Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ricotta-Yogurt Naan Pizza with Balsamic

Satisfying comfort food without the (a) heartburn, (b) over-excessive calories, or (c) time consuming preparation--my kind of "cooking" these days.  This little delight took about 5 minutes of prep time, and 10 in the oven, and the taste absolutely wowed me.

Flat bread--I used Naan
Olive oil: brush the bread lightly before adding ingredients
Nonfat Greek yogurt: 1/4 cup
Ricotta cheese: 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper to taste; salt the tomatoes prior to baking, and no additional salt is needed
Oregeno: about 1/2 tsp.
Tomatoes: I used 2 small "cocktail" tomatoes which are intensely flavor-rich
Power greens: I use organic baby kale, baby chard, and baby spinach
Basil:  2 leaves, snipped
Balsamic: drizzle a tsp. across the top prior to baking

Calories in one slice: about 145; the entire pizza = 580.  This contrasts with a typical slice of margherita pizza ranging from 200-700+ calories a serving, up to 1400 for the whole flatbread.

I think next time, I will reduce the amount of ricotta and yogurt by half.  While it was very creamy and cheesy-tasting, it could be reduced and not sacrifice the taste at all.  Choosing a lower calorie flatbread could also reduce the calorie count, but I prefer the taste of naan over the dryer flatbreads available here.  It is also available in a whole wheat version, which I obtain when it is in stock.  Granted, the 187 calories in the New Belgium Portage consumed with the pizza probably took the total count right on up there alongside those other mega-calorie pizzas, but it was a perfectly delightful accompaniment!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spaghetti and meatballs 1953

My mother was 88 yesterday.  Not long ago, in her box of recipes I found one for sphaghetti and meatballs, probably taken from an advertisement similar to this one.  It was simple, just tomato sauce and meatballs over sphaghetti.  The odd thing is that I never remember having spaghetti and meatballs growing up.  We were more the "goulash" kind of family, and a one-dish meal made with ground beef, macaroni, canned tomatoes, and potatoes was on our table fairly often.

On my recent trip home, it fell to me to clean out the 'junk drawer' because it would not close without catching on something and necessitating rigorous action to get the drawer open after sticking one's fingers in the open crack to try to rearrange the offending item.  I threw away piles of recipes cut from boxed food packages and the pages of a magazine or newspaper, many for the same recipe, but which had never been prepared.  The fact that they were in the junk drawer rather than the recipe box might have been only a part of the reason they had never graced the supper table.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cooking for the "modern" housewife c. 1953

It was the time of jello molds, "convenience" foods, and shiny white refrigerators replacing "iceboxes."  With all their "free" time now from having automatic washers and vacuum cleaners, and yes, refrigerators, women were free to concentrate on making pretty food, like fruit in gelatin molds.  Jello even had a "cookbook" for desserts made with jello molds so even the novice could turn out a spiffy-looking dessert.
Did anyone ever have a refrigerator that looked as neatly organized as this one?  No matter how much one might try I think it is an impossible task, regardless of how the refrigerator is constructed.  And, who leaves meat unwrapped?  Oh, never mind, that is her perfectly prepared in advance supper for tonight, so it won't be in there very long.  With all those puddings lined up, clearly, the jello was the salad course today.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mississippi. One must love what is his.

Sometimes when I am returning to Mississippi, I recall the words of James Meredith, about loving Mississippi because it is his.  Mississippi has not always been kind to me in the last 12 years (although I am in no way comparing my experiences with those of James Meredith), and yet after a time away I find myself longing to be back to the place I currently think of as home.  Perhaps that is because home is not necessarily a geographic location.  And yet, I feel a sense of "homeness" when I cross the bridge into Mississippi and it feels as if I am almost here on my little Taylor cottage on the hillside.

The past 16 days have been a whirlwind from daylight to well after dark, what with taking care of Mom in the hospital and after she got home--along with all the usual caregiving that occurs when I am at home.  It is always a joy to be there with my sister, though, and to take a few times out of each day to share the tasks needing doing, and sometimes, to share some relaxation and down time in the midst of the tasks--like the day we drove to Mineral Wells to buy her new trailer and slipped on over the 20 miles to Weatherford for lunch and a quick shopping trip.

It was a joy to have my bro stop by and surprise Mom and Dad, and lift their spirits.  It has been the whine valley and the mountaintop at various points in the past days, but as things always do, it passes and moves on to the next phase.  Things were fairly stable when I left Thursday afternoon, and we made an overnight stop in Arlington and came the rest of the way Friday.  It was a long day of driving at that, and in pouring rain from the Mississippi River to home.

This morning, it is cool and overcast, and I set about refilling all the bird feeders and wondering how long it will take them to figure out Suz is home and the seed bins are full.  The magnolia is blooming, the grass is green and wet with the recent rainfall, little drops glistening like rhinestones.
 Mississippi.  One must love what is hers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Did you miss me, Rio?

