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Getting Old is Bad Idea…but things are not as they seem

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“Getting old is a bad idea,” my grandpa said to me as we walked the dog around the block. Everyday grandpa took the ol’girl on the same walk that he had memorized deep in his mind under the hazy layer of alzheimer’s. Though he was smart enough to know that something was wrong, it was bad enough that he couldn’t remember basic facts like how many kids he had. I shook my head at the obsession we have with youth, yet I felt bad for my grandpa.

Grandpa Dick is my father’s father. He was a highly intelligent man. He had the engineering kind of intelligence that wants to know how things work and figures them out. He could make anything. He worked JPL, part of NASA, and he put his own additions on his homes. Grandpa was strong and driven. One time, he rode his bicycle from L.A. to D.C.  with a buddy of his. But he didn’t get to enjoy his retirement; by then he wasn’t putting things together very well. We thought he’d teach part-time, volunteer, and travel, but for the most part it was too late.

Grandma Rose is my mother’s mother. She was a little pistol, in the best possible sense. Her mind was always sharp, she had all of her eight siblings birthdays memorized, as well as each of their children, her children, and grandchildren. She knew everyone’s phone numbers too. I think that is where my mother and brother got their photographic memory. Just last year she told me in detail how to make gnocchi and beef brachial even though she hadn’t made it with her own hands in over ten years. She was a great Sicilian cook. She could sew too. She made jackets and skirts, everything. She made perfect high fashion Barbie doll clothes for me, until she couldn’t see well enough anymore. Then she couldn’t cook anymore either, so she taught grandpa Boyd, her husband to cook. She would sit in her seat and give him step-by-step instructions on how to make his favorite dishes that she had been making for over thirty years.

Now things are worse. Grandma Rose has been in a home for 4 years. She has the most faithful husband a place like that has ever seen. Grandpa Boyd is there three hours in the morning, and three hours in evening. For a while they had a routine, Fridays he would take her to the hair salon, and while she would get here hair done, he would eat at the Magic Wok. Then they would go visit Grandma Rose’s sister Nicka. Sundays, he would bring her her purse and her wedding ring and they would go to church. I always thought she’d have colored and styled hair till the day she died. I was wrong. She got a lung infection last Spring. After that, she stopped eating for a while and soon she was too weak to get up, now she can’t go out anymore. She eats a little pureed food a day. She sleeps a lot.  Still, I did get to show her my wedding video.  She felt like she was there. She called me her doll.

Grandpa Dick is getting worse too. Some things were funny. You had to laugh so you didn’t cry. One time we were sitting at the dinning room table and grandpa got up to go to the bathroom, after a minute grandma Margie followed him to make sure he was ok. She came back in the room shaking her head. Grandpa was peeing in the kitchen sink. Some things were sweet. Grandpa would be driving grandma crazy the whole day, making a ticking sound with his mouth, tapping his figure, and telling her to watch out of other cars on the road, and out of the blue he would tell her that he loved her.  He is still that way, even though his own doctor said that he went off a cliff in the last three months. Sometimes he falls asleep in his chair and he is so hard to wake up. Even when he wakes up it is like he is walking in his sleep, and he rarely makes eye contact. Then when grandma Margie hugged him goodnight a few evenings ago, he said, “I love you.” He told me he loved me too.

Whenever Grandpa told me that getting old was a bad idea, I wanted to disagree with him, to tell him to enjoy this season of life. But, who was I kidding? How could my grandparents enjoy the season of their lives where their minds failed them, their bodies failed them, or their spouses had to be put in homes. One time Grandma Rose told me that it just wasn’t right, not getting to live with her husband. “What does this mean for my marriage?”, she asked rhetorically.  I felt like crying.

There was a children’s book series that my parents read to me when I was young called, “Tales of the Kingdom.” One of my favorite parts in those stories, was when the old women, aged and ugly to the world, danced in celebration. When they would dance they would be transformed into the most beautiful creatures, and hunched over backs would be made straight, and wobbly knees made strong. This image has been forever cemented in my mind. When I look at the old and frail, I think this is not how they really are…this is only how they appear. And someday, someday they will be transformed.  I hope that those I love will be able to enjoy all the days of their lives, no matter what comes. So I bring grandpa Dick a milkshake, and I bring grandma Rose home baked sweets. But on the days that it is difficult to enjoy this season, I long for them to remember that this is not the end. Things are not as they seem. Someday, I’ll be reminding myself of the same thing.

