Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in Pix

The beautiful roses BooBoo Bear brought home for me.

Brother Bear's coleslaw...a new Thanksgiving tradition in the making.

Mama Bear's fresh cranberry sauce.

Take a pass on the Name as a replacement for yams.
Guess I'll just have to settle for sweet potatoes for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Papa's Pies

For most families, the holidays are all about tradition, and this is one of my favorites.

Papa Bear's Infamous Pies

In the history of Papa Bear and I, I have cooked a total of one Thanksgiving dinner, and that was before we were married. When My Love announced shortly after we were married that he would like to be in charge of the Thanksgiving meal, I was more than happy to step aside and let him have his way with dinner. It's not that I dislike preparing meals, but since I do it sooooo often during the year (two or three times a day, every day), it's kind of nice to have someone else do it.

So, usually the day before Thanksgiving, Papa Bear get's busy in the kitchen making pies. The first several years, it was a pretty small operation; a pumpkin, a mince meat, and a cherry. Enough to fill everyone up post-dinner, and provide a week or so of left-overs for breakfast....and lunch....and dinner. Once we moved to Georgia, I managed to talk him into adding a pecan (one of my favorites) which he makes from scratch, and we started using fresh pumpkin instead of canned. I'm in charge of cooking and pureeing the pumpkin; he does the rest. And all at once it seems, the pie baking operation went LARGE because we've got some pretty nifty neighbors we like to share with. Each year Papa seems to make a few more pies than last. So this year, not only did Mimi get enough pies to feed her volumous visiting family, but there were four more to take to the firestation where her son works. And, four for us.

Christmas is the REAL pie-making operation, though. I think we're going to have to get a second "cooling rack" (actually a paper-organizer I found at an office supply store). Having distributed pies to several neighbors last year on The Eve, I'm pretty sure additional pies will be eagerly anticipated this year. Then there's the firestation. And our homeschooling friends.

I think we're going to need more pumpkins.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mo's 'Mazing Meatloaf

Just for YOU, 'Neen! No clue where I swiped this recipe from, but it's worth swiping :)

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 lb Italian sausage
2 slices bread, toasted and crumbled
1 can tomato paste
2 eggs
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp season salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp Worchester sauce

Throw it all in a big bowl and squish, squish, squish with your hands until well mixed. Plop in a loaf pan. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for about 1 to 1-1/4 hours. Uncover and smear with ketchup if desired, baking an additional 10-15 min at 400. Let set about 10-15 min after retrieving from the oven before serving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Papa Bear's Victorious Pants

Papa Bear celebrated a victory in the Battle of the Bulge today.

Back in August, at the prompting of his doctor (who threatened to medicate him if he didn’t lose ten pounds and lower his cholesterol), Papa Bear embarked on a fearless mission to get healthy, get fit, and get into smaller jeans. He has stuck to his commitment to exercise six days a week, some days working out at the Y under the guidance of his Wellness Coach, Jeff; some days walking the dogs at the park. Even while traveling on business, he has managed to mostly stick to his routine. And, he’s inspired Brother Bear to work out along side him a couple of days a week at the Y (Jeff is his wellness coach, too). I am very proud and impressed at the strength of my hubby’s commitment, and at the wonderful results of his hard work.

Sept 26th. Papa Bear after bicycling to the Y, working out, and bicycling back. Pooped.

When Papa Bear started out three months ago, he was (mostly) snugly fitting into a size 42 jean. He’s lost ten pounds (okay, he added five pounds of muscle, then lost ten pounds of fat), and has trimmed down and firmed up all around. This morning, not being able to keep his pants up without a belt (which is now on its last notch), he pulled on a size 38 jeans just for the heck of it, and they fit! They were a bit snug, but he was actually able to wear them. He dug through the “haven’t been able to wear ‘em for years” stack, and pulled out a few more pair of his former favorite jeans, and couldn’t wait to start wearing them.

Good job, Papa Bear. Keep it up, Babe!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Romantic Dinner For Two

Well, maybe not the onion. But, this was the dinner Papa Bear and I shared while watching the game last night, with a little Ranch dip on the side. Nice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Woman Of A Certain Age

The realization has been slowly coming upon me that I am entering into another phase of my life. Yeah, I guess the midlife crisis thing was a pretty blatant indicator, but that was more psychological and emotional, with a little spiritual thrown in for good measure. This is more physical/spiritual, accompanied by a quiet voice telling me to make some changes.

