Zooop!

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I’ve been singing all morning.

Today is Monday – a traditional folk song – inspired an Eric Carle picture book. It apparently inspired me too, because I’m happily singing and singing.

Today is Monday … Today is Monday … Monday, string beans. All you hungry children, come and eat it up!

A week’s worth of eating continues, ending with Sunday and ice-cream. It’s a fun, catchy, sing-song sort of way to teach kids the days of the week.

The very best day though … is Wednesday.

Today is Wednesday … Today is Wednesday … Wednesday, Zoooop! All you hungry children, come and eat it up!

Zoooop!

So. Much. Fun.

Here’s a link. Enjoy the song. And the book. And some Zoooop too!

It’s been a Zoooop! kind of week around here. Butternut Squash soup on Monday. Tortellini Soup on Wednesday. And Cheddar Broccolli’s up next on the menu.

I’m all in. My husband is too – and he’s a self-proclaimed, “Not a soup kind of guy.”

What follows is the recipe I adapted for Butternut Squash … Zoooop. You’ll find another version with smoked bacon and a baguette  in my favorite Vermont Farm Table Cookbook.

Not a Soup Kind of Guy declared it,  “the best soup I’ve ever had.”

I’m not sure if he means it … he said the same thing about the Tortellini Zoooop!

Butternut Squash Soup with Maple Syrup

  •  tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 3 pounds butternut squash (1 large), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pure Vermont maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock1.
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Saute the onion in butter in a large stockpot, stirring occaisionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the squash, maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add stock if necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
  4. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe fed our little family of three one night for dinner and the next day for lunch, as well as four additional servings frozen and waiting for another … Wednesday!

in service

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A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness can be spread without dinimishing that of yourself. ~Mahatma Gandhi

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and today’s national day of service, what follows is a 2018 service resolution list.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my general interests and about how I can put them to use for good. I’m a ways off yet, but my latest, biggest dream is to learn more about portrait photography and acquire the necessary equipment to offer senior portraits to graduating high school seniors who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Once I started thinking along those lines, ideas came fairly quickly for how best to use my photographs for good. Prom pictures? Baby Pictures? Family portraits?

Since that idea’s a dream in progress, here’s some other service resolution ideas  I’m thinking about for this new year:

Cooking and Baking

  • bake and deliver boxes of baked goods to local community workers in service to others – it’s so easy to double the recipe and deliver an extra couple dozen cookies to the fire station, library, or police department
  • bake and ship boxes of baked goods (and other treats) to our miliary in service – be sure to check out these websites for some guidelines and ideas:
  • homecooking … for those without a home – our local church houses local families for week-long stays as part of a transition program from shelter to community housing, and home-cooked meals are part of the “welcome home.”  Creating several nourishing, warm meals for a homeless family’s table is high on my list this year.

Collections and Donations

  • Traveling? Dedicate a corner of your suitcase to those in need in the United States and around the world. Visit Pack for A Purpose to research community projects and local needs for your destination. Leaving a few pairs of shoes behind will make space for toothpaste, crayons, pencils, bandaids, and other much-needed supplies.
  • Clearing out your closets? Check into who can best use what you’ve got. Sites like Dress for Success direct your donations for professional attire; Cinderella’s Closet directs your party-dress and formal wear donations for girls in need of a prom dress; and there’s a variety of organizations and retail locations collecting gently-worn business suits for men as well – a quick Google search popped up quite a few.
  • Several years ago, our local food bank promoted an empty can campaign. “Nothing Cans,” symbolic of what’s on the dinner menu for the almost 150,000 people in our state who do not know where their next meal is coming from, could be purchased for $5 each. Since they’re empty, the cans also serve as donation banks to help put some food on the plates of the hungry in our state. I saved the can and fill it a few times a year with loose change and bills. Any can will do. Collect and contribute.
  • This week our school will participate in End 68 Hours of Hunger.  According to their website, 1 in 5 U.S. children struggle with food insecurity. Collections for this program strive to end the hunger these children experience in the 68 hours between their free lunch on Friday and their free breakfast at school Monday morning. Find out if there’s a program or organization like this near you.

