On the First Day of January, I Unsubscribed.

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I lingered in bed a bit late on the first day of the year. It is raining and cold outside and my duvet is so warm and my Std. Poodle, Ava snuggled nearby. I glance at the clock to see it is almost nine, which for me, qualifies as getting up late. I finally slide out of bed and head down stairs to make my first cup of tea of the new year. I grab my I pad and head right back to bed.

When I open my I pad cover, the first thing I see is that I have 74 new emails. Really? 74 already? It is suddenly clear what my New Year’s resolution will be. I need to lighten my life. And I am going to start with my email box. I scroll through the emails, most of which are trying to get me to buy something. One by one I open the emails and hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button. No more Joss and Main, Serena and Lily, Heifer International, Fab, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, and nearly a dozen more.

Of course, they don’t want you to unsubscribe, so it can take a bit of searching through all the minuscule print at the bottom. One site made me enter all the information I might have to enter if I wanted to sign up, to then say don’t send me anything.

So there it is, the first step in lightening my life—less email to sort through every day.

Did you make any resolutions? I’d love to hear about them!

Fall is Coming…

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This week the light changed. I don’t remember exactly when I first noticed the change of the light in the Fall. I know it was when I was living in Fredericksburg and I drove the rolling hills between Fredericksburg and Austin on a regular basis. I can remember listening to the radio on my drive and realizing the light looked totally different one day. The blinding summer light is replaced with a softer light.  Now I look for this the first harbinger of Fall with anticipation. It means football season is just around the corner. Soon it will be Labor Day, and Halloween and then Thanksgiving with it’s weekend extravaganza of food and football. I love Fall.

We don’t have any frosty nights followed by Indian Summer days, Nor do we have apple orchards beckoning with sweet, juicy apples or cider. In Texas, the light changing is about the only sign you get that the season is changing. Cooler weather is weeks (possibly months) away and you have to head out past Hunt in late October, if you want to see red and orange leaves. In fact, we have a state park dedicated to red and orange leaves, Lost Maples State Park near Vanderpool. It is so beautiful when the leaves turn, but it’s about six hours from here so it is not a regular excursion for me. If you go, be prepared for lots of other leaf peepers because they arrive by the bus load. And unless you like being elbow to elbow with other LPs, go on a week day. It can be challenging even then as it is a popular school trip destination as well, because where else can kids in Texas go to see the season change? Oh, and if you are from the North, you may find it seriously underwhelming. But when most of what you get for Fall are yellow and brown leaves some where around November, it’s a spectacular sight.

Next weekend is the first college football game of the season. And even though it will still be blasting hot, I can’t wait. It is one of my very favorite Fall rituals. Thousands of people tailgating. Packed in a stadium with 100,000 or so other cheering fans, the promise of a new season, it doesn’t get any better.

And then somewhere around September 24th, we’ll have our first cool front. I call it the Mary Ellen Cool Front, after my cousin whose birthday is the 24th. Pretty much every year, right about her birthday is the first cool front. What a great present and everyone gets to enjoy it. Of course in Texas, it just means the weather will be in the 80’s for a few days before it climbs back to the 90’s. But what a glorious few days it will be. And I can see it coming.

If you love Fall, let me know what you love about it. And if you want to go see the leaves at Lost Maples here’s a link to more information.

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lost-maples

I’m Too Old to Enjoy Reading Mockingjay

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Last week I read The Hunger Games. It seems like everyone I know is reading it. I haven’t read anything in the Fantasy/SciFi genre in years, so I ordered all three books in the trilogy on Amazon. Oh, by the way, if you are still reading these books, I guess I should give you a ‘spoiler alert,’ in case I mention something you’d rather not know.

Anyway, I opened the box late Tuesday morning and by late afternoon had devoured the first book. The violence was a bit disturbing, but it was all fantastical enough that I didn’t get caught up in that aspect of the story.   It made me think about the times I was sick or in pain, and my parents told me they wished they could trade places with me. And I thought about those that I love and would volunteer my life to save. As the story was told from Katniss’ point of view, I figured she must survive to tell the other two stories. And I also knew that something big must happen after Katniss returns home, hence two more books.