It began with my hair. The stress sparked by T-Bear’s diagnosis last May inspired a noticeable amount of my hair to begin departing without being replaced. I’m not balding by any stretch, but when your husband says something about “getting thinner on top”, that qualifies as noticeable. So, about a week ago I finally realized it was time for a slight alteration in hairstyle. Nothing drastic (goodness knows, I don’t do drastic hair), just letting it be more itself when it’s down, more sweeping back than propping up on top and framing on the sides; alternated with wearing it “up” like mature women used to do. It places a subtle emphasis on my face, but for the first time in my life I’m comfortable with that. I’m “old enough” now I can let go another layer of vanity and be content with my own comfortably aging face. I don’t have to try to look young and pretty; I can look seasoned and mature. I wouldn’t mind getting permanent false eyelashes, though.

Next came my own physical care. Starting an exercise program (that was a drastic change from my former self), dutifully taking vitamins and calcium each morning and evening, and making all those health-related appointments that I’d been putting off for too long. Today was my first visit to my new chiropractor (she’s absolutely fabulous, by the way) to begin tending to long-ignored “my back sucks” issues. And, per Dr. B’s orders, wearing shoes all day (arrrrgh!) to help with my significant alignment issues. I have always been a barefoot-and-sandals gal, and get incredibly irritable when my feet get too hot (which they invariably do whenever I am wearing closed shoes, even in winter). As I was standing there in front of the X-ray machine, she pointed at my incredibly cute summer sandals and said (with her endearing Jersey attitude), “Those have got to go.” Flat feet need support. I guess it’s time I start investing in and wearing “good” shoes. She wanted me to give up dairy, too. I snorted at her.

The most recent step, also today: trifocals. Yeah, really. I’m going to be wearing trifocals. I have resisted and resented wearing glasses since my first pair in my early twenties. I rejected out of hand the very concept of bifocals at my last visit to Dr. W eighteen months ago, opting for two separate pair of glasses instead, which I only wear when absolutely necessary. Now, I’m not only going for the single-pair-sees-all version, I’ve added another “focal” to the mix. The clincher is, I’ll have to wear them all the time for at least two weeks for my eyes to adjust to them. Nifty. Just in time for the holidays.

But, I guess in reality that wasn’t really the most recent step. It’s two in the morning and I’m wide awake composing a blog entry. Again. Dr. B suggested that my insomnia might be a hormonal issue. I suggested spousal snoring and other environmental impediments might have more to do with it. But, waking up about an hour ago because I was too hot, again, and terribly thirsty, again, reminded me of how often I wake up too hot, throw off the covers, fall asleep, wake up too cold, pull up the covers, fall asleep, wake up too hot….you get the picture. Hormones. Hmmmm. I might have to look into that.

So, here I am. Aging. Trying to do it gracefully. Trying to initiate change to stay one step ahead of the process, or at least not get bowled over by it. Compulsively tugging at that single obnoxious, oversized, very coarse hair that has sprouted out of my chin and which I’ve not been able to pluck because some young whippersnapper “borrowed” my tweezers and failed to return them. Hey, aren’t I supposed to be doing this “maturing woman” thing after the kids are grown and out from under foot? Ah, well. “Mindful” ageing may be a bit of a challenge for me, having a full house and all, but I’ll do my best. Younger Next Year For Women was a huge start (thank you Chris and Harry). I think a refresher of French Women For All Seasons will be up next, and let’s see where that takes me (maybe it’ll take me shopping…heehee). Regardless, I’m actually really okay with all of this. At least for today. And, probably tomorrow, too.

I’ve always felt sort of like the mythical version of Merlin who was born 100 years old and aged “backwards” through mortal time. I’ve always felt spiritually far older than my years, and have carried around this idea that perhaps around middle age my body and my spirit might begin to match up. Maybe the time has come when I’ll begin to start feeling “my age” in a really great way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Artisan Bread

I made that. Really. And, it was FABULOUS. The Five Bears wolfed it down in about ten minutes along with some left-over party dip and Fresh Avocado Salsa. And it was EASY. WAAAAAY easy. With almost no mess. About 20 minutes of active effort, and I've still got enough dough for three more loaves. If you love great bread, you have GOT to try this.
Only four ingredients...flour, yeast, water and salt...which works for vegans and dairy allergies. About 10 minutes to mix the dough. Rise and refrigerate. About 30 seconds to form a loaf. Rest and bake. Perfect.
You may need to get a couple of new kitchen gizmos...basically a baking stone and pizza peel, both of which I found at BB&B. But, it's worth the small investment (if you don't already have these items) just to bake this bread yourself. Oh, and you probably want to pick the book that tells you how to do it. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Thanks, Mimi, for lending me your copy ;)

Fresh Avocado Salsa

I think I originally swiped this from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook a couple of decades ago. It’s best fresh, but letting it stew in its own juices for a bit certainly doesn’t hurt. CHUNKY is the key here. You want the bits of tomato and avocado fighting with one another to stay on your chip as they are lifted to your gaping mouth.

