Friday, March 7, 2014
It's my birthday, so I'm indulging a little bit with this post about me. From the silly to the candid, here are 10 things about me that you might ( or might not) know.
1. I was adopted at birth. It was not really through an agency, but more through word of mouth among my mother, a doctor, and a woman who had conceived me. It was made legal after the fact. I have immense respect for my biological mother and no desire to find her or my alleged 5 siblings. But, of course, I'm curious about all of them.
2. Early in life I was very ill, mostly due to very severe allergies and asthma. I stopped breathing twice and had to be revived. Because of my allergies, I had a very private and subdued childhood (think, Boy in the Plastic Bubble). During that time I read every book I could find and taught myself to read music and play the piano.
3. From the time I was four, I have been described as "aloof." I don't perceive myself as aloof (which infers being unfriendly), but I am very shy and socially insecure.
4. Throughout my life, all of my best friends have been just slightly older than me. Only in midlife did I begin to have close relationships with people my age or younger.
5. Because I wasn't socialized with other children (see #2), I have great difficulty relating to any child who is younger than 15. When, on the rare occasion that a child takes a liking to me, I am incredibly awkward.
6. I have loved learning, teaching, and all things educational since I was very young. I ALWAYS stayed after class...from at least 4th grade on...to talk to anyone. Custodians, bus drivers, playground supervisors, teachers....anyone who was around...I never wanted to leave any school setting.
7. My first job was at a community college. I was a rehearsal pianist for L'il Abner at John A. Logan College in 1979, and later for Man of La Mancha. I still have the most fond memories of that period of my life and am grateful for being in touch with those lovely friends who shared that time with me.
8. Despite loving learning and education, I was a clumsy college student. The experience of stumbling, getting up, stumbling bigger, getting up, and stumbling again...created the foundation for my adult life which is committed to optimism, resiliency, and hope.
9. I have deep friendships. I take each relationship very seriously. I was once taught that a true hug is one that is close enough and lasts long enough that each person becomes one for just a moment due to allowing two heart beats to establish one rhythm. I believe and practice that. If you and I are friends, we hug with great comfort.
10. I love aging. I love my partner, my pets (those here and those who have transcended), my work, and my friends. When I entered my later 40s I began to realize the beauty of nature and the poignancy of urban life; I love that complex blend. My days are now touched by sunrises, trails, time at the YMCA with amazing friends; late afternoons at St. George's Hall; time at Founders Brewing Company; making meals at my home for John while the dogs vie for lap time and perhaps a nibble of potato; camping and biking trips with great friends like Bryan and Jeff that are made possible by the generosity of Dave and Ed. Actually, I'm just happy that my life is filled with so many lessons and gifts.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
My good friend, Margaret introduced me to this soup. Beach Bar Tomato Soup is attributed to the Beach Bar located in Clark Lake MI. The recipe is not difficult to find online. Mine is slightly different from others. The soup is amazingly simple (which is always a sign of a great soup recipe).
Ingredients for 8-10 servings:
2 26 oz. cans condensed tomato soup
1 8 oz. package cream cheese (I substitute American neufchatel)
1 26.46 oz (750 grams) Dei Fratelli Truly Rustic Cut Tomatoes, with juice
About 3/4-1 quart half and half
1-4 clove(s) of garlic
1/2 stick of sweet, unsalted butter, sliced into pats
Shredded mozzarella cheese
- In a medium-sized crock pot, rub the garlic glove all around the bottom and sides. Use as much or a little garlic as you choose.
- Pour in the cans of soup.
- Add the package of cream cheese or American neufchatel
- Add the rustic cut tomatoes with their juice
- Add the half and half
- Add the butter pats
Cook on high for 4 hours, allowing the crock pot to switch to warm.
Ladle into soup bowls that you've warmed
Top with shredded mozzarella and a few croutons
When John and I first moved to Detroit, he was fortunate enough to have a secretary, Fran. Fran was a wonderful Polish woman who lived with her family in Hamtramck, a lovely Polish city near Detroit. Fran used to make us all sorts of great and authentic Polish dishes. Fast forward to 2011 when Jeff and I began to frequent the Westsider Cafe, a delicious Polish diner owned by a woman named Fran! A different Fran, but nonetheless, a superb cook.
