Simple Summertime Meals

Who doesn’t love summertime and all the great-tasting food that goes with it? If there is anything bad to say about this warm season of the year, it is this – cooking can be a bear during those 90+ degree days. Which is why I’m always looking for simple recipes I can create in a hurry.

To make your life a little easier, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes.

Enjoy!

Saveur. Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad. Love pasta in the summer. Great site!

Wellness Mama. Chinese Chicken Stir Fry. A fantastic site with information on how to live a healthier life.

The Cookie Rookie. Skinny Chicken Salad Sliders. I’m new to this site, but I like it already. So many recipes, but I think I’ll start with this one.

Veggies Don’t Bite. Raw Zucchini Noodles and Veggies. Another new site for me. The name alone drew me in. Once you enter this site, you won’t want to leave.

The View from Great Island. Minimal Monday Lemon Thyme Lamb Chops. Don’t these sound amazing? They are easy, too.

Cooking Classy. Balsamic Glazed Salmon. The name of the site scared me. I thought I’d find recipes with dozens of ingredients, and a hundred steps. Not true! This salmon sounds wonderful.

Eat Yourself Skinny. 7 Layer Spicy Taco Dip. Anything taco, and I am in, especially in the summer. A new take on the old taco salad.

Damn Delicious. One Pan Mexican Quinoa. One-pot meals make me happy.

Some of my favorites. What are yours?

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How My Appliances Taught Me to Appreciate the Simple Life

Ah, the days of yore, yesteryear, and days gone by. How grand those days must have been. I reminisce about days I have never seen, wishing I’d been part of them, looking back as if those days were the answers to my busyness and stress.

But I wonder, would the people back then agree? If I brought them into today’s world, and they saw my appliances and the spa down the street, would they think my life was harder than theirs? I’m guessing not.

They had stresses, diseases, too, and often no doctor nearby. They fought for food, land, and survival. They hunted, and drove horses, sometimes for days, just to find provisions.

We have been given a good life, and a great era. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am.

The other day, I took out my blender and food processor and placed them on the counter, and for a second, I felt a twinge of guilt. As I prepared to make my own milk, I thought about people long ago, how they milked cows in the wee hours of the morning, and how long of a process it must have been. I placed cashews in the blender, added water, and in two minutes I had a quart of milk.

Dates and nuts were dropped in the food processor, with a touch of cinnamon and a little coconut. In no time, a ball formed, which I removed and pressed into bars. I wondered about people before, if they searched for nuts, and what they did when they found them.

I turned on my dishwasher with the push of a button, dropped clothes in the washer, and warmed my tea in the microwave. I didn’t have to hand wash each item, or wait for a kettle to warm over a fire.

My life is simple, just the way I like it, filled with modern conveniences, giving me time to do what I want. But simplicity has a different meaning for everyone.

For some, simplicity is living on a farm, growing food and keeping animals; some make clothing with loving hands; some bake bread; some fish in the sea. For some, the simple life is not worrying about any of those things. I am one of those people.

Farm living, it’s not for me. It’s the place I love to visit, the place I dream to be. But put me on a farm, and I won’t know what to do. I am not creative with a sewing machine, and never place a needle in my hand. I can’t bake bread to save my life. And if you ask me to bait a hook, I will probably run away.

I admire those who till land and farm the earth, who mix bread by hand, and are patient enough to wait for it to rise. But my life, it’s better with appliances. Appliances bring me joy. My blender makes me happy. It takes away my stress.

If you are searching for the simple life, look no further than your own home. Simplicity isn’t about removing appliances for minimalism sake. It isn’t letting go of bread machines to mix it all by hand, though if that’s what you want, that is fine, too.

Simplicity is what you makes you happy, the joy that sits inside you when you know what you are doing, is exactly what you want to do.

Simplicity is whatever makes life easy for you.

What is your idea of the simple life?

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Celebrate the Simple Things

The first flowers my husband ever gave me were from a dead woman. Maybe I should explain.

When my husband and I were first married, we worked in a nursing home. One evening after work, he arrived home with a bouquet of flowers.

“Where did you get those?” I asked as he handed them to me. We weren’t exactly rolling in money, and I couldn’t imagine where he’d buy flowers at ten o’clock at night.

