Monday, April 27, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I lived the week after mom's death like I was flicking a light switch.
I turned the switch on and went to work and oriented the new person who took my position. I smiled at people, laughed.......tried to download the information about my job to my replacement...even felt grateful to be among familiar people who would give me bear hugs.
I'd leave work ...get in the car and turn the switch off.....then I was quiet....exhausted....sad.
The last two months have gone so slowly and so fast at the same time.....heartbreak....pain....they slow the clock down so even a second feels like a year......business...all the financial and legal business....I start making phone calls, pulling out the calculator...look up and hours have flown by.
Today.....trouble....dad is coughing, exhuasted, wincing in pain. He has entered the hospice program....I can not believe it maybe time to go through this again....it has arrived so quickly....time is moving slow again.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
My husband walked into the house and looked confused.
Was this really his wife standing over the stove peering into a boiling pot with a wooden spoon in my hand? Does he have the wrong house? Wrong wife?
I was estactic.
I'd been anxious all afternoon ....hoovering over the recipe for Matzoh balls.
I had spent 13 hours with Julia Child last week....and I was actually convinced that there could be some pleasure in cooking....which rubbed against my long held belief that the most pleasure I could ever derive from cooking was watching men....cook for me.
Of course, I really didn't spend 13 hours with Julia....she's moved on to cooking heaven....but during my long drives back and forth to my parent's house in Chicago over the last few weeks....I started listening to audio tapes and finished "My Life in France," a memoir detailing Julia's love affair with French food and cooking.
I expected lots of foodie talk and sections about cooking....but what I didn't know or expect was that Julia was not a born cook.
In fact, she didn't start cooking till she moved to France and was in her forties!
My jaw dropped open and remained so for many interstate miles.
I thought good cooks emerged from the womb with whisks clenched in their little chubby fists.
But here was this woman....starting her cooking career ........in mid-life.
So last week.....a bit inspired.......I texted my husband...... "I'm cooking something for dinner."
He called back.....
"You are cooking."
"I am cooking ."
Silence.....he probably thought it was a delayed April Fool's Day prank.
But no joke, I pulled a tattered copy of my Southern Ham soup recipe out of the kitchen drawer and began.
Southern ham....unlike anything I ever eaten up north.....has a thick coarse coating of black pepper.
I was raised on Krakow ham which arrives in large tins from Poland.
My mother and grandmother pulled the formed meat out of the tin then covered the top of the ham with a thick blanket of brown sugar.
My job was to secure pineapple rings and a cherries in decorative patterns with toothpicks when the ham was almost done baking.
In contrast to this delicate pink ham ....Southern ham is spicy, meatier, and sliced thick........ and there's no such thing as a dainty ham down here........ which means lots of left overs.
Faced with a mound of peppery ham after some holiday and not enough freezer space.....I decided to make soup....combining regional veggies with the ham......black-eyed peas........green peppers....onions.....and some cherry bell peppers....and of course it had to be in a red base....after all this is the South.
Mmmmm......so good....I exhausted my entire supply of innovative recipe ideas....and haven't created anything since then.
I admit.... hoovering over the stove as the aromatic soup cooked was a pleasant and pleasing experience....and combining the soup with a fresh warm loaf of multi-grain bread plus my favorite French butter....would have made even Julia purr.
This week....of course.....is a special week.....Easter celebrations for some....but for me...in Jew school.....and celebrating Passover....a challenge.
Could I actually make at least one traditional food ?? With one recent soup success under my belt......I decided to try Matzoh ball soup.
Although there's a recipe on the Matzoh meal can, I found one on the web by a woman with a comforting Jewish-sounding name and cast my fate with her.
I made slight variations to her recipe....using organic brown eggs.... and kosher sea salt....and I decided I wasn't going to sink my balls (so to speak) in just plain broth (very traditional) but would make my soup with fresh vegetables and kosher chicken.
But as I placed the Matzoh in the boiling water.....I started to panic.....I felt like I was looking into one of those Magic 8 balls ...the mini bowling ball with the transparent window....where a little triangle answers your whispered question..... and a bobbing piece of plastic floats up and says....Yes....No.....Uncertain....Maybe.
I would like to lie....and tell you I had an interesting question....a funny question....or even a cooking question......but....(and I am embarrassed to admit this)....it was like my Matzoh balls were my Jew School Final Exam.
Float and she passes.......Sink and remain doughy.....and she fails.
they sunk....(is that what they usually do?)
they rose....they bobbed.....they floated up and down in the brisk boiling water.....
like ping pong balls (sort of).
I had passed!
I even had class in the evening....so I could tell everyone I made Matzoh ball soup from scratch and it was Good!
I told the Rabbi about my accomplishments....and that my balls floated........he chuckled....
"Well you know Gina, traditionalists don't eat Matzoh today....it would be the equivalent of ordering a turkey sandwich the night before Thanksgiving...the idea being you should wait till the Passover celebration."
My heart sank.....but at least I know my Matzoh balls floated.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Friday, April 03, 2009
The easement....the space between my backyard fence and the sidewalk which runs along the street is public land.
Some easements are wild patches of woods....other easements are bare with just a bit of grass...the easement goal is natural but neat.
Because of the location of our house on our lot, the builder brought trucks through our easement so the forest was leveled...but I've wanted to return the easement to a wild place.
Over the last ten years....I've planted a few trees...encouraging red buds, dogwoods and wildflowers to grow.
You'd think in ten years I'd have a forest growing....but I don't..... because the openness of my easement the lawn guys come through in spring and mow down anything over 5 inches tall thus keeping it in a perpetual grassland state.
After the first couple of years.....I got the message....wilderness meant protection....so I surrounded my desired trees with flower stakes. They lasted a microsecond against the lawn guy and the weed eater.
The next couple of years....I tried stakes PLUS green landscape tape....wrapping the plastic green tape around the little tree and the stake.....making it look completely unnatural.....so any reasonable person would say....hmmmmmmm effort has been placed to protect this little twig....perhaps I should leave it alone.
Green tape must mean GO not stop to landscape guys....because their weed eaters shredded the plastic AND the stakes.
I got serious the following year and bought chicken wire....creating little metal fortresses for the tender shoots.
As long as the cage stood....the young twigs were safe.
Trouble: wind, storms, dogs, and people... knocked the little enclosures over....so if I wasn't vigilant....the lawn guys would descent upon the street ( a random day and time) and pooooof!! .....bye bye foliage.
This morning ...I put my garden gloves on...gathered some tools and decided it was a perfect day to fortify the easement....but I felt sad looking around at the young wildflowers and soft lime green leaves on the small trees. How will I save them?
Lost in thought, I tripped over a large limb laying on the ground (the lawn guys leave tree debris alone) and froze.
I thought of Star Wars.....really.....remember the scene when the teddy bear Ewoks release stockpiles of logs and the Imperial Walking Machines with their bird-like feet lose their balance and fall over?????????
Light Bulb!!!!.....if I place enough limbs and tree debris around parts of the easement.....the lawn guys won't be able to walk in there and mow everything down.
Unfortunately, I can't pepper the entire easement with logs.....but I scrounged up some fresh fallen storm limbs and tree debris from my yard and like a little happy Ewok.... placed them in strategic places....where young sprigs are attempting to get a foot hold.