This recipe belongs to neither Fran, but is inspired by both their versions of what is now my favorite soup. There are many very good recipes for this soup, so feel free to do a little research and create your own favorite version!
Ingredients for 10 servings:
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, diced
6 cups vegetable broth
4 large cold-packed dill pickles in sea salt, shredded (if possible, use a Cuisinart, cause pickles are hard as heck to shred by hand [at least for me!])
3/4 cup pickle juice saved from the pickle jar
5 small, unpeeled, thinly sliced russet potatoes ( I prefer the potatoes julienned, but it's really up to you--just as long as the pieces are uniform in size)
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp soft, sweet, unsalted butter
2 tbsp diced, fresh dill
cayenne pepper to taste (1-2 tsps.)
juice from one small to medium-sized lemon
- In a large Dutch oven, saute shallot in olive oil until just translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add grated pickles and potatoes and let them combine, for about 2 minutes.
- Add stock and pickle juice.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and continue simmering until the potatoes are soft, about 12-15 minutes.
- Combine milk and flour, mixing thoroughly so as to get rid of any lumps.
- Add milk and flour mixture to the broth with a slow, but steady stir.
- Add the butter and heavy cream.
- Add the cayenne pepper to taste.
- Bring just to a boil and remove from the heat.
Ladle into warmed bowls and top with fresh dill, a dollop of sour cream, and a grind of black pepper.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
A walk on the West Bay, Traverse City, Michigan.
2. Depression can always come back. It is a chronic condition. Once you've been diagnosed with depression, it is likely to come and go throughout your lifespan.
3. It is beneficial to make friends with your depression. It's going to be there, so get to know what in your life triggers it; know its early symptoms and get ready for its bothersome visit.
4. Avoid doing anything that feeds it. Alcohol, giving in to staying in bed or on the couch, obsessing, isolating...all of these behaviors make depression stronger and weaken your spirit.
5. Get up and get out! Get out of bed, get off the couch, get out of the recliner and take a walk; go for a run--do anything, but do something.
6. Talk, write, draw, paint--do something creative. Clean a closet, wash your car...start a project. Depression hates activity.
7. Do healthy things that activate endorphins. A good cardio workout changes your brain chemistry...spin class, a good run, even sex...do something that makes you sustain some good heavy breathing for at least 15 minutes.
8. Give your depression a name. Remind yourself that it's a condition, an unwelcome visitor. Don't become at one with your depression. That can easily turn into self-blame, which feeds depression. Depression is not something that you choose, nor something that you deserve. It's just a big bothersome fly that landed on you. It will go away. Talk to it.
9. Talk about it. Don't isolate and get seduced into being ashamed about it. Nearly 1 in 10 people in the United States experience depression each year.
10. See a therapist, a rabbi, priest, or a good supportive friend. Set up a regular time to check in with someone--at least once--but preferably two or three times per week. Depression hates it when you talk about it.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
A shot taken from the western most lookout point behind our campsite.
I love macaroni and cheese and have several very good, but very complicated recipes for it. During a recent camping trip, I decided to make it as simple and interesting as possible. Here's what I did.
Basic ingredients for 4 servings (this was enough for two guys):
Two cups dried pasta
Four cups of mixed shredded cheese (I like to use two 2-cups bags--one Italian blend and one cheddar)
1/4 stick of butter (I like Land O Lakes with olive oil and sea salt)
Enough spreadable butter for four slices of bread
Whole milk (about 1/4-1/2 cup)
Rye bread (I like Jewish deli rye)
A perfectly ripe tomato that is cored and thinly sliced
Pam cooking spray
The key to great campfire cooking is having easy access to all your cooking needs. For this recipe you need a hot wood fire that has left you with some hot glowing embers. You then need your kitchen set up:
- A sturdy table with a table top two-burner stove and a griddle
- A pot (with a lid) for boiling the pasta
- A Dutch oven big enough to hold the mac and cheese and that you can put into hot embers (I used a Le Creuset from home, which took a lot of clean up and was not appreciated by my non-camping partner...so think through your choice carefully!)
