Sunday, July 26, 2009
Last night as Greg and I, along with Troy & Steph, took an evening stroll along the beach in the mist and fog, Greg suddenly said, "Look!" and started running ahead.
Out of the mist, like a dream... stepped my son, Zeke, his wife, Amy and my grandsons, Nate and Titus! (They'd arrived without calling us and surprised us!)
Titus came to me and laid his little 9 month old baby head on my shoulder, and I immediately melted in to grandmotherly mush. Nate was jumping and running and grinning saying, "Is this the BEACH, Nonnie? Is that the Ocean??" Such a moment!
This morning Nate was ready to play with Nonnie at 6:15 (I usually don't wake or speak in complete sentences until at least 8:00!) After some coffee and sleepy attempts at chit-chat, Poppy and Zeke & Amy took off to show Nate the joy of sand dollar hunting; leaving me with some rare alone time with my newest grandson Titus.
As you can see Titus has gleefully taken over my reading glasses (when I snapped this pic, I discovered to my surprise -- he has teeth now!); helped me blog (using a spoon to type, which is, I think, a sign of genius); and alphabetized the front of the fridge.
Right now he's cuddled beside me fast asleep. It was hard not to laugh as I rocked and sang him to sleep because, rather than crying or fussing, he griped "nayah, nayah, nayah..." like a grumpy old man and blew rasberries at my lullablies, between yawns and eye rubs as he fought going off to dreamland.
It is so much fun to see the personality begin to pop out of children in the first year of their life. Titus does the Princess Di shy smile and royal head duck when you greet him. If I had to sum him up in two words it would Sweet Natured. He's going to be a laidback, kindhearted little fellow I think. (Although Nate told me this morning that Titus is not a little fellow. He is a baby brother. So I stand corrected.)
One of the songs I sang to him was the old one from The King & I, "Getting to know you, getting know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me. When I am with you, suddenly I'm free and easy... you are precisely, my cup of tea!"
And truly, Grandson #3 is just exactly "the cup of tea" our family had been waiting for. I think we're going to keep him.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I do not know where flat iron steaks have been all my life, they just seemed to appear out of nowhere, the way talapia did a few years ago!
But they are some of the best bargains in the meat department and we like them as well as the high priced steaks. Tender, and lean, but full of flavor especially if marinated.
Here's how we cooked them tonight.
I sprinkled both sides of 3 flat iron steaks lightly with grill seasoning,massaging it in.
Then in a zip lock bag, I squeezed 1/2 a lime, and 1/2 an orange, 2 T. Thai chili sauce, 3 T. soy, 3 T. hoison and 1 T. worchestershire sauce. Then I plopped in the steaks and let them hang out in the marinade for about 3 hours in the fridge.
Then we simply grilled them until medium rare. Cover with foil and let juices redistribute for about 3 minutes before serving so the juice stays inside the steak.
Served tonight with oven fries: potatoes, skin on, sliced and rolled in a little olive oil and Tony's cajun seasoning baked at 400 until nice and brown/crispy -- around 15 - 20 minutes. Added slices of watermelon and called the hungry troops to dinner.
I forgot this No Brainer Cobbler recipe in my earlier post. It's very easy for a cook-out or taking to beach or mountain cabin because of simple ingredients.
3 Large Cans of Peaches -- drain off the juice from one can, and use the juice from other 2 cans. Pour in large rectangle pyrex pan.
Sprinkle with a little cinnamon. (You could also sprinkle with a little sugar; however, the cookie crust is so sweet, I don't usually do this.)
Using refrigerator sugar cookie dough, place little teaspoon size pinches of dough all over the peaches about about an inch & 1/2 apart.
Bake at 350 until cookie/cobbler crust is nice and brown. Don't undercook or cookie crust will be too soggy!
Serve with ice cream.
(See the little nook at the top of our beach house? That is where I stepped out for a better view.....)
Knowing my grandkids will be here in a couple of hours, this may be my last time to blog for some time.
So a quick story for grins.
Yesterday, Greg's sister went home to Portland and thus, vacated the most coveted spot in the house. The little Eagle's Nest loft at the tippy top of our 3 story beach rental.
So while hubby Greg and his son Troy, & Troy's wife Steph were engrossed in the movie Gran Torino, I decided to sneak up and enjoy the Room with the Best View. In a mere T shirt and jeans, I stepped out on the deck and surveyed the sun setting over the ocean. It was getting mighty chilly up there so I turned to step inside to grab a jacket when I realized.. Uh. Oh. I'd locked myself out.
I hollered and yelled but to no avail. My family was absorbed with Clint Eastwood on the TV screen. Morphing into MacGyer Brain I looked around for any tools I could use in my escape plan.
Aha! Plastic Lawn Chairs. Not exactly the material I needed to make a bomb, but it would have to do.
I put one of them over the rail and climbed down... feeling less and less like MacGyer and more and more like Lucy Ricardo. I grabbed another to use as my Attention Getter Device.
Then I walked carefully, one might say even catlike, across the roof. Spying a couple of air vents, I yelped a series of heartfelt "helps" into them and waited. Silence.
