Friday, December 17, 2010

Where The Wild Goose Goes

Christmas preparations are finished. I've purchased the presents and baked the cookies.

These are hazelnut biscotti for Jayhawk Fan, winner of the plant identification contest.
Extra melted chocolate was the basis of a few peanut clusters.

Now it's time to pack up and follow the geese south. Galveston Island is singing its siren song and a little canal house is waiting for our arrival.

Dennis, a most generous man, provides this great indulgence for my achy bones. In fact, this will be my eighth winter on the Gulf coast. How I love walking the beach day after day! I love the fresh seafood, the shore birds, and the milder weather. After months of gardening, canning and freezing, three months of relaxation will restore my energy for the next busy, fruitful season here in Kansas.

I am a very lucky woman, and I am mindful of the millions of people who are out of work, on the streets, and uncertain of their next meal. May they be helped and protected through the winter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soup of The Evening, Beautiful Soup

In winter I always think of lines from a poem by Lewis Carroll:
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Beau - ootiful Soo - oop!
Soo - oop of the e - e - evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!
Who wouldn't feel like singing when presented with a steaming bowl of soup on a cold winter night? Soup is the best part of winter!

This is a bowl of cabbage soup made from one of the savoy cabbages I nurtured through the fall. I'd never made cabbage soup before and was surprised by the the delicious flavor.

Here's the recipe I made up after studying a variety of cookbooks:

Gently saute half an onion, chopped, and two cloves of garlic, chopped, in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Do this in a big pot. When the onion is translucent, add two quarts of water, four teaspoons of chicken base and bring to a boil. Stir in half a big cabbage, shredded, and two carrots, sliced. Simmer until the cabbage wilts, then add a small can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve it up with a piece of hot cornbread.

If you want more protein, poach a couple of skinless chicken breasts in the water and chicken base before starting the onions and garlic. Remove the chicken and let it cool a bit while you make the soup. Slice or shred the chicken and add it to the soup a few minutes before serving. Snipped parsley would be a nice topping for each bowl.

Making soup is a casual undertaking. Proportions aren't critical. Ingredients may be added or omitted, depending on what is available. You can substitute chicken broth for the water and chicken base. Add celery with the onions and garlic, if you like. Experiment, but rest assured that when icy rain is falling nothing will make you feel better than a beautiful bowl of soup.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Milk of Human Kindness

In 1966, after seven years of marriage, I left my husband. I left him for many reasons, one of which was our inability to communicate. He often said to me, "Don't tell me your troubles, I have troubles of my own." Oddly, when I left, he asked, "Why didn't you tell me you were unhappy?"

My mother encouraged me to go back to school, and I enrolled in a master's program at the University of Kansas to study speech communication and human relations. I wanted to know why human relationships fail.

Finally, after so many years of pondering this question, I've concluded that we humans have two choices. We can choose to be kind or we can choose to be mean-spirited. Most of us have chosen both at one time or another, but most of us also lean strongly one way or the other.

Human kindness stems from compassion, respect, and generosity.

Mean-spiritedness stems from egotism, insecurity, and schadenfreude.

Every day we get to choose which way to go.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Due to popular demand, here is a photo of Victor.

The poor fellow lost his dog-hood on Monday and hasn't been the same since. I apologize to him for showing him not at his best.

Better days are coming. When they do, another photo will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Let The Green Beans Touch The Mashed Potatoes

When Oz was a little boy, he wanted each item on his plate to be discrete. Often, when I was serving his plate, he would admonish me, "Don't let the green beans touch the mashed potatoes!"

I understood his preference, although, when I was a child, I often mixed mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, and meat into a disgusting mess in the middle of my plate. Oz was advanced for his age. I was food-taste retarded.

As a bride, I owned a little casserole cookbook and often made a concoction of hot dogs and potatoes with a Campbell's soup binder. In retrospective, it was truly awful, but the best I could do.

Over the many years of my life, I've gradually grown to appreciate simplicity in food.  -- good, fresh ingredients, discrete and beautiful on the plate. Now, Dennis often says, "I love our simple meals." These consist of three or four simply-prepared dishes, arranged separately on the plate, to be mixed or not as the diner wishes.

Dennis, who sometimes eats in elegant restaurants, complains about what he calls "the pile-up." That is the current fashion among chefs to prepare items separately, but pile them in layers on the plate with a little exotic garnish. When served such a meal, Dennis' first task is to deconstruct the chef's creation, separating the mashed potatoes and other items into discrete units.

Recently, having harvested beautiful savoy cabbages from our garden, I decided to make cabbage rolls. I had read about them in cookbooks, but never eaten or even seen them. The cabbage rolls were delicious, but took two-and-a-half hours to prepare. Dennis pronounced them tasty, but added, "Why not just make a meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sauteed cabbage?"  I couldn't have agreed more.

Thanks, Ozzie Bean, for showing me the way.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

To me, the spider is a symbol of patience. He prepares his trap. He waits, ready to receive his reward.

Sometimes people don't exhibit this virtue. This morning a car came up behind me on the highway. The driver repeatedly blew her horn, then swerved around me to pass on a hill. I was driving 55. The speed limit was 60. The highway, I knew, intersected with another less than a mile ahead. The other driver and I arrived at the intersection simultaneously.

I was impatient, too, last August when I had been eagerly searching for a dog to take Kazak's place. Finally, although she didn't seem quite right for us, I adopted Uno, who turned out to be unsuited for our way of life. After that bad experience I decided to stop looking and, instead, wait for the right dog to find us.

Both the impatient driver and I wasted a good deal of energy trying to change reality. But now I'm convinced that all good things do come to those who wait. A sweet, gangly golden retriever/Australian shepherd mix was abandoned at a gas station last week, and, after four days, rescued by my friend Barb's neighbor. Barb met the dog and immediately called me. I picked him up right away. He is about a year old. His name is Victor. After he has had a bath I will post his photo.

These experiences have me pondering phrases such as "in the fullness of time" and "when the time is ripe." Patience may be nothing more than allowing events to unfold in the fullness of time.  When our actions can make a difference, the patient person acts. When our actions cannot change a situation, the patient person waits.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Does Handicapped Mean?

Does it mean that one travels in a wheelchair?

Wheelchair design by Bob The Builder

Not necessarily!

The Americans with Disabilities Act required that public buildings be accessible to handicapped persons. But Congress didn't remember the "hand" in handicapped.  Some of us can walk around just fine, but our hands, wrists, and shoulders are badly damaged. We can't open heavy doors. We can't lift a skillet, the corner of a mattress, or even a two-quart saucepan. Sliding doors are challenging and a garage door is impossible to move. We struggle to open bottles, pop tops, laundry detergent boxes, or child-proof caps.

Actually, I've noticed that even able-bodied people have difficulty with today's excessive packaging precautions. Luckily, tools are available to help with this problem.

The jar lid vise, scissors, Exacto knife, pliers, pop top lever, and wooden spoon are always close at hand in my house. The wooden spoon is perfect for levering off those plastic rings under milk carton caps. I also use the top of an old rubber glove for gripping things.

These tools are just for opening packaging. The only help for heavy lifting is the kindness of family, friends, and strangers.