Friday, December 1, 2023

Christmas Magic

It was just a few weeks until Christmas and I could hardly wait.

We had moved into our beautiful new house, and I had my very own bedroom.  No more sharing with my annoying younger brother.

Mom was busy decorating and getting ready for the holiday.  I’m not sure I had ever seen her so happy.  She finally met someone who treated her well and even liked us kids too. 

Buzz was a kind man, quiet and gentle with a warm smile.  Walking in with his dusty work boots, exhausted from work, he was never too tired to pick me up and give me a huge bear hug.

We were living a life I could never have imagined.  There was so much food in the house we had to put another refrigerator on the back porch.  We didn’t have to worry about moving in the middle of the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.  Life was very good.

“You are not going to start another project this close to Christmas.” I heard my mom telling Buzz.

He was always working on something.  He built a new patio with a rock garden for mom in the summer and a mini playhouse for me and my brother.

Despite her protests, he began working.  

It was unusual for him to be doing it inside, but it was winter, so I didn’t think much of it. 

Mom was beside herself with the mess.  She had worked so hard to clean and decorate the house.  He had even pushed the Christmas tree off into the corner.

I was surprised and confused when I came home from school and saw that he was actually tearing down the living room wall. 

He and mom almost never argued but this was different.  There were pieces of wood and sheet rock everywhere.  I was happy I had a room to go to where I could stay away from it all.

As the days passed, mom accepted that this was going to happen whether she liked it or not. 

Just a couple of days until Christmas now and I was more excited than ever.  This was our first Christmas in the new house.

Behind the canvas tarps, Buzz worked away, he looked like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

He even enlisted my brother to help with his “secret project”.
I was a little jealous that I wasn’t included but I kept myself busy playing with my dolls and reading in my room.

Finally, it was Christmas eve.  I knew this year would be special, but I had no idea how much. 

After dinner, mom sent me and my brother to our rooms.  “We have something to do before Santa comes, so you have to stay there until we tell you to come out,” she instructed. “And no peeking,” she nodded to my brother.

Presents, it must be our presents we both thought. 

When she opened the door, she told me to close my eyes.  Gently guiding me, we walked into the front room. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw the most incredible fireplace I had ever seen.  

That is what Buzz had been working on.  Whoever had lived there before had covered up the fireplace with a wall.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale – the fire was glowing with twinkles of light reflecting on the hearth.

Under the tree were two boxes, one for me and one for my brother. 

We didn’t usually get to open any gifts before Christmas morning, so this was another unexpected surprise. 

My box was not wrapped, so it was easy to just open the top.  As I did, up popped the most beautiful little gray kitten in the world.  

Immediately I began to cry, as I carefully lifted her out of the box.

“Is she really for me?” I asked in disbelief, petting her gently. "I think I'll call her Thumbelina because she's so tiny," I said.

My brother grinned at me and began opening his package.  It was a toolbox with real tools to build things, he was thrilled.

Mom smiled and watched quietly as we laughed and played.  Buzz reached down from his rocking chair and lifted me, still holding the kitten, into his lap.

It was truly a magical Christmas.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Baking Time Again!

I like to bake when the weather begins to cool down.  Of all the foods I love, fresh baked bread is one of my favorites.  There is something very satisfying about creating something so delicious with just a few ingredients.




These bread rolls are easy to make and instead of taking all day, they are done in under an hour.  I modified the recipe to make a small batch, perfect for 6 - 8 dinner rolls.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (1/2 – 1 cup additional as needed for dough)

1 package Rapid Rise Instant Yeast

2 Tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup warm water

2 tablespoons oil

1 egg

Instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

·   Mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt in medium mixing bowl.  Add water, oil and egg.  Stir until well combined.    

Knead until dough is soft and smooth.  Use additional flour if needed.

Cover and set in a warm location for 20 minutes.

Form dough into 8 balls and place on a greased sheet pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm and enjoy!




Wednesday, April 12, 2023

It's the Little Things

 I have been traveling for 6 months now and I am always amazed and delighted by the wonderful people that I meet along the way.

