adventurers and explorers

Susan and I were watching Rick Steves “France’s Loire: Valley of a Thousand Chateaux.”

It was a fascinating show illustrating both the beauty and opulence of the castles. Some of the castles facts are staggering:

  • The biggest château in the region, Chambord, is huge — six times the size of your average Loire palace, more like a city than a château. It’s surrounded by Europe’s largest enclosed forest park, a lush game preserve teeming with wild deer and boar. It began as a simple hunting lodge for bored blue bloods. But starting in 1518, François I — with the help of 1,800 workmen over 15 years — made a few modest additions to create his “weekend retreat.”
  • Only 80 of Chambord’s 440 high-ceilinged rooms are open to the public — and that’s plenty. To see what happens when you put 365 fireplaces in your house, climb up to the rooftop and wander through a forest of chimney spires.
  • When the Revolution hit, in 1789, many palaces were trashed — some were even burned to the ground. But many survived. Some were lucky. Some had fast-talking owners with friends in high places. And others, like Cheverny, had a reputation for being good to their workers. And back then, a big part of château life included hunting — and still does. The marquis hunts twice a week in season. Feeding time for his hounds is 5:00 daily. The hounds — half English foxhound and half French Poitou — get worked up knowing red meat is on the way. The master moves them out, and spreads out the feast. The excitement is palpable. The trainer, who knows each of the 70 dogs by name, opens the gate and maintains discipline as the dogs gather at the concrete table. It’s an exercise in canine control. Finally, he gives the signal…and its chow time.

Susan asked me if I ever thought of living during another time as we watched the show. And I answered “I don’t think I have ever dreamed about living during another time. I am happy here and now.”

“But what about doing something in another time, Bruce?”

“Oh,” I said. “I think I would have enjoyed being an explorer, an adventurer. Margo Polo. Magellan. Francis Drake. Daniel Boone. Lewis and Clarke. Howard Carter. Jacque Cousteau. And if I was a woman: Isabella Bird, Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart, Nellie Bly, Beryl Markham. To name just a few, Susan.”

As I thought about adventure and exploration, I came to the conclusion:

“I am an explorer. I am an adventurer.”

On every hike I am always on an adventure. Here at Mt, Evans outside of Denver, Colorado:

When I work in my garden, I am always an explorer. Here, look at the beautiful black swallowtail butterfly I found in my garden:

If you listen you can hear the hummingbird’s wings as it hovers over a zinnia in my garden:

Look at the spider web I found in the park down the street from where we live:

Helen Keller said: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

I choose adventure!

Lent contemplation

When I woke up Wednesday morning I read:

“On this Ash Wednesday, I give thanks for this holy season—a time of deep, prayerful contemplation. With faith, I commit to deepening my spiritual understanding and more fully expressing my divinity. I solemnly ask which habits or thought patterns are keeping me from being the person I want to be. I take time in the Silence to sit with this question, open to whatever wisdom comes to me.

“As I consider what to give up, I also think of what I am giving to. I release old thoughts and patterns of behavior and welcome a new way of living. I release negative thinking to give myself the gift of positivity.

“I make a sacred commitment to the process of allowing the pure expression of my Christ nature to shine brightly through and as me.”

I love this. Deepening commitment. Silence. A new way of living. Positivity. Wisdom. Light.

I believe I have been given a gift from God to express my divinity by seeing and sharing beauty, by being of service to others, by being my true self and finding ways to bring light to truth.

My mission is to connect with people, inspire people, and build community.

With connecting with people and sharing with people in mind, I look forward to the day when Susan and I can continue our volunteer work in town with 3rd and 4th graders, which has been on hold for one year because of Covid-19.

Later during the day on Wednesday, I went food shopping and saw this in the grocery store:

I couldn’t help but wonder what chocolate candy, chocolate bunnies (I do see a chocolate cross!) and peeps have to do with Easter. I’ll have to look into this.

Meanwhile, it is lightly snowing now and time for me to read a few pages in some new books:

Thai Sweet, salty and spicy shrimp

I made this for Valentine’s Day. So delicious. Based on a recipe from The New York Times.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  •  Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons roasted, salted peanuts, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

PREPARATION

  1. Pat the shrimp very dry and lightly season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a medium (10-inch) nonstick skillet, stir together the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. When the mixture comes to a simmer, add the shrimp and cook until pink on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  3. Add the peanuts, scallions, lime juice and red-pepper flakes and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: I used cooked shrimp so I only had to heat for a few minutes.
I used Rice Wine Vinegar.
I used a bit more nuts than what it calls for.
I used chopped red onion instead of scallions.
I used juice of one whole lime.

I served it with Curry Rice:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp curry powder / Garam Masala
  • 2 cups Jasmine / Basmati rice
  • 4 cups stock / water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

Instructions

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium-sized pot. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and spices and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the rice then pour in the water/stock and season with salt.
  • Allow to simmer until most of the water has been absorbed then stir in the peas.
  • Cover with a lid then turn the heat down to its lowest setting.
  • Allow to cook gently for 5 minutes then turn the heat off and allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes.
  • Once cooked, fluff with a fork, season to taste and serve.
  • NOTE: I added some nuts and chopped red onion along with the peas.

