Look Up!

Years ago, I was a member of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I recently discovered the original group had ceased, and that a new group has formed on Facebook in an effort to revive the old group, or at least what the old group had been created for in the first place. In keeping with my current primary theme of writing, below is a re-post of my original blog for NaBloPoMo in 2010.

(May 2010) As a member of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), I occasionally decide to do a post each day during the month. Since school is (almost) out, I decided May would be a good month to get my mind around something besides grading assignments. The theme for NaBloPoMo changes each month, and the theme for May is “Look Up.”

This can mean many things, of course, but one of the meanings is to “look up” reference materials. I’ve shown only one of my many bookcases here, to give you an idea of just how much “looking up” I can do!

Yes, I’ve read all these books, and I still refer to them when I’m preparing for a class, or when I’m writing an article. I have gardening books, cookbooks, music books, history books, books on theology and psychology, books on sailing and horsemanship, even fiction – and on and on. So many books, so little time to re-read them all!

This is the end of a semester, and some of my students are graduating. I know, however, that many of you who read this blog are past your school years. May I suggest that you not stop learning, but continue to “look up” anything that you either aren’t sure about, or whatever you’d like to learn more about.

It’s fun, and the best way to keep from aging is to keep your mind active. Go “look up” something this week!

A hui hou!

Lucy

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

I have a special guest blogger for this morning’s post, my brother and only sibling, Hilton Jones. On Tuesday, I will celebrate my 88th birthday, and the post below the picture is his “gift” to me and to all my readers. His words are important to all of us, regardless of the numbers we use for our age.

There are many responsible actions and decisions we need to make as we get old. Yes, I said “old,” not “older.” B.F. Skinner, the famous founder of behavioral psychology refused to refer to himself as “older.” He insisted on “old.”

I share this insistence. I’m almost 78, my partner is almost 80, and my sister is almost 88. We’re old. “Older” is just a subtle self-delusion.

Tibetan Buddhist monks sometimes practice meditating in charnel grounds, surrounded by rotting corpses being picked apart by carrion eating birds. It’s useful and clarifying to not kid ourselves about where we really are in respect to the inevitable.  

Some of the things to do in light of this situation are legal or medical and there are many articles about these things. Some are happily positive, as in enjoying life to the hilt: within reason, not being too restrictive in dietary pleasures. As my sister’s son said to her recently when she was fretting about her diet, “Mom, you’re not 60 anymore. At 88 I think you can probably eat whatever you want!”  

Or, within reason not being too stingy with oneself…as a dear, now deceased, Boston Irish friend was fond of saying, “Shrouds don’t have pockets!” Avoiding dealing with things that are scary only makes things worse; depriving oneself of pleasure within reason is counterproductive and just adds to your misery.  

The issue I think the old need to deal with before it becomes a problem is cognitive decline. This cause is near and dear to my heart. My partner has dementia.  

If someone resists getting professionally tested for cognitive decline, I suspect that resistance is an indication of a secret recognition of what the person knows to be true but denies out of fear. Sadly, denying something won’t keep it from being true.  

What my partner and I did to soften the fear and stigma and overcome our own denial was to go together for testing as part of a community health program about 5 or 6 years ago. It was a program held at various locations around the bay area by the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute (https://health.usf.edu/medicine/byrd).  

It was illuminative for both of us. I just barely “passed” the exam, but my partner’s results encouraged further testing by the institute which we did and resulted in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. Part of that testing was medical, radiological, electronic, and road testing of driving. It’s this degree of professional evaluation that’s necessary.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking the results of a “test” you take in Reader’s Digest or Prevention Magazine or some website are of any value whatsoever. Get tested—togetherprofessionally!

Don’t attempt to be your own doctor or lawyer. Don’t attempt to self-medicate with some internet vitamin regimen or over the counter product claiming to increase your memory. Take the meds your doctor prescribes!

As my partner’s disease has progressed, we have lived through the early stages of this journey: denial, anger, agitation, confusion, getting lost when wandering, embarrassment, sadness, further decline.

Now, we’re in a quiescent stage of quiet times together. Now that the isolation of the pandemic is drawing to a close, we’re returning to the simple world activities we enjoy: orchestra concerts and occasionally dining out. I don’t know if we’ll be able to travel again, but perhaps.  Part of this stage is not fretting over what’s not possible; rather, enjoying what is right now and keeping the inevitable future at bay as long as possible.  

There are many forms of dementia. (Feel yourself saying, “But not me”??? Remember, that could be a sign you’re ignoring what you secretly know to be true.) As far as I know, none of the different forms are curable, BUT, as the neurologist reminds us at every appointment, the goal of therapy is to slow down the inevitable decline.

If you let things go too far, too soon, your legal options are diminished and others will wind up having to make them for you, better to act now while you’re (mostly) of sound mind and body.

