Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chilly Calls For Chili ~ My Bloggingham Recipe

So. Here's the plan. I'm cold. I want chili. I want homemade chili from my own Stone Age crockpot smelling up the castle all day long. That kind of chili. I carefully executed my plan by going to the store last night for supplies. The rainy cold has descended upon us. It's a miserable monsoon. I am bound and determined NOT to go out of the house anymore once the weekend starts.  Since I rarely, if ever, eat red meat, this is a big deal. But I am craving chili. Craving!!  REAL chili.  Just this once. Not many carbs in a bowl of chili at all! (I counted.) Ground turkey is just not what I want today.  All I needed was cheese and one more can of diced tomatoes from the grocer to complete the recipe. My plan was to hunker down all weekend, visit a few peace bloggers, cook, and catch a couple of naps...then freeze the leftovers for cold February lunches to come. Exciting, no?

I awoke early, made my usual oatmeal and cheesy egg breakfast, then started to dice onions for the chili. All ingredients assembled and ready to cook! I'm done! Now all I have to do is cook the beef, layer the ingredients, turn the heat to HI, cover and wait five hours. The magic of crockery cooking.
I had another cup of coffee and settled in my comfy chair. Wearing fleece. And fuzzy socks.
Then it hit me.
I forgot something.....something.....it's nagging me....what, what, what??!!
Chili powder.
Epic fail.
Get dressed. Get wet. Get in the car. Go to the store. Store #1 out of chili powder.
Get wet. Get in the car. Get out. Get wet. Shiver. Brrrr..... Store #2 hid it way in the back of the cumin rack. Everybody in the world must be making chili today.  Go out. Get wet. Get in the car. Drive home. Get out. Get wet. Shut the door. Finally!!

It will be ready in five hours. I'm exhausted!
It would be so lovely to see you all at dinner. Please consider yourselves invited.
Here's my recipe for Chili
Ingredients: 32 oz can of dark red kidney beans
16 oz can of diced petite tomatoes (I use Hunt's garlic flavored)
32 oz can of whole tomatoes
2 pounds of ground beef  (I used only 1 lb. Just my preference)
2 large onions diced
1 TBSP of prepared minced garlic or 2 whole garlic cloves diced
1 tsp of cumin
1 TBSP olive oil
2-3 TBSP of chili powder (I used 2 for less heat.)
salt, pepper to taste

Drain the beans and place them on the bottom of the crockpot. Cover with tomatoes. Do not drain the tomatoes. Use all the juice. Brown the ground beef in olive oil with chopped onions, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes. Pour the beef mixture on top of the other ingredients in the crockpot. Stir only once. Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours. You could also cook on LOW for 10-11 hours.
Voila!
Serve with a dollop of low-fat sour cream and shredded cheese.

Have a great Saturday!
and don't forget the chili powder!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Even Saint Anthony Can't Find It

I've never lost anything quite so completely.
Somewhere in the moated walls of Bloggingham, an electronic device is laughing at me. Perhaps porcelain Baby Jesus, packed up in his annual Christmas box, is using it to watch The Young And The Hopeless; maybe one of the Wisemen needed to catch a Dr. Phil re-run..... or maybe Homer absconded with it out of spite.  He's still mad at me for forgetting his Power Ranger Lego set at Christmas.

I looked in the trash. I looked in the bottom of the trash. I poked and prodded under all cushions and moved furniture to look some more. I vacuumed. I checked windowsills and behind curtains, kitchen drawers and the pasta canister.  Nothing but dust. I took the vacuum cleaner apart (which took some doing) and found no mutilated objects (except an earring I'd lost). Even the filing cabinets, the medicine cabinets, the oven, the toaster and the dishwasher held nothing but the usual dirty dishes, tax receipts, and Queen pills for miscellaneous royal ailments. 

Some time yesterday, whilst packing up the Christmas decorations and taking them to the dungeon, the remote control disappeared. Now, when I say disappeared I mean POOF (!) gone.
I have searched every nook and cranny. I have searched the nooks under the crannies. I have cleaned out the crannies and searched again.  I had to UNpack the packed up Christmas decorations and RE-pack them.  Maybe it fell in a stocking. Nope. Maybe it's wrapped up in the tree skirt. Nope. Maybe it's in a box with the moustache fella. Nope.
I have called on Saint Anthony six times.
He is not listening today. 