The next day I crack open Catching Fire. The brief parts about uprising in other districts and the government cracking down on on the citizens gnaw at me, but the story moves back to a more fantasy realm and I finish off the book as quickly as I had the first.

On Thursday, I start reading Mockingjay. It begins with Katniss walking through her own district, which has now been firebombed by the government, or the Capital as it is called in the books. I struggle through the first chapter because all I can think about are places like Syria, where citizens are being mowed down by their government. About the Jewish school children killed in France, all the many places around the world where citizens are under siege. The young people who were stoned to death in Iraq for adopting Western clothing and hair styles. It is hard for me to read because it is just too real.

Then came Katniss and her family hiding deep underground from the bunker busting bombs. I realize I am too old to enjoy this book. My frame of reference is too big to view this as fantasy.

I thought about my Grandmother. She knew Civil War survivors, she lived through World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and the Gulf War. I thought about my Father, who fought in the Korean War. And I remember growing up singing Where Have All the Flowers Gone and not really thinking about or maybe even realizing what it meant. The cycle of dying in the Viet Nam War, the cycle of dying in every war before or since.  I have seen enough wars in my time to know that the answer to Pete Seger’s refrain in the song, “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn” is likely never. And part of me so longs to be young and innocent enough to read this book and not think that.

So there it is, I am too old to enjoy reading this book. Have you read the trilogy? What did you think? I’d love to hear about it. If you haven’t read it, you can buy it here:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+hunger+games

Learning to Cook (and Like) Fish – Part 2

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So once again I am in Central Market and telling the fishmonger I am looking for wild-caught, fresh, mild tasting fish. I was disappointed to not see the Dover sole this week as I wanted to make the classic, Sole Meuniere. This week’s recommendation was the red fish. I asked for advice in preparation and the fishmonger told me to bake it at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. I asked if he put any oil or butter on it, and he recommended that I talk to Gracie, the chef-in-residence that day in the meat and fish department. She recommended pan frying it. And she said, that really her favorite was to blacken it.

Blackened Red Fish….I haven’t eaten that since the 1980’s. I did like it then, so blackened red fish it is. I decide to make roasted petite yellow dutch potatoes with garlic and thyme and broiled tomatoes as my sides.

I surf the web for blackened recipes and realize that I don’t have all the spices to make any of the spice mixes, so I decide to use a cajun rub I have made by Adams Reserve. I add finely chopped fresh French thyme and oregano to the rub. As blackened fish will cook very quickly, I decide to prep everything and then start the potatoes in the oven while I heat the skillet. I turn on the exhaust fan, open my kitchen window and the nearby french doors in my dining room and, as a final safe guard against the anticipated smoke, close the door to my laundry room where the smoke detector is located. As I wait for the pan to turn ashy-white, I start imagining a blazing fire and wish I had a fire extinguisher under my sink. The pan starts smoking and, little by little, the black finish turns grey-white. I dipped the filets in butter and sprinkled them with the spice mixture and rubbed it in. When the pan is mostly grey, i decide to get on with it and put the fish in the pan. As soon as the fish touches the pan, smoke is rising up. I add a teaspoon of melted butter to the top of each filet and the smoke level really kicks up. I know that at this heat level it will only take a couple of minutes on each side. It is the moment I fear most, when I have to turn the fish. Will it be stuck to the bottom of the skillet? A sigh of relief as the fish turns with ease. Another teaspoon of melted butter on each filet, more smoke and two minutes later the fish is done. What do drink with this? I think a margarita is perfect for blackened fish. I serve the fish with clarified butter, a lime wedge on the side, and a margarita. I squeeze the lime over the fish and dig in. What’s not to love about something a little spicy with a hint of lime dipped in butter? It is divine. I would prefer if the spice mix had a little more heat. I will work on a from-scratch spice mix for next time I make this. Yes, I said it. Next time!! 

