WHAT WILL I REMEMBER?


What will I remember when I get old; when now becomes then? Will it be something from the rarefied past, cleansed of impurities and less dense?

Once I had the self-assurance of the very young. Now I realize that everyone looks better in the rear view mirror, and no one is very different from anyone else. Sometimes an artist’s first invention is himself, and it usually needs a little alteration. I never doubted that my direction was the right one, and plowed right through a problem till it was solved. Now I sometimes spend time doubting if I know what I think I know. Or maybe it’s simply a failure of the imagination.

We go through many levels of becoming in a lifetime. It takes more than a village to mold a memory; we are creating new ones every day. I will choose to remember the good things; the things no one else knows. Small fleeting bright spots which flicker through my consciousness unbidden like the swelling of the ocean beneath your boat.

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier, photo by Jerry Johnson

A small sailboat easing round a bend on a sunny morning, and seagulls crying at the beach. The thought of Mount Rainier rising majestically through the clouds above the rabble below, or Mount Shasta in the moonlight. Just glimpses. Quick flashes of memory tying me to a moment in time. I will remember the smell of wet clay or the warm smells of sugary desserts coming from my oven. We all have them, and they are like the warm yellow windows of home on a dark night.

The larger memories of precious family, present and past, and friends who graced me with their presence, I will think of often, and I will snuggle in my bed smiling in contentment thinking of my husband, and the luck which led him to my doorstep so long ago.

I will hide the dark things, the roadblocks which come to us all. We have survived. There is no need to relive them. Sometimes nature takes pity and leads us to a better place.

Albert Schweitzer’s quotation says it better than I could:
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

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AMAZING GRAZING~~~~Chicken and Pea Enchiladas


Jardins2

This time of year we sweep the patio, bring out a few more tables, make sure the outdoor lights work, drag a few more umbrellas out of the shed, polish up the bar and hope it doesn’t rain. I think Spring is finally here. With all the warm weather we’ve been having, who can tell? We have lost a few plants during this weird weather, and Dr. A is playing catch-up with them trying to replace.

The last big party we had was the 65th Anniversary. I must admit it becomes harder and harder to cook for a crowd as we age, but the good intentions remain and since we still like good food, I make smaller amounts. I refuse to see a good recipe and not try to cook it.

Mexican food is always top of my party list for a crowd. It’s easy, you can make it early and put it in the freezer, most people like it, and after all, it’s California! Trays of enchiladas, a big pot of beans, rice, and a really big salad are all you need. Sometimes I will do a tray or two of baked chilis relleno as well. Normally, I fry the chilis, but for a crowd you can coat them with bread crumbs and bake them. A pitcher of Margaritas or Sangria and a tub of ice with cold beer and soft drinks for the kids make it a party. Dr. Advice loves my carrot cake so there is dessert, and it too can be put into the freezer to wait for the big occasion. This cake has chopped macadamia nuts, coconut and pineapple in it and trust me, it will knock your socks off. I made three large cakes for our 65th anniversary when there were 65 people.

I am a great fan of freezers, and there are very few things you can’t store in the freezer—one friend of mine always answered her husband’s query of “What’s for dinner?” by saying “Whatever falls out of the freezer.”

chicken & pea enchiladas

A big thank you to chef Josef Centeno and his great-grandmother Ama for whom he named his restaurant, Bar Ama, in Los Angeles.

Don’t wrinkle your noses and decide you would hate the mashed peas in this recipe. Josef Centeno’s great-grandmother knew what she was talking about. I made it and gave it a gold star.

CHICKEN AND PEA ENCHILADAS

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, roasted and shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken)
Heat 2 Tbs. oil in saute pan over medium heat. Saute 1 large carrot, diced small
1/4 med. onion diced small, and 1 med. potato peeled and finely diced, till fork tender. Stir in 2 minced garlic and cook abut 2 min. Turn off heat and stir in 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro, juice from 1 lime and salt to taste. Set aside. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch 1 1/2 cups frozen peas 2-3 min. Transfer immediately to colander and run cold water over to stop cooking. drain well and pat dry. Using a potato masher or fork, lightly crush peas. Stir in 20 chopped mint leaves, shredded chicken and 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco. Salt and pepper to taste.
Gently warm 1/4 cup oil and dip a corn tortilla and cook until puffy. Repeat with 8-10 tortillas.
Assemble enchiladas: Spoon 1-2 Tbs. chicken-pea filling down center of each tortilla. Roll tortillas up around filling to form tight cigars, then transfer enchiladas to a serving platter and top with sauteed carrots, onions and potatoes. Top with garnish of chopped cilantro and 1/2 small red onion finely diced, and more queso fresco. Serve with sour cream on side.