I sleepwalk.
St. Anthony Patron of Lost Peopleand Things
There is no telling where that thing is.  The last time this happened it was my cellphone. I found it the next morning in a teacup in the cupboard. I don't even want to know what happened that night.

 Maybe God's mad at me because I prayed to a saint and I'm not even Catholic. But I'm Christian, so it should work, right?! And we all know it works.  Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please look around. What's been lost, must be found.  What did I do to make him mad? I've had a few sinners mad at me before, but never a Saint! 

For now, I will have to go to a real church today instead of watching Charles Stanley in the AM for my morning inspiration.
Maybe that's what Baby Jesus wanted all along.



Homer! Put your church suit on. We're going downtown to find a church.




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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015!

 Ah, the year has come to a close. 
As it always does on the cusp of a midnight moon

 with sparkling stars flying over clouds of loud booms
and people praying peace
in quiet corners




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Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Am Sure, Quite Sure, That Today Is Not My Birthday


Can't you see that post title up there, Homer. It is NOT my birthday!

 But you just...


 Whatever, Homer. This is no time to be difficult. 
I'm having a midlife crisis.


Glad you asked...



 What now?!

I don't have time to wait. I'm getting older by the minute.



It's about my hair....something feels strange..
The calendar says that today is my day of earthly birth, but I don't feel a day over 10!!! How can this be?




Now that she's gone ....





What is THIS, Homer?


I can see that Homer. Oh! You bought me a present? 
Wow! You are the bestest imaginary dog in the whole world!!



 What's in the box, Homer?! Tell me! Tell me!


 Well! I never!


How did you know? Because my mirror must be lying....I don't see ANYthing suspiciously old. Where IS it?! You tell me and you tell me now!

How?
 




Did somebody call Cindy Crawford? I want a refund. Her beauty secrets ain't working.
Apparently my dog knows more about the workings of my inner molecules than she does. And I paid $600 for an ounce of grey-hair prevention snake oil. I must have missed a dose that one day when I was under the weather. Good thing I've had my trusty and loyal friend, Homer, all these years.

Thank you, Homer. You really do care about me after all. 
I'm grateful for the evil box of Clairol. I'll try to color that one strand tonight and get on with my life.


I need to lie down now. 
This was the most traumatic birthday present I ever received.

What did you say, Homer?

That's what I thought you said.
You are the best dog EVER!!






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Monday, November 3, 2014

Dona Nobis Pacem ~ Words In The Hands of Love

Welcome to the 2014 BlogBlast For Peace! We hope you are finding inspiration and joy all over the blogosphere today. Please leave your link in the Mr.Linky below so that others may find your work. You can even post your Facebook links below in the comment section too. Many people are using Facebook and Twitter instead of blogs this year. Go to our Fan Page and see over 25,000 on the peace page today. You may post your link there as well. Thank you for being here. This is my story for peace day.

Come To The River ~ Words in The Hands of Love

He was hobbling along on the side of the road with a long brown cane in his left hand and a gray plastic bag in the other. Trying to stay on the shoulder and out of traffic. I rounded the curve just in time to see him wobble a bit and just in time to make a split second decision. I pulled into the abandoned parking lot and drove directly toward him as he stepped onto the asphalt left behind by the once thriving and now out-of-business restaurant.  When my car met his left foot, he stopped with a wide-eyed startled jolt. 
(Really, Mimi, said the voice of my mother...what are you doing?)

 Never mind that picking up strangers on the side of the road is on my NEVER-TO-DO list. Never mind that I am known as the resident Suzie Safety wherever I go. Never mind that. I didn't plan this ya know. I was just following the muse. And the muse said clear as day this morning, "Go to the river and write."  That's why I was in my car in the first place on the eve of Dona nobis pacem day. Are you following me? It is all the Muse's fault.  Never in all my years of peace blogging has she said go anywhere but my own backyard. But this year was different.  And here I am with a strange elderly man in an abandoned parking lot in the middle of town. What's he gonna do? Hit me with a cane? I sized him up. I can take him, I thought. He can't run. If worse comes to worse, I'll grab the cane and jump in my car.  I've got this. 
(Really Mimi, said the voice of my mother....are you insane?)