Learning to Cook (and Like) Fish

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I come from a long line of seafood lovers. Everyone in my family LOVES fish. Somehow, I do not. If something has the very slightest fishy taste, it makes me nauseous. And clearly my taste buds are very sensitive to that taste, as someone else eating the same piece of fish might think it tastes great. But I know fish is good for you, and I am making a concerted effort to try to find fish I can eat. And well, now it is Lent, so fish on Fridays is part of the drill, and I am trying to learn not just to like eating fish, but to cook it for myself.

So each week I head to a Central Market to figure out what I am going to make this week. I question the fishmongers about the fish that is available and then try to figure out what I am going to make. I only buy fresh, wild-caught fish, so that narrows down the field substantially.

The prevalence of farmed fish has made me wonder why everyone thinks chickens, pigs, and cows should be raised free-range, but it’s Ok for fish to be intensively raised. Don’t fish deserve to swim free as well? Why do you want to buy, much less eat salmon that has to have beta-carotene added to its feed so it will have the orange colored flesh that wild salmon has from eating Krill—shrimp-like crustaceans. But that, I suppose, is a discussion for another day.

On Ash Wednesday, after listening to my litany of needs—fresh, wild caught, mild flavor—the fishmonger recommends a red snapper filet. He turns over several filets looking at the cut side, but then he turns his attention to a pile on the back counter that had just been cut. He selected the smallest one of those and presented it to me pronouncing it better as it had just been cut. As he weighed it and packed it on ice for me, a coworker came over because he had had those fish cut for a customer who was coming in later to pick them up. Luckily, there were more to be cut and I got my freshly cut filet.

Now I had the fish, but what I am going to do with it? I entered red snapper as the search term on the Food Network web site and looked through the recipes that came up. I decided to go with Rachel Ray’s recipe for Red Snapper Livornese. You cook the fish in a little olive oil—or EVOO as Rachel would say. A few minutes on each side and then on to a warm platter. More olive oil and garlic go into the skillet followed by white wine, which is reduces quickly. Then chopped tomatos, capers, and parsley are added. And the sauce goes over the fish and it’s done. It was so easy and really, really good. Here is the link to the recipe, if you want to try it yourself. You should it is so delicious!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/red-snapper-livornese-recipe/index.html

As the filet was more than I needed to one meal, I saved the leftovers for my Fish-on-Friday meal. My friend, Julia, assures me that my cooked red snapper will hold up well in the refrigerator. I re-warm it, and it seems to still be good. Then, however, my super-sensitive taste buds detect a distinctly fishy taste in one bite and that was it for me. I will think twice about keeping leftover fish now.

The next week, I turn to another of my favorite Food Network divas, Ina Garten. Central Market has a fabulous pile of fresh Gulf shrimp and I suddenly have a craving for Shrimp Scampi. I felt a little like I am cheating because I will eat most shellfish, but I don’t ever cook it myself. I peel and devein them and put the shells in the freezer because I read somewhere you should save them for making fish stock. Yep, a couple of weeks of trying to cook fish, and I am suddenly channeling Anthony Bourdain and thinking I’m going to start making fish stock now. Back to the shrimp at hand…

It is another easy recipe. Butter, olive oil and garlic in the pan, followed shortly by the shrimp. The shrimp is done in about 5 minutes and you add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. A quick stir and it is ready to be combined with the linguine.  Ina drains the linguine puts it back in the pot and adds the shrimp and sauce. I take the pasta out of the pot and add it directly to the shrimp and sauce. It just seems easier to toss the two that way. And then I congratulate myself on actually timing the linguine and shrimp to be done at the same time.