3 avocados, diced
3-4 tomatoes, diced
½ purple onion, finely chopped (more if you’re into onion)
½ bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Sesame oil
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Dump the avocado, tomato, onion and cilantro into a bowl. Drizzle with sesame oil. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Toss tenderly (not too much or you’ll bruise the poor dears!). You’re all set. Those big “restaurant-style” corn chips are the best to scoop this up with. But, it was a great addition to my hamburger last night. Yum!

Papa Bear's Most Recent Project

Being the extraordinarily handy and good-hearted guy that he is, Papa Bear has been helping out M&M with reclaiming their basement after it was flooded (they're basement is next door to our basement). After the heartbreak of tearing out all of the beautiful new carpet that was ruined, they decided that tile was the way to go for any self-respecting basement/family entertainment room. So, tile it is.

After two days of laying tile last weekend, yesterday was dedicated to grouting. A three-person tag team (Papa Bear, Mr. M, and Mimi) made this physically challenging job go faster. The shows there is still a bit of haze from the grouting, but you get a pretty good sense of the end result. Nice, eh?

Mimi's Basement...almost done!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Charter for Compassion

No words can add to the extraordinary-ness of this, so I'm not even going to try. Watch it. Sign it. Do it.

Charter for Compassion

Oh, and it's a TED Prize recipient, and you all know how I adore TED. Here's the original Talk that helped launch the Charter.

Karen Armstrong Wins TED Prize

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cauliflower and Potato AuGratin

Pretty sure that's not spelled right...

1 small head cauliflower, cut into flowerettes
1 large potato, diced, with skin on
1/2 cup milk
shredded cheese of your choice
salt and pepper to taste

Simmer the cauliflower and potato in milk until tender, about 10 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer into a baking dish, top with cheese, and bake at 350 uncovered until bubbly, about 10 minutes or so.

Take it easy on the cheese, because the cauliflower actually has a nice, mellow taste that you don't want to overwhelm. I used cheddar, because it's what the kids will (okay, might) eat. But, this would be fabulous with a little feta tossed on there.

Second Hand Cake

Yesterday was Nana Bear's birthday. We all got together and took her to Ted's for a very nice dinner. She was sarinaded by a very cute waiter with a nice voice. The party at the next table was celebrating a birthday, as well, and as they left they offered the remaining cake to us, explaining that their birthday girl was diabetic. "So's ours! We've got two at our table...hand over the cake, and thanks!"

Nana Bear's Second-Hand Cake

Yes, contrary to popular belief, diabetics can eat cake and other sweets if they choose to, just like the rest of us. They just need to take a little extra insulin to cover the carbs. I'm not a huge advocate of eating sweets, though, doing my best to limit the sugar consumption at our house. So, said cake is still sitting on the floorboard of our truck. Hopefully to be forgotten and not eaten :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


“You are one of the few non-stressor people in my life.”

I said this to Mimi as we were walking the other day on our one-hour cardio tour through our local park. We’ve been trying to hook up for walks as frequently as our mutual schedules will allow (and, that’s not very frequently). She had just explained that she had, very politely, said “no” to her grown daughter’s request to come along on our walk (at the last minute). Said daughter has a young daughter who, it was apparently explained, Mimi could easily push in the stroller as we all walked together. As though it was just a casual add-on to the infrequent-but-cherished walks Mimi and I have been trying to carve out for ourselves between taking care of everyone else in our respective lives.

My response? “Absolutely NOT! She’s missing the point! This is YOUR time for YOU. Not to be shared by anyone who might present the slightest challenge to your peace of mind and spiritual tranquility. This is Girlfriend Time for you and I. Our time to take care of ourselves, with no consideration for anyone else. No stress, no baggage, just girlfriends.”

Then it slipped out…one of those “Freudian” slips…as part of my defense of this time as ours alone. Trying to explain why I would not let any of my boys come along, whether they could keep up with our pace or not. Trying to explain why “exercise” was not actually the most important part of our selfishly hoarded, minimally available hours of walking together. Why I wouldn’t want to be walking that particular paved trail at that particular time of day with anyone else I know who might possibly be available at that particular hour.

“You are one of the few non-stressor people in my life.”

No baggage. No “issues”. No “have to’s”. No need to be anything other than just some woman walking in the park with another woman. No expectations. No pressure. No need to impress. No need to carefully weigh words. No restrictions on topics. No need to talk at all. No stress. Period. Ahhhhh. Balm for the spirit, wrapped up in exercise for the body. What more could a girlfriend need? And what a gift on those occasions when we are able to give same to one another.

