what’s your “cup of tea?”

My least favorite meal of the day is…breakfast. There’s no adventure to it. Unless you’re a gourmet chef…whether professional or amateur. Or if you are a connoisseur of eggs, bread, and coffee, like my husband.

Perhaps if I lived in Japan where rice is eaten three times a day, I’d like breakfast better. You see growing up in Hawaii, I ate rice every day, sometimes even for breakfast. Probably a tradition heavily influenced by the Chinese and Japanese immigrants who settled in the islands and worked on the plantations.

New Turkey Bacon!

The choices I’m permitted on the 2 or 3 diets I follow at any given time, sometimes simultaneously, are…eggs and turkey bacon…oatmeal and turkey bacon…or freshly-made juice and turkey bacon. Oh, I can definitely change it up if I’d like…veggie omelette, scrambled eggs with veggies, oatmeal with blueberries, oatmeal with diced apples, juices made with any combinations of fruits…apples, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach. Oh yes! And Instead of turkey bacon I can have Canadian bacon.

Yahoo! Aren’t I the lucky one!

What never, ever changes is my cup of green tea. Make mine decaf, please. I’m an insomniac, you see. Thanks to a middle-aged woman’s worst enemy…menopause.

I imagine in other parts of the world…like France and Italy…the first meal of the day offers more delights. Like chocolate croissants or pasta with meat sauce. I’ll bet the French and Italians don’t think twice about what they’ll have for breakfast. Do those folks even diet? Probably not since they have a glass of wine which is heart healthy.  If not at breakfast, then perhaps a couple of hours later. 

So much is made of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. I shouldn’t skip it or I’ll be grazing all day long, or my glucose level will spike. School children need a hearty breakfast so they’ll be primed to do their best work. 

I totally agree with all the research, but breakfast is still not my favorite meal of the day. Lunch is better…dinner better-er. Funny thing is when I’ve made breakfast for dinner…it’s been wonderful. Maybe it’s the novelty…or maybe it’s because…

…i’m not a morning person!…what’s your breakfast specialty?…

………hugmamma.

Breakfast of rasperries, blueberries and oatmeal.

quench your thirst…and make some $$$

Sen. Joe Biden buys lemonade at the 2007 Itali...

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever sold lemonade from a makeshift stand as a child? I have. Those were the good old days, when making a living was simpler. When I needed some spending money, my best friend and I would just throw together some cardboard boxes, from which we’d sell our freshly-made beverage.

In my time, we probably sold a cupful of lemonade for no more than a nickel. Maybe some kind adult would spend a dime so we could sell out faster, and get down to the real business…of playing. This recipe reminded me of my childhood and some of the fun times my friends and I had. Of course, in those days lemonade was…well, lemonade, made with lemons, water and sugar. I don’t think my mom would’ve pitched in for some fancy, schmancy fruits to add. She’d have probably asked “What are you making? Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade?!?” I don’t think she would’ve followed it up with “Are you crazy or something?!?” But you never know…you never know.

So go help your kids set up a lemonade stand, and do pitch in for the extra ingredients. After all these are not the “good old days,”…these are the “better than ever days.” And have a cupful yourself. Then get out there, enjoy the day with your kids…and play!!! Take the opportunity when you can, for one day you’ll be reminiscing like me…about the “good old days.”

Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade

Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus).

Image via Wikipedia

6 cups watermelon cubes (seeds removed)
1/4 cup raspberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 lemon juice

Place watermelon, raspberries and water in blender
container; cover and blend until smooth. Strain
through fine-mesh strainer into pitcher. Stir in sugar
and lemon juice until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate
until chilled, about 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Obviously you’ll have to up the quantity of ingredients. I don’t think 4 servings is going to make successful entrepeneurs of your children. Unless, of course, they have a little bit of Christ in them. You know, like when he multiplied a few fish and loaves of bread in order to feed the masses gathered about him. Or unless your little ones can pull off some of the stunts I’ve seen magicians do now days on America’s Got Talent.” What am I thinking? If you’ve got budding magicians in your household…forget about lemonade stands…even ones selling fancy, schmancy…Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade!

…save me a cup…oh, by the way…what’s the price?…hugmamma.  