So on to Plan B (which I was making up as I went). I lay down on the edge of the roof and saw that -- yes! -- the curtain across the big patio door was open.
I threw the plastic chair down on the deck in front of the patio door with a hearty shove. Then another.
Thankfully, Stephanie was aware and alert enough to notice it was raining lawn furniture and that this might not be your normal happening, even in Neskowin where everything appears to have fairy tale quality about it.
My husband just shook his head in a mixture of wonder & confusion at this woman he's married. Before me, his life was pretty uneventful. Now every day is something of a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events. But he loves me. And how boring life would be without a few surprises now and then? Like discovering Your Wife on a Hot Tin Roof, pitching down lawn furniture once upon a nice summer's eve.
Friday, July 24, 2009
(One of the many Contemplative Porch Spots around the Beach House, just waiting to be occupied with a person in need of relaxing.)
Let me begin this post with kudos, hugs, love and huge buckets of empathy to moms of little ones everywhere. For I am all too aware that a day alone to do only what you want to do at any given moment may sound like science fiction or fantasy. Perhaps a day of solitude, sweet freeing solitude, is the compensation of middle-age.
At 50-Something, we aren't young and wrinkle-free anymore; our hair needs colored, our chins need plucked (as my mom says, "After 40, its 'patch, patch, patch'); and we look wistfully at our daughters or daughters in law and remember when...sigh... we looked like that. However, because I married at age 17 and began producing babies like a fertile rabbit right away (at my ten year high school reunion I won the Most Likely to Populate the Planet Award)... I don't think I had much time to savor the body & youth I'd been blessed with. I was too busy changing diapers, giving birth and nursing a child -- and longing, with every fiber of my being, for a full night's sleep. An unhurried day alone -- just for fun & pleasure --would remain a dream, for what seemed like decades.
And so it is now, at mid-life, that I find there are some pretty amazing compensations to the hassle and upkeep of growing older. Surprisingly, lovemaking is better at this age. Greg and I listen to the woes of hard-bodied, beautiful/handsome newlyweds trying to work out their sexual rhythms, desires and issues and cannot help but think to ourselves, "Oh, what we could do if we had your bodies and our relaxed, in-sync brains!"
Grandchildren are certainly another blessed compensation of getting older. They are, absolutely, the perfect way to enjoy children. With my grandchildren I have a simple philosphy that I adopted from my Aunt Hazel. "Give them every thing they want. Never tell them no." Thus far it is working beautifully. Of course, I can give them back to their mom and dad for deprogramming. But I get to remain the Fairy Grandmother who grants all their wishes and loves them unconditionally. A marvelous role, one I was born to fill.
But perhaps, greatest of all the compensations of growing old is to get days like this one handed to you on a silver platter -- like an unexpected gift, or suprise breakfast in bed.
Today, all the relatives have cleared out of our beach house; Greg & Troy & Steph are off to tour the Tilamook Cheese Factory (I've been on the tour before. To sum it up: cheese comes from milk which comes from cows. I hope I haven't spoiled the surprise for anyone.)
So on my morning alone, because writing is a great joy -- I am typing my thoughts, unbridled, unpressured and unhurried on the little porch/deck next to our bedroom... in my pajamas. Coffee and cream at my side. Sunshine on my shoulders, which -- as John Denver wrote -- does, indeed, make me happy. Birds singing in the trees above me, the sound of ocean waves in the distance. And best of all, I have hours of unplanned time ahead of me to do anything I want to do.
I think, later, I'll walk down to the Neskowin store and have lunch by the sea with me, myself and a good book. Will probably top it off with scoop of Tillamook ice cream.I've been eyeing that chocolate peanut butter flavor. (Just in case you are wondering, the Tillamook tour guide pointed out that ice cream also comes from cows.)
In this contemplative moment, I've decided there are Three Kinds of Time a woman needs in her life to feel balanced and full. One is time with family & friends. That busy, hectic time feeds our social soul. The other is time apart -- with the Love of Our Life. This passionate time feeds our sensual soul. Finally, there is time alone where we can hear our own thoughts and if we are blessed, and quiet enough, also the Voice of God speaking to our hearts. This solitary time feeds our spiritual soul.
May you take great pleasure today in whatever Kind of Time you are experiencing. And if you are feeling off-kilter, perhaps you can ask yourself what you are missing and arrange for a day with people, or a hot date your sweetie, or with the company of your own delightful self. (Yes, even you mothers of little ones need a day alone for Pure Fun, at least every now and then. That's what grandmas and Mother's Day Out Programs are for!)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
(Me and Aunt Gail in our Beach House Kitchen, playing Betty Crocker together!)
Yesterday I posted about our family eating warm razzleberry pie and ice cream. A sweet friend asked for the recipe and I just directed her to Marie Callendar's frozen pie. I cannot make a pie to equal her razzleberry concoction!
In fact, when it comes to desserts, I rarely cook them myself because 1) I would eat all the batter and then, proceed to eat all the leftover pie, cake, cookies at midnight... and
b)there are some classics we love that don't require a cook in the kitchen! (And as you'll see there are 3 recipes that your 6 year old could throw together in 5 minutes that wow a crowd as well as any 6 layer cake that takes all day to bake.)
