Always in like a Lion

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“It will take time, but the strength that comes after will be beautiful,  I promise you.” ~ J.E. Rivera

In my emotional register, March always comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb.  Although my parents passed away eight years apart, March 7th and March 9th are very difficult days since they mark the days I lost the two most important people in my life.  My dad died on March 9th in 2006 and my mom died on March 7th in 2014.  When I look at those dates, I am shocked to see so much time has marched on since they were with us.  It seems like yesterday we were all together and I can still hear their laughter as our family shared some wonderful times.

But time has a way of taking moments and turning them into memories in the blink of an eye.  The pain of loss never goes away but, with time, there is a beautiful strength that comes with the perpetual grief.

Through the years my parents  have been gone, I have come to understand that pain can be turned into power.  I have taken that gigantic sense of loss and molded it into my ability to overcome an immeasurable atrocity.  I have survived the worst and I spend each day being stronger than the last and I can now see the beauty in that strength.

When old houses make new noises

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I consider myself very lucky to live where I live. Not only is my neck of the woods considered to be one of the most desirable and most beautiful vacation spots in Canada, I won the house lottery when I was looking for an affordable rental back in 2000.

I had just moved back from having lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a year and April is not the nicest month to be trekking through Central Ontario looking for a place to live. It was an unseasonably harsh winter that year and I received a tip from a friend about a little house that would be advertised for rent in the near future. My parents and I drove two minutes out of town and ventured down the snow-covered driveway to get a closer look.

The snow was piled high in front of the house but I trudged my way through the banks and climbed a mountain of snow to a window that looked into the kitchen. I was smitten. After making my way around the house to peer in the rest of the windows, I had surmised the kitchen was the biggest room in the tiny house and I knew I was meant to live here. I rented the house for four years before I finally convinced my landlady to sell me the property. She loved having me as a tenant so she agreed to deduct the rent I had paid from what was deemed a fair price for the property and I became a homeowner in 2004.

Fast forward to today. Although this six-hundred square foot gem has been my refuge and the place that has allowed my greatest amount of creativity, it is beginning to show its age. This tiny building, nestled into almost three acres of property, was crafted in 1940 and designed to be an out-building of a long-forgotten farm property. It has given yeoman service as a principal residence but lately it has begun to make noises I have not heard in my almost twenty years as a resident.

There are now creaks in places where once there had been silence. The clicks from the baseboard heaters have become much more pronounced and, when the mercury slips down below minus 30 degrees Celsius, the argumentative pops and bangs from the house are much louder than I remember.

Through no fault of its own, my house has aged. If I consider how much I have changed since I have lived here, I should not be taken aback by the deep wrinkles and age lines of the place I have called my home for almost two decades. Although it is tiny in square footage, it is a giant in its presence on my property. I can only hope its perseverance is as strong as mine and we can tackle a few more years together on this land we call home.

Let the sunshine in

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I had not realized I was suffering from the winter blahs until this past Saturday. I have successfully maneuvered myself through many winters and this one, although highly unpredictable, seemed no different. How wrong I was.

Saturday morning, I awoke to the sun beaming through my bedroom window. I was initially confused by the brightness in my room as I had become so used to the monochromatic mornings of December and January. I had not registered what the beautiful light represented.

The mercury reminded me the morning was frigid so I accomplished all of my needed tasks as the sun continued to warm the day. When I got home in the middle of the afternoon, the temperature was much more comfortable than the morning and all I wanted to do was sit in the sun. It was at that moment I realized I had nothing to sit on. I had sold my patio set last fall and had not thought about my winter sun tanning until now. I raced to the local hardware store and bought what seemed to be the only folding chair in stock in February.

I opened up my new purchase and set it to directly face that glowing ball of goodness in the sky, I closed the gate so I wouldn’t have to be concerned about my dog, I poured a glass of wine and I sat. And I sat. And I absorbed ninety minutes of glorious sunshine.

The warmth of the sun was welcomed like an old friend we spent some time getting reacquainted. It is a long-standing tradition in our family to cover ourselves in layers in the middle of winter and soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. I’m sure my parents were smiling as I carried on that tradition. The photo below is circa 1975 ish.

As the sun sank into the horizon, I reluctantly folded my chair and went inside. Besides the noticeable pink hue in my cheeks, there was an immediate change in my demeanor. I was invigorated. I felt happy, effervescent even. I went from feeling like I had been sleep-walking through the last few months to feeling recharged. My mood was elevated and I spent the rest of the day smiling for no reason.  At least now, I have the chair ready and the next time that sun is out all inside tasks take a back seat. You’ll know where to find me.

 

Music is good for the heart

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I was sitting at home on Tuesday night listening to Barry Manilow songs. Yes, you read that correctly, Barry Manilow songs. My aunt will be thrilled when she reads this post. I think she is one of Barry’s biggest fans and we were certainly caught in the vortex of her Barry mania back in the day.

There was one particular song of Barry’s my mother absolutely loved and I forgot I had downloaded that song on my iTunes. When I decided to shuffle all of my songs while making dinner, this song came on and, in a few seconds, I was back in the living room of my childhood home singing this song with my mom at the top of our lungs. My mom could hit a few notes here and there but her enthusiasm certainly made up for her lack of musical ability.