Today as I went out for a few errands, I encountered many who were just going about their day.  Most were in a rush and not particularly pleasant, one was very rude.

When I arrived back at the hotel, I asked the housekeeper for some coffee to take back to my room.  She was so helpful and polite I wanted to give her a small tip. 
 
Inadvertently, instead of giving her two single dollars, I gave her a twenty-dollar bill and a single.
 
I paused for a moment before realizing that not only did she deserve it, but I hoped it would be a nice surprise when she sees it later.

Here in the US, wages for service workers is abysmal.  Honestly, anyone who will clean up after me deserves more than I can give them.

I hope she remembers the gesture but not my room, I want her to be able to accept this very small token of my appreciation for all that she does.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wanderlust

There is nothing that spurs my wanderlust more than not being able to travel. 

I love being free to just pick up and go whenever I want.

This year will prove to be a little tricker, but I have no doubt I will manage to make it happen.

My list of the yet to be discovered is growing by the day and I can't wait to explore those fantastic new horizons!


Monday, January 23, 2023

More Soft Food

Eating after oral surgery can be very challenging.  The chewiness and texture of foods that were never an issue before can be beyond painful. At the same time, you crave good, comforting food.

Nutrition is essential while you heal, but so is satisfaction.  So, going into yet another round, I am trying to think of some new soft meal options for my recovery.

I'm hoping to enjoy a larger selection of food and flavors this time around.  Here are some of my favorite foods, soft diet style.

Mexican - Huevos Rancheros, Refried Beans, Red or Green Chili, Sopa, Rice, Tres Leches Cake.

Indian - Vegetable Tikka Masala, Curry, Tarka Dal, Palak Paneer, Rice, Mango Lassi, Gulab Jamun.

Italian - Fettuccini Alfredo, Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, Risotto, Tiramisu.

American - Eggs, Baked Fish, Bread Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Yams, Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, Whipped Cream.

Asian - Egg Foo Yung, Rice, Sweet and Sour Tofu, Egg Drop Soup, Miso Soup, Rice Pudding.

Spanish - Poached Fish, Gazpacho, Tortilla Espanola, Paella, Flan.

Irish - Potatoes (Soup, Mashed, Colcannon, Champ), Shepards Pie, Baked Beans, Salmon, Mushy Peas, Cabbage, Carrots, Parsley Sauce, Trifle.

Mediterranean - Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Lentil Soup, Orzo, Feta Cheese, Shakshuka, Cream Cake.

Depending on your procedure, you may want to prepare these at home so you can control the ingredients and texture to suit your needs.

Disclaimer:  These meals were approved by my dental provider and were specific to my procedure. Please follow post-op instructions provided by your dentist.


Thursday, January 12, 2023

Soft Food Diet

After 2 rounds of dental surgery, I had to be on a soft food diet for almost 10 weeks.  At first, it didn't seem so daunting but by the second day, I was so tired of mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs I began to panic.  Not only did I need to eat my meals, but all of my medication had to be taken with food.  


I started searching the internet for what else I could have, and the choices were very limited.  Nothing hard, crunchy, sticky, brittle, spicy, acidic, no nuts, seeds, skins or anything hard to chew were my initial instructions.  What I discovered was that even the texture of a soft noodle would cause excruciating pain, so I needed to get creative.

Like most people, I love really good and flavorful food.  So, I decided to experiment with some of my favorite recipes to see what could be modified to fit my new way of eating for the next 2 months.  Some were more successful than others, but I started to get the hang of it.  Here are some of the meals and snacks that were easy to prepare and were also satisfying to eat.

Week 1 of both phases was the toughest, everything had to be extremely soft, essentially the consistency of baby food, with no chewing required.