My Go To favorite Easy Sweet Treats are
1. Marie Callendar's Razzleberry Pie (served warm with vanilla ice cream...)
2. Marie Callendar's Chocolate French Silk Pie (just thaw, serve and taste that buttery chocolate filling spreading from your happy lips to your hips...)
3. Oreo Ice Cream Sundae Dessert -- Crush a regular sized bag of oreos (after you've eaten 2 or 3 of course) with 2/3 stick of melted butter and pat buttered cookie crumbs into a big oblong pan. Layer either 1/2 of 1/2 gallon of vanilla or mint chocolate chip ice cream on top of cookies. (I like to use the cardboard boxed ice cream for this -- and just open the box, cut the ice cream in pieces and lay on the oreo crust). Then add a good squizzle of Hershey's syrup or your favorite fudge topping, followed by another layer of ice cream and more topping. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. Top with whipping cream, chopped pecans, and a cherry or strawberry if you like (one per piece) then cut in squares, serve on plates or in bowls and be happy.
4. An angel food cake made from a mix is about the easiest thing in the world to whip up once you've purchased the tube pan for the job. Add water, mix and pour into a tube pan and bake. But the flavor of a warm angel food cake coming out of the oven and taste/texture is so far superior to the deli bought ones that it is worth the 5 minutes it takes to throw it together. We often serve this with fresh strawberries or peaches and whipped cream
My mom gave me this Pineapple Angel Food recipe that a 5 year old can make. We love it!
One angel food cake mix
One 15 oz. can (a large one) crushed pineapple with juice
Mix together. (don't add anything else, no water... nada. 2 ingredients is all. Just use a big wooden spoon and stir. It will foam up and "grow" in the bowl. You don't beat this as you would a classic angel food cake!)
Pour into an ungreased oblong pan (the biggest you have)
Bake at 350. When done, turn upside down to cool. This is the tricky part.
You may need some help from a hubby or child. I put 4 soup cans (or whatever 4 cans you have in the pantry that are the same height) at the corners of the inverted cake pan to let the cake cool without smushing the top.
The cake may sink a bit in the middle, but that is okay. When cool, frost with whipping cream (or Cool Whip) and sprinkle with a little toasted coconut and sliced almonds, serve room temp or cold! (keep in fridge)
Serves a bunch... fairly low calorie, too. No fat at all in cake itself!
5. Becky's No Brainer Cobbler
Pour a big bag of frozen mixed berries (no need to thaw) into a bowl and add about 2/3 c. sugar, 1 t. vanilla, dash cinnamon, and 1 T. flour or cornstarch. Mix together.
Pour berry mixture into big oblong pan. Dot top of fruit with bits of butter.
Take two refridgerated, raw, Pillsbury Pie crusts, unroll them and , as best as you can, fit them together on top of the berries. This will take some patchworking, but hey -- we're going for a rustic cobbler look, right?
Then flute the edges of the pie crust around the pan. Cut a few slits in the top. Brush crust with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake until the smells make you woozy with hunger and the crust is nice and brown. Serve with ice cream.
You can also use peaches or apples or any other kind of fruit you like in this basic no brainer recipe. I like mixing a little rhubarb with the berries when it is in season!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Yesterday, Greg's two 70-something storytelling aunts drove up to the beach house, to regal us all with the history of the Johnson family. Greg lost his father at age 55 and so this was especially meaningful to hear all about his father's life from his sisters. Three 20-something cousins, all boys (including Greg's son) were too young to remember their grandfather at all and sat spellbound hearing the stories about Ralph Johnson. (Who won an Amarillo Slim Poker Tournament before Texas Hold'em became wildly popular, among many other fun feats.)
To keep everyone's bellies happy during the story-thon, I served up Tri Tip French Dips. So easy, but oh so good. Especially great for feeding a bunch of hungry men and boys!
So heres my 2nd "Go To" recipe for a big crowd, always a hit and as simple as it gets!I use 2 tri-tips that come in one package that I get at Sams Club for this recipe.
In a large Reynold's cooking bag place 2/3 c. good thick teriyaki sauce, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 2 c. water and 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix. Squish ingredients around and then add the tri tip roasts. Tie up bag (I lay this in a large pyrex pan) and DON't poke a hole in it as this keeps the juices inside. (So far I've avoided a blow up!)
Can marinate in cooking bag over night or if in a hurry, just pop it in 325 degree oven for about 3 hours.
Remove meat from juices (pour juices from bag into a big skillet) Slice tri tip across grain, place in pan of au jus and heat all. (May add water to thin and check to see if it needs salt or pepper.)
Serve meat over buttered, toasted (or grilled) garlic bread or sub rolls with a little bowl of au jus sauce for dipping.
Can also serve with sauteed onions, mushrooms and peppers for a fancy pants sandwich:)
You can also use this recipe for a Sunday roast over mashed garlic potatoes.
Always, always a hit!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
(Here's a pic of this salmon dish, with wild rice & little dab of guacamole)
(Our beach house for 2 weeks!)