 I cannot think of many things that make me want to get up early other than feeding Rio.  Not too many things keep me on schedule in the evening like feeding Rio.  Yes, he has hay, and yes, he has a pasture full of green grass right now, but he knows when it is time for breakfast and time for supper.  I like to accommodate him.  Nothing makes my heart sing like going out first thing in the morning and seeing him at the gate or looking in the shop windows to see when the door opens.  Nothing makes me feel happy like going out to feed him at evening and seeing him at the gate waiting for me, treat in one hand, food in the other.
 The grass is so wet in the mornings, and so tall in the pasture that I have been meaning to get some "work" boots down here.  With all the storms and rain, I went out to Walmart Fallapart and got some rubber rain boots/Wellies/waders (depending on where you are from) and they have come in really handy this week.  I have tromped through mud in the pasture, water in front of the barn, water in front of the shop, but my little tootsies are dry and my sandals and tennis shoes are, too.
After the big excitement Friday night, Saturday evening I was sitting on the deck chilling.  I had fixed Rio's food bin, pulled weeds away from the barn door, and was sitting on the deck relaxing waiting for Rand to arrive.  The emergency alert shattered the silence with a warning to take cover immediately.  I went in the back door "in the hall now; tornado spotted" and we whipped into action again.  Move chest, close drapes, dad's bed up against the far wall and head to the hall, mom and Tink in the hall, Shea and I in the hall with one next to mom and one next to dad.  No time for anything else.  I tried to call Sis and Rand to warn them to stay put where ever they were in the process--no answer either phone.  Sis came in just then and as soon as she saw dad's bed she knew and got into shelter.

We were fortunate yet again and it passed over us and moved on.  Folks in other areas were not so fortunate, as loss of life and property occurred in nearby towns and our neighbor states.  This time of year has always been like that here where I grew up.  Each time is a sobering moment.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tornado drill...in real life

Everyone who remembers "tornado drill" in elementary school, raise your hand.  I remember Seymour, and marching single file into the beige ceramic tiled walls of the hallway, sitting down with your feet drawn toward your body, knees up, and your head resting face down on your knees with hands and arms locked over and behind your head.  Last night, we did it for real here.
 Tinka is developing her new routines of not being attached to mother's hip, and we are all adjusting as well to the changes.  For the most part, it had been a pretty good day.  Our regular daytime caregiver was off, so Sis and I were covering and had planned to take mother to get a manicure and pedicure when the afternoon caregiver arrived.  It pretty much went downhill after that.  It was probably fortuitous that mother decided she did not feel up to doing that.  Sis went out to her house to check for storm damage from the storm the night before and I went to the grocery store.  I was taking some scraps out for the feral cats after supper and saw Sis had returned and was trying to put a packing quilt across the back of her auto.  I had suggested that earlier as a few inches extend from under the carport and her other vehicle sustained hail damage parked in that spot a few years ago.

We were standing in the breezeway talking when Shea came out and said tornado on the ground in Throckmorton and moving our direction.  I had earlier in the day been thinking about preparations as the predictions were more storms and worse storms than the night before.  Sis already had a plan and we went to work getting pillows and blankets in the hallway, chair for mother, and moving anything deemed a sharp projectile.  All the hall doors close except the one from dad's room to the hall way.  We moved the chest in his room so we could roll his bed over to the far wall and his head as close to the hallway as we could get.  It left just enough space for sis to stand in the hall and be next to dad.  We had a large wedge pillow that was placed between the rail and his head, and drapes were closed against  the blinds at the double windows.  Dad was not at all happy to have his drapes closed as one of his pleasures is to look out those windows at the small part of the outside world he still can see.

We watched the storm's movement across the county toward us, and when they announced the "take shelter in the next 5 minutes" we moved into action.  The TV lost power, and the Internet went down, so we could not track anything, but I could still text with Randy.  He monitored the radar for us, and gave us updates.  Finally, he said it appeared to have moved south of us.
It reminded me of all the times as a child we spent the night in a cellar, either at my grandparents or down the road at our neighbors.  As an adult, I have had to take shelter in the house during a few tornado warnings, once in Mississippi, and a few times in Texas.  You know that it is not the best protection, but sometimes, it is all one can do.  As we were restoring order, and rolled dad's bed back into place, he commented that preparation for something that might not happen was the best plan.  I was reminded of all the times growing up when dad was the "spotter" at the back door or the back yard, watching a storm.  We never had a house with a cellar, so unless we had ample warning, there was never time to do anything but go to the safest place in the house.  We had no cell phones that could track radar, or warning alerts on your phone, and it was a different world.  And then, something we never thought about before now, Sis and I were the ones protecting mom and dad, calmly taking control in the same ways we had seen dad do it for us.