It is very good, but I think I will add a bit more garlic next time. What is once again apparent is how fast the meal is ready. The longest part was peeling and deveining the shrimp—which, if you are lucky, you can get someone else to do that part. Here is the link to Ina’s recipe for Linguine and Shrimp Scampi.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/linguine-with-shrimp-scampi-recipe2/index.html

This week an advertisement for Dover sole catches my attention, so I turn to Darina Allen for advice. More specifically her book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking. She recommends a quick fry in clarified butter or to put it under the broiler after brushing with clarified butter. She is talking about sole on the bone, and I have very thin filets. I am afraid they will overcook under the broiler, do I decide to pan fry them. The longest part of this preparation is making the clarified butter.  Darina suggests putting the butter in a pyrex bowl in a 300 degree oven. Then is sits to cool for a few minutes and then I scoop  the salt particles off the top. The clarified butter sits on top of the milky liquid at the bottom. I carefully pour of the clarified butter into another pyrex bowl. It is the easiest clarified butter I have ever made. Usually I melt the butter in a saucepan on top to the stove and spend ages getting all the salt and milky bits out. Thank you, Darina, for my new clarified butter method.

So clarified butter done, I try to figure out side dishes that can be done really quickly and at the same time might be able to sit a few minutes and wait for the fish. I decide on broiled tomatoes, sauteed spinach, and brown rice. Darina recommends sprinkling both sides of the fish with salt a little while before cooking. She says,”Sprinkling a fish with salt on both sides and leaving it for even 10 minutes before cooking dramatically improves both the flavor and texture.” Ok, I can do that.

I started the rice, prepped the tomatoes and sprinkled the fish with salt and not much later was enjoying my latest seafood creation. I wish I was a food stylist so I could make it look as good as it tasted.

I can’t believe I have cooked and LIKED three seafood dishes. What will the next weeks bring? I’ll post my progress in a few weeks!

If you want to buy Darina Allen’s book, here is the link on Amazon:

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It is a great book that teaches you all kinds of forgotten skills (some never known to me) from foraging for food to how to skin a rabbit.  In the meantime, eat some fish!

Leaving the Past Behind

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During an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Life Class last year, she quoted someone as saying “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope the past can be changed.” I have thought of that many times since then. Am I holding on to the past because I still have hopes it can be changed?

I started thinking about the things I had done or left undone–all the coulda, woulda, shoulda-things. I thought about the things others had done to me that had changed my life in ways i wished I could undo. All the ‘if only I had’ or ‘hadn’t’ thoughts. And I realized how much space those things take up in my life.

I started making a mental list of everything I could think of, but there were just so many things. So I decided to write them down–everything I wished I could change from the past.

Some of them seemed silly when I looked at them. Really, do I still regret not being able to ask my Mother if I could take ballet lessons when I was in first grade? I can still see the black patent leather cases my friends carried with pink ballerinas in pointe shoes printed across the front. I really wanted to go do dance class and have one of those bags. But for some reason, I thought my Mother would say, ” no,” so I never asked. Mind you, I did eventually take ballet lessons and learn to dance in pointe shoes, so why do I still think about that? If I had started 6 years earlier, would I have succeeded in becoming a professional dancer? I suppose what I really would like to change is the confidence I didn’t have then.  And sometimes still don’t.

Then there were bigger things. The lying to my parents about how I got a black eye and split lip on my first date to protect someone else (no, not the man who hit me.) And that I never got to talk to anyone about the fact that I was very nearly raped on my first date and was lucky to end up with just the black eye and split lip. That I had to keep all my pain and grief inside. Most of all, what if I made it possible for another young woman to be hurt by him?

There were the myriad poor decisions regarding who I dated or didn’t. The money I spent and shouldn’t have. The never having a child that I always thought I would have. That my life isn’t at all what I would have imagined it would be now.

So i went down the list, one by one and thought about each one. Then, one by one, I crossed each one out and cried and let them go. I let go any whisper of hope that any of them could be changed.

As my tears subsided,  I felt as if a weight was lifting off my heart. I think I actually felt my heart open. And now I think there is room for so much more happiness to come.

I know that some people have things in their past that are much harder to leave behind. But anything you can leave behind makes room for something new to come into your life. So think about adding some forgiveness to your life.

Well Done, Grace Batterberry!

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Normally, I would have posted this on Grace’s Facebook page, but, alas, I gave up Facebook for Lent. So, if I am lucky, Grace will see this when the notification comes up that it is published on my FB page.