Having a wonderful time at Neskowin Beach on the Oregon coast with Greg and his extended family. Just served Teriyaki Sesame Salmon to a big group (20). This is a great go-to recipe, healthy and yummy and easy for two or twenty.
Heat Oven to 400.
In a pie plate or shallow bowl pour 2/3 c. good,thick gourmet type teriyaki sauce.
(To this you can add garlic, a splash of hot sauce -- I like Thai chili -- and a T. of maple syrup. But if you are in a hurry, the teriyaki sauce alone will be fine!)
In another plate pour 1/2 c sesame seeds (cheapest on Oriental food aisle rather than spice aisle). You can also blend these with any kind of chopped nuts. I like using 1/2 sesame seeds with 1/2 ground pecans.
Roll pieces of salmon (4 for this recipe) first into teriyaki sauce, then into seeds,
and lay into an oblong pyrex pan (that has a good "squiggle" of olive oil in bottom)
Bake until salmon just flakes (I prefer my salmon not too done as it is so much more moist and buttery tasting!)
If you want to crisp up the sesame coating you can always broil it a second. (But watch closely)
I also like to serve this in large shallow bowls on top of a simple ceaser salad made with chopped romaine, parmesan, croutons and Ceaser Dressing. I also love this with a little avocado on the salad as well.
Or try this dressing which is my take on Green Goddess:
1/2 c ranch dressing, 1 quarter avocado mshed, juice from 1/2 lime, lots of fresh pepper -- stir and spoon over salad and salmon..
Served with cornbread or french bread this is a one bowl supper.
Everyone loves it and asks for the recipe.
Friday, July 17, 2009
It’s been a heavy duty season of giving, of deadlines, of multiple pressures and loving on people who are at some of the worst crossroads in life -- and need just a little hug, an uplifting lunch, some hope.
Nothing pleases my husband Greg and I more than comforting others with the same sort of comfort we received during our darkest seasons. We are so grateful for what God has done with the messes in our lives. Our greatest ministry, indeed, has come from our deepest misery.
That said, I had no idea how much every cell in my body needed this three day road trip, alone with my Honey, to refresh, renew, refill and recharge my heart. Like a pitcher that has poured out every last drop of water to refresh others; I needed to Stop the World, get in the car with my wonderfully loving and calming husband (I call him Human Prozac) and be filled again. Just drive, stare out the window and enjoy married chit-chat between contented silences, together.
Yesterday we spent the day playing the music of our love as I read through the 2-inch stack of love letters we’d sent each other. Needless to say, by the time we reached the hotel last night we were newlyweds again. (Okay, yes, as we've been for the last 5 years.)
My world seems to be built of words, words, words. Reading them, writing them, speaking them, hearing them. Besides lots of face to face communication, I also read a big stack of books each week. Social networking – more words! – is fun and, if I am honest, sometimes addictive. I usually have a book on tape going in the car when I drive. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a world of words, unless – like anything --- it gets out of balance.
And I was beginning to feel very out of balance this past few weeks. Small things seemed overwhelming, my patience was failing, everything seemed more daunting. (See Greg’s post on Giver Overload on his blog www.touchanotherlife.blogspot.com. I read it and saw myself squarely there.)
Enter this Getaway Road Trip from Colorado to Neskowin, Oregon: me, Greg, and a stack of CDs full of our favorite love songs. Hours and hours of them. I’ve been washed in nothing but his love, gorgeous scenery, and music, music, beautiful music!
I can feel my inner pitcher filling up… with every mile, every song.
We both teared up at the words to Perry Como singing “And I love you so” – particularly the opening lines, “People ask me how, how I’ve lived to now?… I tell them, ‘I don’t know.’” And the tears poured, unchecked at the words, “I guess they understand, how lonely life has been; but life began again, the day you took my hand.”
We grin at each other through Toby Keith’s “Rock You Baby” about a man who happens upon a woman who “wore her broken heart out on her sleeve,” but her loneliness can’t hide the beauty inside. And if he knows, if he can just get this “shattered lady” in his arms, he can rock her world, and love her like she’s never been loved before. Greg and I have danced to this song before, his eyes communicating confidence in my ability to heal within the safety of his sure and faithful love.
We listen to Elvis crooning “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” -- as take each others hands (and "our whole lives too"...) for some things indeed, seem meant to be.
This morning we turned up the joyously affirming song by Chicago, “You’re My Inspiration”, – full volume.
Greg played it for me before asking me to marry him.
“You know our love is meant to be, the kind of love that lasts forever.
And I want you here with me, from tonight until the end of time.
You should know, everywhere I go, you’re always on mind, in my heart, in my soul… Baby…
You’re the meaning in my life, you’re the inspiration,
You bring feeling to my life…you’re my inspiration
wanna have you near me, wanna have you hear me saying,
‘No one needs you more than I need you.' ”
We ended the day with “oldy but goody” worship songs. “Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise and the chains that serve to bind you, drop powerless behind you when you praise him…”
I love that we so easily move from sentimental to sexy to sacred and back again. I feel God’s smile on all of it.