“Someone died. The flowers were sitting on the front desk.”

“You got them from a dead woman?”

“I guess.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be happy he brought me flowers, or a little creeped-out. But as it turns out, it was my husband’s first attempt at being romantic. It was a moment I would never forget.

The flowers were yellow and white, daisies and lilies, placed in a vase on our kitchen table, until the petals slipped away, and all that remained were long, thin stems.

It was a strange entrance into marriage, and the first time I realized what marriage was – accepting the other person for who they were, and celebrating every first together. Even flowers from a dead woman.

Marriage is a series of firsts.

Firsts make our lives special, they are the ones we remember the most. Click To Tweet

Here are some firsts from my marriage. Do you recognize any of these in your own?:

-Our first apartment had a kitchen so tiny, you could twirl from sink to stove to fridge without having to take a step.

-The first time my husband baked cookies for me, they were salt-laden chocolate chip cookies, which required a few glasses of water after.

-Our first Christmas tree was purchased in a drugstore, a tiny Norfolk pine in a plastic pot, wrapped in shiny red foil. So little, it wouldn’t hold an ornament.

-The first gift from my husband was a bracelet with an inscription on the back.

-Our first car arrived with our first loan, and turned out to be our first lemon. It was also our first lesson in begging a bank to repossess said lemon, and in learning what to do when they refused.

-We celebrated our first child together (and our second, too).

-We bought our first house, and together, made our first attempts at home repairs. For the first time, we learned how to remove twenty-year-old layers of wallpaper, how to rip-out carpet, how to tile floors, and what to do when a kitchen faucet exploded.

-Our first pet was a dog that nearly choked itself when it wrapped its chain around our lilacs. It was also the first time we had to give a pet away.

-We watched children win their first competitions, as if it were our first time as well. We also watched them lose.

-We saw children get married, and grandchildren born.

-We saw new family arrive, and some leave.

-We moved across the country for the first time.

-We visited new states together, rode on a plane, a ferry, and are taking our very first cruise.

Some of these events are small, almost insignificant, at least to an outsider. But they are my firsts, my celebrations of life. What makes me, me, and my marriage to my husband, mine.

I love every first, every special moment, no matter how small. The thrill of a first is a feeling never forgotten. Firsts cannot be repeated. Once gone, they are gone forever.

Work hard to remember your firsts. Place them in your head like snapshots in an album. Remember the details, no matter how small.

It is your life, your significant moments. It is what makes you, you.

Celebrate them all. And if your husband brings you flowers, celebrate those too. Even if they are from a dead woman.

What are some of your firsts?

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Clothing, the Drug of Choice

Clothing is a brain-numbing, mind-inducing drug. And I am hooked.

I am thrilled by the styles. Hippie, Bohemian, cowgirl. Relaxed, formal. Intoxicated by the colors, an artist’s palette, a dizzying array of washes and tints swirling around my feet.

I enter a store, and my mind goes blank, and I can no longer think, and I forget what I own. I sometimes even forget what I like.

In a trance, I try clothes on, buy them and bring them home. Place in a closet over-flowing with items I don’t need.
I am an addict.

Like an addict, when my head is clear, I regret the decisions I made. I know I didn’t need my recent purchases, and yet I can’t stop.

But clothing defines me, or so they say. It says I am good or bad, rich or poor, that I have a certain style, and a particular personality. Clothing is my label. I must buy more.

Recently, I threw six shirts away, and still have plenty to get through a summer, with shirts that will never see the sun, which makes me think I have too many, though I don’t know what that number is. I don’t want to count. I am afraid. Afraid of the truth.

I wish I could be like others with small closets. I wish I could own less clothing. I wondered if it was possible. Recently, I found out it was.

I was at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, and stepped into their bedroom. In the corner was a closet, a normal five-foot long closet (approximately), every piece of clothing neatly hung-up. I was shocked, amazed, impressed. I wanted a closet like that. In another corner sat their dresser.

I asked my daughter-in-law about their closet, and how many pieces of clothing they owned. This is what she told me:

They each have twelve bottoms, including work and casual pants, shorts, and work-out pants.

They each own twenty tops, including sweaters.

She has two skirts and seven dresses (my son has none – thankfully), plus she has a few scarves.