- A small prep area, big enough to place a Dutch oven and all your food ingredients side by side
- A butter knife, a Teflon spatula, a large wooden or plastic spoon or spatula for mixing the mac and cheese
- A small cutting board
- A clean up basin large enough to hold the water from the pasta pot
First, I want no leftovers when I'm camping. The goals is to bring only food that will be eaten and bring back only jarred or packaged staples (like olives, cherries, salt & pepper, etc). So, pack as much dried pasta (I used penne) as you need servings. For two of us, I took four servings or about 2 cups.
Using the two-burner stove, boil the pasta according to package directions. Typically, you need about 9 minutes of solid boiling time for basic pasta. Add salt to the water, but not oil (that is a myth--you want the water to be in contact with the pasta--so skip the oil or butter in water).
While the pasta is boiling, prep the cheese mixture.
But first, prep the Dutch oven (there are a lot of variations on this, but in general it needs to be dry, the interior rubbed with vegetable oil and then sprayed with Pam).
In the prepped Dutch oven, mix the shredded cheeses, add salt and pepper to taste (I advise heavy pepper with light salt, since the cheese will add plenty of punch), a generous dash of nutmeg, and about 1/4 cup of milk. Remember, you can add a little more, so don't make it too soupy from the beginning. Mix all that together evenly.
Check your embers and make a level spot in the fire to set the Dutch oven.
On a hot griddle, place four slices of buttered-on-both-sides Jewish rye bread. You are making croutons, by first making toast. Toast each slice on both sides, using the Teflon spatula to flip. Once the toast is ready, use the cutting board to cube the stacked slices.
Drain the pasta, but hold back some of the starchy water.
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture, stirring to combine evenly.
Check for texture...add a little more milk or some of the hot starchy pasta water depending on what you like. There is no right or wrong way...just make it look like you think it should!
Top the mac and cheese with the rye croutons and then the sliced tomatoes. I add a little salt and pepper on top.
Place the lid on the Dutch oven and set the whole thing on the coals.
Let it bake (this is a great time to make a Manhattan and sip it...you and your camping partner/sous chef have earned it!).
The mac and cheese will bake nicely in about 10-15 minutes, depending on how hot your embers are.
Dish it up and enjoy!
Friday, March 1, 2013
|March: #photoaday 2: Something I Made|
One of my resolutions this year was to spend less dining out for breakfast. I almost always am out for an early morning run and then am hungry. I've taken to trying to take interesting, non-processed breakfast to the YMCA a few times a week. There's a toaster and microwave, so, with planning, it's not that difficult. And I'm saving money!
Try this one out. The prep time is about 20 minutes, with cook time of 30. Ten minutes to cool. So, in an hour in the evening, you have 5 breakfast servings. Grab a couple slices of bread for toast or a bagel and you're set.
Hefty tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
10 ozs of frozen spinach, thawed
2 cups shredded cheese (any white cheese will work--swiss, provolone, an Italian mix...go for convenience)
1 cup shredded Parmegiano Reggiano or other great hard Italian cheese.
5 medium eggs
1 bunch of basil, chopped
Lemon olive oil or fresh squeezed lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350
Spray 5 3 x 5 mini loaf pans with Pam
Douse a hot non-stick skillet with olive oil
Saute chopped onion until translucent, 4-7 minutes
Add a little Kosher salt to bring out some of the moisture, then add the spinach. I don't go to a lot of bother to drain the spinach. Let it steam. The heat will take care of the moisture.
While all of that is happening, beat five eggs in a large mixing bowl.
Add the cheeses and blend well.
Add the basil and blend again.
Add a few grinds of salt and more of pepper (you could add red pepper flakes, if you want just a little bite).
