Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflections



At the end of my life who do I want to be? What would I like to be remembered as and for? Since Merin's death I have spent a fair amount of time trying to figure this out. Not in a self-indulgent or self-important sort of way but more because she inspires me. Her life was brief but she touched so many people in beautiful and significant ways. The other day I was speaking with a friend and she referred to Merin as "special" and then said "but you have heard that before." I have, but like being told "I love you", it never gets old and is always welcome - a comfort.

Merin was generous with herself - she gave and received love openly and joyously. She was generous in giving approval and encouragement. She tried, in a conscious manner, to do her best - whether it was in dance, in homemaking, in being a sister, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a child of God. She glowed. Really she did - I always thought of her as a pearl. So precious. And she was happy. Of course, she had her moments and days like all of us do but overall, that was/is Merin. One of her good friends described her as "pure joy and grace", a description that is exactly perfect. I knew her so very well and I couldn't think of better words. These are things that over and over again people say about her.

So, again, I think - who do I want to be? What do I want to share? How do I want to be remembered? I think of these questions not because I want acclaim or honor but for myself. It doesn't matter really what others say or think because they can be misled by appearances. It matters to me though that I am a genuine, caring person. Talents and achievements are only self-serving unless offered unselfishly to others. To make a beautiful home for the comfort of loved ones is a credit but to create a showpiece for praise seems somehow shallow and meaningless.

To be honest I don't know that I want to know what others say about me now or when I eventually die - for sure there is some good and some bad as well. What I am trying to know is for myself. I know that when I am focused on the goal I am so much more content than when I am concerned about my performance and how it is being perceived by others.

I read the quote from Erma Bombeck the other day and was immediately struck with a feeling of agreement and recognition. I too, want to be able to say that I have used every little bit that I have been blessed with. It is a matter of love and gratitude - of sharing.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Banana, Chocolate, and Pecan Muffins

Mmmmmmmm. These muffins are good. Maybe it's the dark chocolate (that certainly can't hurt, and it is good for you right?) maybe it's the yummy mellowness of the ripe banana combined with the crunch of the nuts.... but whatever, they are GOOD. Everyone agrees and the muffins perform an amazing vanishing act! I try to keep a few in the freezer for dessert (yes, they are that good) but it is a trick to have any left to freeze. I am pretty pleased with these.




Banana, Chocolate, and Pecan Muffins

1 1/4 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3 tbsp salba (sometimes called chia seed)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup agave syrup (you can sub honey)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 cups good quality dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Whisk together oatmeal, flour, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, and pecans. Combine eggs, yogurt, bananas, oil, and syrup. Fold into dry ingredients and add chocolate chips. Bake in greased muffin tin at 375 F for 22 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.


The best way to have any to freeze is just to make them when nobody is home and freeze the whole batch! Sneaky I know but it works. Might be the only way. Anyhow, try them and let me know!

Oh! and these are pretty good for you too. Check out the good stuff - flaxseed, salba (both excellent sources of protein and omega3's), bananas, nuts, low in fat and of course, the chocolate! Not joking - it is good for you if it's dark. Serve them with grapefruit and some kind of eggs....mmmmmmm, yummy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Spiced Sweet Potatoes


Once upon a time, when we lived away from family and long-distance calls were prohibitively expensive and e-mail was not for the masses, I was planning a holiday dinner and wanted to serve sweet potatoes. I couldn't find a recipe that appealed to me and so I decided to just try something original. Happily, it was a success and is the one item on the menu that is not negotiable for our family (other than the turkey of course!) In fact, Eden says it is the base of the meal as well as the cap. I have never written it down but have been asked to and so here it is.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes

2 large yams (or 4 medium)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 cup brown sugar (I use a mix of dark and light brown sugars)
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange

Bake the yams at 350 F for about an hour or until they are soft. (Smells soooo good!) Remove from oven and peel - the skin pretty much just slips off. Mash the flesh with a potato masher and add the butter, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, sugar and juices. Mix well. Taste and adjust the spices if you want. Put the mixture into a 9x9 baking pan. Cover with large marshmallows and bake at 350 F until marshmallows are puffed and brown - about 15 minutes if the mixture is hot or if you have done the prep in advance of roasting the turkey (or whatever) it will take about 30 minutes so that it is heated through.

This year Jonathon and I had the same thought at the same time - to chop some pecans and sprinkle them over the sweet potato mixture before putting the marshmallows on. It was definitely a good thing.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giving Thanks



I would have to say that I think the pilgrims had hold of the right end of the stick when they had that first thanksgiving feast. Although the challenges I face in life are dramatically different than theirs were, experience has taught me (repeatedly) that when I am discouraged one of the best tools to fight with is counting my blessings. I can never count my blessings without feeling grateful, which leads of course, to giving thanks. And when that is all done I feel so much encouraged because I have been blessed in the past - why not in the future? I wonder if that was pilgrim psychology as well... At any rate, I have many blessings to count and I am so thankful for them. At the top of the list, of course, is my family - my wonderful husband, our very dear children and precious grand-babies. Love for them is what makes my world turn. This past weekend our Thanksgiving gathering was smaller than I would have chosen (we missed Mark, Thomas and Hannah and their two littles, and of course Merin and Mike) but it was still warm, still happy, still full. And I still got to cook for them all! No seriously. I love to. It is what I love to do! I am most happy when our home is full, the kids are playing and we are cooking, eating and laughing together.