 

2 peas…but different

 

Two Peas in a Pod

Image by plushoff via Flickr

As I stood at the sink rinsing out utensils I’d just used in preparing myself a quick bowl of oat bran, another of yogurt with a cup of blueberries, and  a cup of green tea to wash it all down, I thought how different my husband and I are, in small, inconsequential ways. He’s been up several hours already, a habit from 40+ years of playing with the “big rats” in that well known “race” most of us have run. While I wouldn’t say that he’s early to bed, and early to rise, because he’s usually just a few minutes ahead of me crawling under the covers, my hubby does catch a few winks here and there throughout the evening in front of the TV, or behind his e-book, or both. I almost never lay my head back down once it’s off the pillow, until the witching hour, or later.

Best buds, like two peas in a pod

Image by jimflix! via Flickr

When I’m puttering in the kitchen, prepping, cooking, I tend to wash what I use, pots, pans, dishes, spoons, knives. Clearing away the used, makes less cleanup at the end. Hubby prefers to leave everything piled all over the place until everything’s said and done. He’s also prone to leave used dishes in the sink, rather than putting them immediately into the dishwasher. There’s one particular wine glass that he uses every evening for his red wine. I know he’s never washed it since getting it as a gift, because I’ve always handwashed it rather than relegating it to the thrashing wash cycles of the dishwasher.

Two Peas in a Pod - Simba & Max

Years ago Carmela, a friend, told us that no matter the weather she always cracked the window in her bedroom while she slept at night. I’d heard that doing so was healthier, especially in the winter, when dry heat and germs circulating indoors could cause illnesses, like sinusitis and the flu. So I’ve taken to doing the same. It use to be that my husband would register the usual complaint, “You’re heating the whole neighborhood!” Well, he no longer utters a word. He just smirks as I slide the window open… a tad.

I could go on, but you get my drift. I’m sure anyone who’s got a partner, has similar stories of differences that are in evidence on a daily basis. But surely you’re just like my husband and I…

two peas in a pod…no matter what…hugmamma.

the hungry, feeding

 

Small tomatoes in Korea

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On Friday afternoon I spent several hours preparing ingredients for a huge pot of stew. I sliced up some onions, then washed and cut up carrots, celery, potatoes, and tomatoes. Along with all the veggies I threw 4 pounds of meat into the pot with tomato sauce, salt, pepper, paprika, and boiling hot water. While the stew cooked, I gave it the taste test now and then, making sure the flavors were blending just right. Now that I’m in my 60s, I feel like my taste buds are finally honed to perfection, or near perfection. It’s taken long enough! 

So why the huge pot of stew? A week ago Sunday, I learned through our church bulletin that there’s been an ongoing effort to feed the hungry in our community. Volunteers include members of various churches, as well as students from different schools. Now that we were aware of the program, my husband and I felt we needed to join others in offering meals to those in need.

lamb stew with leeks, lentils, yellow (heirloo...

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So on Saturday evening we, and about 6 or 7 other volunteers, served hearty bowls of stew and chili to people who wandered into the community hall to sit, eat, and visit. Many were regulars. It was obvious in how friendly they were with a couple of the volunteers.  There was an easy camaraderie among everyone. Diners lined up eagerly, looking forward to a hot meal, with sides like garlic bread, roasted asparagus, a Mediterranean salad of sliced cucumbers, feta cheese, sliced onions and kalamata olives, cottage cheese with a wonderful bowl of mixed fruit, and another of canned peaches. Beverages included plastic gallons of white and chocolate milk, along with containers of juice. And for dessert, ice cream and cake satisfied everyone’s  sweet tooth.

I helped ladle the stew I’d made into bowls, while a couple of other volunteers, 2 middle-schoolers and their mom, served up stew and chili brought by the woman who organized the event, and the asparagus brought by another volunteer. The diners helped themselves to the side dishes. It was humbling to be able to serve one meal to others, knowing that I’m able to dine 3 times a day. And when they expressed their heartfelt gratitude, I felt it was the least I could do for them. Such a small gesture, but to those with so little, it meant all the world.  

With enough volunteers on hand, 3 or 4 of the regulars sat and chatted with the diners. Being our first time, those of us serving up the food observed, and learned “the ropes.” As time passes, I’m sure we’ll become familiar enough to venture out from behind the serving table. My husband spent the time washing pots, pans, dishes, cups, and everythingelse put in front of him, including the huge, crock pots emptied of their contents. Because of his contribution, the volunteers were able to pack up and leave once the evening was over.