Grace was one of five people selected to be leaders on the Irish television show, Operation Transformation. The program follows the five leaders for seven weeks documenting their diet and fitness successes and shortcomings. You are encouraged to follow one of the leaders as an inspiration for your own transformation. I chose to follow Grace, the 32 year-old postmistress from Castletownroche in County Cork. Part of the reason I followed Grace is that when she started the program, she discovered that they not only expected her to change her diet and exercise levels, but they also expected her to quit smoking. I quit smoking many, many years ago and know how hard that is to do. I still some times get a whiff of cigarette smoke when I pass someone smoking on the street and think, “oh, I wouldn’t mind some of that.”

So I followed Grace’s progress each week by watching the program on the RTE 1 Player, because it is the only way I have of watching Irish television programs in Texas. (Why I am obsessed with Irish television is the subject for another day.) What I loved about this program is that they follow the leaders in their lives each week. Unlike the American program, The Biggest Loser, these leaders undergo their transformation at home. And no one gets voted off or plots how to get rid of other contestants, nor is there the any money to be won at the end of the program. They are there as leaders to those who watch the program and then will hopefully follow the program themselves. There is a web site where you can get the daily workout and weekly diet plan for the leaders. And, of course, the requisite phone app as well.

There are no fancy machines or daily appointments with personal trainers. There is a fitness expert, and nutritional expert, and a psychologist who set the weekly goals and give them encouragement each week. The majority of the time it is up to the leaders to follow the program as they live their everyday lives. In Grace’s case, she moans about giving up the cigarettes. She also has her partner and son supporting her efforts. What  I enjoyed most was seeing the support she got from her Father, who ended up losing quite a bit of weight himself.

One of the things I have come to love about Ireland is the community spirit. It is a country of a few big cities and many rural communities, villages and small towns. The population of the whole country is about 25% less than the population of the city I live in. In Operation Transformation, I saw Grace and the other leaders supported wholeheartedly by the communities where they live. Friends, coworkers, and neighbors accompanied them on their daily walks and cheered them on.

i sent Grace a ‘friend request’ on Facebook because I wanted to be able to offer my support. As I live 4500 miles or so away, it was certainly the easiest way. Every Wednesday, I watched how Grace and the other leaders had fared in the previous week. They work out at home, sometimes using bottles of water or canned goods as weights. They struggle to adapt to their new diets and lifestyle changes. Last Wednesday was the finale. The leaders, who at the start of the program had not been able to run further than 200 meters, run in a 5k race in the rather appropriately named, Phoenix Park. And then we see them strut their transformed selves down a catwalk. Grace looked stunning in an electric blue dress. Not only had she lost weight, her skin glowed and she looked radiantly happy.

After everyone had walked the catwalk and watched a video review of their transformation, they were joined by two members of the Irish Defense forces. Each week the leaders had met with Sergeant Mick Mulcahy and Lieutenant Gemma Fagan for weekly army-style team challenges aimed at pushing them further than they felt they could possibly go. They were there to present Grace with the “Laoch na Sraithe” – Hero of the Series Award for her spirit and inspiration to others.

Before the series finale, Grace was invited to launch a new quit smoking campaign by the Irish Cancer Society. It is a campaign aimed at getting young women to quit smoking. I would guess that Grace’s life has been transformed far more then she might have dreamt it would be when she embarked on this journey.

So, well done to you, Grace Batterberry. I will miss seeing you on Wednesday but will think about you when I take my dog for a long walk in my neighborhood each day—something watching Operation Transformation inspired me to do. I can’t wait to check on your Facebook page Easter Sunday to see what you have been up to!

A few of the episodes are still available to watch on RTE. If you would like to check them out, go to http://www.rte.ie/player/. You can also access the Operation Transformation website from there.


What to Give Up For Lent

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Somehow the Lenten season crept up on me this year. On Fat Tuesday, someone asked me what I was giving up, and I didn’t have any idea. My friend, Chris, is giving up chocolate, I’ve already done that. I have another friend giving up bread and pasta, but I am already on a diet that restricts bread and pasta to very small amounts, so that seemed a little bit like cheating. My friend’s husband is giving up alcohol. Hmmm, no. I thought I might add something charitable. In recent years, I have made weekly donations to my church food bank and loaned money every week on Kiva, but I couldn’t decide what my charitable deeds might be this year.

