Monday, October 31, 2011

On the Periphery of Passion

What a wonderful thing passion can be; it truly makes life worth living.
My son's passion is his football team to whom lots of love is given.
This same passion he extends to his parents, children, friends, and wife;
He lives his life drawing others into his aura of unbridled delight.
His children, too, are passionate about their family and their friends;
I love to be around them and am saddened when it ends.

This week-end not only had a televised Saints game;
My son's Halloween birthday was celebrated again and again.
He made chicken and sausage gumbo with a side of rice
We: carrot cake and bread pudding with bourbon sauce for each slice.
If I lived near my children, I fear my heart would explode;
All their love of life sometimes seems a heavy load.

The neighborhood thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday Saints game;
Richard and I don't watch football, but enjoyed them all the same,
Playing Rummikub with our granddaughter by the swimming pool.
And visiting with our teen grandson, who with us doesn't play it cool.
Our grandson stopped by several times with hugs and sweet words
Kind words of love from teens are some of the sweetest words heard.

After a week-end of celebration, they must return to work and school;
We will return to our routines with bodies that are over-full.
I will take the memories and tuck them into my heart,
Being ever so grateful that, in their passions, we play a part.
Next week-end we will have more offered opportunity
To take part in these celebrations of life that we love to see.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Memories Than Mortals Can Conceive

The sailors in windbreakers heading out to the sea
Bring back memories of our boating, my captain and me.
The cool fall breezes are a sirens' song to sailors,
Whether with vessels in the harbor or boats on trailers.

We had cushions in the v-berth that served as our bed,
And in the starboard bunks where guests laid their heads.
There were nights that we anchored in a quite river inlet
And other nights at harbors that we had only just met.

The cruises that we took with friends and family --
Feasting, swimming, fishing -- We felt worry free.
We had sleep-overs at the dock; we didn't need to leave;
There were more memories made than mortals can conceive.

Fall light is extra luminous as it dances on the waves;
The cloudless sky promises many memories to be saved.
My wish for every sailor embarking from this harbor:
Many blissful moments to share with their sons and daughters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

People From Our Past

People from our past keep popping up; they heard that we returned "home."
I always thought we'd keep in contact, no matter where we roamed.
But, it seems that face-to-face time is what most people feel comfortable with,
No matter how much the written word is that for which I wish.
We are being called upon to come out and catch up with our friends --
It's so much safer to communicate when I can edit before hitting "send."

I guess most people are more comfortable with the fleeting nature of life,
Where I don't trust that the good memories will be there in times of strife.
I want to take out stories of love and personal triumph that were written to me
Whenever I become overwhelmed by the unpleasant things I hear and see.
I can curl up under the covers or hide in my own house,
Savoring the kind words of friends and being quiet as a mouse.

This way misunderstandings may be fewer and farther between;
I was taught to stay out of trouble by being neither heard nor seen.
I was never good at obeying these social nicety directives;
There's something in my lady-like gene that obviously is defective.
I must remember that these folks are citizens of New Orleans
Where loud and proud women are simply part of the local scene.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rewards of Retirement

A big reward of retirement is that we are now free
To explore whatever it is that we "always wanted to be."
This can be quite daunting because, as Richard said to me,
Their is nothing quite as scary as to be completely free.
When we have jobs and children, someone else dictates what we do;
But most of us nurse fantasies that number more than a few.
One of my nieces attending college said recently
She thinks growing up is harder in the land of the free.
She said in many countries each is simply placed in a job, and
In many families it is the case, that parents are job snobs.
I know that unsolicited opinions are worth what is paid for them,
But you know that I still had to put my own two cents in.
I'd like her to consider teaching physical therapy;
It seems a natural grown up progression for a gymnast, to me.
I parlayed my love of giving parties into a catering career;
Now I spend my time writing about the memories I hold most dear.
My body can't stand the strain of long hours on my feet,
But being a writer is another goal I've always wanted to meet.
How sad it would be if on the day of our births
Our dreams wings were clipped, and we were denied the search
For what is our best use in each stage of our lives.
Dreams seem to be the only way the human spirit thrives.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Physical Therapy Is a Miracle to Me

Everything I've ever been and everything I am,
I owe to the time of teachers, and a helping set of hands.
The laying on of hands in good physical therapy
Is the stuff of miraculous healing to me.
We seek swift answers from pills and surgery --
Not learning how to keep own bodies pain free.
The teachers I follow are the ones with mastery
Of their subject before they impart knowledge to me.
I could have sought out a personal trainer instead of PT,
But the knowledge of physiology is as important as can be.
Strength building exercises on muscles knotted over nerves
Will never be productive in putting pain in reverse.
When will we honor the individual time and attention
That trains us in our own power's attainment and retention?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aunt Ann's Pot Roast and Very Close to Berry Chantilly Cake

This is what we served our nieces for their birthday celebration.