You can make however many you need of this recipe. I found that this amount served 8-10.

ROAD MARKER 28


ocean

There was a wide space which let the errant ocean flow into the shore between rocks which had delayed its progress for a thousand years or more. The small sandy beach which was its destination continued deep into a sheltered cave of rock, forming a secret hideaway. This was our private picnic spot, unknown to the rest of the world, and to which we rushed with shovels and pails and a picnic basket filled with our dinner.

We cruised Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean for years looking for the perfect place, with impatient children hungry for dinner jumping around the back seat of the car. There were no seat belts in those days, so kids used the back seat as their playground.

Finally we hit pay dirt when we discovered road marker 28. It stood alongside the highway alone and beckoning us to come explore the beach below. Road marker 29 was somewhere ahead, and somewhere behind we had passed road marker 27, but neither of those showed much promise of a flat, sandy beach where a small family could safely build sand castles and paddle in the water. Reading the tide tables, it gave us a window of time to avoid the rush of the waves through the channel and into the cave, thus washing away all remains of tuna fish sandwiches and potato chips.

Once found, it would be a challenge to find it again, so using my age at the time, which was 28, we used that as our compass rose. Thereafter for the next year, we drove to road marker 28, unloaded our gear and raced to the beach.

Of course all good things must come to an end, and though no one else seemed to have found our private beach, we lost it and it became part of our family memory. Sometime during the year, I turned 29, and road marker 28 never looked quite the same.

ONE LUMP OR TWO?


coffee
I see the sunlight dripping through the small kitchen window over the sink, leaving puddles of yellow light across the linoleum floor. We ate breakfast at the wood table in the large old kitchen of my Grandmother’s home in Long Beach. It had a drawer where the kitchen silver was kept which always seemed a good idea to me. The morning smell of coffee permeates my memory, but it troubles me that I can’t remember if my mother took cream in her coffee.

This has nuzzled my memory for a long time. Surely one should remember if their mother drank cream in her coffee. I could always remember who took cream and who did not. I always thought it was the mark of a good hostess. Why can’t I remember if my mother did or did not?

It’s a matter of staying in the moment. To pay attention to the everyday things which make up the pattern of our lives.

Searching for my eight year old brain as I sat reading the Wheaties box with Jack Armstrong’s picture on the front, I see my Grandmother with her cup of coffee, not a mug like today, but a Blue Willow cup. Her sister, my Great-Auntie, has a whole set of Blue Willow. My mother is heating the curling iron on the gas stove to coax my stick straight hair into ringlets. I stiffen in anticipation of the hot iron so close to my head. My Aunt’s indolent shuffle into the kitchen brings a frown to Grandma’s face. You can see who runs this house. My Aunt came in after midnight from a date last night, and will be late for her job which she is lucky to have in the Depression. Wrapped in a flowered silk kimono and mules with a fur puff ball on the toe, I think she is glamorous. These are the three women who raised me.

Grandma lives large, and without a doubt she has cream in her coffee and probably 2 spoons of sugar, the cream poured from the small bottle on the table, probably lots of it. The smell of coffee blends with the hot toast in the broiler with the butter making soft brown spots all over it. My aunt is sleepy, but between sniping at Grandma, who shakes her head and looks cross, I know she probably puts cream in her coffee.

But I can’t remember if my mother put cream in her coffee. She has been gone over thirty years and it still bothers me. I should remember.

CALIFORNIA GIRL


Wrapped in Love
“Wrapped in Love” stoneware sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

CALIFORNIA GIRL

I’ve looked around a town or two
And I’ve wandered through the world,
But I’ve never met the equal of
A California Girl.

She seems a little softer,
Her laugh is more serene.
She talks a little slower
And finds the time to dream.
She’s a field beneath the freeways,
A meadow in the maze
A hill between the buildings,
New York with country ways.
She can sit with me in silence,
When there’s nothing else to say,
She never talks of freedom,
Because she lives it every day.

She’s open and yet mysterious,
Concerned but not too serious,
She’s class–without pretense
And style–without offense,
Just a California girl.

poem by James Kavanaugh

A LIFE DELAYED


There was a time when all we had to worry about was the next biology test, Friday night’s date, and getting your Dad’s car back home unscathed. We never thought about drugs; cocaine and marijuana may have been around in some dark quarters, used by loser kids, but the designer drugs hadn’t been invented as yet, so our parents couldn’t warn us against them.