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The song is called his VSM or Very Strange Medley. It consists of several television commercial jingles Barry wrote and he was sure his audience had no idea he had any part of writing. I was a teenager again dancing around my kitchen as Barry went through his advertising repertoire and, in my mind, I could see my mother ramping up for the big finale.

The McDonald’s tune started and, for whatever reason, I started dancing in my kitchen like I was on stage with Barry himself. My arms were keeping time with his Doo doo doo doo doo’s and when the song reached its crescendo I threw my arms in the air as my mom always did and I started to cry. They were such happy tears remembering how much fun we used to have singing that song together and I must have listened to the song another five times, throwing my hands in the air like bad seventies jazz hands each time because my mom could not listen to that song without doing the same thing.

The Musical Daily says music is good for the mind, body and soul but they forgot the most important thing. Music is good for the heart. After I stopped listening to the VSM and wiped my eyes for the last time, I asked my Alexa to shuffle more Barry Manilow tunes and I enjoyed my teleportation back to a time when everything was right in my world.

I ended my Tuesday night with a head full of music and a heart full of memories.

 

When you just want comfort food

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I have been obsessed with my Christmas present and have sous-vided (is that even a verb?) many pieces of protein over the last three weeks. I can accurately predict that my kitchen will soon be adorned with a 12-quart Rubbermaid container with a fitted lid so I no longer have to use my soup pots and transfer my precision cooker from pot to pot depending on the size of the meat or fish being cooked.

Sous Vide is a wonderful cooking technology that allows a chef to cook proteins to an exact temperature without overcooking, unless you forget that protein in the water bath for several hours or cook at too high a temperature. Last night, I cooked a pork tenderloin, Chinese BBQ style, without the actual barbecue. The taste of the marinade combined with the tenderness of the pork was delicious. I broiled the pork for a few minutes to give it that nice crust on the outside and it was better than I anticipated.

When I came home from work tonight, I knew the leftover pork would be used in my dinner preparation. While I mulled over the many things I could make, I thought of my dad. My father was the King of leftovers. There was nothing he couldn’t take from previous meals and not make into a delicious meal the whole family would love. Without thinking, I reached for the rice and prepared to make Barbecue Pork Fried Rice.

There were moments during my meal preparation I could hear my father’s voice, especially when I transferred the rice from pot to frying pan. If I were truly following in his footsteps, I would have spread the cooked rice onto a baking sheet and let it dry slightly overnight to give it the perfect texture for fried rice, but I skipped that step. I did fry the onions to a caramel brown, added the bacon, the peas, the pork and the eggs, allowing the eggs to scramble slightly before incorporating the rice into the mix. I could swear I heard my father sigh when the eggs had cooked properly before I added the final ingredients. The result was delicious.

As much as I love cooking, sometimes a simple dinner of comfort food will taste better than anything I could have toiled to make and I’m sure my dad is smiling knowing he was the influence for my meal choice.

 

 

The needs of the one

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It was the eve of 2019. A creature of habit, I sat in my living room with my Christmas tree lights still on, my dog occupying the space on the other end of my couch and my gourmet dinner for one in the process of cooking.

With the new year only hours away, I spent my new years eve at home, ruminating about the year that has just passed and the one that was inching closer to being a reality. As with every calendar year in the past forty-nine of my life, last year had its wonderful moments and its challenges. Each one of those memories made me realize I am not completely the person I want to be.

I don’t make resolutions but I do take moments to recognize my strengths and my weaknesses and make a promise to myself to focus on the things I need to work on, to nurture myself as much as I do others and to be selfish sometimes and put myself first.

With my fiftieth birthday approaching, it’s time to make this my best year yet. It’s time to cut out the things that aren’t working and it’s time to fiercely embrace the things that truly make me happy.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2019.

How 5 weeks turned into 27 days

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“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” ~ Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about my friend’s text message regarding the gift he had purchased for me for Christmas. His excitement was palpable and, more than contagious, it was consuming. I spent many hours trying to figure out what this mystery gift could be. There were a few hints, but the tidbits of information he shared about the gift only made it more difficult for me to solve the riddle.

This past Saturday, I was Christmas shopping close to his house and we had made a plan for me to stop in quickly to pick up something I had left behind during a previous visit. Once I was inside his house, the five-week waiting period came to an abrupt halt when he told me he couldn’t wait any longer for me to open my present. I was instructed to sit on the couch while he ran downstairs to collect the gift.

He presented me with an unwrapped box and eagerly watched as I opened it. He was relatively sure I did not own what was in the box, but until his suspicion was confirmed there was a chance the fire of his excitement could be extinguished. But the box contained something that was definitely not a part of my collection of kitchen gadgets. His smile can only be likened to the smile on a child’s face when they open their present from Santa to find exactly what they had asked for. But he was the one giving the gift, not receiving it.

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I had heard the term Sous Vide and knew a bit about the cooking concept, but I had never had the good fortune of eating meat cooked to a perfect temperature, evenly across the steak, until now. I am very particular about how my steak is cooked and thought I had perfected the method at home with an extremely hot pan. I was wrong. I bought a lovely cut of beef on my way home, followed the cooking instructions for a blue rare steak and enjoyed the most tender piece of beef I have ever eaten.

To say I was touched by his thoughtfulness is an understatement. He didn’t just buy me a Christmas present, he spent a great deal of time researching this gadget online and bought a gift he knew I would love. I guess the perfect way to say thank you is to cook him the most tender Garlic Butter Prime Rib he’s ever had!