So that is a taste of the musical journey we’ve been on today, our anniversary. And yes, I’m pausing to put it into words because I don’t know a better way to capture this precious day. I’m hopelessly … wordy. But its in balance again.
Greg’s pulling into a gas station somewhere on the outskirts of Oregon now. He needs a break so it is my turn to take over the wheel and drive. And pick out the next set of songs.
This is my brain on joy AND in love.
And finally, finally well-rested and at peace.
Hmmm… now to find the song, “My cup runneth over with love.”
Monday, July 13, 2009
When I wrote the post below about my admiration of the marriage between Paul and Julia Child, I hadn't yet heard of the upcoming new movie "Julia & Julia" with Meryl Streep playing the ebullient & distinctive voiced Julia Child. (Did I read someone describe Mrs. Child's voice sounding as though it were a product of a rooster having mated with an accordion? )
I assure you, I'll be first in line for a glimpse of Meryl bringing Child to life on the big screen. Since posting this note a few months ago, I've since stumbled across a fascinating book by the editor, Judith Jones, who found and championed Julia's first hefty cookbook. Last night, as I was waiting for my literary agent husband Greg to finish up some meetings in the lobby of a downtown Denver hotel; I fished Judith Jone's book (The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food) out of my purse, and read in wonder as she described receiving yet another manuscript she could not put down, many years ago.
With Jone's help, the story on those typewritten manuscript pages would evolve into a meeting with Otto Frank, the father of a little girl whose diary he found in a war-ravaged home after the Holocaust. Her name? Anne Frank. Those priceless diaries were shared with the world via an editor with a good eye for a beautifully tragic story that must be told; the same eye that would spot a goldmine in a cookbook that could teach American housewives how to make a good boeuf bourguingnon.
(A total aside, but Greg recently "discovered" an author, Nonna Bannister, who survived the Holocaust as a little girl with a diary she was able to to hide from the Nazis. Actually, she did not want to talk about the story, so her family followed her wishes and did not send out the manuscript until after her death. The book released this year is called The Secret Holocaust Diaries. Riveting read. But I digress...)
As I watched the mixing and mingling of agents, publishers, writers and editors in the hotel lobby last night (big book convention in town) and sat in on a few pitch meetings as well, my mind drifted back to Judith Jones , now senior editor and VP Alfred A. Knopf where she's worked in "books" since 1957. There's a reason a woman stays in the publishing business for 52 years. It is an endlessly varied and fascinating profession. One cannot be too young, nor too old for a career in books. In addition, book publishing has the exciting element of gambling or fishing, you never know when that next manuscript "coming in over the transom" or through a sharp-eyed agent is going to be the next Diary of Anne Frank and touch the heart of the world; or launch the next Julia Child and send us, by droves, into the kitchen with an omelet pan, a hearty appetite and big smiles of anticipation.
Now, without further adieu --I'm re-posting this note in celebration and anticipation of the new movie, which I plan to see with a few foodie friends. Right after a delicious (preferably French) meal!
I am listening to the audio book, My Life in France by Julia Child (beautifully read by someone else.) Oui, oui, I am completely charmed by Julia's love of good food and the way she dove into all things French the same way - with great gulps of enthusiasm.
But there's another story, an undertone of joy, that is even more compelling to me right now. It is the story of a well-matched couple in love with each other and delighted by life itself. Paul and Julia were each other's biggest fans, allowing both to blossom into their best, happiest and truest selves.
Of late, Greg and I have been involved in counseling several couples where the man is, how shall I put this delicately? A selfish jerk. Where have all the good husbands gone?
I love that Julia herself goes completely against Dream Wife Type. No one would accuse Paul of picking out a trophy wife as decoration for his arm and boost for his ego when he asked Julia to marry him. In fact, she looked more like a middle linebacker, standing well over six feet tall. And then there was that Voice, the sort cartoons and SNL characters are made of. What Julia lacked in movie star beauty, she seemed to make up for in fun, humor, kindness, and knowing her way around an omelet pan.
Reading between the lines, the secret ingredient to their lifelong attraction seemed to be, to me, that both Paul and Julia were blessed with joy, curiosity, contentment and the kind of generosity that pours from mates who keep each other's emotional cups full. Theirs was a beautiful marriage of two brains on joy. A rare match indeed. But when it happens, there is magic.
In an era when many men could not imagine their wife working outside the home, Paul happily supported Julia's dreams (as she did his). When in Paris together because of Paul's job with the American Embassy there, she fell in love with France, its people and of course, its mouthwatering cuisine.
She, being new to the French language, accidentally signed up for a year long course at the Cordon Bleu instead of what she thought was the six week housewife cooking course. She and Paul discussed the mistake and after considering it, Paul told her that he thought she should just go for it-- that following her passion would be wonderful for "her wellbeing." How's that for a dream conversation, ladies?
In 1967 on a PBS special Paul said: "How fortunate we are at this moment in our lives! Each doing what he most wants, in a marvelously adapted place, close to each other, superbly fed and housed, with excellent health, and few interruptions." I see in these two sentences that Paul lived his life gratefully aware of its blessings, especially the blessing of a good marriage. What fun he must have been for Julia to love.