Go back and tend to your spinach, onion, and olive oil sauté. Once most of the moisture has steamed off, add a splash of lemon olive oil OR the fresh squeezed lemon juice. Stir. Then crank up the heat and add a douse of vermouth. Immediatley turn the heat down and let the flavors come together and moisture steam off. Once most of the moisture is gone, take off the heat and let cool for 7-10 minutes.
Go have a beer or martini.
Once the spinach mixture has cooled (so you don't scramble the egg mixture), mix everything together.
Spoon into the loaf pans. I think each pan should hold about 1 1/2 cups of mixture.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until set.
Take out of the oven and let cool for about ten minutes.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
|The riverwalk around the Grand River, where I regularly run in the very early morning hours.|
- Bayshore Marathon Training Update: We completed our goal of 20 miles this week, including our (relatively short) 6-mile long run. The weather fully cooperated, with unseasonably warm temps in Grand Rapids. It did, however rain on Friday, so we opted to run indoors at the Y. One mile on the track, two miles on the treadmill, another mile on the track, and then about 5 minutes of tossing a medium weight medicine ball back on forth while we steadied (attempted to steady) ourselves on BOSU. Legs feel good, although I can already tell the difference that running 5-days in a row makes. And, we of course did two spin classes on Monday.
- Eating better! Rather than spending money at local diners every morning, I'm limiting myself to two dining out breakfasts per week. The other days, we brought breakfast to the Y. Bananas, yogurt, oatmeal, chocolate milk, Babybel, and of course coffee.
- Making modest progress on my reading list. A finished book is promised by midweek!
- Credit cards continue to be crushed. Cash only, please.
I attended the Living Well health expo at DeVos Place. The highlight was hearing and seeing Marathon Don Kern, who inspired us all with his stories. He ended by saying, "Amazing is part of every person." Left me teary and grateful!
So...what are you grateful for? What were your accomplishments? Whom did you inspire this week?
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Really terrific things, happenings, and memories:
- I ran several really great races. Great, not because I'm so fast, but great because I had so much fun.
The Heart & Sole 5K (26:43)
The Irish Jig 5K (26:21)
The Riverbank Run 25K (2:33:58)
The Chicago Monster Dash Half Marathon (2:21:24)
and yesterday, the Wolverine Resolution Run 4-Miler (36:30).
- I joined St. George's, a Polish hall here in Grand Rapids. The beer is cold and cheap and the members, warm and fun. What could be better?
- We celebrated Art's birthday on the West Side. Breakfast at the Westsider and dinner at the Hall (Barb's Burgers...terrific!).
- I got a tattoo for my birthday and had the time of my life. Most of which cannot be fully documented.
- John and I celebrated 19 years together!
- Jeff treated me and John to Jeffrey Kahane, which was one of the finest recitals I've ever heard. That was a special evening.
- I spent most of the early part of the year training for the Riverbank Run. Every mile of training left me with cherished memories of the beauty of Grand Rapids, the importance of friendship, and a fuller commitment to being healthy.
- I discovered a deep love and respect to being outdoors. Who knows where this came from?? I went camping twice--once in Pentwater, MI (thanks to Ed and Dave!) and once in Empire, MI. Two of the most beautiful and inspiring trips I've ever taken.
- I learned to kayak!
- I started hiking. Which I love, too.
- I was able to hire a Director for one of my core departments at GRCC! And he's terrific.
- Jeff and I were able to make a destination run work! A weekend in Chicago WITH a visit from Bryan, cookies and kisses from Breisa, AND more fun than two middle-aged men should have.
- ArtPrize 2012--always spectacular!
- Jeff, Ryan, and I got to attend the Beer Exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum (I love GR!).
- I developed a very strong relationship with Founders Brewing! Monday nights, look for me there.
- I got to spend the most terrific weekend with the Connelly's, while Bryan rode the Iceman Cometh!
- I logged over 1,000 miles of running.
- My mother treated us to a holiday visit (love you, Mom!).