My mother made some of the best pot roast I ever put in my mouth. Here's as close as I could come to her way of making it:

Aunt Ann's Pot Roast

3-4 pound of your favorite cut of beef for roasting
1 cup (approximately) all purpose flour
Salt to taste
Lots of black pepper
Lots of garlic powder
Lots of onion powder
1/2 cup canola oil (She used safflower oil)
1 cup water
1/2 pound carrots, cut in 2 inch pieces
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 pound mushrooms, cut in half
6 ribs celery, cut in 2 inch pieces

Sprinkle roast liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Coat with flour on all sides. Oil on all sides. Place fat side up in cover roasting pan. Roast at 300 degrees for 2 hours.

Pour in water. Add carrots and potatoes. Cover and return to oven 1/2 hour. Add mushrooms and celery. Cover and return to oven 1/2 hour. Remove roast from pan. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Very Close to Berry Chantilly Cake

1 box white cake mix, prepared according to package directions in 9-inch cake pans, using four pans to make very thin layers. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Berry Compote:
1/3 cup triple sec
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 teaspoon orange extract

Whisk together and pour over the following fruit:
1 cup fresh strawberries, cut in half
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
Refrigerate for 1 hour.

6 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
4 ounces sour cream

In top of double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and milk. Whisk over boiling water in bottom of double boiler, whisking continuously, until mixture coats spoon with thick sauce like warm pudding (about 15 minutes). Remove pan from heat to a cold water bath. Whisk for 2 minutes. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on surface of custard. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Whisk cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and sour cream into custard mixture.

Whipped cream icing:

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff. Beat in softened cream cheese.

Pipe a border of whipped cream around edge of first layer to act as a “fence” for fruit. Place 1/3 fruit compote on cake layer. Top with 1/2 custard mixture, including juice. Repeat for layers 2 and 3. Top with layer 4. Ice cake with whipped cream and cream cheese mixture. Decorate with toasted almonds and fresh fruit.

Birthday Blunder

We had a birthday party for Waggy --Richard and me.
What she wanted to eat seemed simple as can be.
But I messed up with a comma where interpretation was free.
She said "I want a kitchen sink salad w/ all the
Veggies, meat, cheese, and pasta. And carb smart ice cream.
We set about creating what I thought was her dream.
One of Richard's salads that would be sure to delight,
And a pasta primavera should be just right.
I shopped for every veggie I could put in the pot
And Carb Smart spaghetti to fill the pasta slot.
Imagine her surprise when she thought pasta in salad,
And spaghetti for primavera was all that I had.
Richard's salad pleased her; she even took pictures.
She seemed to enjoy the pasta without her strictures.
Then her ice cream, we topped with fresh raspberries.
I hope she was happy with her birthday fairies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Great Gobs of Gratitude

Great gobs of gratitude is the way to start any day;
It's so easy to do when we've had so much love come our way.
The baby boys all over the condo, one end to the other,
Under the watchful eyes of their loving aunt and mother.
Uncle Richard as their playmate while we girls got to chat,
The boys climbing on us occasionally for a kiss or a pat.

One of "those" salads, pot roast with all the fixings,
Beans from a Coker Creek garden are still to our ribs sticking.
To celebrate the birthdays of the girls, the boys could hardly wait;
They had spied the fresh strawberries on the Chantilly cake.
We parted with great smiles and some with grocery sacks
Hoping the sharing of good memories will keep them coming back.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grabbing Grandchild Time

Our youngest granddaughter is now ten. It seems like we'll blink and lose her to her own explorations of the wide world. I'm so thrilled that she still openly admits to longing for time with us. I feel that I must take every opportunity to spend time with her before she outgrows her granny.

Richard and I have been invited by her gifted program teacher to assist with a class field trip to the World War II Museum. How sweet is that when your grandchildren are so proud of what you do that they want you to teach their class something about your work? Now her big brother, who really enjoys time with his "Poppie" has asked if he can tag along. I hope it all works out. I'd be on cloud nine, or is it cloud ten?

Me and my youngest grandgirl had a sleep-over last night and enjoyed each other immensely, but the time was too short. She's in so many activities that it's really cutting into our time together. I'm not really complaining, though, because the class that kept her late was sewing. I'm hoping she can teach me a few new tricks.

The time waiting for my granddaughter also gave me the opportunity to take our only grandson to his favorite shopping place, Gamestop, where he purchased a Batman game with his own money. What an easy way to be a hero; all I had to provide was the ride. He's thirteen, so every minute with him before he takes the wheel is a gift.

After the grandchildren were whisked away, our daughter-in-law and I curled up on the couch, still in our jammies and watched a not-suitable-for-children movie as my son bopped in and out in his own inimitable style. What a perfect way to spend a day.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Louisiana Lost and Found

It is lovely living with a Italian/seafood restaurant on the harbor. Even though we both enjoy cooking, sometimes it's simply more convenient to take visitors out to eat. Our friends, Susan and Mark, who have settled in Louisville, Kentucky after being washed out by Hurricane Katrina and then a several year stint living in Florida, pass within a quarter mile of our condo on their way to visit their son and other sundry relatives and friends in New Orleans. This almost guarantees that we will get to see them as they pass by, especially since they usually arrive at lunch time. As Sam Walter Foss said, "Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."