It was apparent that a free meal not only afforded these unfortunate souls a warm, full belly; it also gave them an hour or so of companionship in a secure, comfortable environment. Many congregated into small groups, chatting among themselves in hushed, or spirited tones. There were elderly men and women, as well as those in their 20s, and a few somewhere in-between. A couple of individuals were obviously in their “own world,” but harmed no one, preferring to dine alone, quietly.

For a very brief time, it was good to give of ourselves to those who make their way in society, unknown and perhaps unwelcome in many cases. Feeding them, giving them respite from the elements seems the least those of us who “have,” can do for those who “have not.” 

have my cutting board…primed and ready to go…hugmamma.

a special relationship, daughter and father

Readers of my blog from the start, know that I was fatherless as a child, my dad having died when I was one. Age 30 at the time, my mom never remarried. I don’t know how she felt about remaining a widow, but I remember wishing she had a husband. I would have happily helped her pick one.

When my mom worked as laundress, part-time cook, and sometime-chaperone at a Catholic orphanage in Paia, Maui, Mr. Chalmers worked there as groundskeeper. He was tall, with sandy-blonde hair that fell gently across his brow. I remember thinking his blue eyes were kind-looking. Even as a youngster in elementary school, I sensed there was chemistry between my mom and this “hauole,” Hawaiian for “foreigner.” But it went nowhere.

As I reflect back, and I have many times, I wonder if my mom felt uncertain in the company of a “hauole” man, being that she was native Hawaiian. The cultures are so different, especially back then, in the 50s. Perhaps she felt him too different, even while she might have found him attractive. All I know is I liked him, I wanted a dad, and I wished my mom would have brought Mr. Chalmers home to our family!

When I was littler, I wished my mom had married “uncle” Lot who lived next door with his sister, “aunty” Miriam. They weren’t family but they made us feel as though we were.”Uncle” would cradle me in his lap, where I’d curl up, my sleepy head nestled against his shoulder. Maybe uncle wasn’t my mom’s “cup of tea,” but he was most definitely mine.

Then there was our next door neighbor, and landlord, Ah Sing. We’d moved to one of his family’s rentals when I was beginning kindergarten. Unfortunately he was already wed, to my best friend Leola’s mom. Her dad seemed a better match for my mom who was friendly and warm like Ah Sing, both having Hawaiian blood coursing through their veins. His wife, on the other hand, was Chinese. She reminded me of the ice queen in the “Narnia” movies. So there went another great candidate for my dad!

But the “piece de resistance” was Dr. James Fleming. He too would’ve made a great pairing with my mom, in my limited child’s experience. He was a little plump, like my mom. And though he wore wire-rimmed glasses and sported a crew cut, though slightly longer, he was still attractive. He had a broad smile, a twinkle in his eye, and always gave me a big, orange gumdrop at the end of each visit. When he vaccinated me with an injection in the arm, I’m sure I cried. The needle looked like it would’ve been used on a horse, not on my scrawny arm. But Dr. Fleming made me feel brave, and would reward me with 2 pieces of candy. Now what kid wouldn’t want him for a dad! But alas, he already had 3 sons, and a wife. No matter, I continued to fantasize.

Dr. Fleming was of the Lahaina, Maui Flemings. Throughout my childhood, up until I was 16 and left for college, we often frequented a beach near their home, named after the family. I’m not sure if it’s still known as Flemings Beach. It might have been renamed something more befitting the island’s commercial growth, especially if the Fleming’s no longer own property in the vicinity. But even before I learned he was wealthy, Dr. Fleming was the knight in shining armor sitting astride a white horse, who would come galloping along to whisk my mom, and me, off into the sunset. Yes, even then I was a romantic.

When I was older, probably of middle school age, my mom revealed a secret, one I wished I’d known earlier. She told me when I was born, Dr. Fleming offered to adopt me. He’d have welcomed a daughter into a family of all boys. Obviously, my mom declined, but I’m sure she lingered over her decision. She had 8 other mouths to feed, although some of the older ones might have since left home, to make a life for themselves.

What would I have done if I’d known of the adoption earlier? Probably just what my mom did, think about it, but then reject the idea vehemently. After all, my mom and older siblings were my world. One of my brothers was adopted by a childless couple. I’m not sure how he felt about being given away at the time. Did he cry, refuse, sulk? I never asked. I’m not sure if he’d tell me now, at 71.

