you", the hand in ones own nor the warmth that I feel now with my thoughts.  For now I will let my heart be.  Let it rest as I rest my body.  I will get to know these gifts and someday they will become as much a part of our home as they were in my parents home.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Pre Christmas Eve 2013



Vivaldi's Four Seasons is playing in the background.  My girls have been baking Gingerbread and Sugar cookies while I had been out shopping.  Husband has been out attempting to kill the gopher that is digging holes in the side lawn.  Shovel in hand perched to strike.  Our son has finished playing video games and I heard the strum of his guitar playing a few moments ago.  Our dog Stewie, is sitting in my lap, his head lays on my right wrist as I attempt to type.  He's little, thankfully, as his head weighs heavily there.  He's cold as his body shivers occasionally.

I believe Stewie is my protector of grief.  He seems to know when I am in need of comfort more quickly than any of the family.  He comes and sits near me or begs to be lifted in my grateful arms.  His eyes watch my every move.  Of late he also is giving his comfort to my son and husband more than he use to, as though he senses their need as well.

It is an unsettling Christmas for me.  How can any Christmas not be after a loved one has passed away?  How can the Christmas spirit be found?  Mine is numb.  Such a numbness that I've never felt.  Empty?  I've tried playing holiday music but that makes me weepy at times.  Most often I have not felt it's joy.  More often I don't play any.  

I'm not trying too hard as I understand this can't be forced.  I give it an effort but inside a part of me feels that grief at the holidays is without guidelines.  A personal journey that will take me where it wishes.  Sometimes I stand waiting in a line while shopping and feel that while everyone around me is jabbering and talking, I am on an island of stillness.  Alone and unseen.  I feel my breath go in and out of my lungs, my calmness settles around me.  Am I here in this bustling place?  

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  I have some gifts left to wrap, my dining room table to set, pies to prepare and food to prep.  I will be preparing Coq au Vin and Vegetarian Cassoulet.  One daughter will fix a salad and one will be making an Apple Tart.  I'm always touched by their help.  I'm not one whom asks for help, so when I'm asked if I need help I have to think and say yes.  Since my mom's illness and now her death, my cooking is striking out in new paths different from the traditions of having the same dinner for Christmas as we do at Thanksgiving.  Christmas Eve is really quirky for me.  What to do?  We use to go to my husbands mom's for Christmas Eve, then when she no longer could do it we went to my sister by marriage's home where her children and grandchildren would come.  That has past with their new traditions of church going on Christmas Eve.  That was hard to adjust to that my little family now must do our own thing on Christmas Eve.  And so Christmas Eve never feels like what I've always expected.  Good or bad?  Neither.  It is.

In some ways I am weary of this year's holidays.  I'm tired of the shopping though it hasn't been fraught with difficulty.  I've gone with a smile on my face and that calmness I have mentioned.  I thank the sales people for their help, I chit chat with them.  I've always disliked those people who are short or rude to sales clerks.  Why can't people be nice?

It's time for me to rise and get myself out to the kitchen.  Tonight is homemade pizza to fix.  Simple and that is what I need.  I can't believe that I was going to do Tamales on Christmas Eve!  I've never made them and here I thought I would do just that.  Sensibility finally prevailed!  

I'll light the candles on the mantle.  I've been told I have quite a few up there and indeed I do.  I need the candles glow in the darkness of winter.  A light that burns softly and the gentle flicker that catches my eye and holds me in it's trance.

Peace be with you and those you hold dear.




Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Sisters




Their slender arms are waving above their heads in slow swan like moves to a rhythm they have created.  I watch from the corner of my eye as I wash the dishes and find myself wishing I had had sisters to dance with or better yet that I was their sister.  My women-daughters, gravitate to each other, a bond of invisible umbilical cord linking them together.  With each one living in opposing directions getting all together is perhaps twice to three times a year.  Yet without fail the time spent together strengthens them and allows them to learn from each other what they have separately discovered on their life travel.

Their dance picks up speed, swirling dervishes they become then they connect arms, heads thrown back in laughter of themselves.  They make faces with wide wild eyes, eyebrows highly arched.  Beauty in movement my mind and heart feel. 

These women I long to still belong to but of recent years have felt an outsider of.  Not of love, no, they love their mother this I know and feel.  My own life travel has led me to another path they have not felt or seen and I know that when they enter this path it will be me they see as I see now of the elder parents of my Love and I.  I want to dance with them, swirl uninhibited, and I could if I would only move my anchored body to them.  What inhibition holds me from them?  A long inhibition of shyness amongst my family seems silly but I'm still learning to let go.  Letting go, letting go, letting go...the sounds of the gentle brook that slides over the tumbled stones in my conscious being.  My mantra I am trying to meditate upon.  

It comforts me that they are close like this.  I hope that any obstacles that may come upon them in years to come between themselves are danced out not yelled out.  I find myself saying, "if I knew then what I know now how differently I might have been".   Though I try not to think how or what I did in my life that I wish I could have changed, I grasp onto the thought that to have been able to change this would have changed me and would have changed who they are these earth nymphs.


I wonder what the partners of two of my daughters, one married and one not, think as they watch them play.  Listen to their outbursts of laughter or their sudden change of topics that they cast out like fish nets, hopes of a similar opinion, intention, direction.

