Comfort and Joy

Is it universal to walk into a holiday gathering and immediately seek out the cheese platter? I mean, do say hello first, but then bee line in search of that specific find?  Gluten and dairy intolerances aside, there is something amazing about a cheese platter, with its familiar varieties, and just a small amount of adventure, and maybe even a little palette cleanser of grapes, dried fruit, or nuts. I’m clearly a big fan, and love to explore new varieties of cheeses, and carry those lovely little  lactaid pills accordingly in my little evening bag, along with the all-important ID, (like I’m going to be proofed…) lipstick, Tylenol, cell phone and key fob. Each claiming their height of importance in the context of my evening.  And, I must say, depending on the adventure at hand, the lactaid might very well be the frontrunner.

I have recently been introduced to something that is now a staple on my cheese platter, called Landjaeger.  Now, some of you might be familiar with this, but I, for one, wasn’t.  It’s a mild salami link that looks like a tiny hot dog, or maybe even beef jerky of certain sorts…Now, I’m not a fan of beef jerky at all, but I am a BIG fan of salami, and I found it in one of the strangest places…kitchen kettle market in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, and it is made by the Amish.  This is a market known for it’s jams, jellies, and canning, overall.  Now, I will admit that I purchased my share of pickled beets, while I was there, i mean i adore beets, but in this little cheese shoppe, I spent quite some time perusing and tasting, and I was not disappointed. I also brought home an AMAZING onion cheese that they highly recommended for burgers, but that cheese never had a prayer, before it was devoured by me, and some of my friends at my annual girly party.  I also purchased  a few cheeses that are staples to my platter, but turned it up a notch because of the adventurer that I toy with being.  I also do olives, usually stuffed with garlic or blue cheese, and roasted garlic marinated in olive oil, and different kinds of crackers…some with sun dried tomato, basil, grains, and of course, the standard triscuit and ritz…gotta have those.  I also put hummus nearby, as it tends to compliment the platter as a whole, and homemade pita chips.  Cheese makes me happy and can be quite the thrill when away from home and in social situations.  I DO have my childhood comfort foods like farina, matzoh ball soup, and stuffed cabbage, and my adult favorites like sushi, roasted Brussel sprouts, and chicken parm.,  but, isn’t it nice to know that there is comfort and joy available in the universal great, wide, somewhere?!  That, for me, is a knockout cheese platter!

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Snowed-In Sunday

So, according to some of my readers, my last blog post was upsetting to them–sad, in fact. It wasn’t supposed to read that way, as it was written in response to a word prompt–HOPEFUL.  How many people who have everything are really hopeful for change? How many have gratitude for all that they have? Appreciation? Creativity? Dream about the future?  Probably not many.  I am hopeful, and yes, have gratitude, appreciation, am creative, and have dreams of a better future. But, I am also appreciative of the here and the now, which is something I am forever reflecting upon.

After a crazy day on friday, I missed my morning yoga class, but I was lucky enough to make it to a yoga class later that evening.  The class was taught by an instructor that I haven’t seen in quite some time, and I was overjoyed.  We chatted a bit after class, thrilled to have seen each other. The impending snowstorm held off on Saturday morning, just in time to assure my safe arrival to work. Yes, it was snowing already, but it was beautiful. Classes were cancelled after several hours, and with nothing to rush back for, I took my time, and though it did take three times the amount of time it should have, I arrived back home safely too. My son was already at the stove prepping his own stir-fry, and I walked in just in time for him to offer me some of his noodles…major score!  With my noodles in hand, I changed into comfortable clothing, jumped back under the covers, and caught a movie with my son.  After the movie ended, we made chocolate chip cookies from scratch, which I enjoyed profusely; The two of us catching up, all while prepping, mixing, baking, and snacking. I then watched several hours of the ongoing marathon of my favorite show, This Is Us, and continued to watch the snow fall…and fall…and fall. It continued to fall well into the evening, and I continued to marvel at my luck…nowhere to be, no risks to take, and each of my family members exactly where we were meant to be, and all of us, safe and sound. The temperature continued to drop, the hour grew late, and each of us headed to bed. I had run the dishwasher and done two loads of laundry, but they could wait until the morning, and, for a change, they did.  When I awoke, there were 8 inches of snow that had fallen, and luckily it was Sunday…a day that I could legitimately be snowed-in.  Yes, the shoveling did need to be done in order to get the cars out of the driveway, but what was the rush?  I indulged in a cup of hot chai, and made myself some hot farina, wirh a pat of butter and a drop of almond milk, just like my grandma used to do when I slept over as a kid (boy, do I miss that woman) and later on, made pizza for myself for lunch.  (And, of course, there were home made cookies from yesterday for snacking.)  The hubby took care of shoveling the driveway, so I made fried chicken and cous cous for dinner.  The day was slow paced, low key, I spent it in sweats, and ended my night watching the golden globes, caught Meryl Streep’s fabulous acceptance speech and was thrilled to have seen a few of the movies and shows up for the awards.

It is now late…very late. The laundry is going (there is always laundry), the dishwasher, again, is going (there are always dishes to be done), and the house is quiet, but that just means that the house is full, it’s time to return to normalcy, there’s food on the table, or in our case, over the last 24 hours, in a travel mug or bowl on our laps, and we are living, breathing, appreciating, and moving forward toward our dreams, with gratitude and hope.

Out with the old, and in with the new

My day began with a day off…on a Saturday…which is very unusual, and must mean it’s a major holiday. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m not off on Saturdays, with the exception of christmas, new years, and easter weekend. Christmas has come and gone, as have all of the cookies, and there are no Cadbury caramel eggs anywhere near me, sadly, so clearly it is new years eve.  Here I am…all set for the evening…showered, snacks prepped,  bubbly chilling in the fridge and in sweats and snuggly socks, ready for my wild night at home.

