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:

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?

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan over Fettucine

This might be the best pasta recipe I have ever made. It’s based on one from Melissa Clark. I made a few changes which I note below.

Melissa writes: “Studded with salty olives, pancetta and Parmesan that gets golden and crisp at the edges, this is roasted cauliflower at its brightest and most full-flavored. You can serve the caramelized florets either as a vegetable-based main dish or a hearty side to roasted meats or fish, or big bowls of pasta. The recipe calls for using a package of finely diced pancetta that practically melts into the sauce. But if you prefer a chunkier texture, you can dice it yourself into 1/2-inch cubes, and add them with the cauliflower. Or, to make this vegetarian, just leave the pancetta out.”

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 1 3/4 pounds), trimmed and cut into bite-size florets (about 8 cups)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • cup olives, crushed, pitted and chopped (I used Castelvetrano olives.)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely grated or minced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin or caraway seeds (I used cumin seeds.)
  • ½ cup shredded (not ground) Parmesan
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or mint leaves and tender stems, for serving (I didn’t have so I used fresh chives.)

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet (I used a cast iron pan) and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well coated. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olives, garlic, lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes and a large pinch of salt. Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, whisking well.
  3. After the cauliflower has roasted for 15 minutes, add pancetta and cumin seeds to pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle Parmesan on top and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until cauliflower is tender, the pancetta rendered, and cheese is golden brown and crunchy. (I added #4 to the cast iron pan for a few minutes.)
  4. Spoon olive dressing all over roasted cauliflower while still hot and toss to combine. Taste, and add more salt, red-pepper flakes or lemon juice, if needed. Scatter parsley over the top before serving. (I used fresh chivies.)