an easter gift to ourselves, feeding the hungry

Spent a couple of hours Saturday evening volunteering once again at the community hall serving dinner to those who wandered in from the street. My husband and I decided to fill in wherever needed, rather than commit to a regular schedule. As with most who offer their time, it’ll probably work out to be once-a-month that I prepare a dish that we bring along for the meal.

While 2 or 3 of the women are there more often because they coordinate the effort, others like us are there now and then. As for the needy, most seem to be regulars who are familiar with the routine. They’re very respectful as they enter the hall. Early by about 15-20 minutes, the men and women mill about, settling into chairs while they wait. If dessert is set out some might help themselves to a little, probably too hungry to wait, while others wander about aimlessly, perhaps too antsy, and hungry, to sit still.

Meatloaf

Image by su-lin via Flickr

The woman-in-charge was delayed, so we waited until she arrived to serve up dinner. We didn’t know where the second pan of meat loaf and a side dish of cauliflower were, or if they’d even been delivered. The coordinator arrived, the food was found warming in the oven, and the meal was ready. Meanwhile, the diners had lined up along one side of the hall, patiently waiting to be invited to step up and be served.

Salad with vinaigrette dressing

Image via Wikipedia

I served the meatloaf, another woman served the risotto dish she’d made, a middle-school boy helped with the tomato/mozzarella salad with balsamic vinaigrette I’d assembled, while his mom served up an ambrosia fruit salad. The diners helped themselves to garlic bread and the dessert of homemade strawberry shortcake.

There were a couple of newcomers that made me reflect. One was a young boy about 15 years old, I think. He looked as though he’d not bathed in a while, his hair disheveled, his face streaked with dirt, his ti-shirt and pants wrinkled and perhaps a little smelly. He arrived late, quietly approached the table, and mumbled that he was starving. My mother’s heart quickly sprang into action, offering him a couple of helpings of meatloaf, huge servings of mashed potatoes and risotto, and several slices of the tomato/mozzarella salad. He also got a spoonful of the cauliflower dish from another volunteer.The boy accepted everything gratefully, as they all do. Of course they may not like everything, but they’re not forced to eat it all. Later I did see the young man very discreetly throw out what remained on his plate, including the tomatoes and cheese. I felt for him as he stood at the  trash bin, seeming unsure as to whether or not he should discard the food given him. I think he did, finally. I’m glad. Just because he’s destitute, doesn’t mean he’s not free to still choose. My husband said he’d encountered the boy as he neared the hall. Standing outside until he could be useful, my husband informed the boy who asked what time it was, that, in fact, a meal was being served for any who desired to partake. My husband was also touched to see such a young person obviously in need of something to eat.

strawberry shortcake

Image by QuintanaRoo via Flickr

Late into the meal, a mother pushing a stroller arrived, accompanied by a younger relative carrying the baby. We had to scrape together what remained of the food, except for the salad of which there was lots left since I’d brought 3 platters. The latecomers seemed happy to be getting whatever they could. They, and the others, are a reminder that there are those who will eat anything, rather than have nothing whatsoever to eat.

As he did the last time we volunteered, my husband got to work scrubbing what serving dishes were emptied of food. Most had been cooked in disposable aluminum foil pans which were tossed, so there was less to clean up than before. As a result we left earlier than others who remained behind chatting. In taking our leave, we agreed that it was another evening well spent at the community hall. It felt especially good since we were celebrating Easter the following day. Feeding the hungry meant we were doing what Christ had done.

What Good Are These For So Many?

Image by andycoan via Flickr

giving to others…what we take for granted…hugmamma.  

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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.

“real change,” the homeless

While in Seattle yesterday I was lucky to find one of my favorite reads, a street newspaper. Since learning about this network of national, even global, homeless newspapers, I make it a point to seek out its vendors wherever I travel. Helping these people help themselves gives me great satisfaction. Giving money to individuals seems a more organic thing for me to do than putting a check in an envelope, addressed to an organization. I do some of that, but I so prefer pressing my money into the hand of someone whose smile blesses me in return.

In this week’s copy of Seattle’s “Real Change,” was the following article which warmed my heart, as I’m sure it will warm yours.

Vendor of the Week
Paulette Bade

Paulette Bade has an infectiously positive attitude. When I arrive to meet her, just past 8 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning, she’s already been selling the paper for over an hour. We can see our breath and the sidewalk where she’s selling is mostly quiet, but Paulette is all smiles. When she sees me, she exclaims that it’s so cold this morning she probably wouldn’t have shown up if she were me. I find it hard to believe; Paulette always shows up, 7 a.m., six days a week, without fail. She is happy to be selling a paper she believes in, talking with customers she knows and cares about, and saving money for her future.

Paulette has been selling Real Change outside the Whole Foods store at 64th and Roosevelt since the start of the new year, moving recently from her previous location at the QFC down the road. Luckily, staying in the same neighborhood, she’s been able to maintain a lot of her same customers–people who still stop by to visit with their favorite vendor and buy a paper once a week.

