Here’s A Thought: Healthy Meals, Happy Life

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 I found an interesting infographic, from Cooks Smart, that talks about meal planning and the ways in which it can help a family live a better life.

It struck a chord with me because I’ve cooked more this winter than in the past three years combined.  For reasons related to good health, boredom and a husband who’ll eat [without complaint] whatever I dream up, I’ve gone back into the kitchen.

And I’m loving it.  Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 4.15.39 PM

I grew up around parents and aunts who enjoyed making meals.  Healthy meals.  Fancy meals.  Fast meals.  Exotic meals.  But meals created by using real ingredients and following recipes, written or oral, passed down through the family.

There was a sense of history associated with those shared recipes.  Back then we connected through food.

• • •

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 However today I hesitate to even mention that I like to cook, here or in real life.  Many women who I know see it as passé or pointless.

Most of the women really.

Better to eat a Lean Cuisine “like a normal person” one of them told me.  Why waste time cooking?

Another told me she cooks on holidays only.  That way she can use her fancy plates and silverware and glassware.  Everyday [thankless] cooking is not for her, she said.  Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 4.14.11 PM

But I like the stress free everyday sort of cooking that I do.  I follow some recipes [more or less].  Or I wing it to see what happens when I throw some ingredients together.

Either way, I believe, that with the right attitude cooking is creative fun that leads to healthy meals– and, maybe even, a happier life.

 [Image sources here and here.]

Get Out The Windex, It’s Time To Vote


{ Source: News }

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During the 18 years that we’ve lived in this area we’ve voted at six different locations:

  • the smoky VFW Hall;
  • the cavernous golf course/convention center;
  • the cheerful Methodist church;
  • the crowded elementary school;
  • the difficult to get into and out of community church;  and now
  • the Greek Orthodox church.

Of all the locations, this Greek Orthodox church is the best one because it’s slightly off of a busy street, has lots of parking and the actual voting area is a few steps inside the door.  The Greeks do voting well.

~ • ~

But the thing about this voting location, which has absolutely nothing to do with the voting itself but I’ll tell you about it anyhow, is that Z-D comes from a family with a Greek heritage.

And our well-mannered, kind Mr. Bean can do a wicked, dead-on impression of his Great Uncle, who disapproved of everything and everyone.  Great Uncle was not a happy person with a generous soul, unlike his nephew.

So as you can imagine, this impression, which Z-D trots out two times a year, gets me laughing.  Every time.

And always leads to one of us quoting a movie that is best known for its references to Windex, but also explains Zen-Den’s family so well. A movie in which I am the WASP to his Greekinicity. A movie called My Big Fat Greek Wedding which gives us the following wonderful lines.

~ • ~

Aunt Voula: What do you mean he don’t eat no meat?

[the entire room stops, in shock]

Aunt Voula: Oh, that’s okay. I make lamb.

An Observation On The Unintended Consequences Of The Behavior Of Elderly In-laws Who Watch The Weather Channel

Not covering any new ground here, but needs to be said.  Love is a strange thing.

Every time the Weather Channel shows bad weather where we live, my in-laws, who live hours away from here, phone us to make sure that we’re okay.

At age 80+ they do not believe in calling a cell phone number because they believe that talking on the phone while driving a car is dangerous.  And because they do not know if either one of us will be in our car when we answer our cell phones, they leave a message on our landline answering machine.

The messages are all about the same.  First, they say our names, then tell us who is calling.  Then they hang up without telling us why they called.  No good-bye, just click and the line goes dead.

It is from this pattern of behavior that we have come to know when bad weather is headed our way.  The lack of concrete message is the clue.

Because we both are too busy to spend much time in front of the TV this sort of non-message phone message has come to be our own special, personalized form of the Weather Channel.  And we love it.

And them for doing it.

A Funeral On Friday In Florida

A view of Sarasota Bay & the beautiful clouds above taken from my hotel room balcony.

~ • ~

Last Thursday I boarded a flight to Sarasota, FL, so that I could attend my aunt’s funeral on Friday.  Although my aunt’s health had declined during the last few years, it was still a strange feeling to travel for this reason.

I knew that it was likely that she would proceed me in death, but when the phone call came a few days after Christmas that she had passed, I was sort of stunned.  Granted at age 88 she was the last relative of the WWII generation in my family, but I think that we all thought that she’d go on forever. 

~ • ~

The waterfall by the pool at my hotel. It’s all about water in Sarasota.

~ • ~

Family members from all over the country attended her funeral, which was about as happy as a funeral can be.  She had lived a full & unique life– and after years of chronic illness she was ready to go.

Talking with everyone at a casual dinner the night before the funeral, all were in agreement that our aunt– or mother, or grandmother– was: generous, funny, kind, educated, creative, determined & a church lady, in the best sense of that phrase.

~ • ~

Prettiness while looking across Sarasota Bay at a pink building situated underneath the blue winter FL sky.

~ • ~

The service on Friday was in a lovely Episcopalian church on Siesta Key.  It was late in the afternoon and the light from the setting sun shone through the multicolored abstract stained glass windows that rimmed the top of the sanctuary.

‘Twas beautiful & inspiring in a way that perfectly summarized the goodness that was my late aunt.  And I do believe, set the stage for a wonderful, loud, cheerful family dinner afterwards at a local restaurant where everyone lifted their glass of her favorite wine, pinot grigio [or whatever they were drinking], to toast her one last time.

~ • ~ 

So long, Aunt Mary Jane.  You were the best.

Reflections On Dining Early & Sharing Happiness

A FEW WEEKS AGO we drove four hours north to visit Zen-Den’s parents + his sister & her family.  It was his mother’s birthday, so it seemed like a good time to see what was up with his mother and his father. 

We arrived at his parents’ house around noon and spent the afternoon talking with them.  Then around 4:00 p.m. we drove with his parents to a brand new Outback Steakhouse where we met his sister, her husband and their teenage daughter.

We were seated at a long table with banquette seating on one side of the table and chairs on the other.  The room’s decor was modern with lots of muted dark colors in geometric patterns and large pendant lights with drum shades.  The look reminded me of my late aunt’s home which was filled with mid-century modern furniture.

# # #

WE RARELY HAVE THE opportunity to get together with Z-D’s family so sitting in this beautiful restaurant, eating good food, chatting, laughing was special for us, for me.  It reminded me of when my parents were alive and I was a little girl.  The three of us would go out to dinner somewhere fancy, usually early because my dad refused to wait for a table.  And we would have the best time.

So with my happy past in mind, while sitting there at the Outback Steakhouse I took a moment to look around the table, to really see who was there.   And I was struck by the strangest thoughts, out of nowhere.  Fragments of my life, I suppose.

# # #

I REALIZED THAT MY niece is the same age as I was when my father died.  That my SIL looks so relaxed & happy that she could be half her age. That my BIL, who is retiring this year, is exactly ten years younger than my mother was when she retired.  That my MIL, whose birthday we were celebrating, is turning the age that my mother was when she died.  That my FIL is so lost in the fog of Alzheimer’s that I doubt that I’ll ever visit with the real man again.

And as for Zen-Den and I, here is what I observed: we are much older now, both physically and spiritually.  In some ways, life has worn us out.  On the other hand, we’ve learned, adapted, moved on so many times that somewhere along the winding way we’ve both developed deeper understandings of relationships, beliefs, limitations– and the value of focusing on shared happiness.

At an Outback Steakhouse, for instance.  On an early Saturday evening.  While dawdling around a table after dinner.