Get Out and Give

  • We’ve been mourning the loss of our beloved beagle for awhile now and thinking almost daily about adopting another rescue. While we work through that important decision, I’ll be checking into dog-walking at our local animal shelter. Why wait?
  • I’m committed to training for some road races come spring, and I’ll be finding a few races to run which benefit needs in our local community.
  • As our garden begins to bloom this year, I’ll be collecting small bouquets to bring to our local nursing home. My nana would’ve loved a small spray of spring on her bedside table, and I’ll honor her memory every time I drop by with a bunch of flowers for someone else who could use a bit of bloom.
  • World Read Aloud Day is scheduled for February 1, and the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” is scheduled for March 1. Maybe there’s a school, daycare, or library nearby who’d welcome a guest reader?
  • Visit Do Something to discover any number of do-able action projects … from packing “blessing bags” for the homeless to joining the elephant “tusk force” flagging ivory items for sale online … there’s a project for everyone.

Just Because

  • Leave a little surprise something special for someone who’s not expecting it … a bar of chocolate, a note of recognition, something green and growing … you get the idea. No reason necessary.
  • Day Brighteners … a dear friend recently gifted me a powerful packet of teeny, tiny papers – each hardly bigger than a slip from a fortune cookie – and each one offering a moment of widom or words of encouragement from some of the world’s most inspirational minds. Each slip guaranteed to begin anyone’s day more brightly.  It’s my intention to leave one here and there along my 2018 path, and I’m sure each quote will find exactly the right person at the most perfect of all possible moments.   Go find Ingrid Goff-Maidoff’s One Hundred Fortunes and other inspirational gifts… and pass a little love along!

Spread love everywhere you go. ~ Mother Teresa

Bless us all with your ideas for the greater good … and let’s light a thousand candles!

the direction of hope

DSC_0388 (2)Just the other day, I woke from a dream where I was taking a walk with my future self. There we were, side by side, walking down a country road. It was summer. We were relaxed. Smiling too, in my dimming memory of the dream.

I’ll take that as a good sign.

This morning, of course, I realize there’s so much I’d like to ask her – this me I’ve yet to be. I’ve had many conversations with the women I used to be, some critical and some congratulatory, but I’ve never to my recollection spoken with the woman I hope to become. Now the thought’s nested a bit, and I find it fascinating.

By nature, I’m a reflective and evaluative person.  My dominant glance is backwards and over my shoulder.  Just lately though, I’ve been trying to live more firmly placed in the present. I’m becoming more comfortable right where I am. This is good growth for me, and I can hear all the women I’ve been behind me cheering and raising a bit of a ruckus. Alleluia!

But what I want to know from that woman just ahead are questions I’m forming here at the crest of a new year – realizing as I ask them, that I’m almost completely in control of how she answers:

Are you happy?

Are you healthy?

Are you fulfilled?

Are you surrounded by people you love?

In my waking middle-of-the-night hours, I review my list of worries and what-ifs. It’s then I find myself wishing that woman from the dream was a fortune teller, reassuring me all will turn out fine in the end.

But what’s truly significant, I suppose, is how she and I walked forward together. Side by side. And I understand now that she’s just as dependent on me for how her life turns out, as I am hopeful for her life to turn out well.

So let’s keep walking. Side by each. Our whole cheering section walks just back over our shoulders and with us every step of the way.

Forward is, after all, the direction of hope.

 

 

 

go gently

DSC_0368 (2)Tomorrow, we all stand at the top of the 2018.

We’ll stand there, in the crisp, clear dawn, able to see far and wide across the span of a whole new year.  The air may be brisk, but refreshing and clean. Hopefully, the sun’s out, the snow’s just fallen, and there’s no path yet broken before us.

So it’s up to us to decide which way we’ll walk.

We’ll decide who we’ll walk with. And what we’ll carry. It’s up to us to choose our pace. When we’ll rest and when to forge ahead. What we’ll gather along the way, and what we’ll leave behind. Maybe, if we pay close attention, we’ll come to understand how to lighten the bags carried by someone else we meet along the way.

There’ll be promises made just as bygones disappear back aways and over our shoulders.  There’ll be both departures and arrivals. Invitations extended and mistakes made. Out there on the horizon, we’ll see both clouds and sun.  Ideas will grow. We’ll forgive and make peace. Offer help. Wish. Dream. And hope.

Standing here, at the bottom of 2017,  looking up at that shiny, new year hill … it feels a little surprising we’ve hiked all this way already since it seems like only yesterday we stood at the crest of 2017.  A full, busy, often fulfilling, and sometimes frightening 364 day journey.

But tomorrow’s waiting, and there’s only this one day left to both look back at the year that was and forward to the year that will be. We’re all standing at another year’s intersection. Betwixt and between. Not quite here … nor there. A simultaneous beginning and ending.

