Some Kind of Foodie

Some Kind of Foodie

Food is on the minds of a lot of people this week. In two days it will be our Thanksgiving holiday, which means many will have a table full of food on which to overeat while visiting relatives and trying to stay away from volatile topics, such as politics.

Upon arriving home from Western New York, my immediate family wanted to know about the food I ate while I was visiting the Rochester/Buffalo area. Western New York has a lot of great food and ethnic choices.  While I did not get to Duff’s for Buffalo Chicken Wings (our family considers these the best), or to Ted’s for a Char-Broiled Sahlen’s Hot Dog, I was able to have a Beef on Weck Sandwich. Beef on Weck consists of thinly sliced roast beef served on a Kummelweck Roll – a hard roll with caraway seeds and course salt sprinkled on the top.  The taste is incredibly delicious! I like mine with a good dollop of horseradish, which sadly, I missed this time.  Fortunately, I was also able to have some good Greek food at a restaurant that was new to me, but seemed popular in the area outside Buffalo in which I stayed.  I selected a favorite: Chicken Souvlaki Salad. Wow! I really should have taken a photograph! My plate was mounded with all the good stuff that makes this dish appealing – salty feta cheese, marinated chicken breast, fresh lettuce, kalamata olives, red onions, and of course, a slice of pita bread on the side.

For me, none of the food mentioned above ever tastes better than when eaten in Western New York. My family has tried to find Buffalo Wings, a great hot dog, and recreate Beef on Weck to no avail while living in the mid-west. An adequate chicken souvlaki is the closest we have come to having Western New York food in West-Central Wisconsin.

I suppose I am some kind of foodie. I enjoy watching the Food Network shows on cable and can cook up some decent dishes. Now, with Thursday’s Thanksgiving feast almost upon us, I will turn to more traditional dishes that have stayed with us no matter where we have lived. This morning my gourmet potatoes will be made. My husband will make an apple pie. And, tomorrow I will make my mom’s sausage stuffing and Chinese Cabbage salad. These are all traditional dishes served on Thanksgiving in our house. But, we are stepping out of the box a little bit. We will be brining and smoking turkey breasts this year! We did a trial run a few weeks ago, and it was very delicious! Plus, when the turkey is in the smoker, I will have much more room in the oven for the stuffing, gourmet potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I also found a recipe for Cranberry Apple Chutney that I would like to try. Yesterday, I grocery shopped (avoiding today’s rush) for all the ingredients.

So, while I was a little disappointed I did not get to eat Duff Wings or Sahlen’s Hot Dogs on my recent trip to Western New York, I am full knowing the traditional meal that awaits us tomorrow. It is comforting to indulge in those things, including food, we love.

What food are you thankful for? Tell me in the comments!

 

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Getting back to normal…

Getting back to normal…

Late last night I got back from a five-day trip to visit my parents in Western New York.  I have not blogged since last Thursday! Today’s Slice of Life Tuesday post is just that – a slice on what I have been up to since the end of last week and my last blog post.

It was a good trip. I got to visit with them without a lot of distractions except for the Canadian Geese that interrupted our lunch yesterday. My Dad drove me around to see my old high school, the house I grew up in, and new places, as well, like a new Wegman’s Supermarket and numerous restaurants in which we ate good food. I was able to drive to Buffalo to visit my sister and a great friend with whom I have kept in touch with for the twenty years in which I have been out of the area.

There was a few snowflakes and scrapping to do yesterday morning, but nothing had accumulated. I worked on school work – finishing a project on a local conservancy group, and getting the addresses entered in to my data base for my research study.

I did not sleep well during my trip. This is not exactly new for me but it was worse than normal. Over the first three nights away, I had a cumulative total of ten hours of sleep.  I guard my sleep carefully because I know I do not function well when I am short on it. My emotions are close to the surface; I am more irritable, and I do not always process well when tired.

And, now I find myself home. Thankfully, I slept well last night. I already met a friend for our weekly walk. Later today I will be making a grocery list for our Thanksgiving dinner, doing the laundry from my trip, and some light house cleaning. My husband really kept the house running while I was gone, and I arrived to not find any “piles” of things sitting around, other than those I left before my trip.

I am looking forward to having my son who is a graduate student come home for the holiday and my sister-in-law, who is our most frequent visitor, both arrive tomorrow (at different points). My high school boys will be off tomorrow and the house will take on yet a different air – one of talking, activity, and sometimes organized chaos (although, since there are so few of us, this rarely occurs).