All this thinking about what to add or give up, made me think about what I gave up growing up. I honestly can’t remember. I have in my mind that what you give up should be hard to give up. And it shouldn’t be something you should give up anyway. You can’t give up ice cream if you are overweight, or give up smoking if you are a smoker, etc…So surely I gave up candy at least once. Every Sunday after church, we went to a little store to buy the Sunday paper and we got to buy some kind of candy–and if we were really lucky a, comic book.(Yes, I’m old.) But it was the highlight of my week and that is the only thing I can think up that would have been hard to give up then.

The other thing I remember is that we were  given mite boxes in Sunday School when Lent started. We were to put money for the poor in the boxes. They were made of thin cardboard, it seems like they had a little peaked roof on top. They were heavy enough to hold up to the weight of the coins we put in them, but light enough that they might tear if you were to try to retrieve a coin from them. I think you could go house-to-house to collect, but I was already traumatized by having to go house-to-house to sell candy for school. So it was whatever change I could cajole out of my parents or any change I might have left over from my allowance went in the mite box.

It was hard for me because it seemed like my allowance evaporated shortly after I received it. It must have been really hard for my sister, Michelle, because she was incredibly good at not spending a cent unless it was absolutely necessary. Which is also why I had inhaled all my Easter candy by the end of Easter Sunday eating myself into a sugar coma, while my sister might nibble on an ear of her chocolate rabbit and would still have candy weeks later.

I don’t know why I give so much thought to what I give up now. There were a number of years that I gave up Lent for Lent, which is still a popular option for many. But as I have gotten older it has seemed more important to honor the sacrifice that has been made for me by making a real sacrifice.

Later that evening I was on Facebook still pondering what to add, when I saw my niece, Anna’s post saying she was giving up Facebook for Lent. Under the influence of a glass of wine, I decided to do the same thing. I posted a message letting my friends know I would not be wishing them Happy Birthday, ‘liking’ their status, or know what was going on in their lives (at least via Facebook) until Easter Sunday. Two of my friends immediately indicated they ‘liked’ my status. So, too late to reconsider and delete my post. OH MY, I AM GIVING UP FACEBOOK. It made me wonder if my friend, Laurie, was right. She said her priest told her Lent really lasts more than 40 days, so you have Sundays off from what ever it is you have pledged to give up. At the time I thought it was a little too lax, but now I am reconsidering.

Today was Day One of no Facebook. I don’t post that often, but I heard on the news this morning that it is National Margarita Day. I had the urge to post something about how that seems like it should have been celebrated on Fat Tuesday instead of Ash Wednesday. No posting today. In fact, I was only on my computer for seven minutes this morning to check my e-mail. It made me think about the mornings that I was just going to get on Facebook for a minute and then looked at the time and realized I had been on for 45 minutes, or an hour, or maybe longer. I love reading my friend’s posts, watching the videos they post, ‘liking’ their status, and occasionally adding my two cents to someone’s post. I IM my 14 year-old niece and play Wedding Street with her. But maybe I do spend too much time there.

I attended a session at a Job Ministry this morning and the subject was Identity Crisis and how your identity is revealed. One of the points, the L in reveal, was Life Details and how God uses signs to lead or redirect you to your purpose. Later I went to church, and the Ash Wednesday homily was about signs. The outward sign of the ash cross on your forehead, and the other signs of God and faith. He even talked about the Five Man Electrical Band song “Signs.”  That made me smile…‘Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.’  I started to sense a pattern. I think I’ve been redirected away from Facebook to focus on something else in the next few weeks.

I haven’t heard “Signs” in a long, long time. So I looked up the lyrics and smiled again when I read the last verse:

And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray”

But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a

penny to pay

So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign

I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”

Wooo!

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Sign

Sign, sign

So, I’ve given up Facebook for Lent and I’m looking for signs. Let me know what you are giving up for Lent, just don’t post it on Facebook because I won’t see it for weeks.