Image via Wikipedia

When she started selling the paper–in 1999, incredibly–it was only to make some extra cash. Her ambition soon swelled, though, and she now sells more than 300 papers each month. Starting out, Paulette had been homeless for close to eight months, staying in a local DESC shelter. She eventually moved into Nickelsville, the only place that would let her keep her two cats and where she met her current boyfriend. The four of them have since moved into an apartment near the store.

“Now I want to put money in the bank. I want to do better for myself,” she tells me. Paulette has been saving up her earnings from selling the paper in hopes of moving into a better home, somewhere where they can have more space and the two kitties can roam around.

As we talk, customers leaving the store or walking by greet Paulette like an old friend. They know her well, and she knows them. She points out customers to me, telling me who writes poetry and who buys the paper for the crossword puzzles. She loves this part of the job, even with the uncertainty that sometimes comes along with it.

“You never know from one day to the next how many you’re going to sell or how much you’re going to make,” she says. But even on slow days she powers through, reading the new issue each week, trying both to know her product and her community.

When I ask what her customers outside of Whole Foods mean to her, she is flushed with joy.

“I’m thankful to all my customers. I appreciate them just stopping by and saying ‘Hi.’ Their smiles make my day, everyday.”

written by Adrienne Brown

paulette’s teaching me about simplicity…and love… for all…hugmamma.

“big night,” small town bijou

I’m pretty sure that’s what movie houses were called back in the day, bijous. When my friend Sylvia mentioned that she and her husband had frequented the North Bend Theatre a few times and loved its charm, I knew I had to experience it for myself. So I made a date with them, for my husband and I to see the lone show featured tonight at 5 p.m., “The Little Fockers.”

I was somewhat surprised when Sylvia assured me that she and Jim were great fans of the “Focker” installments, and that they were excited to be able to see this, the most recent. I must confess to only seeing the first, and thought the humor was rather inane. I can take or leave Ben Stiller’s humor. So to think that friends in their 70s found the stories hilarious, was extremely surprising. Even my 24-year-old daughter, who dislikes the Focker family series, was taken aback. But we agreed that Sylvia and Jim are not your run-of-the-mill senior citizens. They’re pretty progressive, and very energetic. They could run circles around my family, to be sure.

Well neither the theatre nor the movie were disappointing. In fact, they were both downright enjoyable. The bijou is owned by a private family, probably as a pet project, a contribution to their community of North Bend. Bravo for them! It’s well maintained, inside and out. The lobby is tiny, probably full to capacity at 25-30 people, all standing elbow to elbow. High-schoolers staffed the mini-snack bar. Popcorn served up in good, old-fashioned brown paper bags, in several sizes. Jim and I threw caution to the wind, ordering a couple…with a few squirts of butter. Naughty, naughty! Tasted like the sort I got at the five-and-dime Kress Store, when I was a kid in Maui.

My husband and I wandered in to find our friends who’d preceded us to “save” seats. They needn’t have bothered, since the theatre was three-quarters empty. Even with that I almost burst into chuckles when I spotted Sylvia and Jim sitting in the next to the last row of seats. They were almost in the snack bar, literally! Then I remembered that he wore hearing aids, which might amplify the sounds beyond his comfort zone. Since the “Little Fockers” was not a movie I’d been dying to see, sitting… soooooooo… far back was no big deal. Nonetheless, I still smiled to myself.

Well surprise, surprise! I laughed through the entire film. Stiller and the actress who played his wife were not the objects of my hysteria, although he was very good. The supporting cast of A-list actors, Blythe Danner, Robert de Niro, Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, were absolutely great! Performing more light-hearted roles than usual, they were all wonderfully funny: de Niro as the fanatical, retired CIA father-in-law who’s out to make mincemeat of son-in-law Stiller, is paired with mild-mannered, Danner, who plays fantasy dress-up to add spark to their senior sex life, as Hoffman is off learning to dance flamenco in Seville, Spain, while wife Streisand stars on her own sex-advice talk show. Funny! Funny! Funny!

Once we collected ourselves, and braved the pelting rain outside, we headed for a bite to eat at the North Bend Bar and Grill, our favorite eatery in town. It was packed to capacity, to our surprise. However the 20 minute wait was well worth it. The food, from soup and salad to entrees were all delicious. My meatloaf was a delightful change from the norm. Formed as a small loaf, it was stuffed with crumbled bleu cheese, and wrapped with strips of bacon. The entire loaf was then glazed in a flavorful, dark brown gravy. I’m licking my chops just imagining it. I was glad I’d foregone the side of potatoes, mashed, baked or fried, in favor of additional veggies. The blend of green and wax beans, broccoli, and carrots was probably one of the best I’d tasted in a long time. I’m guessing that’s because the veggies were sautéed in butter. Lordy, my cholesterol! Thank goodness butter hasn’t crossed my lips of late. Tonight was the exception, and well worth “falling off the wagon.”

good friends, good show, good food…hugmamma.

out and about

Just spent a nice day out and about, with my husband. Great to step away from the keyboard and enjoy life first-hand. Reminiscences are wonderful, but so is creating fresh memories.