I love this excerpt from a report: "Her (Julia's) new career crashed like a meteor into the center of their marriage. New roles sprang up and grabbed them -- she the star and he the support staff -- but they were determined to maintain what Julia called “that lovely intertwining of life, mind, and soul that a good marriage is.”
“We are a team,” she often said. “We do everything together ... Whenever she talked about her career, she said “we,” not “I,” and she meant it literally. Paul was an integral part of everything Julia did, careerwise. He was also adept at making his own sunshine. "When he wasn’t needed, he disappeared happily into his own world, painting and photographing and gardening ... "
Every morning they liked to snuggle in bed together for a half hour after the alarm went off, and at the end of the day, Paul would read aloud from the New Yorker while Julia made dinner. “We are never not together,” Paul said once, contentedly.”
(Source: Laura Shapiro, "Just a Pinch of Prejudice" from Julia Child, BostonMagazine.com, 2007. )
Such oneness! It has been so refreshing to read about a wonderful,happy, longterm marriage. How I wish that all couples could experience this kind of "normal" -- where mutual kindness, optimism and enthusiasm for each other create a gourmet feast out of the simple, everyday ingredients of daily life.
For many years I neglected my kitchen for the task of raising my kids, surviving a difficult marriage and a blossoming writing and speaking career. Now that the kids are grown and I've remarried a man who considers my "wellbeing" as vitally important, I found extra brainspace available and with room in my head for more than mere survival, I made my way back to the kitchen. I am realizing that the joy of cooking is one of life's greatest outlets for giving tangible love. Creating a delicious meal is an art, whether it is a simple fluffy scrambled egg in a pretty bowl, or a multi-course Babette's Feast.
I have two plaques in my kitchen that speak of love in the language of food.
"Love is like bread, it must be made fresh every day." Greg and I often tell couples to make love every day, in some special way. There may not always be sex, but there should always be sensuality. A touch, a kiss, a gaze, a hug, words of longing and appreciation.
The other plaque sums up what it takes to enjoy a perfect evening, when you are married to your best friend and lover: "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou."
In a few days, Greg and I will celebrate our 5th anniversary as the happiest married couple in the universe. We owe our glow to having found the secret of feasting upon the wonder of each other, never taking the other for granted, knowing how rare this kind of love is among married couples. And of course, many great meals and glasses of wine shared together haven't hurt our happiness either. Bon Apetit!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
She read This is Your Brain on Joy, especially the chapter on the cingulate gyrus which we nicknamed the Circular Gerbil Wheel -- as this is the part of the brain that gets stuck and obsesses. She began taking an anti-obsessive antidepressant when her life hit bottom and within a week, the gerbil wheel stopped and she wondered aloud, "How could I have let all those things bother me so much? What was that about?" She told me people are telling her, "Wow, you seem so much more serene. So relaxed and real." Then she added, "I've got mixed feelings about that. I'm glad they like me now, but the hidden message is that I must have been a real pain in the patooty before. I hate that I wasted so much time not being my best self."
I've found that taking a supplement with GABA (my favorite is True Calm by Now Products) works well for my occasional Gerbil Wheel Moments. In addition, this wonderful advice came in my InBox this morning and felt as though it were heaven-sent. Wanted to share it with you
The Serenity Prayer is most commonly attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, although there is some evidence that it existed before he popularized it in the 1930's. This prayer became well known with it's adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941.
God grant me the serenity
1.The past cannot be changed, so what there is to do is to accept what has been with no regrets, no resentments, and no call for vengeance.
2. Remember that there are a million "wrong things" in the world (as well as a billion "right things"), so focus your energies on addressing with courage the few issues closest to your heart, and accept the rest of life with serenity.
3. Never waste your time or energy complaining. Either take positive action, or accept with serenity.
Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
You'll need to start the process the night before. You can serve it for lunch or dinner the next day. (Warning: I'm going to dictate this recipe as if you were sitting across from me at my kitchen table. Not as if I am writing this for Southern Living Magazine.)
First, purchase the biggest brisket you can find -- big enough to take up your largest turkey roasting or family reunion lasagna pan! Unfortunately, last night I had to buy my brisket untrimmed and it cost me about 10 minutes, a large serrated knife and one good nick to the knuckle to get the fat trimmed down. You want to leave some fat (about 1/4 inch); but good grief, I think I cut 2 inches of fat off some of the corners of that hunk of cow!
Next: Sprinkle all over with Tony's Cajun Seasoning (or salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder)
Friday, July 3, 2009
(Picture of my husband Greg with Buck Compton and Don Malarky on the Band of Brothers Tour of Europe, 2007. Both men are still alive and remembering...)
For those of you who are watching the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, you may recall the choking-back-tears comment from Don Malarky as he described his comrades of the 101st Airborne, many decades after WW2. "Brave, so brave.. it was unbelievable."