So we drank a little, and smoked a little and made out in the back seats of our cars, and the boys left to win the War.

Things began to change in the 1960’s, and my daughter informed me that groups of high school kids were smoking marijuana in the local park. Later we had a conversation regarding what we thought was the most threatening thing coming to our country. She said overpopulation and I said drug use. It turns out we were both right.

By the 70’s and 80’s drug use was not only evident but available to anyone. The argument of whether marijuana use led to hard drugs was tossed back and forth in intellectual groups as if people knew what they were talking about.

By the 90’s we began to be concerned with late night “raves” and more frequent partying in fraternities and sororities. The so-called “gourmet” drugs were far more frightening than marijuana.

In 2011 or thereabout, we visited a teenage drug rehab residence to visit our fourteen year old great-granddaughter.

If you have not experienced a beloved child being hooked on a chemical substance, it’s difficult to imagine the impact it has on an entire family. Through many visits to many rehab establishments, the same childish faces appear, growing a little more streetwise with each visit. As the years go by, you realize that the things which made the teenage years so pleasant for you would never apply to this child.

She had been using drugs since the age of eleven and she told me “I tried it and I liked it.”

Who gives eleven year old kids drugs? There is no bearded fanatic hiding in the bushes, it’s schoolyard friends who trade back and forth. The chain of connection is so indirect it can’t be traced. Prescription drugs and cold medicine, found in most homes along with alcohol and even bath salts are readily available.

Obviously not everyone is a potential victim. Chronic stress and trauma in childhood play the determining factor in predicting who will lose control once they start using drugs. Early life experience programs the brain and body for the environment it encounters. A calm nurturing upbringing predisposes a child to thrive, while scarcity, anxiety and chaos threaten. We all need a little stress to condition us to handle the big stuff, but when someone encounters an emotional roadblock too large to hurdle, it can send us over the edge.

A broken home, a lack of self-esteem, shyness or rebelliousness, the sudden introduction of another child into the family, trauma which comes in doses that are too large or too unpredictable over which the person has little or no control are all contributing factors to future drug use. All of these triggers were there for us to see.

Our granddaughter, a sweet and beautiful young woman, will be twenty years old this year and at present seems to be doing fine. We tend to focus on the ones who slip through the cracks, but many of these kids go on to lead successful, productive though delayed lives.

AMAZING GRAZING~~~~Red Flannel Hash


Some people cook corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m one of them, although I don’t know why. It’s the only time of year I buy it and other than the first day dinner, it makes lovely sandwiches, and of course, hash.

On this St. Patricks’s Day, Dr. Advice showed up early wearing something green. The temperature was 80 that day, and the only thing green I had was a green turtleneck sweater. The Irish song, “The Wearin’ of the Green” is a lament about the times when the British forbid people to wear green. You need to be careful about those things.

We weren’t Irish, and when as a child I wore green and insisted upon singing all the Irish songs I knew, my grandmother harshly reminded me that “We AREN’T Irish”! as if there might be something wrong with being Irish. Although when Dr. Advice and I traveled in Ireland, we were assured that everyone had a little Irish in them. Singing in an Irish pub on a typically rainy night, with fires burning in a large fireplace and pints of Guinness at hand, you were hoping people thought you were Irish even if you weren’t. The Irish had so much fun. Who else could have thought to name a big rock a “Blarney Stone and make people climb a ladder to the top and then lie on their backs to kiss it?

Grandma to my knowledge never cooked corned beef, but she and my mother made hash from Sunday’s roast beef often. My mother spiked it up by adding cooked beets to the mix which turned it all a devilish shade of blood red and gave it additional flavor. Interesting to ponder: you can make a hash of any meat including chicken.

The quantities depend upon how much meat you have left over,

RED FLANNEL HASH

Corned beef (or roast beef) cut into small chunks and coarsely chop in processor with onion and a couple cooked beets. Hand grate an equal amount of raw potatoes. Heat oil in large frying pan medium hot. Keep flipping hash to get a nice crust. When nearly done, you can put an egg per person on top of hash.

Even your Irish Grandmother would approve.

OATMEAL RAISIN MUFFINS

1 c. oatmeal, 1 cup buttermilk, Mix & soak 30 min
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar packed (or less)
6 Tbs. melted butter
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Makes 1 dozen