Life really is a circle and a cycle and a system.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why life is like a roller coaster

Have you ever noticed that just when you think you've reached the top of the summit, and slowly inched your way forward, you are only there for a moment before you top over it and plunge to the bottom again?  Of course you have.  I don't mean plunging to the bottom in despair, although there are certainly times when that is the case, but rather the constant ups and downs, shifts and turns, and downright unpredictability of much of life.  Of course our ability to cope, to deal with it, and to bounce back is a primary factor in all of it--not a factor in how it turns out, but a factor in how we feel about it and how we decide to manage it.

As Sis and I were eating lunch yesterday, we were talking about how one is never really prepared for the reality of caring for aging parents, nor for our own aging in so many ways.  There are efforts to work toward prevention of illnesses and disability associated with aging, with recognition that how one manages one's life style affects those later years.  I sometimes suspect that the problem with that is when we are young, we really do have a sense of "this is not going to happen to me."  Not that we think that in a manner of intentional denial, just that it is difficult to think about one day the possibility of the kind of issues one might face in those years between 60-death when one is young, healthy, and it seems like there are so many years in front of one.
Mom was in the hospital from last Wednesday until Sunday, and came home with the need to re-learn how to do a lot of things in order to make the lifestyle changes to sustain her at optimal level.  One of those changes involves not letting Tinka sleep in her bed, and in fact, for now until we can regroup, her "bed" is a hospital bed because her head has to be elevated.  There is no room for Tink even if we would cave and let her put the dog up there.  As a result Tinka is feeling very displaced and anxious.  She spends a lot of time on Dad's bed now, and I sat in Mom's chair and she lay by me under her little blanket last night after Mom went to bed--when I really was ready for bed myself.  While none of us replace Mom, it helps as Tinka has always had affection for the rest of us, too, but Mom is her human.

I had to return my rental car to the airport yesterday, so Sis followed me up to Wichita Falls and then we did some errands for things we cannot obtain in Graham and had needed, had lunch, and ended the day with a little shopping and a manicure-pedicure--outstanding relaxation time! We both were feeling so positive at how much improved Mom has been in just a couple of days, and feeling hopeful for better times for her...only to arrive home to discover she had not at all followed her regimen while we were gone and the caregivers caved in to her.  Sigh.  I know behavioral changes are hard, and it takes a while.  But reinforcing consistency is the most important thing in making changes for ourselves, and to developing the habit of doing it when you don't want to until you reach the point you do want to--when we can see the benefits and feel the benefits.  By the time I was ready for bed, I had lost the beautiful and peaceful and harmonic sense of calm and joy that I had carried throughout the day.

I had to go find a quiet corner and pretend I was working for a little while, because as I told my sister, I feel like walking to the airport and getting on the next plane home.  The "trick" is to feel the feeling, acknowledge it, and not act on it in the throes of emotion.  We know it takes time...but when you are talking life and death, it is difficult to want to be patient and see someone do something that you know has major consequences.  And where we are trying to get is that she can see she can feel like doing (or not doing) and still do it anyway.  It will pass if you do not give in to it.  It always does.  No one ever feels a feeling constantly intently for the rest of his or her life--we cannot sustain emotion at the level forever; it has to level off at some point because that is how we are made.  Sometimes, having awareness is such a burden, which is frankly, why some folks have such an intricate system of denial in place to protect themselves emotionally and justify doing (or not doing) what they want to (or don't want to).

Yesterday as I was in the dressing room trying on a couple of things, a woman older than I am came past my door just as I was about to exit and I thought it was my sister and started to ask her something.  She said, "I'll be your sister but you probably won't want me because I am spoiled."  I said I was the "evil" sister and my sis was the "good" sister.  It stemmed from a tee shirt I saw that said, "I forgot if I am the evil sister or the good sister."  I said that was fine, and so it was her turn for the night shift with Mom and Dad tonight.  She said she had already done that and we began to talk about those changes and how there is really no way to prepare for it.  As the poet Antonio Machado put it, "We make the way by walking."  I was explaining how Mom and Dad's personalities had changed so in the process, and how differently the dementia affects each of them--Newman and Newman called this stage of life span "traveling uncharted territory"--no one has been here before, so we don't know much about it.

In spite of the difficulty, there have been so many moments of learning, realization, and growth, that it is a blessing and a joy at the same time it is a burden and troubling.  And, today is a new day, another opportunity to buckle into the roller coaster car and see if the rush down the other side of the peak is exhilarating fun or mad rush to hang on.  I would prefer a day on the kiddie roller coaster as it is fewer abrupt changes, but then, I don't control other people or run the universe.  One just has to hang on as needed, and let go as needed, and hope for the ability to discern which is needed.