Mimi giggled, her face lit up in an illuminating smile that only her charming face could fully embrace, and she gave me a giggly hug. No words necessary.

I’m not one of those people who have a large portfolio of friends, although at this point in my life I have more “important” friends in my life than I think I’ve ever had before. Women who know and understand me to an extent that has not been usual in my previous life. Women I meet up with regularly, usually weekly, and who I genuinely miss when we miss the chance to get together. Women who feed my mind, as well as my soul, and who still seem to accept me even when I’m less than acceptable in my own eyes. Friends. Real friends. Who are there when you need them, and not there meddling when you don’t. People who are non-stressors. Ahhhh. I love them with all of my heart.

You know who you are, my dears. And I adore you, each and every one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moving Day

The Cubs and I spent much of Sunday rearranging rooms. Again. Yeah, I know.

The once-upon-a-time former master bedroom and bath is now the bunk room for all three boys. Sleeping, reading, bathing and dressing.

The Bear Cub Den.

With attached Bath.
The room formerly known as Brother Bear's room is now the play/hobby room.
The play/hobby room.

Egads. Needs some work.

And, the room formerly know as BooBoo Bear's room is now Mom's Study.

Mama Bear's Study.

Mama Bear is happy. :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mama Bear's Movin'

Not relocating, just perambulating. I just finishing listening to the audiobook of Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. But even before I finished, this book had an impact. I bought a pair of workout sweats and a heartrate monitor and a hydration belt and started walking sometime shortly after chapter two. About an hour day, averaging about 3 miles or so, just about every day. I’ve even roped in Mimi (who originally recommended the book a year ago) to walk with me when our schedules align. It feels good to get out there.

This is a great book. The original was written more for men; this version is directed toward women (and seems to be about twice as long as the original, at least on audio). Both books are generally aimed at “older” folks, empty-nesters and approaching retirees and elders, but it’s great to get this information early on so you’ve got time to get started and begin envisioning your golden years. Chris and Harry take turns with the chapters, Dr. Harry providing the science and biology of health, and Chris providing the motivation. By the way, Chris (Dr. Harry’s “guinea pig”) is in his 70’s and going strong, and has an entirely infectious love of life and appreciation for ladies of all ages. If he doesn’t get you out the door and moving, I can’t think of anyone or anything that will.

But, coupled with this motivation are some truly fascinating lessons in evolutionary biology and the science of exercise. Harry’s not just saying “you need to exercise about an hour a day, six days a week for the rest of your life to stay strong and healthy”, he’s telling you WHY. He’s explaining in detail exactly what exercise does for you on a cellular level, and more frighteningly, what NOT exercising does to you on a cellular level. Not so much motivating you to exercise, but motivating you to NOT be sedentary. Somehow, knowing exactly how and why it works has sparked a lot more interest for me than any previous attempts at getting me to move my fanny on a regular basis. In ten days, I’ve walked eight days. Not a bad start.

But, it’s not just exercise that’s being emphasized in this book. Chris and Harry also discuss the vital importance of taking care of your limbic brain by staying connected and committed socially, and the resulting impact on your overall health and vitality. It really is fascinating stuff, learning about how your brain works and how it impacts your physical health. And, Chris has a nice section about emphasizing your attributes as you age, and blowing off the stuff you can’t do much about. Aging well, rather than accepting slow decline and disintegration as you move into the “next third” of your life.

So, carving out an hour a day for exercise. Yeah, it can be done. And, yeah, other things are sliding down the ladder a bit, like this blog. An hour of writing, or an hour of exercise? Right now, I’m going for the exercise, and modifying and juggling other things a bit more. Audiobooks seem to be the only way I get any “reading” done these day (while I’m doing housework), unless it’s reading with the kids during study time. Internet time has been cut back significantly (really a good thing, if you think about it). And, I’ve got a little more energy for stuff like chasing kids and cleaning house and moving furniture. The fact that my overall mood is better and my thinking is a bit clearer…that doesn’t hurt, either.

So, get the book. Read or listen to it. And get your fanny moving. I’ll see you on the trail.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Creamy Corn Chowder

I swiped this recipe from Diabetic Meals In 30 Minutes – Or Less! by Robyn Webb, and modified it to make it a little less healthy, but most certainly an awesome winter comfort food!

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium potato, cubed (I used a thin-skinned red)
1 cup chicken broth (I used low-sodium organic)
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups heavy cream
Pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in your small soup pot, add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the diced potatoes and ½ the broth, and cook until the potatoes are soft (about 10 minutes).

Add the corn, cream and remaining broth, and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Makes about 6 cups of soup, in about 1/2 hour start-to-finish.