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Meditation on Psalm 1

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Psalm 1

1 Blessed are those
who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night.
3 They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will be destroyed.

—————————————-

Do you know someone who has the strength and resilience of an oak tree? Do you know anyone who is known for integrity? Think about that person. What is it that you respect and admire about that person?

Do you also want to be known as a person of good character? Do you want to be prosperous? According to the Psalmist a person of this kind of integrity becomes this way my delighting in God’s word, feasting on the scripture throughout the day.

Picture yourself as a tree planted by the living waters of God’s Spirit.

Now, read the Psalm for the second time and look for a phrase that God is speaking directly to you today. And throughout this day chew on these words. Write them on your hand or in a notebook, or even as a comment on this blog. Return to them in your prayers this evening just before you go to bed.

What is God speaking to you in this passage? Have you been sitting in the company of mockers? Do you find it difficult to delight in the law of the Lord? Ask God to open your heart to enjoying the scriptures.

A housewife’s budget crisis: shopping for groceries with a calculator.

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While our government fought about the budget, my husband and I fought about our budget. Well, not exactly. We have more values in common than the Democrats and Republicans but sticking to our budget is not easy. We are in a predicament because although Joe makes a good deal of money, we have a mortgage, he is in school, our wedding is not fully paid for yet, and I do not have a paying job. The biggest problem, other than our outstanding bills as mentioned is that we spent way too much on groceries the last month. In my joy of being a housewife and preparing dinner almost every meal, I bought whatever I wanted at the grocery store…as well as whatever Joe wanted. But after consulting our budget and my friends who are wise with their money, we decided that we needed to spend only about $50 a week on groceries and at the most occasionally $75. So, I did some research online and determined that in addition to planning out our weekly meals I also needed to shop at the cheapest grocery store and add up my purchases on my calculator as  I shopped.

So yesterday I set out to walk to Aldi’s with my commuter’s shopping cart. By the time I reached the corner of Wrightwood and Clyborne I was dripping in sweat, the heat index made it feel like it was $100. And then I saw that Aldi was closed for remodeling and would reopen in the Fall. I looked across the street at the Dominick’s for about two seconds, refusing to even try that store.  Frustrated I walked another half mile to a place where I knew I could catch a bus to Trader Joe’s. It turns out that Aldi is the cheapest grocery store, followed by Target, and then TJ’s. Jewell and Dominicks are almost as bad as Whole Paycheck (ur a Whole Foods). After waiting for the bus for over 15 min, I saw the bus coming and realized I had left my bus pass at home and had no cash. I walked home. I grabbed a snack, I checked on the puppy, and I caught the bus to TJ’s.

At Trader Joe’s I careful followed my shopping list, for each item I looked for the best unit price, and then I added the price into my phone calculator. I even decided to buy the unpeeled whole carrots rather than the cut and peeled “baby carrots” in order to save a buck. After going through my entire list, I was only up to $35. I thought of a few more items we needed, and wanted but kept the bill at $52 with tax! I’d like to see the American government do that!

Venison Ravioli, Venison Biryani, Venison Pizza, Venison Burgers: We’re out of chicken, and yes my husband likes to go hunting.

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It is a gorgeous temperate summer day in Chicago. There no need for A.C., which is only fair since we have to endure such a long miserable winter.  After doing my less favorite housework (sweep the floors, make the bed, start the laundry), I looked at the weeks menu I had jotted on the fridge whiteboard I moved to my favorite housework (preparing dinner). I went to get chicken out of the fridge to defrost for the chicken curry and Trader Joe’s biryani and discovered—we were out of chicken.  The American house without chicken! But, we had a deep freezer full of two deers worth of venison.  So, I had an idea: what if I made venison biryani like mutton biryani but way better?