In order not to put pressure on them about their arrival time, we opted to meet them at the harbor side restaurant. They had a sailboat slipped here many years ago and reminisced about the wonderful times they had sailing and swimming with their young children. The memory machine, I'm sure, was well oiled by the sumptuous seafood dishes on all of our plates. We ended the meal with a walk to our condo (Richard got a one-block ride in Mark's two-seater red sports car, in which I can't even imagine folding myself up sufficiently to enter and exit). At home, we ate oatmeal/cranberry cookies from the cookie dough I had on hand from the visit by the baby boys and sipped cafe au lait.

Susan and Mark are now sandwiched between Susan's aging parents and their daughter's family, complete with their first grandchild. I think they're in Louisville to stay, but it sure was wonderful to relive their memories of how our Louisiana lives were before our losses.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and eggs until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt, and soda. Mix well. Mix in oatmeal. Stir well. Drop by tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Yields about 5 dozen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beutiful Baby Boys

Our niece and her boys came yesterday;
She had homework, and they wanted to play.
What a delight it was to recapture our past
When Richard and the children would have a blast,
Building towers with homemade wood blocks
That come crashing down with gentle knocks.

The two boys also played boat in a box;
This served to really turn back the clock
To our first grandchild who could make boats
Out of things that were never meant to float.
We read stories, played cars, and laughed a lot.
They're not our grandchildren, but it matters not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Simple Savory Supper

What we enjoyed with last night with friends:

Cream Cheese and Chutney with Whole Wheat Crackers
Richard's Sumptuous Salad
French Bread and Butter
Pepper Dijon Pork Cutlets
Kale with Portobello Mushrooms
Bowtie Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic
Irish Coffee

Pepper Dijon Pork Cutlets
1 1/2 pound boneless pork loin, cut 1/4 inch thick
Nonstick spray
Seasoned salt
1 cup sauvignon blanc
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon crushed green peppercorns

Season pork with seasoned salt. In large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat, brown pork on both sides. Remove pork from skillet. Keep warm in 200 degree oven while making sauce. Deglaze skillet with wine. Whisk in Dijon mustard and crushed peppercorns. Heat to boiling. Pour over pork. Serve with potatoes or pasta.

Kale with Portobello Mushrooms

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 pound sliced portobellos
1 cup red wine
1 pound kale, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts
Black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute

Heat olive oil in large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms. Cover and fry, stirring occasionally until brown and tender. Deglaze skillet with wine. Add all other ingredients. Cover skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until kale is tender, 20-30 minutes. This can be tossed with bowtie pasta or served alone as a side dish.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Foggy Feelings

Fog over the water is eerie to me;
The sea has become the sky,
And the sky has become the sea.
Many lured by the sirens' songs
Realize too late that
Their direction is wrong.

We're back home after years away.
There is no way to predict
How long, this time, we'll stay.
Our life's seas have been rough,
Our ride has been quite wild
For me, being partners is enough.

The captain of my ship is off;
May his journey be safe,
And his landing be soft,
His mission be noble, his path true.
May his reward be the pleasure
In the work that he'll do.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Back on the Banks of Lake Pontchartrain

We're back on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain,
My Richard, Waggy, her puppies, and me.
The leaves in the mountains on the way down
Were such a sight for us all to see.
It was quite a sight for others,
Passing by Waggy's loaded truck;
We had everything but the kitchen sink
And a many pointed handsome buck.
We had not enough room for a postage stamp
Under Waggy's big blue FEMA tarp,
And Waggy had to content herself
With a space not big enough for a dog's bark.

Six hundred miles Richard drove us
As we chatted about our sixty years
He never once complained
Probably glad there were no tears.
That's one thing about my friend Waggy
She and I always find a way to laugh
Even when she takes upon herself
What seem to others impossible tasks.
After all she's done to help us
In our overwhelming partial move
She says it was the kind of vacation
Of which she and her puppies approve.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Wonderful Whirlwind Waggy

Wow! What a whirlwind we've brought to our house in the holler. My friend since I was five came with us for a visit as we prepare to put our mountain home on the vacation rental market. She said that she needed a vacation from her duties taking care of her eighty-five-year-old father in Louisiana. Never have I seen a vacation quite like the way Waggy does it.

As soon as we arrived, Waggy announced that she wanted to attend Deborah's twice-a-week exercise classes. These aren't senior citizen stretches; this is a wonder woman workout. Like this isn't enough bending and stretching for anybody, Waggy also accompanied Judi to a two-hour Yoga lesson on an off day for exercise class. This is Waggy's idea of relaxation. Now for what she does for fun...

Thus far, she's cleaned cobwebs, washed windows, prettied up the porch, done loads of laundry, bailed and scrubbed buckets that had collected stagnant water, and painted the back door, swept, mopped, dusted, and generally kept things clean while I pack. She's also willing to help tote boxes to the heap of things coming south with us. This is all worked around her at-home exercises and caring for her two active house dogs.

My recently deceased eighty-four year old mother, who lived next door to Waggy's dad for over fifty years, used to say, as she watched Waggy work on her dad's house, that everybody needed a Waggy. Now I know what she meant. Wonder woman has nothing on our wonderful Waggy.