Here Susan and I am about to enjoy the special dinner.

Dry January

The final days of January 2021 are upon us.

The final days of Dry January 2021 are upon us.

Pictured here a “Virgin Bloody Mary.” It tastes pretty much like a Bloody Mary, less the vodka, of course.

I bought the Bloody Mary mix (Agalima Organic, The Authentic Bloody Mary Mix) back in October thinking we might have one or two on Thanksgiving and on Christmas. In years past, family traditions included a large pitcher of Bloody Mary mix next to a bottle of vodka on a counter.

Because of Covid there were no family get-togethers and no Bloody Mary mix on a counter next to bottle of vodka.

We never did have a Bloody Mary or two but come Dry January, I enjoyed a Virgin Bloody Mary or two.

The month, Dry January, is really about wellness and it feels fine and healthy to enjoy the month without wine at dinner—or a Bloody Mary! I think we will keep it up. Within reason.

Of course, Dry January is all about living an alcohol free month—not dessert-free.

And we have enjoyed a few spectacular desserts.

Susan made this delicious Berry Cake!

Susan also made Fika, a Swedish chocolate treat!

I made a Banana, Blueberry, Chocolate, Coconut, Walnut Bread which was so good!

And a few days ago, Susan made an outstanding Orange and Chocolate cake!

I haven’t lost much weight but once it warms up outside (It was 2 degrees this morning with a wind-chill of -12!) and I start walking again I am sure the weight will start to disappear and I will get back to my college wrestling weight class.

Cheers!

Susan’s Birthday

Yesterday, Friday, January 8th, was Susan’s birthday. When I woke up on the day before, the 7th, I thought the 7th was the 8th.

Before she woke (on the 7th), I scrambled to wrap her present and make her card. (See Freddy above sniffing at her card and present.) Soon she came out of the bedroom and I said “Happy Birthday!” She said, “Today’s not my birthday. It’s the 8th.” I said, “Today is the 8th. Come. Let’s look at the calendar.” Sure enough it was the 7th. This confusion a sign of the times. To misquote a song by Chicago, “Does anybody really know what day it is?”

I know tomorrow is Sunday because the Sunday New York Times is delivered. And Wednesday is garbage day because I see that our street is lined with barrels filled with garbage. And Friday is Brooks and Shields (Now Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart since Shields recently retired). But other than that I am never sure of the day or date. Or time! This a sign of the pandemic and being in quarantine. I need a calendar!

Susan opened her card first upon waking on the 8th, a picture of our kitchen table which I think says much about who we are, our interests, our love of books and beauty. And it reminds me of a painting by French Impressionists. I enjoy still lifes of our home.

Years ago, I wrote:

This is
A Place
A Table
Round, of grace
A flowered tablecloth
A bowl of lemons and limes
Apples and oranges
We hold hands
Thank You God
For these gifts
We are about to receive
From your bounty
Through Christ our Lord
Amen.
A table of grace.
We then enjoyed a cup of coffee and soon I made us bacon and blueberry pancakes.
I spent much time organizing my photos of Times Square @ 1980s for my book, “Famous People Famous Places“. I am happy that I have made great progress on the project since reading about myself in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review section a few weeks ago (See previous post).
This is how the organization comes along. First I printed contact sheets of all the photos, cut them into “negs” and placed them on a large paper board.
Then I spent many hours looking at the images, determining an order, a sequence that made sense to me.
I then took these negatives and taped them into my journal so that I can reference them as I upload to Blurb.
During lunch, Susan suggested we order out for dinner. We often do order out for pizza on Friday nights. But after I walked Freddy in the afternoon, I returned home cold and thought there’s no way I want to go out later for a pizza. So while Susan napped in the late afternoon, I made a birthday dinner for her (It was her birthday!): Roasted Chicken Thighs with Pears and Dried Cranberries; Wild Rice; Carrots.
The recipe is based on one from Taste of Home:
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each) (I used 2 skinless boneless chicken thighs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (I used 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary (I didn’t use.)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (I didn’t use)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar (I didn’t use)
  • 2 medium unpeeled pears, each cut into 8 wedges (I used 6 canned and drained pear halves)
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
  • Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until a thermometer reads 165°, 8-10 minutes. Remove. (I roasted the chicken thighs in oven at 375 for 45 minutes)
  • Meanwhile, stir together next 5 ingredients until blended. Pour into skillet; add pears and dried cherries. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until pears are tender, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet; simmer, uncovered, until heated through, 3-5 minutes. If desired, sprinkle with additional minced rosemary (I warmed pears, stock, vinegar, cranberries on stove top)
After dinner, we watched Brooks and Capehart and then a fascinating documentary of James Beard. I had forgotten he had a great gift for writing. I once had two Beard books (He wrote 18.): “Beard on Bread” and “The James Beard Cookbook.” I lost them in one of my moves. I will have to see if I can find a few in a used book store.
The show brought home to me the fact that I need, I am called, to again write. To write about food. To write about art. To write about life.
To tell stories. Which reminds me; did I ever tell you the story about the times I had lunch at the Four Seasons bar?