Heading east we enjoyed clear views of the mountains, and the evergreen landscape that stretched for miles toward the distant horizon. The weather is cooling down, a signal of fall’s appearance. While not as abundant and colorful as the seasonal change in New England, we’re still blessed to bear witness to Mother Nature’s handiwork here in Washington.

We stopped in a small town to lunch. Instead of our usual choice, we decided to eat at Twede’s, a diner that serves breakfast all day. Not a fancy place by any means, but booths filled almost to capacity meant the food was good. Allowed to seat ourselves, we chose the only available booth toward the back, left-side. Once seated, I noticed that the lighting was poor so we moved to a table in the middle of the floor. Shortly afterwards, a wedding party filtered into the diner.  As they mingled near the entrance, it was obvious the bride and groom, and their bridesmaids and groomsmen would be occupying most of the other tables around us. Wanting to give them elbow room, I decided we should move to a booth that had become vacant. At this point my husband, and I were feeling like the Ricardos and the Mertzes in the episode of “I Love Lucy” where she changes tables at a restaurant. The first move was for a better view, and the second, because of an overhead draft. Having watched the sitcom countless times throughout the years, I am probably Lucy Ricardo, reborn. Our daughter agrees.

From the booth I had a perfect view of the wedding party. I gave my husband a running commentary on their attire. Probably in their 20’s and 30’s, the young men and women seemed suitably attired for their ages. The gals wore black cocktail dresses in varying styles that flattered; the guys, black pants held up by suspenders over white, long-sleeved shirts. They might have looked a tad like the Amish. The groom was dressed similarly, but with a vest, and tweed cap pulled low over his brow. The bride wore a strapless gown sporting a vintage look in off-white tule, sprinkled with something glittery. From afar I wasn’t able to decide what gave the dress its bling. The bouquets were simple, large mums in shades of plum, creme and eggplant. I didn’t glimpse the bride’s.

Only in a humble eatery on a country road would we see a bridal party assemble for picture-taking, without ordering a meal. I think a couple of slices of the diner’s famous cherry pie and mugs of coffee, were shared by the wedding couple and the photographers. Otherwise photos were snapped, and the group was on its way, calling out their thanks as they exited. My husband and I surmised that arrangements had been made beforehand, because the waitresses were not perplexed by the group’s short stay.

It wasn’t long before my husband and I were served our delicious hamburgers, his, the “Southwestern” and mine, the “Philly.” They were accompanied by fries and onion rings. We happily downed our meal with a Red Hook (him) and a root beer float (me). Unable to resist, we shared their cherry pie à la mode. Not a lick was left.

Ambling out the door, we sauntered across the town’s main street to Birches Habitat. What a find! My husband left me to browse leisurely, while he walked further down the street to check out other establishments. The front of the shop was stocked with gift items befitting a mountain lodge: metal figures of moose, needlework pillows of a black labrador resting on a red background, assorted guidebooks of the area, scented candles in glass jars painted with butterflies, fragrant soaps in horticultural paper wrap, and other similar merchandise.

Before wandering further back in the store, I selected a book as a Christmas gift for a friend. He’s 76, and while I have no difficulty finding a gift for his wife, I’m usually at a loss when it comes to him. The gift is actually appropriate for both, i’ll wait in the car – dogs along for the ride, texts and photographs by marcie jan bronstein. It seems wherever they drive, our friends cart their dachshund, Gretchen, along. Their previous dachshund, Schatzie, was also their traveling companion before she passed away. So a picture book of dogs waiting for their owners’ return seemed made for our friends. Some of the captions for the photos read “There are dogs waiting alone, dogs waiting with friends, dogs waiting with relatives, and puppies learning to wait.” 

Paying for the book and a few other trinkets, we left main street heading away from town. A tip from the shopkeeper sent me in search of Bad Sisters, an antique shop. Besides blogging, I also sell antiques and collectibles. I make more money selling old stuff, than I do writing. Truth be told, I earn a little in the former, and zilch in the latter. Does it matter that I’m passionate about both? It’d been a while since I visited  the antique shop, having forgotten its existence. Or maybe it was because the pickings were slim. Today was different. I left the shop with some nice items for resale: a large steamer trunk, giant crock, folding room-divider, plaid print tin basket with handle, a couple of old bottles with interesting motifs, an old sepia photo of a Danish family, a tall pair of shabby chic candlesticks, a small white curio cabinet with glass shelves and a few other things. Luckily, I didn’t purchase a drop-leaf, gate-leg, pine table. It would have ridden in the car, while I walked home or thumbed a ride.

Noshing on bagels with cream cheese, grapes and cups of coffee, we spent the evening playing Bananagrams. Amidst a lot of laughter, my husband and I scrambled to finish first. I think he won one game, and I won the other. It depends on who spins the story. Since I’m telling it, we each won one. 

As you can see I’m at the keyboard, my husband is in his recliner watching James Stewart and June Allyson in “The Glenn Miller Story,” the pets are doing their own thing. “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.” Is that how the saying goes? My husband’s unable to confirm this, even though he was the English major.

do you know?…hugmamma.