"Do you need a ride home?" I asked. He looked confused. "Is your house near here? I will take you home if you'd like."  Confusing stare. Then the arm-waving started (mine, not his) Maybe he's hard of hearing. "DO. YOU. NEED. A. RIDE.....?" 
"Espanol. Espanol."
Oh. 
"No speak English?"
"No." Thank goodness for that Italian arm-waving gene of mine. Singing "Noche de Pas" was out of the question so I threw out all the Spanish words I knew that I could string along into a sentence-  yo gracias amigo trabajar siempre amiga amigas por favor padre madre adios bueno ninito Jesus si no gracias todo duerme casa maestra escuela otro usted si no coremos (that was unlikely) canta (!) plus anunciando sietete and hola! That's about all I could think of at the moment. Does that make sense to you? No wonder it took five minutes for me to explain that I didn't want to harm him. I didn't know the word for kidnap.  I was only offering a ride.  My mind was aflutter and so were my arms. That way? Far? Left right? Why, oh why, did I fall asleep in Spanish class?

 Aha! Donde! Donde casa? Qui?
"Si! Si!"
He waved his cane in an easterly direction and I opened the car door.  Finally. Communication. I was exhausted


I looked in the backseat as he buckled up. He looked scared. 
 He was still firmly holding the cane and clutching his grocery bag straight through the first light.  I said, "I will drive des-pa-cio (like I thought he couldn't understand it?) des.pa.ci.o!" (I was so proud of myself for remembering the word for slowly.) He nodded in agreement.  I drove despacio through the second light.
I heard "No. Condominium." 
Oh, you live in the condominiums??!
 "Si!" he nodded with a smile. I turned left into the complex. 
"NO!" I heard from the backseat. "C.o.n.d.o.m.i.n.i.u.m.s" and gestured that I should turn around.  Wrong complex. I backed into the highway as he looked warily into oncoming traffic.  
"Rapido! Rapido!" I screamed. 
We laughed. Luckily, no one died. 
  Another right turn, lots more arm-waving and two dead stops in the middle of the road only to hear Yours Truly brilliantly slaughter Spanish with a nice man who probably wished by now that he'd just hit me with his cane.  I finally understood that he lived across from the condominiums in a cute little white house with a lovely wooden porch. We had driven a couple of miles by now. I pulled in and he got out.  He looked happy (and relieved) to be home. It would have taken him another hour walking with that cane.  Smiling from the backseat "Gracias! Gracias!"
"God bless you, Sir. Mucho blessings. Adios!"

And I thought that was the end of it really. Just a short little ride and he's gone. Right? 
No. (Did you know that "no" is the same in Spanish and English?)
The car door slammed and I waited for him to shuffle out of the way. Why don't I do this more often? It took 15 minutes out of my day. Why don't I? What a wonderful feeling. What is wrong with me? This is the most awesome day ever!! 

 Then I heard a knock knock on the passenger window. He was waving with his cane-free hand in a kind of salute-wave from the forehead, almost military-style and nodding vigorously.  "Muuuuchas Muuuchas gracias. Mucho mucho mucho gracias!"

 And because this was a muse-inspired moment I did what any proper pencil skirt would do; I blew an air kiss (universal languages I know). It wasn't about the muchos muchos so much as the look I saw in his beautiful dark-brown eyes. I didn't need a dictionary for that.  
That I understood. 
 
And that is the look we all know. Deep down in the waters of our souls, we know it.  There is no barrier strong enough to unravel connections that happen in the most ordained of haphazard days. They aren't haphazard at all. 
 I want more of those days...when I am in the driver's seat. Making conscious decisions to go out of my way for the important things. Stopping for him was the most important thing I did all day. Imagine how much richer my life would be if I multiplied that fifteen minute detour even three times a day? I have to remind myself to be open and aware. To stop the car, get out, and open the door. Grace will fly right in the backseat and take up residence with a cane if you just remember to des.pa.ci.o instead of rapido. It is something my grandfather would have done. It was the way he lived his life. 
Come to the river, said the muse...
 