PS For my first Lenten meal I made Red Snapper Livornese from Rachel Ray’s recipe. It is super easy and, more importantly, I am a reluctant fish eater and I loved it! Here’s the link to the recipe.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/red-snapper-livornese-recipe/index.html

Can You Really Be Younger Next Year?

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I started off my new year by reading Younger Next Year* for Women. It promises to help you live “strong, fit and sexy until you’re 80 and beyond. Having reached the age that 80 is far closer than I ever dreamed possible—and wanting to do everything I can to live to 80 and beyond—I was seduced by the premise.

Now I must say the authors, Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD are, well, men. And they do go on a bit about Darwinian theory, when I prefer Creationism. But, I did like that they boil down your choice to aging well or choosing to decay! Does anything sound less desirable than letting yourself decay? The process of staving off decay is pretty simple, but it does require an fair investment in time. The most time consuming is the requirement to work out 6 days a week for 45 minutes. The funny thing is that 20 years ago, I did do at least that much or more and most of the time for 7 days a week. Where did that dedication go?

I love the title of Chapter 6. Life is an Endurance Event: Train for it. And as I have gotten older, it definitely seems that way some days. So my goal for the rest of this month is 6 days of aerobic exercise a week. I only live a few blocks from the YMCA, so I don’t have far to go. I wish I could still just walk out the door and go running, but arthritis in one hip has put an end to running for me.

There are other parts to the program, but no use turning myself into some kind of fanatic just because it’s a new year. Better to start off slow, that way I won’t feel guilty for having a cocktail or two until sometime later in the year.

I did find some inspiration today for a bit of healthier eating, which I’m sure will work it’s way into my plans during the next few weeks. One of my favorite restaurants in Killarney, Ireland, Chapter 40, has started a new blog. Over the course of the year they will be writing about ways to eat healthier and they have promised recipes. I love the food there, so I know the recipes will be delicious. If you are interested in checking out their blog, you can find it here:http://chapter-40.blogspot.com/

If you want to read Younger Next Year* for Women, you can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Younger-Next-Year-Women-Strong/dp/0761147748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325880441&sr=8-1.

And now the hardest part—waiting a year to find out if I’m younger.

I Miss Thanksgiving…

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Thanksgiving is a holiday that almost every American celebrates, and it has been largely reduced to a big meal you have the day before the Black Friday sales start. Some stores even open on Thanksgiving Day. What happened to taking a little time to really give thanks and spend time with your family? Now it’s hurry up and give thanks so we can start shopping. What’s the rush?

It makes me feel really, really old to say this, but, when I was young, Thanksgiving was so much better. I miss the way Thanksgiving used to be. When I was in school, we got out of school early on Wednesday and had the rest of the week off. Now many schools schedule the whole week off for the Thanksgiving holiday. With all that time off, it seems like Thanksgiving should be an even bigger celebration now. Instead it seems increasingly less important.

I miss candles in the shape of Pilgrims and honeycomb paper turkeys, cornucopias and Indian corn (are you still allowed to call it Indian corn?) The youngest children in school traced their hands and added details in crayon to draw a turkey–surely they still do that. In school choir we sang Over the River and Through the Wood, We Gather Together, and Faith of our Fathers. I guess you’re probably not even allowed to sing the last two in school anymore.

We always went to my Grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving. My aunts and uncles and cousins would be there, too. We had all the traditional food–turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, winter squash, green beans, and cranberry relish. Of course our feast was topped off with pumpkin and mincemeat and apple pies.

After the meal, we napped or went for a walk. If the weather was nice, my cousins and siblings and I would be out in the yard playing something. Over the weekend we ate leftovers and watched football, but we never, ever went Christmas shopping or worried about getting to a store at 4 am on Friday morning. In spite of this lackadaisical approach, my parents always managed to have everything we needed for Christmas and more.

I know, it sounds a little Norman Rockwell-ish and I am happy to say it sort of was. And I hope maybe you’ll want to try a new tradition this year and take the time to enjoy Thanksgiving.