Soft scrambled eggs (mixed with sour cream for more flavor and creaminess)

Vegetable soup (blended until smooth)

Egg Drop Soup (I whipped the egg into the broth so there were no large pieces)

Broth with soft white bread and butter (white bread almost dissolves into the broth)

Pancakes loaded with butter and syrup

Instant mashed potatoes with butter, sour cream and gravy (instant potatoes are creamier than my homemade version and easier to prepare)

Baked acorn squash

Cream soup (blended until smooth - no lumps or chunky pieces)

Soft egg foo yung with brown gravy

Plain greek yogurt with honey

Pudding, chocolate milk, applesauce, protein shakes, instant breakfast drinks, yogurt smoothies, mashed banana

Week 2 - I was able to tolerate a little more texture so I added these dishes.

Pasta with white sauce (cook the pasta until soft and blend until smooth)

Sour cream enchilada casserole (corn tortillas become soft and mushy in the sauce)

Red beans and rice (cook the rice until soft and mash the beans)

Scrambled/Poached egg with baked beans

Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams (boiled and mashed)

Crab Cakes with mild cocktail sauce (microwave to keep soft)

Dos Leches cake (pound cake soaked in milk topped with whipped cream)

Ice cream sundae (no nuts or fruit pieces)

Week 3 - getting better and was able to add a little more texture and variety.

Crustless green chili quiche

Macaroni and cheese (cook pasta until very soft)

Tuna noodle casserole 

Lentils with potatoes and carrots

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Soft Sunday dinner – mashed potatoes, carrots, yams, bread stuffing and gravy (canned carrots and yams are easy to mash and box bread stuffing is nice and fluffy)

Instant Grits with butter and cheese

Take-out Mexican refried beans, soft rice, smooth chili

Graham crackers soaked in milk

Tips:
My biggest suggestion is to prepare as much as possible in advance.  I didn’t do this on my 1st round and seriously regretted it.  I underestimated how much pain I would be in and did not feel like cooking but still needed to eat.

Before the next round, I stocked up on everything that I thought I might want.  That included a lot of pantry items that were easy to prepare – instant mashed potatoes, instant gravy, soups, canned carrots/yams/beans, box stuffing mix, soft cakes, white bread, saltine crackers, graham crackers, pancake mix, syrup - anything that could be mashed or soaked in soup or milk.  Dairy was easier – pudding, milk, sour cream, yogurt and of course eggs.

I made some things ahead of time to freeze and then was able to just heat them in the microwave – pancakes, soups etc.

Eating out was not an option but I loved the soft dinner I was able to get from my favorite Mexican restaurant.  That felt like a total indulgence!

Meat didn’t really work out for me – I made a very soft pork stew but it was still too much to chew and it got caught in my stitches so I won’t do that again.  I’d rather stay vegetarian until I can chew properly.
  • Please note this was after dental surgery and it was specific to my procedure.  You should always check with your doctor and follow their instructions for whatever you need to do following any condition or procedure you may have.
Delicious Dos Leches Cake

Crustless Green Chili Quiche

Stuffing and Carrots


Scrambled Egg Foo Yung

Ginger Carrot Soup

Enchilada Casserole

Egg and Baked Beans















Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Wanderlust

There is nothing that spurs my wanderlust more than not being able to travel. 

I love being free to just pick up and go whenever I want.

This year will prove to be a little tricker, but I have no doubt I will manage to make it happen.

My list of the yet to be discovered is growing by the day and I can't wait to explore those fantastic new horizons!


Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Pure Silence

There have only been a few times in my life that I have experienced true peace and tranquility.  

The first time I really noticed it was while paragliding in Mexico.  I was a little nervous at first but when the wind caught the chute and took me up into the air, all my fear faded away.  

I was overcome with the beauty and silence as I floated above the water.



Monday, January 9, 2023

Smashed Tomato Starter

Sometimes, something as simple as a smashed tomato appetizer with a lovely glass of Spanish wine reminds me just how wonderful simple pleasures truly are.


Matadora - Hilton Hotel Woburn, MA




Sunday, January 8, 2023

Homeplace

Explore the world, travel near and far until you find the homeplace of your heart. 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

A Gentle Path

My journey is shifting yet again, this time it is a peaceful and easy change. 

What started out as a rocky and steep climb has evolved into a beautiful, scenic walk.  

The further I move along this road the more I realize that I do not need to struggle with the obstacles in my way.