I drove through my town and looked around. Really looked around. Pockets of poverty everywhere. Houses about to fall down. I have never seen my town the way my eyes saw it today. 

 But I was not about to argue with the muse. I went on down to the river because the muse said go.  

 "Peace is not a final destination. Peace is the road too," whispered the muse.



But sometimes we face situations when our words matter so deeply to the people we love that they can even mean the difference between life and death. Rewind.
One night not long ago, a young man asked me a question, "I don't know what to do anymore. I feel like giving up."

We sat outside on a crisp fall night. The moon was shining and the stars twinkled above us.  Around the tenth perpetual disappointment in his life, he was ready to give in. So he looked to me on this night.  I felt woefully inadequate when he said, "Tell me. What should I do?"
 He needed an answer. I needed one too.
Come to the river said the muse. There's something about that water....
The longest twenty seconds ticked by as he peered into my eyes awaiting my response. On the inside of me I tried to conjure the right answer, praying for help myself, because this answer had to be right. Although I knew his decisions had to be his and his alone, this answer had to be right.
And so I said the lamest thing.
"You just have to wake up again tomorrow morning and put one foot in front of the other." (really, Mimi? That's all you've got?) You have to remember that each morning the slate is clean. You get up and try again. Even if the way is dark and you don't know where you're going. You keep doing that. Just walk."
I went home and cried for him. My heart was full of fear. I needed to know that my words mattered. 


Later that same night I got a strange text from a number I didn't recognize. It said, "I need to thank you for something you did for me many years ago that has now come full circle in my life. Can I call you?"
Before I could type 'Who is this?'...I read  "Oh! This is your brother! LOL"

The last time I really talked to my little brother was at my dad's funeral five years ago. It was not what I would call a good conversation. I dialed.
"Hi Sis! It's so good to hear your voice. I've been thinking a lot about you lately and I want to tell you some things."
And then he went into how his life had settled down, how he'd found his spiritual center, become a Christian, and was finding meaning and purpose in a small country church where he lived and wanted to tell me that his baptism would be next week.  
"I finally know what it means to have a relationship with God," he said. "I am so happy. I've never felt so peaceful before."  
  Did I mention that he bears Papa's middle name?
Papa's hymnal


 "About twenty-five years ago you gave me a Bible. Do you remember?"
"Mmmaybe....kind of....well, I suppose I did, yes."

"How could you forget? You put stickie notes all in it! You gave me a brand new Bible full of stickie notes, Sis."  
"Ohhh...." (yep. That sounds like me)

 "The preacher started talking about the book of Acts and directed us to read a certain verse. I felt a chill because I'd read it before. It was one of your stickie note verses. I just want to thank you and tell you how much I love you."
"Ohhh...." (see how lame my responses are lately, my Bloggy People?)

And then I remembered how much I needed peace myself on this night. How I needed to know things would be alright. That full-circle moments are sent by the hand of God. That what I'd just told that young man under the stars was the truth and not lame at all.

 That somehow words you forgot you wrote make their way into the hands that need them. And back to your own.

Sometimes grace stops on the side of the road in a split-second. 
Sometimes it waits twenty-five years.


Words you see...words in the hands of love. He held my words for twenty-five years. Those words came back to me in the very moment I needed them most.  Words.
So, you see...words are powerful. Our words. My words. Your words. Words. Connections are made with words. Through broken English and rolled-up car windows. Hearts are healed with words. Hearts can be broken and hurt with words. Hearts are again healed with words.
 Measure them with the yardstick of love.
If it takes baptism in your Holy of Holies, then baptize yourself in whatever water you choose. But don't expect to rise up out of the dirty water you left without a care in the world.
 Care. 

Even if you can't see the way. Just walk.
  There is always someone there to guide you.


 Know what love would say. 
Then go do what love would do.



 Si?

  come to the river said the muse....


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