Writing this blog has proven cathartic, therapeutic. What’s become increasingly apparent these last 6 months, is not growing up with a father has impacted me more than I’d realized. There’s a void no one can completely fill. It’s as though my life has listed since birth, like a sailboat that never righted itself. Thank goodness family and friends have helped anchor me, ensuring that I’m not set adrift. I’ve learned to accept my imperfect life, my listing, continuing to “sail” far and wide. The world that passes before my “bow,” is the same one seen from the bow of a sailboat that maneuvers perfectly.

My daughter has been nurtured by two parents, who love her dearly. And I have been lovingly nurtured by she and my husband. Going forward in life, she and I agree that we’re blessed to be “drinking” from glasses that are always half-full. But I’m so thankful that my daughter has my husband for a father. He would have been my choice as a dad too, if he’d been an adult to my child. But watching him with our daughter, more than compensates for the father I never had.

a father-daughter tradition, hugs for…hugmamma.

veggies and watermelon, quick and easy

I love to cook, probably because I love to eat. By the way my recent visit to the doctor bore good news, my muscle inflammation is at an all-time low, in the mid-200 range, 20+ points above the desired max. Unfortunately the bad news is that my cholesterol count is still too high, over 200. Statins are not an option because of my tendency toward muscle inflammation. So doc and I decided that I’d continue to focus upon dieting and exercising. I’ve done it before, 20 years ago when Weight Watchers and 4-mile walks contributed to a cholesterol reading of 162. But can I do it now when metabolism is on the down-swing, not on the up-swing, and looking at a peanut can pack on 10 pounds? Well, stay tuned…

Eating fruits and veggies is a conscious act, unlike savoring a slice of Hawaiian sweet-bread, slathered with butter, real butter, and chocolate peanut butter. There’s not as much crunch and fiber as the healthy stuff, but there’s a whole lot more mouth-watering, sensory overload, smooth-as-silk flavor. But never mind what I’d rather, here’s a tip for those lacking time and motivation to prepare the good-for-you stuff. Just figured this one out for myself, and I like its simplicity, versatility, and the taste’s not so bad either.

I purchased a prepared, large veggie platter from Costco for $9.99. At home, I distributed the veggies into quart-size storage bags. My bags contained sweet baby carrots, plump cherry tomatoes, bite-size pieces of broccoli, and another of cauliflower. A tub of Litehouse peppercorn ranch dip came with the platter. I munched on these assorted veggies randomly throughout the day, sometimes spooning a little (goes a long way) of the dressing on them. I also served the raw veggies as a side to a meal of chili. Finally, I tossed the broccoli pieces and cherry tomatoes in with salad greens along with other items like sliced almonds and blueberries. Then scooping a couple of tablespoons of the dip into a small bowl, I added a little water to thin its consistency. Pouring the homemade dressing over the salad contents, I combined them until everything was nicely coated. I do this with all creamy dressings so that we eat fewer calories, but enjoy the same mouthfuls of flavor.

For the price of individual packages of carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention a jar of dressing, the Costco platter was quite a savings. And there’s always waste in purchasing big bags of carrots, a carton of cherry tomatoes, a head of cauliflower, and a head of broccoli, as well as having half-empty bottles of dressings sit in the refrigerator for weeks or months or years. (I’m guilty of years’ worth of liquid dressings that have congealed beyond recognition. I’ve yet to toss some out.) Each one of the aforementioned, packaged items can run half, or higher, the price of Costco’s veggie platter. The convenience of not having to cut up the heads of broccoli and cauliflower is an added bonus, not to be downplayed when fast foods are more tempting than good foods.

Watermelon is a favorite of my daughter’s. I use to serve it up regularly for play groups at our house. Though it’s not so commonplace for us anymore, my husband and I are still fans when the fruit is in season, like now. I still dish it up as I did for toddlers, …oh so long ago.

I recently bought a third of a watermelon. I first sliced it crosswise into pieces we’re accustomed to eating. Then I slid the knife between the edible red portion and the pale green rind, cutting around the entire rim, separating the red from the green. Finally, I sliced lengthwise across each side of the red, juicy fruit, separating it into bite-size chunks. Leaving the fruit intact, we ate the chunks directly from the fruit “bowl.” With some adjustment the same method for cutting and eating can be done with whole or halved watermelons.