So, even though I am home, I am not back to normal yet. Getting back to normal will have to wait until next Monday – when everyone and everything  (I hope to be unpacked from my trip by then), is going about their everyday routine. Then, I will be able to go about mine, as well!

I am thankful I was able to travel to see my parents. I am also thankful I was able to go back and see where I came from by visiting my old school, old house, old stores, old friends, and have it contrast with what I am thankful for now – my husband, my boys, my friends, my home. My “new” normal. Thankful.

Slice of Life Tuesday

 

Back to Western New York: the First Few Hours

Back to Western New York: the First Few Hours

I grew up in Western New York, but have lived in the Mid-west now for almost 20 years.

These were my first observations:

  • Seven lanes of road.
  • Crazy drivers who will cut you off before they let you merge.
  • Suburban spread into the rural areas.
  • From the air Western New York looks like Wisconsin,
  • The comfort of recognizing landmarks still there.
  • Roads are known by their names, not letters or numbers.
  • Fields of cabbages not soybeans, slightly more smelly.
  • First stop: Wegmans Supermarket,
  • Oh, yeah – you cannot buy wine in the grocery store here!
  • New York State Aged Cheddar Cheese – Delicious!
  • Best dinner choice: Beef on Weck. Yum! (only in Western New York)
  • Lake Ontario is still huge

Home, and not home, all at the same time.

 

 

 

Recommended Environmental Readings

Recommended Environmental Readings

If you just want my book recommendations, skip to the end of the blog. If you want to know why I am recommending the books, then I guess you need to read the post!

My graduate course on Environmental History is almost over. It has been a whirlwind tour of the last several centuries worth of changes in how we, as Americans, perceive the wilderness and how we have managed it.  There has been a great deal of reading, accompanied by a paper each week. Starting with Thoreau and the transcendentalists, up through Muir and the Westward Expansion, including the formation of our National Park System, and forward to Aldo Leopold, the birth of the science of ecology and influence science has on helping us monitor our environment, it has been a large volume of information to digest, assimilate, summarize, and ponder. We ended our course readings with William Cronon’s twenty page 1996 essay on “The Trouble with Wilderness“. Cronon is an environmental historian with a dossier as long as a cross-country trek, hailing from the esteemed institutions of Yale and University of Wisconsin, Madison. If you have a chance to read this, or any of his other prolific works, I would highly recommend it. He is a gifted writer.  But, be ready for your head to spin!

Most, if not all, of this literature and these authors were new to me. Of course, I knew who these historical figures were, but not what they stood for or what inspired them to write some of the classic literature they delivered. Through all of them, I was able to form some connections to the way I feel about nature and the our wilderness today.  Given their time in history, one could at least partially understand why they undertook certain actions. Thoreau, being Emerson’s protege, was adept at his prose and conveying the connection some of us feel with our earth home. However, few of us could. or would want to, live in the wild for an extended period of time such as Thoreau did on Walden Pond.  It left an odd impression as I am sure it did for some of his countrymen at the time.

We probably owe our National Park System to John Muir, to a great extent.  He definitely fought for the early parklands and developed political connections, such as Theodore Roosevelt, to help his cause.  Certainly, the few National Parks I have visited including Haleakala Volcano, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Everglades, and The Badlands inspire awe – even if it had been during their most travelled and civilized state.  I can only imagine what Yellowstone or Yosemite looked like a century or two ago.  I am thankful there was someone to fight for the wilderness in the past.

I found myself connecting to Leopold, as  I read an excerpt from his classic, A Sand County Almanac, through his love of science, ecology, and botany. He was an original citizen scientist – collecting phenology data on plants near his shack in  a rural Wisconsin county near Baraboo, over many years. Believe it or not, his data is even still being used today to help determine the effects of climate change and global warming on plant adaptations such as an earlier bloom time. It made me feel like documenting my own observations on Monarch migration and spring arrival since 2006 is a worthwhile thing to continue to do.

We had only a slight exposure to Rachel Carson, author of the famous, Silent Spring, in the 1960’s.  I think we owe a debt of awareness and citizen action to her, even before being I am really cogniscent of what she wrote.

The course highlighted the social injustices that have occurred in America during acts of wilderness conservation and preservation. While not much as included from the views of the indigenous peoples, it is obvious they were unjustly treated by many, including our government.