Greg and I had the privilege of a lifetime 2 years ago, when we got to spend 2 weeks in Europe with Buck Compton and Don Malarky, two of the paratroopers portrayed in Band of Brothers. We stood at the sea of white crosses in Normandy as a friend played taps. Don, Irish and emotional, wept openly as Buck wiped away a tear and swallowed hard.
We walked with these old soldiers through the Bastogne forest where they once nearly froze and starved in foxholes to protect our freedom in the Battle of the Bulge. They remember their dear friends whose legs were blown off in this lovely green forest, once white with snow and red with blood and lit up with terrible fire and noise of war. I gather pinecones on this misty summer day, to give to my children and grandchildren. To help me remember the sacrifice so many made to secure our freedom.
We visited with a family whose parents/grandparents were liberated from their own home by Easy Company soldiers. The family show us a room with a red stain on the floor. It was were a Nazi was shot and killed. They look at Don and Buck with such admiration and gratitude.
Everywhere we go these two vets are instantly surrounded when people hear that there are American paratroopers among us. They are rock stars in Europe where children grew up hearing of the "angels coming out of the sky" in parachutes to save them from the German soldiers.
They are rock stars to me.
Thank you, Don & Buck, for your service to our country, and for sharing your stories and a lifetime of memories with us.
If you'd like to read more about Buck and Don check out their books on amazon.com
Call of Duty by Buck Compton
http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/ (Marcus is the collaborator and has fabulous video/pictures relating to Buck's book)
Easy Company Soldier by Don Malarkey
Recently Marcus Brotherton interviewed and collected stories from the 101st airborne (Easy Company) into a book called: We Who Are Alive and Remain:Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers by Marcus Brotherton. It has been called the very best of all the Band of Brothers books by many of the soldiers as well as literary critics.
http://www.bandofbrothersbooks.com/ (website with video)
Thursday, July 2, 2009
(This was one of my books, Real Magnolias, written under my former name. It is a collection of stories of southernwomen friends who inspired me or met me at a moment of real need. Out of print, but used copies can be found on Amazon for a song!)
"Sometimes it's better to be understood by someone who'll never meet me, than to meet someone who will never understand me."—Martha Beck
Last night Greg and I were visiting with Steve, a friend of ours who just came away from two weeks away to nourish and heal his soul with help of a good wise counseling friend. Steve's friend gave him a book to read, Exquisite Agony, and Steve -- normally not the sentimental type -- said he was overcome with emotion from the first page. Every page thereafter seemed to personally and poignantly answer a long-awaited question. He closed the book a changed man, with a heart well on its way to healing.
A couple of days ago I asked some friends on facebook to share a time when a book became their "friend" in a moment of felt need. I don't think I've ever asked a question that got more response or discussion! In fact, this blog will have to be a two-parter. Next post, I'll share some book "friends" whose authors met my soul at a point of deep felt need, changing my life for the better.
But today I just want to share the kitchen table book talk that I so enjoyed from facebook friends this week.
A word of explanation before letting my friends' comments speak for themselves. It was sweet joy to my heart to hear that some of my old books under my former name (Becky Freeman) from what seems like a another life, had met lives at points of felt need. There are fewer experiences as meaningful as finding an author who speaks to your soul; and knowing I spoke to other hearts, and some still remember it, brings tears to my eyes.
Writing is absolutely the best "job" in the universe; one of the few careers where you create something and it stays around for long time. Unlike cleaning a house, that must be done again and again. You write a book, and the memories stay put between the covers. For my children's sake, I am especially glad that I wrote of the memories of their childhood, of happier times between their father and I.... memories that the heartbreak of divorce (7 years ago now) have left cloudly and dim. Especially now that my feet are so firmly planted in my New Life, New Husband, New Surroundings.
But I regress, back to the literary chick chat.
Here's a taste of the wonderful comments:
April Noel Beauty By The Book by Nancy Stafford. I bought it on a whim at Hearts at Home and it totally revolutionized how I saw myself and gave me a much-needed glimpse of how God saw me and His love for me.
The first 2 that come to mind are Captivatingand "The Shack". I am sure there is more, will keep you posted as I think of them.
Suzanne Alexander Taylor
Room of Marvels. Bought it after a precious 9-year-old in our church lost his battle with brain cancer and I had given up on God.
I would have a list of books that have altered my life...the current book is The Magic Never Ends...the life & work of C.S.Lewis. I connected with "he understood the power of story...he knew that when we enter into a story...we enter into another world...BUT...we also connect our own story to it" No story is a waste of time...if I walk away with... Read More one thing...if I allow myself to connect and learn from it. This book also reminded me that my live is as enchanted as a snow covered forest in Narnia...it is all a matter of perspective. My cup of coffee in the a.m can be just as enchanting as tea with a beaver family!...perspective...perspective...perspective...
At one point when my first two children were very small I overextended myself to the point of crashing. I called my parents and in-laws to take the children and drove straight from dropping the children off to the local Christian bookstore. I walked directly to the humor section and ended up buying Mom on the Run by Nancy Kennedy, Semi-Reformed Overachiever by Lanalle Stiles, and Adult Children of Fairly Functional Parents by you. I spent a week reading those books, rereading some other favorites and letting God restore joy to my spirit. Is it any wonder I'm crazy about you?