She has six pair of shoes, he has ten. (He may have received the shoe-gene from me.)

She said, “It feels like we have a lot sometimes because we both still have things we never wear, and sometimes it feels like we don’t have much because we have things we never wear.” I love that.

It’s amazing how I’ve never noticed them wearing the same thing twice, which just goes to show how unimportant clothing really is. It really doesn’t define us.

They are my inspiration, what I aspire to be. They don’t shop unless necessary, wear an item until its life is over, and don’t feel a need to fill their closet.

We have this illusion that closets must be full, and once they get there, they need to stay that way. We are told to stuff our lives, our homes, our closets, with shoes and boots, skirts and shirts, jeans, capris, shorts. And even when we have too much, we shop some more.

I’ve known people whose tags never come off the clothes they purchase. They hang in their closets like idols, rubbed like genies as they wish for more.

It’s an obsession. A drug.

Clothing hasn’t always been a big priority in our lives.

In 1930, the average woman owned nine outfits. Today, she owns thirty.

In 1950, there were four fashion seasons a year. In some stores, only two: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter. Today, fast fashion gives us 52 seasons, one for every week of the year.

The U.S. fashion industry has become a 12-billion-dollar business, with eight billion new garments produced in a single year. It is a crazy, over-done, addictive habit, one we have to give-up. One I have to give-up.

There is a simple solution to this problem. We simply need to shop less. Buy only what we need. Use what we have. Mend and repair. Stop going to stores that tempt us, that pull us in and drug us, that captivate us with lies, telling us to buy more, that we need it, even though we don’t.

The truth is, clothes are merely pieces of cloth that serve a purpose. They are for function, to cover and protect. Maybe if we see them for what they are, we can stop this drug, before it stops us.

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Looking Back-How Fear Became My Friend

My gut twists with that kind of anticipation one gets when they know something horrible is about to happen. I breathe deeply and look at the calendar.

It is July 10, 2017, four days before the anniversary of my brain injury.

My inner clock reminds me of this day every year, just like it reminds me of my father’s death, and every major event I’ve ever encountered. It remembers without knowing.

A force clutches at my throat, so tight, I can barely breathe. I inhale the sticky summer air. Tremors crawl beneath my skin, a little earthquake inside me, invisible to others, more than real to me. It is the beginning of a small panic attack as I remember the reason I am in this state.

I live in fear of this day, a day I both remember and forget.

*****
July 14, 2010:
Red, yellow, and green hot-air balloons danced across the summer sky, in a world as blue as the ocean, on a day as hot as hell. In the distance, the Cascades rose, showcasing frosting-glazed tips.

My husband and I sat in our car, waiting to turn into a tiny fruit stand. A screech sounded, a noise so powerful, it sucked the air from my lungs, and arched my back into one solid mass of muscle.

My world went black, a darkness so deep I can only imagine it akin to death. A moment when time was erased, and crushing metal and flinging brains were neither heard nor felt.

Within days, I lost the ability to read, write, speak, and comprehend. My world, my life, was stolen.
******

You know the rest of the story, or pieces of it, anyway. You know I survived. But it wasn’t easy, and I’m not completely better. Though I can once again read, write, and comprehend, and I can talk faster than a storm, I live with a residual that never goes away.

I live in a state of fear.

We all have fears, but when one has suffered a trauma, fears can sink beneath our skin, living in our veins as if they are blood themselves.

As I am reminded of my anniversary, fear tightens its grip around my chest, trying to steal my life. Fear is my ticking time bomb.

There is a funny thing about fear. It can stop us from pursuing life, or push us into it.

Fear once stopped me from living. Even before the accident, I was often afraid. I lived in a little cocoon that became my tiny world. I didn’t want to go on anything high, for fear for I might fall off. I didn’t like camping, for fear of bugs. Fear was my enemy. But one day, I had to make fear into my friend.

After the accident, I needed new doctors. Fear squeezed my hand and choked my neck as I sought out help. When I enrolled in writing classes, fear was the pit in my stomach, the hug around my neck. Fear helped me meet people, and make new friends. Fear brought me to places I have never been.

Fear is my enemy, but often my friend. Without fear, I wouldn’t be where I am. In spite of fear, or maybe because of it, I move on.

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