The sisters, my daughters, open my eyes, open my thoughts and I do not wish to say goodbye to them as our time together comes to a close.  My tears fall softly as one by one they drive or fly away.  My oldest, the one who is the farthest from her home, is the hardest for me to see leave.  The first born, the one who taught me mothering though she knows this not.  She is the honey to the family hive, for when she comes I know that my middle and youngest daughters will be coming soon.   Their little brother, almost grown, he too gravitates to their arrival and presence.  Come again soon my little ones, come again soon.  My nest is here and I love your infectious joy.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

#74



My toes submerge in the warm, swirling water as I settle back in the nail salon chair. "Water okay?" says the woman who has settled me in.  "Yes, it's just right" I say.  It's busy on this Friday morning.  I've only come days earlier in the week where there may be three women in the Pedi area and two in the Mani area.   Today the salon is packed with stations all full.   The very young woman who comes to do my toes looks barely over 18 and she is trying to find a squat stool that looks like it is meant for a small child than for women who hover over feet all day. 

Her English is barely there but she is sweet and has a lovely smile that she shyly gives me when she needs to ask me a question.  I seem to always have to ask her to repeat.  "Sorry" or "Excuse me?" I ask.  I read from a magazine, looking up every so often to put my feet where she directs me.

I scan the room.  Across from me is a young little girl, maybe all of 6, having her nails done.  The look of shear delight is on her face as she watches the woman paint her nails.  I'm glad it is a pale color, maybe even clear, as seeing little girls in dark colors bothers me.   You see, I hadn't start doing my nails till my nephew got married six years ago and I decided to give it a try at having a French mani-pedi for the event.  It never was my thing this pampering.  I felt it was a waste of money.  Besides, I had horses, children and a dismal flower bed to keep alive and color on my nails seemed beyond silly.  Yet those six years ago when I first did it I was surprised at how I actually enjoyed it.

The little child across from me brings my mom to mind.  My mom who always had perfect nails, perfect hair, perfect attire and manners.  I wonder if I would have gone with her if she had asked me to go have my nails done?  Back in the 60's I don't remember ever little girls going to a salon for this.  Then again how would I know?  I was all for playing outside, in the dirt, up a tree, on a horse and that seemed like what grownup women did, not children. 

My youngest daughter loved the pampering of a mani-pedi.  My mom did take her and also gave gift certificates to the local salon so she could go have a spa day.  She would come home with fancy nail styles that I would look at and wonder what might I be missing.  Yet my mom and I never went to do this and I think, when I was full of being a mother I didn't give it a thought.  She probably assumed  I wouldn't do it anyway.  I didn't wear makeup either but as well, my mom never taught me what makeup was all about.  I experimented on my own in middle school and early High School but opted for the natural woman look which I still do.  Freckles from all those years of riding my horse in the full sun, before the sunscreens we have now, which might have helped me as the mature woman I am now.  Oh well.  My mom seemed to forget that she had a daughter who might have been receptive to learning had she just figured out a way to share the art of being a woman. 

Then again....maybe not.  I was just past the era of the 60's Flower Power.  I was a "wanna be" but was too young for "Free Love", Woodstock, Haight Ashbury.  I could mimic the clothes and hair and listen to the music but beyond that I was just a young girl stuck in the home of a Southern belle at heart.

The young woman doing my nails hasn't yet asked me what color I want so I remind her and she flutters off the toad stool seat she is on and brings me back the ring filled with artificial nails of all the colors they offer.  This is the part I can never decide on.  The light is too dim and I know I'm going to get something too dark or with sparkles which I don't want.  Then again it is like choosing a goodie bag when you don't know what might be inside.  Surprise!  I pick #74 and let her know.  She has been massaging my feet and calves and for once I am enjoying this.  Most times whoever is doing a mani is carelessly massaging or going too deep.  Not this young woman.  She makes me wish I could sit here for another hour, close my eyes and drift away into relaxation.   

When the young woman has finished my nails and I look at them more clearly I laugh to myself when I see the color.  Not quite what I thought #74 would look like.  Last time I picked a deep shade of red but today it is the color of cotton candy pink to me.  This is my summer guilty pleasure, when my toes are out of shoes and in sandals.  This is when I can do something I use to think was silly and now can touch with my imagination the thought of what might have been had my mom and I been more of a mother / daughter.   Then it can go deeper.  I never once took my girls to have a mani-pedi.  Nope.  I never showed them how to use makeup (how could I?!  I could barely do a makeup job for a wedding on myself!).  

With my mom who is barely here with her illness, I keep seeing mother / daughters together and ponder what it means to me.  Why do I seek this thought?  What do I think I will obtain for my peace of mind if all I do is feel bittersweet when I see other mother / daughters?

I ask to sit under a lamp to make sure my toes are fully dry before I leave.   A few minutes after I sit down another little girl with short bobbed hair moves to my direction.  Her hands are splayed out as she approaches the table I am at.  We are sitting opposite each other.  I look at her, but not long, as I don't want her to think I'm some weirdo.   What makes little girls want to play "spa" with their moms?  Is it really what we should do at such tender ages?  Maybe it is just the time of pretend for these little girls.  I don't know but I'm suddenly feeling a longing for my daughters and what we can do together.  Maybe not nails, but just being together.  Just being in their presence reassures me of the love we have.  But seeing this little girl also reminds me of how my girls are grown women and have full lives of their own and in that brief moment I'm longing for them to be this little girl, all full of lightness and smiles looking at her pretty nails as she sits under the lamp as her nails dry.  

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