Years ago, very  briefly,  we spent the night with some friends, but, before then, and immediately afterward, it was always spent with family and food, hors de ouevres, some chinese food and later, sushi, and everyone slept over…no great plans, no driving, no night on the town. When our children were small, it was no different. Though, having British roots, we watched the stroke of midnight on Big Ben, and called it a night at 8 pm and got the kids into bed. Sometimes the two of us made it to watch the ball drop, and sometimes not.  I’ve spent several unwell… bronchitis, pneumonia, recovering from surgeries, etc., or caring for my brood from similar issues, and more recently wisdom teeth removals, as each has reached that rite of passage and procedures are scheduled over breaks from classes. I’m content to be at home,  as planning otherwise has proven that it doesn’t really work out as hoped.

This year, it was an easy decision, and there was never really any discussion. It’s been a rough year for us, on many levels, but we are here, with a roof over our heads, and mainly intact, so to speak, and for that, I am truly grateful.

January brought great promise, as the start of a new semester began for each of our kids upon their return from traveling overseas all at once, which challenged my heart to no end while they were out of the country.  A good friend who’d been unwell began her journey back in the right direction, and I looked forward to the new year. Early February brought the truly devastating loss of a dear friend, most unexpectedly, as she had now been doing well, and for some time, and I, a grief clinician, struggled greatly with this loss. Two weeks later, my husband lost his job and I came down with the flu, but had to continue working….not the smartest thing, or the easiest, but my hands were tied between lack of coverage and lack of income. In march, though still sick, a little weight lifted, when I realized that my husband was lighter in spirit, no longer waiting for that other shoe to drop; Spring was around the corner, we began to regroup, I saw this as temporary, and we even spent more time together. Dance competition season kept me busy through march and april; applications and resumes kept him busy, and spring break brought our kids home–for the most part. I was able to see my son perform on the flute twice, and was absolutely awed by his talent. I was able to witness my daughter receiving her heritage class ring,  and be a part of the ceremony, and marveled at how close to graduation she was. We were so blessed. May brought the addition of prepping for sleepaway camp, where I’ve worked for over a decade, and some hopeful job positions, and I kept my fingers crossed. The kids were set with jobs for the summer, my daughter got a research grant and with it, tickets and an itinerary to do most of it in England…her dream come true. Then came June, a dead, top of the line,  8-month old, refrigerator, where the company refused to replace it and the numerous hours of back and forth to rectify the situation, while I constantly threw out food and money, and we lacked an appliance…and then, a BIG birthday, no celebration, the rest of my family, including my husband, traveling, and me working. I did take matters into my own hands though, and brought cupcakes and party hats into the studio for my dance students every night that week to make it a party atmosphere. I craved a celebration and being surrounded by love, which I so desperately needed, but it didn’t happen near home. I did have one friend force me to go out for a drink, and she brought me roses, bless her soul, and another friend who brought lunch and a cupcake while I waited for the second (out of 4) repair teams, each time… stumped. …And then I left for supervisors weekend at camp, where dessert was a custom made cake for me, shaped like a jalapeño! (I’m allergic to peppers; best surprise ever!) The summer came and went, and none of those jobs came through…I began to lose my faith, and then lost another friend, who succumbed to her illness. 2016 was throwing me for a loop…jerking me around, and just not being fair.  I ran away…just to change my perspective. I visited my parents in Florida, and then cried when I left, fearing that this might be the last time I’d see them. I visited my daughter, who was/is working on her thesis, and saw her being pulled from me in ways I hadn’t realized, and knew that her life has been launched like an ejection button pressed from under a seat. And then, I stopped at my brothers home on my way back, and soothed my soul by cooking the entire 3 days I was there. My kids were tucked away where they belonged, and I jumped, full force, into a new academic year,  with everything I had, while I watched my husband continue to struggle and try his hands at a business opportunity that I feared would be more of a loss on a few levels. He saw me as unsupportive, and that hurt…still does. My hunter and gatherer was struggling, and didn’t want my opinion. I questioned lots of things, and we lost our connection. The latter part of the year, being caught off guard again by election results, hurt for my family and friends, and now a master at cutting costs, cutting services, stretching leftovers like Dash’s mom in the incredibles, and feeling like everyone thinks I’m scrooge, because of it, I am somewhat bitter. Yup. I’m hurt, and bitter. My blood type really is B+, and I try to live life that way, but I am struggling.  Adulting is difficult. I’ve stretched in ways that I never knew I could. I’ve watched my friends and family struggle, and I’ve watched others go on expensive vacations, and I’ve been jealous. I’ve tried to keep my perspective, and have still given to others in any way that I could. So many others have it worse off than we do.  We were already living modestly, and way away from the Jones’.  Something truly has to give.  December brings a little bit of light again…Our extended family got together for a celebration, and I saw my family and truly spent time with them.  All are well, and I am again, very grateful, as life is precious.  We took lots of pictures together, and I’m doing a good job talking to my parents by phone, and often. I’m grateful to have them, for however long I still do, and for my kids to have all of their grandparents. Lucky, lucky us.

I, like so many others, am hopeful for a better year ahead; I am hopeful for our family, our friends and neighbors, both near and far, and for our country as a whole. I am hoping for good health and prosperity. I am hoping that love truly trumps hate, that we unite as a community, and that the world recognizes that love is love, is love, is love, is love and that it spreads faster than a computer virus. Please 2017, be kind to all of us, and let it be a happy new year.

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Hopeful“>Out with the old, and in with the new