Cheryl Vos Steffen Love is a Choice
Nicky Vanvalkenburgh Dare to Forgive: The Power of Letting Go and Moving on By Dr Edward Hallowell. It's a wonderful book-- made me laugh and cry-- and tackle a difficult personal matter as well.
Laura KarlisOne of my "go to" books is not necessarily life changing, but for some reason it soothes me. Each page is an individual poem of sorts each giving life to a different quality (personification, right?)It's called The Book of Qualites, by J Ruth Gensler.
"Courage has roots. She sleeps on a futon on the floor and lives close to the ... Read Moreground. Courage looks you straight in the eye. She is not impressed with powertrippers and she knows first aid. Courage is not afraid to weep, and she is not afraid to pray, even when she is not sure who she is praying to. When courage walks, it is clear that she has made the jorney from lonliness to solitude. The people who told me she is stern were not lying, they just forgot to mention that she is kind."
Sheri Wright Coulter: Captivating by Stasi Eldredge. Changed my life and the lives of those in my world.
Do You Think I am Beautiful by Angela Thomas
A Girl and Her Money by Sharon Durling
There is also this gal that wrote books when my kids were also young and I was "suffering in a tiny town in Kansas" one of them was Worms in My Tea...now that chick could write things that were happening in life and make me laugh about it instead of cry...just sayin
Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart
Carolyn Felix Purcell Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X" by Tom Beaudoin forever changed my understanding of my spiritual life and helped me realize that not only are my ideas and experiences valid, but they are very much a reflection of who God created me to be in a specific time and place and shared by many others. Helped me transition to a completely new place in life. I might not be who I am today without this book.
Lucille Zimmerman When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd and The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen.
Oh My!! The penny has just dropped!! I am already a fan of your original personae!! I read A View from the Porch Swing at Donna Partow's home but she wouldn't let me take it back to New Zealand because you had signed it for her!! I wanted to write to you then!!!
Lucille Zimmerman: P.S. I love that particular Nouwen book especially because he never planned to publish it. It was his heart wrenching writings after feeling rejected by a friend. We had to mix with that material for our capstone class in counseling. I love the quote by S. M. Kidd - "Hope lies in braving the chaos and waiting calmly, with trust in the God that loves us. For if we wait, we may find that God delivers us somewhere amazing into a place vibrant with color and startling encounters with the soul."
Grace Bower: I wanted to read Real Magnolias after reading your Coffeecup friendship and Cheesecake fun which I bought when in Australia years ago.
And believe it or not, the conversation went on ... and on...
I would love to hear from more of you now as my list of "to read books" can always make room for one more recommendation. Especially if it was a book that became a dear friend to you in a moment when you really needed it.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
(New Proposed Cover! It may still have some changes. My name will be on the inside page. Alas, publishers often do not give collaborators cover credit, even though Dr. Henslin & my agent/ husband really went to bat for that. I really don't mind. It's Dr. Henslin's message I am passionate about and happy to help him get it in book form to as many couples as possible.)
For the last several months Dr. Henslin and I have been writing about the world's greatest and most complicated topic: Love. Then we combined that with the world's second most complicated topic: The Brain.
The book shares a fresh way of looking at relationships; one that greatly upsizes the success of marital therapy by taking individual brain health into consideration as a major factor in being happily wed.
Alas, the book won't release until early 2010, but I am so excited about the cover & contents that I can't help but give you a little preview today.
Our book will talk about the 5 Lover Types (when out of balance) and how to
1) bring your best, healthiest happiest brain to your relationship and
2) support your spouse's efforts to heal/work around their own brain issues.
5 Lover Types in a nutshell are:
Scattered Lover(ADD,creative-ditzy, messy)
Blue Mood Lover
(From Numb to Deeply Depressed)
(Get stuck on grievance like a dog with a bone)
(Easily triggered to fear and nervousness)
(Prone to anger or irritation)
Here's a sneak peek at Table of Contents as well:
Chapter 1: This Is Your Brain in Love---Or Is It on Drugs?
Chapter 2: Sexuality and Spirituality: Divine Balm for Your Soul and Brain
Chapter 3: Bring Your Best Brain to the Marriage!
Chapter 4: The Scattered Lover (Prefrontal Cortex)
Chapter 5: The Overfocused Lover (Cingulate Gyrus)
Chapter 6: The Blue Mood Lover (Deep Limbic System)
Chapter 7: The Agitated Lover (Temporal Lobes)
Chapter 8: The Anxious Lover (Basal Ganglia)
Chapter 9: The Ancient Secret to Lasting Love
Appendix A: The Joy Diet
Appendix B: SPECT Scans
Appendix C: New Hope: Women and Hormones
Appendix D: New Hope: Men and Sexual Addiction
Okay, that's a little appetizer to hopefully whet your appetite for the book to come!
In the meantime, This is Your Brain on Joy is available with 99 reviews on Amazon (almost all 4 & 5 star) and will remain the "first primer" for people who are curious about how the brain can be tweaked to help you experience all the joy you were created for!