For those of you who bypassed the “hawaiian goodies” detailed in a previous post, this one’s for you…

bon,bon, bon appetit!!!…hugmamma.

who i am

Girls become women; boys become men. In the beginning it seems to just happen. Females emulate their mothers; males, their fathers. Their traits become ours, seemingly by osmosis. As children we don’t stop to differentiate between good and bad characteristics. What we see becomes what we are and what we do. As we grow older and experience life outside our family, we begin to compare ourselves with others, our lives with theirs. We see what we like and don’t like about us, about them.

I think only in older age, especially if we have children, do we understand those who walked in “our shoes”, before we did, our parents. My father died when I was one, so I never knew him. My mom was my world, in good times and bad. Throughout my 50’s I gradually became aware of the legacy she left behind.

Widowed at 30, nine children to raise, my mom managed with the help of Maryknoll nuns who ran the orphanage where she worked. She was laundress, part-time cook, and part-time chaperone. She never missed a day on the job, driving an hour from our home in the city, to the orphanage in the country. As a toddler, I accompanied her, my days spent rolling around in huge crates filled with freshly laundered clothing and linens. The youngest orphans were my playmates; the older ones my babysitters. They were my family, since most of my siblings had long since left home.

My mom’s car was our “bread and butter,” as she would repeatedly remind us. It was essential to our subsistence, getting her to and from work.  There was no AAA in those days, or if there was, we were too poor to subscribe. My mom changed her own flat tires, tinkered under the hood, and faithfully had the car serviced. With a sergeant’s precision she showed us how to wash and wax the car.

We would drag out the bucket, the hose, the detergent and lots of “elbow grease.” Along with two siblings, a brother and sister who were still in school, we cleaned every inch of our two-toned blue, Dodge sedan, until it glistened under the bright, tropical sun. We often looked like wet fish, having pelted each other with water from the hose or soapy water scooped from the bucket. When we were seized by fits of laughter, my mom’s eyes would twinkle and a huge grin would emerge to temporarily smooth away the frown lines deeply imbedded above her brows.

Active in our church community, my mom served as president of 2 women’s groups. She allowed me to invite foreign students to live with us for several days or weeks, giving them an opportunity to experience life in our country. It wasn’t unusual for my mom to invite total strangers into our home, like a young, handsome, Chinese man who was selling Life magazine subscriptions. We couldn’t afford it, but my mom felt sorry and subscribed anyway. To thank her, the nice man returned with an ice cream cake, which we happily devoured. One particular Jehovah Witness was a regular visitor on Sundays. A devout Catholic, my mom still listened when others spoke of their faiths. I’m ashamed to say we children hid, hoping they would go away. My mom suffered painful arthritis as far back as I can remember. At 3 a.m. when I’d head to the kitchen for a drink of water, my mom would be pacing the floor, attempting to walk off the unrelenting ache in her knees. She’d moan heavily, sometimes crying. I was too young to be of much comfort. My mom sat in the bleachers, watching with pride as I led the crowds in cheers for our team. She sewed one-of-a-kind clothing, some “hit the mark”, others not so much. Strumming the ukulele, she’d harmonize old Hawaiian songs with me, a favorite being “Ke Kali Ne Au.”

Without realizing it, my mom was bestowing me with her strengths. A single parent, she forged a life for herself and her children as best she could. She wasn’t above accepting help, nor did she shy away from helping herself and others. While raising us, I can’t recall my mom investing in much time bemoaning her plight. She was a handsome woman who prided herself on how she styled her hair, and how she wore her makeshift dresses.

I may not mimic my mom in every way, but like her I’m a strong woman with a soft underbelly. She has instilled me with her graciousness toward others, her “funny bone,” her songbird’s voice, her sense of style, and her gourmet sensibilities. And like my mom, I have faults. While she didn’t apologize for them, I’m certain she asked God to forgive her trespasses. Like her, I pray to be pardoned for my transgressions. 

Foremost among the lessons I have gleaned from my mom’s life  is compassion, for myself and others. Because her journey was fraught with more “lows” than “highs,” it’s a wonder she lived well into her 80’s. She was plagued by health issues, family discord, and personal demons. Besides which, my mom never remarried, remaining a widow until the end. For 50+ years, she shouldered her burdens without the love and companionship of a soul mate. So if she floundered, who could stand in judgement? “For unless you have walked in someonelse’s shoes…”

who I am is owing in part, to her…hugmamma.