This last day is a day of grace. A repreive of sorts marked right at the crossroads of regret and optimism. And all signs point toward the future.

Go gently.

 

mix-ins

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While the weather outside isn’t quite frightful yet, it’s still on the colder side of chilly and I’m all about finding ways to warm up.  These days, I’m bundled up, tucked in, hat-wearing, soup-eating and warming my hands by the fire whenever possible.

And I’m making time in the morning for a rib-sticking, healthy bowl of warmth too – good old-fashioned oatmeal!

There was a time when I tended towards instant, but these days I’m fascinated with making my own everything from scratch, and cooking up a batch of stove-top oats takes but a few minutes. While it’s simmering, consider what’s in your cupboard for whatever’s on hand for mix-ins. You’ll know what’s in your breakfast because you mixed it yourself!

Oatmeal’s a workhorse of a breakfast, high in fiber and antioxidants. A mix-in like dried cranberries adds even more nutritional value to the bowl … just be careful of added sugar. Speaking of sugar, I remember my mother mixing brown sugar in my oatmeal, and that’s an option I’ve traded for a dollop of honey or a quick pour of pure maple syrup.

Just yesterday morning, I added freshly chopped honeycrisp apples and cranberries to my oatmeal and the combination was delicious. A little sweet, a little tart … and so warm!

Mix and match your mix-ins and roll with whatever you’ve got in your kitchen.

Here’s a few possibilities:

  • flax seed                                              cranberries
  • almonds                                              raisins
  • walnuts                                               apples
  •  honey                                                 peaches
  • maple syrup                                      banana
  • cinnamon                                           pears
  • blueberries

I’ll be eating well and staying warm all winter long!

Any ideas to add to my list?

 

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It Feels So Good … To Be Well

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There’s nothing like a good dose of — I’ve been sick for weeks and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me– to slow, if not stall life on the spot. All the balls in air and mid-juggle, drop to the floor.

The mental rooms I lived in for almost a month felt smaller, more intimate, cleared of superfluous clutter, and I focused only on one thing — getting well. It was a life-shift, honestly. A paring down to the necessary and essential. Rest. Drink. Food. Every day’s decision evaluated by the sole criteria … Is this what’s best for me?

At the time, I found myself wishing for my “old life” back and wanted more than anything to think about something … anything … beyond my symptoms and what caused them. What eased them. What would finally elminate them.

Maybe it takes feeling really, really bad … to decide it’s time to live well.

Because after a week or so back into regular living,  I’ve decided I don’t really want my old life back after all. I want to live a more careful and considered life where the focus question all day, every day is followed by that one and only get-well criteria I lived when I was sick …

Is this what’s best for me?

What choices do I need to make to feel … well?

What should I eat? Drink? When do I need to rest?

Which balls do I pick up? And which do I leave on the floor?

What mental clutter needs clearing?

The very questions that guided me during my illness are guiding me to my wellness too.

And it feels so good … to be well.

 

 

 

 

managing email

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Between the time I logged off my computer at the end of a work day last week and logged back on the next morning, I received 20 emails. Not an alarming number, but quite enough for the overnight. What I receive during the work day varies, but one thing’s for sure: there’s a lot to manage.  Day or night.

More than I have time for.

And I’m really not managing all that well, truth be told. A fly-by read at 10 a.m. is almost always buried by the 3 p.m. inbox viewing, for example. So sometimes, I’ve been misremembering  important dates, directives, deadlines, apppointments, and meetings or worse … not remembering at all. And folks wait … probably much too long … for my responses.

It’s hard to stay on top of the inbox and just as hard to find time to write for the outbox. Read. Act. File. Respond. Unsubscribe. Delete. The verbs of email. Notice “manage” is not among them.

So I scheduled a 45 minute chunk of time to do just that. Manage. In less than 60 minutes, here’s what happened:

  • Over 150 emails deleted
  • 4 emails received responses
  • 13 meetings/dates/deadlines recorded in calendar
  • 2 emails filed in ongoing folders
  • 3 notes taken for future action
  • 2 emails printed for future action

Forty-three emails remain in my inbox, acting at this point as a filing cabinet of sorts. I’ll be needing to do something with those 43, just not today. I don’t want to file them … because out of sight, out of mind… so they’re in an email limbo of sorts, and I’m okay with that.

So here’s the new email plan I’m promising to live by:

I will only check email when I have the time to act on its contents, i.e., Read. Act. File. Respond. Unsubscribe. Delete. And manage.

Up next: personal accounts.

Stay tuned.