So, while the course is over, I am left with a whole list of books want to read. I thought I would share this list with you.

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (1949)

Gloryland by Shelton Johnson (2010)

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau (2008)  an anthology edited by Bill McKibben

Happy Reading! I hope one or more of these inspired writers inspires you to take care of our Wilderness – even if it is right in your own backyard! (Read Cronon’s essay, too!)

Thank you to TwoWrtingTeachers.org for sponsoring Slice of Life Tuesdays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Singular Haiku

A Singular Haiku

Not much in me today. A singular haiku is all I can post. Reevaluating myself.

 

Frost Haiku

White covering grass

Stiff, still, silent frost comes in

Overnight to morn

Silent Sunday: California Dreamin’

Silent Sunday: California Dreamin’

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Shamu  at Sea World, 2012
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View of California Coast from Torrey Pines State Park, 2012
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San Diego Skyline, 2012

 

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Sea Lions at La Jolla Cove, 2012
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Life Guard Tower at La Jolla, Cove, 2012
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Sea Lion calling his friends, La Jolla Cove, 2012
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Midway Aircraft Carrier, 2012
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A store of  yummy stuff in Coronado, 2012
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Incoming sunset on Carlsbad Beach, 2012
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Spanish influence on architecture in Balboa Park, 2012
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View of California Coast from Scripps Institute, 2012
The Gift That I Needed

The Gift That I Needed

Yesterday, I was doing some work for school, and the phone rang. The caller id said, “Janesville”.  There is not anyone in Janesville that we know, so it was probably a solicitation, but I picked it up anyway.  I have been getting better at saying no, no thank  you, to solicitors, but am also guilty of just letting the call go to voice mail. But, for some reason I answered.

The voice was familiar, “Mom, Mom, is that you? I am calling from Building Wealth. I forgot my phone at home today, so I am using Sully’s. I just need to read you something I wrote for an assignment.” His voice was deep and gravely, cracking as his spoke in a slightly rushed cadence.  Sully was the nickname for his teacher.  Matt really liked him and seemed to be getting a great deal out of this class called Building Wealth.

“Matthew?” I replied.  “You scared me! I wondered what you were doing in Janesville, because that is what the caller id said.”

“No, mom. I am at school. Like I said, I am using Sully’s phone since I forgot mine at home today.  We had an assignment where we had to pick someone who has influenced our life the most, and write about it. I picked you and dad.” Again, his voice cracked. He was very emotional. “Now, I am supposed to read you what I wrote.”

“Uh, okay. Is your whole class doing this right now?” I asked him.

“Yes”, Matt replied. “We are all on phones talking to the people we wrote about. “We are all emotional. It was kind of the point of the assignment.”

So, for the next several minutes – at least five – I just listened as my son, a senior in high school, read his passage to me through tears, with a cracking voice. He thanked us. He told us how he appreciated what we have been able to give him through our hard work. He told me how he knew I had sacrificed a career to stay home.  He hoped he could do as good a job as we have done when “his turn came.”  He had learned from us. He loves us. He was grateful to have us as parents.  I was speechless, and just listened, soaking in each word, and every sentence, as silent tears of joy and gratitude streamed down my face, leaving wet dots splashed on the couch.

By the end, we were both blubbering fools.  What a gift we just received!  It was exactly what I needed to hear, at exactly the right time. For we all know parenting, at times, is very difficult. Recently, it had been one of those times for me.

Later, he told us that the Building Wealth course, has not really been about getting rich, like all the students thought when they signed up for it.  It is about finding what makes you happy, about gratitude, about living with tolerance and not making assumptions about others. It has been about values, and belief systems, and a self-examination for each student about what makes them tick. It is about making choices, preparing for college and/or the work force through things such as mock job interviews. It has been one of the best courses my son has taken in high school. And, it is not only because he likes the teacher; it is because it is filled with critical thinking, and thinking about intangibles – not just content. The course is applicable for all students and helps them to apply what they have learned, both at school and at home, to their future selves. It is a course about thinking. Thinking about life.

Yesterday, I got the best present a parent could ask for – words of love, gratitude, and respect from one of our children.  Yes, we are wealthy, indeed! We all know parenting is hard. This validation, especially coming from a teen, has warmed my heart in ways he will not understand for many years. But, I am deeply grateful to him and to this class for helping students to focus on long-term, healthy habits of adulthood.