I just need to go around them to stay on that lovely, gentle path.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Gratitude and Appreciation

We've all heard it many times and many different ways during our lives. Count your blessings, give thanks, feel lucky for what you have, think of people who don’t have as much.  We understand the words, but seldom do we stop to think what they really mean.   

I'm not sure exactly when it occurred to me, but one day, I began to really understand what it means to be truly grateful.  Not just for the good things but for everything. 

When I started looking at my life in a new way it was very revealing.  As much as I thought I had been a grateful person, I realized I had been taking a lot for granted.  Not just the big things, but all of the small, seeming insignificant things that make up my life.

I started focusing on very specific things to appreciate, like my morning cup of coffee.  I wondered, what did it take for me to enjoy that simple pleasure?  

It had to be grown, picked, processed, distributed etc. by others who made it possible for me to sit at my kitchen table with little to no effort on my part.

Pouring a glass of clean water, sleeping in a comfortable bed, turning on the lights - the list goes on forever.  There is so much to appreciate and be grateful for.

What about when things go wrong?

The big shift occurred for me when I began to see problems as opportunities.  Something that would have upset me in the past, like an issue at work or something going wrong with my vehicle, became a challenge for me to find the best in the situation.

This was when I had to be more general and not so specific.  I was happy to have a job or a car, I felt fortunate to have the resources and ability to figure it out.  

I applied this philosophy to everything I could think of.  If it was a good experience, I thought about how much I appreciated having it.  When it didn’t feel so good, I thought about how grateful I was for the lesson and what positive aspects of it I could find. 

In the beginning it was a little difficult to always find the silver lining but with practice it became easier, and I’ve learned that even when I slip back into my old habits, I can quickly recover by simply remembering all that I have to be grateful for. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Obstacle or Opportunity

When an unexpected, seemingly difficult, situation arises it is easy to think about the worst-case scenario.  

Quickly my mind goes into fight or flight mode, and I struggle to find a solution that will distance me from the issue.

Unless I'm being chased by a bear this is usually an overreaction, but it doesn't feel that way at the time.

What I have to do is slow down and remember that every obstacle provides an opportunity for something new.

It may be how I am thinking or feeling about the circumstances or perhaps it is to guide me in a better direction.  

My challenge is to try to find the path of least resistance and remember that it will all work out just as it needs to. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

See the Beauty

There is more than enough seriousness to go around.  If I pay too much attention to it, it takes over my life. 

It is an ongoing lesson for me to look for all that is good in the world and there is a lot of it.

When I can do that, everything feels brighter, and I can see the beauty beyond the dark clouds.

"It's not what you look at that matters, it is what you see" - Henry David Thoreau


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Feel Good

 It's easy to think happy thoughts when we are feeling good, not so much when we aren't.  That is why it is important to develop a practice or something that will help to carry us through until we are feeling better.

One of my favorite quotes from Abraham Hicks is "You never get it done and you can't get it wrong."

No matter what is happening, life is always changing.  

I used to think that I had to work hard to eliminate unwanted things from my life.  What I am learning is that it is much easier to simply replace them with something, anything, that feels just a little bit better.

It doesn't take much to change the direction of your life, just consistently pay attention to how you feel and do more of anything that feels good.  

Something as simple as a casual walk can produce more positive results than furiously trying to get something done.

Be kind to yourself!

Monday, January 2, 2023

Something Wonderful

 Many years ago, I was working at a very challenging job and desperately needed to find some peace.  

I understood that what I was going through would not last and that it would all work out but remembering that was easier said than done.

One morning, before going to work, I jotted down a little note and tucked it away in my purse.

Every so often I still come across it and it makes me smile to see the perfect message to myself.



Day 1 - New Year

With a new year, fresh start and new beginnings - all things are possible. 

I don't make resolutions, but I do like to set intentions.

This year I want to broaden my scope and clear some space for something new.

I am ready to trade the rituals and traditions that have served me so well in the past for a future that is unknown and limitless.

Now, I feel the need to explore in a way that I never have before.

Not just in the world, but within myself.

Wishing you a New Year filled with love and joy!