Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You

This November I am cultivating an attitude of gratitude, truly thankful for so many of the gifts and privileges that I have in this life. I am blessed beyond measure. 

Today is Veteran's Day.  Since 1776, more than 48 million American's have served in our Armed Forces. Despite the many differences we have in our country politically, and the many challenges we have before us as a growing civilization in this great world, I am proud to be an American.

One simple way to let our service men and women know that you are thinking about them is to send a Cup of Joe.  Green Beans Coffee has set up a great way to get yummy coffee drinks to our soldiers with  a very small donation.  I encourage you to check them out here

To all who served and to all who are currently serving, I thank you with my whole heart.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Foods

By the end of the week we are tired. Tired of work, tired of shopping and cooking.  Tired of cleaning and washing up.

We remember fondly the days when the week ended and we were ready to go OUT! Now, going out is reserved to Saturday afternoons or nights. These days, on Fridays, we want to take the puppies for a leisurely walk and then put our feet up. Curl up with a book. Do a little reading. A little writing. A little watching the TV shows we recorded all week long (Hooray! Jeopardy!).

Easy dinners help us do that, and I am grateful for them. I regularly search both my cookbooks and magazines and the internet for tasty quick recipes. Last week we had a chicken dish that was really easy and tasty, and sounded like it was rather gourmet! I present, for your enjoyment, Chicken and Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Sauce.

This recipe appeared in Cooking Light's December 2011 issues, and is on the internet in many places as well. Below is the recipe as written in the magazine:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; add to pan. Cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken; place pan in oven. Bake at 450° for 9 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Heat pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup broth and cider; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 4 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in mustard, 1 tablespoon butter, and parsley.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup broth to pan; cover and cook 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Serve sprouts with chicken and sauce.

We didn't have parsley, so just left that out.  We also didn't have cider vinegar.  So we got creative and added a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little more chicken broth.  It was delicious, and I simply loved the mustard sauce. We served it with the ever simple Rosemary Potatoes and some white wine. Not a bad way to relax on Friday evening!  

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces quartered red potatoes

Preheat oven to 450°. Combine olive oil, thyme, rosemary, salt, black pepper, and potatoes in a bowl. Spread potatoes on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until golden brown and tender.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nice Guys and Civility

I am still studying P.M. Forni's book on civility.

I think that civility requires a commitment to listening, to fact, to moving beyond emotional reaction, and above all, to being kind.  It is very hard to keep this commitment, especially when other parties to discussions these days are everything BUT.

However, civility extends beyond political discourse.  It is about taking time for each other.  Caring for each other.  Acknowledging each other.  Respecting each other as fellow human beings, walking together on this journey through life.

How can we bring each other forward if we can't even talk to each other?

From the passage by E.M. Forster in his essay "What I Believe":

"I believe in aristocracy . . . if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and all classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others, as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke."

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


One high school summer I went to stay with Grammie.  She had a cute little apartment closer to where I was working, and I jumped at the idea of a little bit of freedom.  I look back now on that time and love the moments we spent together.  We talked about her crochet and the afghans she was making.  She showed me her quarter jars from the back of her closet, where she was saving money for her next cruise.  We hung out in the tiny dining room and watched the big old TV.  We sat at the little kitchen table and laughed over dinners. 

We didn't get as much time as either of us wanted, since we were both working - many times different shifts.  Grammie was very proud of her independence.  She loved the little apartment, which was on the second floor of a home in a nice little neighborhood.  I loved it too, but I didn't know how much.  I was all into being a teenager.  Summer job, boys, music, getting ready for college - important, yes, but still not-so-much in the big scheme of things.

I wish I had paid just a little more attention to those days, to that time.  I wish I had written and taken pictures back then, so I could remember better.  I didn't own a camera, and don't have any notes about ANYTHING from that time, but I wish I did, somehow.  The good news is that the more I think about Grammie and that little apartment, the more scenes come back to me of that time.

I hope I am giving my grandchildren memories that they will have when they are older.  Wonderful memories of times together and fun and love.  My Grammie gave me plenty.  I miss her.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bella's Bath

Ever since she was a tiny puppy, Bella has hated a bath.  Mr. Bryant and I get quite a chuckle out of this, because she is a water dog, with webbed feet and two coats of fur. Her mother loves to swim for hours, and Bella might indeed love to swim in a lake. She has only been to the ocean for swimming. But the bath? Hates it. Everything about it. Every single moment.

At 2 years old, she is a real challenge for Mr. Bryant and I in the bathtub, but really still needs a regular bath.

Enter, the mobile dog washing unit from our favorite grooming location -- The Dog Salon!

These brave ladies bring their professional focus to making our pets beautiful and comfortable right to the driveway. They manage to wash two leonbergers and a pekingese in about and hour and a half.  Junior loves it, and can't wait to go visit the girls in the van. Gizzy could care less, but ideally would be happy to stay in the house left alone. But our Bella? She hates it. She hates every single solitary thing about it. She gives the girls a workout. They can eat cheeseburgers and fries all they want after bathing Bella.

But oh how happy she is when it is all over.  Smelling good and free of fleas, Bella is Beautiful.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Time Out

My husband tells me that I am beautiful, still. Nice word, right? Still. As in, despite it all.