But for me, the most important reason to deal with reality is that the earlier you catch the problem, the sooner you can slow the decline, the more time you and your partner, friends, and family will have together. The treatment exists to slow the progress of this miserable disease. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Pride? Fear?  

Take courage and get tested. As Marcus Aurelius said, “You may leave this life at any moment: have this possibility in your mind in all that you do or say or think.” — Meditations. 2.11 (Hammond trans.)

So, on that happy note…Happy Birthday to my big sister!
Hilton Jones
hiltonkeanjones.com

Sourdough Cranberry Rolls

If you look back over the fourteen years of this blog, you’ll see articles on travel, saints, food, writing, gardening, and so much more. In its recent renovation, I have intended for this blog to follow my path of writing as well as to encourage others to also write. And yet, occasionally I want to include something of the “old” blog features. Don’t be surprised if you find something like “Sourdough Cranberry Rolls” in the middle of my ramblings about writing.

I love anything made with sourdough. When I lived in Alaska, I was given a starter that dated back to the 1800s (at least that’s what I was told, but Alaska is known for yarns as big as the state). At any rate, it had been going a long time, and was deliciously sour. I have made sourdough chocolate cake, sourdough fruitcake, sourdough pancakes and waffles, sourdough breads – any recipe I can get my hands on.

The sourdough starter or madre that I use now also came from Alaska, this time from a friend who used to live there, too. This recipe was adapted from The Tassahara Bread Book and I used dried cranberries instead of raisins. Their original recipe calls for fermenting the raisins, so I wasn’t sure if it would work to ferment the dried cranberries. I imagine you could use dried blueberries, as well.

The Tassahara bakers seem to keep a sourdough raisin roll starter on hand at all times, and this might add to the flavor each time it is used. I probably won’t make this recipe as often as they do, so I didn’t keep anything out for the next time, other than replenishing the regular madre as usual.

Sourdough Cranberry Rolls

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1 3/4 cups water and fermented cranberries *
2/3 cup dry cranberries
Whole wheat flour as needed for kneading.

Mix the salt and cinnamon with the flour. Put the sourdough starter on top of the flour and stir in the water from the cranberries, a little at a time to form a soft dough.

When the mixture is too thick to stir, work with your hands and knead for several minutes. Add the fermented cranberries, and knead a bit more. Add the dry cranberries, and knead them in, too.

Keep the dough on the moist side as much as possible, but add more flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky to work with. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes or so.

Divide the dough into twelve pieces for large scones. Shape into balls and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let them sit overnight, at least 15 hours or more.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until well browned.

* Fermenting the Dried Cranberries: Place 1/2 cup of dried cranberries in 2 cups of water. Cover and let sit for 3-4 days, unrefrigerated. Stir daily. Don’t change the water because it will be used in the recipe.

NOTES:
1) This may seem like a long drawn-out process, but it only takes a few minutes each day, rather than taking up a whole day of preparation. I tried this recipe for Sourdough Cranberry Rolls with great trepidation, but it was so easy! I’d like to try another dried fruit. I mentioned blueberries above, but wonder about chopping up something like dried mango or ginger. Oh my!

2) The damp towel part didn’t work well for me. It seemed to weigh down the rolls too much, so I took it off and it worked better. I think my tea towel was too thick, not thin like the old flour sack towels my grandmother used.

3) I got twenty large rolls/scones instead of twelve. Also, the recipe calls them “rolls,” but I think they are more like scones, so that’s what I call them. Whatever you want to call them, they were delicious!

4) After they were cool, I wrapped each one in waxed paper and froze them. They are warm and ready to eat after about 20-25 seconds in the microwave. Slather with butter and enjoy!

A hui hou!

Lucy

WASHBOARD TALES

This sequel to Shadowy Tales will be available in time to give as a Christmas gift to friends who enjoy mysteries- or as a gift to yourself. There will soon be a link available for pre-sales with Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other outlets.

If you haven’t read the first book in the Shadowy River Series (Shadowy Tales), now is the time to immerse yourself in the lives of the people who work, live, and love in Piney Falls, a small Mississippi town in Shadowy River County.

Washboard Tales, this second book in the community saga of Shadowy River County opens with the brutal murder of Beverly St. John, the wife of the Piney Falls Chief of Police. Her death triggers fear among the women in this small rural community.

Major changes are taking place in the lives of other familiar individuals of this town that intertwine with the search for the murderer. Through her own ingenuity and fast thinking, Pastor Frances Anna Keeton must save herself from death at the hands of the wily perpetrator or become one more murder victim.

Realizing rescue is not imminent, Fran creates a list of potential perpetrators and their possible motives for the death of Beverly St. John. This list prompts her to make another list consisting of triad romantic relationships, including her own.