I had fun deciding how to set and decorate the table and planning the meal. David and Jonathon were fantastic sou chefs, (David should never undervalue his abilities as turkey carver and master dishwasher!), Eden brought her camera and skills, along with Daylan and the kids. Grandma Jan and Don joined us and the day was a success. We were together.

Back to the pilgrims and me - perhaps missing something of great value enhances the value of what one still has. I cherish my loved ones, my friends, my faith. I enjoy opportunities to explore talents and ideas, to experience the talent of others, to see the beauty of the world and feel the sun on my face, to be embraced by love. My life is full. I give thanks.

To see some of the beautiful pictures Eden took of our Thanksgiving go to her blog from her website www.edenlangpictures.com . I'm so lucky she shares her talent to document our gatherings and moments. Thanks Eden!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Grandy's Noga

photo by Eden Lang

I hate to brag (okay, may be I actually would like to ... a bit! I am trying to overcome that) but I do make some pretty great granola. Jane calls it "Noga" and I kind of like that so it sticks. After years of trial and error this is my recipe and I like it. It is healthy, slightly chewy (unless you bake it too long), fast and easy, yummy, yummy, yummy, smells amazing, .... I could go on but that's boring!


Grandy's Noga

6 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2/3 cup chopped almonds
2/3 cup green pumpkin seeds (not roasted)
2/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup shelled hemp seed
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
Mix above ingredients well.
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
Mix well and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix VERY WELL!!!! - for several minutes. (This minimizes the chance of burned spots in the granola - I have learned this from sad experience).
Spread mixture evenly over two 17x12 inch cookie sheets lined with greased foil. Bake in 325 F oven for 10 minutes, stir and bake for another 10 minutes. Add dried fruit. (Whatever mixture strikes your fancy but a total of about 2 cups per cookie sheet. I use a raisins, craisins, dried apples, apricots.)

One of my favorite ways to enjoy Noga is with yogurt and berries - fresh or frozen . Tastes like dessert for breakfast - and (sadly) I will take dessert anytime! ha!







Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Treasures

I have the DEAREST, best, friends in the world! I really think I do. I am not at all sure how I rate them but I have decided to not look a gift horse in the mouth and just be grateful for each one. Yesterday was a very tender day for me - much more difficult than I had anticipated. The birth days of my children are special ...sacred really... for me. To be honest I can be a bit emotional on any of their birthdays as I remember their births and the funny/sweet/clever things they have done and what they mean to me. Celebrating their birthdays is more important to me than my own. Anyway, it was emotionally intense to think about Merin yesterday - to remember so much about her and to miss her. We had planned a busy day of work at Mike and Merin's house (her 'birthday present' was to put the countertop on the new kitchen) and when we finally arrived home at 9:30PM tired and a bit sad we found treasures on our doorstep. A whole pile of them! I feel so humble as I realize how profoundly we are loved by so many. It is wonderful and amazing. Years ago my dad taught me that when there is a need the important thing is to do something, anything. It doesn't matter what but DO something. Now I am seeing - again and again - how very wise and right he was. The flowers are beautiful, the gifts thoughtful but it is so much more than the object that comforts. It is the love that is expressed, the concern that is shown by the act of doing something. I feel embraced, protected and cared for by my friends and family. It is truly wonderful and I wonder at it.

When I am tempted to have a pity party I remember the many, many people who have suffered, and who still so suffer, so much. Often with little or no support. And I know that I am blessed. I can do this. And I hope I can do it with grace. I hope I remember and learn. I hope you all know how much I love and appreciate you. Thank you for all the treasures you offer.



...and when she shall pass away,

take her and form her into little stars,

and she will make the face of heaven so fine,

that all the world will be in love with night,

and pay no worship to the garish sun

-Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

(one of the treasures we found yesterday)


Monday, October 4, 2010

Swiss Porridge





Long ago and far away - when we had just two little kids and breakfast was usually either instant oatmeal or cheerios - I wanted to make a special breakfast. I pulled out my cookbooks (so far away and long ago that I only had a few!) and did some research. I found a recipe for something called "Swiss Porridge". It looked good - in other words like something both parents and wee ones would eat and my food budget would tolerate - and so I gave it a spin. Big Hit!! Over the years it has morphed into a version that the original authors would likely not recognize, so it is probably not very 'Swiss' but we all love it. It has remained a special breakfast, one that is often requested for birthday mornings or the treasured times that we are gathered as a large family for breakfast. I am posting the recipe today in honor of Merin's birthday - October 4. It was her certain choice every year to start her birthday day.

Swiss Porridge

2 cups vanilla yogurt
2 cups whipping cream, whipped
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut
2 cans mandarin orange segments, drained
2 cans crushed pineapple, drained
2 bananas, sliced
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together. Enjoy!

I often improvise a bit with the fruit and add whatever looks good or is in season. Today I used some fresh peaches, other times I might add blueberries, etc but this recipe is the base. I also sometimes add 1/2 tsp cinnamon - if the mood strikes. However you make it, it is a sure hit. Nobody has ever not liked it... or if they have they have been too polite to say so!