I look in the mirror and see my face falling. Lines around my mouth that I always loved, because they were from smiling so much, now offend me. Lines around my eyes, from crinkling them up when I smile, are equally complicit.

Heavier now around my belly, hips, and thighs, I focus on diet and know that it isn't enough. Working late, I actually dream I am exercising.

When he catches me looking in the mirror in surprise, I say, "I'm old."  He says, "You are not old!" and I think, 'He is lying to me, right to my face.' 

He says "You are middle aged and you are beautiful." And as I look at myself in that mirror, I think, 'So, it has come to this.'

* * * *
I know that Help is Not on the Way, and that it is up to me to do something about my face, my figure, my attitude. Diet is surely a start. I know exercise will come. I know that I look better when I laugh. And that if I really want to, I can certainly explore surgery - although that seems almost too vain. Whatever happened to my thinking about aging gracefully? Apparently that went out the window when I looked in the mirror a second time.

Does every woman - does every person - come to this place where you realize that you are on the other side of some imaginary line, and there is no way at all to turn back? I think I have had this experience with time a few times before in my life, moments of realization, really understanding that I can't back up and do anything over. I must say that I don't like them.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Remembering Sunflower Morning

january sunflowers, 2013
Nineteen years ago in September, Mr. Bryant and I took a sort-of-planned / sort-of-unplanned vacation. We scheduled our time off and packed the trunk of the little red Miata (the suitcases wouldn't fit) to spend a week away, and we started off to New England. The only plans we had were to stop in Carlisle PA for Italian food, and to spend one night at the Molly Stark Bed & Breakfast in Bennington, Vermont. Everything else was all undetermined.

The vacation was a little bit of a walk down memory lane for both of us, as we had traveled to New England with our families many years ago.  We enjoyed the countryside and wanted to share beautiful places with each other.  Carlisle PA was fun and our Italian dinner was fantastic, as expected.  We enjoyed our drive to Bennington and loved the covered bridges in Vermont.  Bennington was beautiful, quaint, and historic - and we liked all of these things.  From Bennington we went North and had a quick visit at Killington Vermont, where my parents learned to ski many years ago.  Then we just started to drive through the countryside, taking northern roads to see what we could see.

We drove through little tiny towns and stopped and took pictures of dairy cows, and talked about everything.  I clearly remember the bright blue sky, the perfect weather, the many smiles.

As the day wore on, we drove by beautiful water and crossed bridges onto islands.  The day wore on and I started to get anxious about a place to stay.  We were driving through fabulous country, but not seeing any towns or places to stay.  We finally saw a country gas station as we were getting close to empty.

They sky was grey and cloudy by now, and I was tired of being in the car.  I remember saying, "Ask about a place to stay, ok?"  and Mr. Bryant saying, "Ok sweetie!"

So Mr. Bryant went into the store, paid for the gas, came out and got in the car without a word, and started down the road.  I was too tense and anxious to wait this one out.  I wanted to know we were headed to a room and dinner.

"Did you ask about a place to stay?"

"I did."

"Well, what did you learn?"


"What do you mean?"

"Well, there was this older guy in the store in blue jean overalls and a cap."

"Ok, did you ask him if there was a place to stay?  Did he give you any recommendations?"

"I said, is there a place to stay nearby?"

"And what did he say?"

"He said, 'Yep.'"

"What do you mean?  Is that all he said?  What did you say?"

"I said, 'So, up the road a ways?'  And he said, 'Yep.'"

"What?  Are you serious?  Is that all he said?"

"That's all he said."

"Didn't you say anything else?  Didn't you ask anything else?"

"Nope, I didn't.  And the guy?  Well, he turned around and did some work behind the counter.  And I came out and got in the car."

I was incredulous.  I didn't find this funny, I was not happy, I didn't care anymore about the scenery, I must admit, I fussed.  We kept driving, and we saw nothing.  No signs.  No shops. No stores. No place to stay.  I finally stopped even talking.

I frowned, and the car was silent.  And the day was getting more grey.

And then we came upon a little sign on the right side of the road.  Shore Acres.  We turned in and drove down a drive, past big oak trees and around a big white farm house.  There was a motel behind the house, with windows all along and everything crisp and clean. It was beautiful, and there was a calico cat walking the perfect green grass under the trees.  I still couldn't talk - but now it was because I was smiling.  Mr. Bryant checked us in, and we had a picture perfect room at the end of the row.  All blue and white and wood, with original watercolor paintings on the walls.  Every room faced the lake, and the lake was breathtaking.  Lake Champlain.  The lawn went down to the slate rocks and the slate layered into the water, and the entire place was peaceful and beautiful and calmed my heart and my soul.

We went to dinner in the restaurant (they had a restaurant!) and it was perfect, of course.  I do not remember what we had, but both Mr. Bryant and I remember the beautiful sunflowers on every table.  They filled the room with sunshine even though it was dark by the time we ate.  We loved the peace and beauty of this place, and in the morning we had breakfast with the sunflowers again.

Mr. Bryant brings me home sunflowers every chance he gets.  And we relive the trip and the gift of our stay, and our sunflower morning.


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