As Fran struggles to help solve the murder of Beverly St. John, challenges mount in the “coming of age” story of Allie Bolger, the expectation of a new heir to the wealthy and influential Capriano family, the success of Glory Bautista’s newest book, and the disruptive arrival to Piney Falls of a visiting professor from England.

A hui hou!

Lucy

Queen’s Bath

The idea of an outdoor shower is one of those notions that stays in my mind, and perhaps yours, too? Maybe someday I’ll finally get to put one in my own home. I’ve had friends who included one in their building plans.

The Hawai`ian queens took that notion one step beyond my own fantasies. Can you imagine being able to walk out your back door, saunter down a steep incline, and take your bath in a warm tropical pool? No doubt they had a few servants to scrub their backs or to help them dry off.

The photo of Queen’s Bath above is one I took on a trip to Kauai quite a few years ago of such a place. For a look at the hike we made down to the pool, check out this You Tube from last year that shows just how treacherous yet fascinating that hike can be. The video is about 20 minutes long, so you don’t need to look at the whole video. Watch enough to see the difficulty of the hike.

With the mobility issues I have today, I could never make it again, but walking down that path was an experience I’ll never forget. Be careful, however – it can be dangerous!

A hui hou!

Honoring My Daughters

I love to honor my children, especially as we all get older. My two oldest daughters have birthdays this month, so I wanted to wish them both a very happy birthday. They were born two years and three days apart. This opening picture was made on Easter, 1958.

They love to visit me here in Hawaii, especially when they can cruise around in their mom’s blue Miata.

Showing off their new Hawaiian bags for flying.

And the most recent picture of their Christmas tamales. They get their white hair from me! Or did I get mine from them?

Mahalo for being two of the most wonderful daughters a mother could ever have. I look forward to your visit in November!

Happy Birthday!! I love you more than you’ll ever know!

A hui hou!

P. S. I’ll honor my two sons in another post soon.

Chipotle Chicken Casserole

From an early age, as a preacher’s kid (or P.K. as everyone referred to us) I was led to believe that you can’t get into Heaven without a covered dish. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Midwest where a potluck supper was a primary social occasion, but usually a casserole doesn’t appeal to me. It always felt like an unappetizing way to get rid of leftovers.

Since I’ve become an adult, I have discovered that a casserole doesn’t have to be the lifeless, tasteless dish I remembered from childhood. I adapted this recipe from the March 2011 issue of Cooking Light, and made it into one of those “quick and easy” ones that might be worth fixing from time to time.

Chipotle Chicken Casserole

Coat either an 8-inch square glass baking dish or a glass loaf pan with cooking spray. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

I used 5 of the largest chicken tenders (breast meat) out of a large Costco package. I zapped them in a microwave until softly cooked. In other words, they weren’t raw but they weren’t overcooked, either.

I shredded these into a bowl and added about 1 ½ tablespoons of chopped cilantro, 3 ounces cream cheese (fat-free works here), ½ teaspoon each of ground red pepper and ground cumin, plus salt and pepper to taste.

In a saucepan, sauté half a large onion and lots of garlic (I used 6 cloves). Add a cup of chicken broth, and about a cup of your favorite salsa verde and a little water. I used my own chipotle salsa; see my recipe below. I stirred in the chicken, cream cheese and seasonings combo with the liquid mix in the saucepan.

In a large skillet, I heated 10 6-inch corn tortillas, about a minute on each side, then cut them into quarters.

Starting with a layer of the chicken mixture, alternate layers of the tortilla quarters, ending with the chicken mix. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese, or Mexican Cheese mix over the top and bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned and the cheese is bubbly.

Before serving, I topped it with more fresh chopped cilantro and served with sour cream on the side. Fat free sour cream can be used here, if you are watching your fat intake (I’m not).

I might add more salsa next time, as it seemed a bit dry to me. Also, I like things fairly spicy, so I suggest you use your own taste buds to determine how much to add. I served this with corn on the cob and salad. It made two meals for two people, but we ate large servings. Again, let your own needs determine how many it will serve.

I think this could easily be doubled if you plan to take it to one of your own potluck occasions! This is one of those recipes that you can play around with, I think, but isn’t that true of most casseroles?

Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

What better complement to your grilled veggies or meats than a tasty, easy to make, salsa?

This recipe was given to me by my daughter, Inga. I’m not sure where she got it, but once I tasted it at her home, I knew I had to make it soon! The day after I got back from my trip to the mainland, I bought the tomatillos and got to work. I already had all the other ingredients. I’ve eaten some everyday since then!

If you are a gardener, you might want to try growing your own tomatillos. Inga has great luck with them, but I haven’t. I may try again this year, but they are easier to find in my local grocery store.

I know you’ll look for any excuse to make this – and eat it, too! For those of us who watch our waist, this recipe contains almost no calories and no fat!

Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Salsa Recipe

10 ounces tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos rinsed and dried
(The number would depend on the size of tomatillos, but generally about 12-15)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1pinch sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat broiler. Place tomatillos and garlic on a baking sheet. (I sprayed it with a light coating of canola oil spray)

Broil, turning occasionally, until charred, about 8-10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins into a blender. Add chipotles and tomatillos to blender. Process until combined. Add salt, sugar and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.

Notes from Inga: I don’t cut the tomatillos. They get very soft after cooling down from the broiling and you can throw them in the blender whole. I buy the smallish can of chipotles and it will usually make 3-4 batches. I get a few baggies opened up and ready to fill. Once I open the can, I put 3-4 in each baggie, plus the ones in the blender for the current batch, then split the remaining sauce between each baggie. I keep the baggies in the freezer for the next batches. Some chiles are bigger than the others, so that’s why some baggies get 3 chiles and others 4. Just eyeball it.

A hui hou!

Petroglyphs at Punalu`u Beach

When I first moved here about 27 years ago, one of my favorite places to visit was Punalu`u Beach, often called the Black Sand Beach. Everything from luaus to committee meetings to camping out takes place there. I still love to sit at one of the picnic benches and simply let the surf pounding on the rocks be my meditation.

One day while I was there, a local man from the community showed me the petroglyphs that had been carved in the rocks.

The article above doesn’t list these petroglyphs at Punalu`u Beach. Sometimes I wonder if just a few of the locals know about them. I stand in awe of their history.

These are surrounded by a low overgrown wall. If you stop at this particular beach, please take care in preserving this part of our island heritage. Enjoy the beach, but please don’t take any of our black sand home with you!

A hui hou!

Kwan Yin

I made my first visit to the Far East in 1966. If there is such a thing as a past life, I discovered it there. There are several events that have stuck with me for the past 50-plus years to validate those happenings.

One of those uncanny situations revolved around statues in various forms throughout my travels. It wasn’t until years later when I moved to Hawaii, that I discovered the significance of Kwan Yin (Guan Yin, Quan Yin) in all her various poses.

I am not of the Buddhist faith, but there are elements that I find valuable and incorporate into my own faith.

I offer you Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, a bodhisattva who continues to teach me more about being a spiritual female.

I am a retired United Methodist minister who uses meditation in several forms. So I feel free to let Kwan Yin guide me in my inner evaluations.

When I need to hear it, she reminds me to be compassionate with myself as well as others.

She reassures me that unconditional love, what we preachers call “Grace” is for all people, including myself.

She is a constant reminder that the blessings of human kindness, or Mitzvah, connect us all.

Most of all, she reveals the feminine face of God, and allows me to experience my faith in ways that are more meaningful in my life, ways that are real.

As I travel throughout the world, it is hard to forget that we are all One, all needing that touch of human kindness and compassion that Kwan Yin offers.

A hui hou!

Orange Sauerkraut

Those of you who have been following this blog since its first post  may wonder why I’m reposting some of the old ones. I’m in the middle of selling my home and buying another, so while my time is taken up with house-hunting, I probably won’t be creating many original posts.

If you are new to my blog, then I hope you enjoy these posts and recommend me to your friends.

I first made this recipe back in June of 1964. How do I know? I always date my cookbook recipes the first time I try it and give the family rating. This one rated very high with everyone!

How do recipes become our own? After so many years, we tend to add, subtract, or substitute from the original. Who knows at what point they become ours and not something from a cookbook?

I adapted this one from an old cookbook I had featuring recipes from Luchow’s German restaurant in New York, first published in 1952. You can see the splattered pages. The real name of the recipe is something more sophisticated, but my kids named it “orange sauerkraut” because of the color it turns out to be.

Even people who don’t think they like sauerkraut seem to love this recipe, probably because the sour cream softens the sharp tang of the kraut. Try it yourself and see what you think!

ORANGE SAUERKRAUT

2 pounds of lean beef cut into small 1-inch squares
4 tablespoons of butter (I substitute olive oil)
2 cups sliced onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste, although sauerkraut usually has enough salt
1 15-oz. can tomatoes
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chopped caraway seeds
2 cups sauerkraut

Sauté beef in butter or olive oil until lightly browned.

Add onions and cook 5 minutes.

Add garlic, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, plus enough water to barely cover the mixture.

Cook slowly until meat is almost done and the sauce reduced, usually about 30-45 minutes. Stir frequently.

When sauce is cooked down, add sour cream, paprika, and caraway seeds. Simmer ½ hour longer.

Mix in sauerkraut and cook until everything is heated to the right temperature.
Makes a wonderful family meal served with steamed red potatoes, or traditional German style with mashed potatoes.

A hui hou!