Below is the recipe I followed, with a few short cuts: I used Trader Joe’s Biryani for the rice & garam masala from the spice house rather than homemade.  I used my favorite appliance, the  Cuisinart mini-prep plus, to finely chop all of fresh herbs, garlic, and ginger and it worked wonders. I used the pressure cooker. In India a pressure cooker was a necessity. Don’t be afraid of the whistles!

Total Time: 1 hours
Preparation Time: 30 minutes (excludes marination time)
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:
  • Marinade
    • 2 lbs Goat meat cut into pieces
    • ¾ – 1 cup yogurt
    • 2 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
    • 2 tsp Chili Powder
    • 14 small Chilies split into two (adjust to your taste)
    • 1 cup chopped Mint Leaves
    • 1 cup chopped Cilantro
    • Salt to Taste (sufficient for the meat)
    • Garam Masala Powder
  • 1 Large Onion sliced
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 cup Oil (can use half oil and half ghee)
  • ½ tsp of saffron strands (I used tummeric because I didn’t have saffron on hand)
  • ½ cup milk
  • Trader Joe’s vegetable biryani

Method:

  • Clean and cut the goat meat.
  • Mix all the ingredients of the marinade and marinate for at least 2 hour , preferably overnight in the fridge.
  • Cook the meat with ½ the oil in a pressure cooker. Don’t add any water when cooking. In my cooker it takes 6-7 whistles and 5 minutes on low flame to cook. Let it cool.  Once the pressure in the cooker goes away, open it and cook it until all the water evaporates. OR
  • Can cook the meat on the stove top until tender. This will take about an hour. I prefer the pressure cooker to avoid the cooking odor by cooking on stove top.
  • Squeeze the lime juice on the meat and mix well.
  • In a pan, heat oil and fry the onions until light golden brown.
  • Soak saffron in hot milk.
  • In a big pot bring water to a boil, add all the spices required for boiling rice and mix well.
  • Add rice and continue to cook until the rice is almost done. It takes about 7-8 minutes on my stove. Drain the rice and keep aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Now its time to arrange rice and meat in layers. Grease large baking tray with oil, layer half the rice at the bottom. Sprinkle some oil, fried onions and ½ the saffron milk. Layer the rice with meat followed by a layer of remaining rice. We should have 2 layers of rice and one layer of meat. Top it off the remaining oil, fried onions and saffron milk. Cover the tray with aluminum foil.
  • Bake the biryani for 10 minutes on 400 degrees F and  then for 20 minutes on 350 degrees F.  The total bake time is 30 minutes, 10 minutes on 400F and 20 minutes on 350 F.
  • Mix the rice and serve it hot with riata

 

 

This rescipe was adapted from: http://www.myspicykitchen.net/2008/08/07/hyderabadi-mutton-biryani/

I had to take a few shortcuts because yesterday I made ravioli and tortellini completely from scratch. It took me about four hours, and I wasn’t about to repeat that today (although it did turn out fabulous). I used my mom’s pasta maker to roll out the dough even and thin. I filled the tortellini with Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and shredded spinach, and covered it in a red venison sausage sauce. I filled the ravioli with Ricotta, Parmesan, and sausage, and tossed in a brown butter garlic and herb sauce. F.Y.I., the main difference between ravioli and tortellini is the way the pasta is folded over the stuffing. See below links to rescipes that I referenced.

For the tortellini, the brown butter herb sauce, and the fresh egg pasta dough.

http://thebarefootkitchenwitch.typepad.com/the_barefoot_kitchen_witc/2008/01/homemade-tortel.html

http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/main-courses/sweet-potato-ravioli-with-pecans-and-herb-brown-butter-sauce/

http://www.jamieoliver.com/us/recipes/pasta-recipes/a-basic-recipe-for-fresh-egg-pasta-dough

So, how does Venison taste multiple days in a row? Actually, not that bad with a little love and creativity. I am glad that one of my husband’s “sports” produces organic meat!

 

How I became a Puppy-Momma: Adventures in housewifery.

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Just as I was finishing getting dinner ready, which by the way was fabulous gourmet grilled venison burgers topped with melted brie, caramelized onions, avocado, and sweet barbeque sauce, with sweet potato fries and asparagus as sides.  D.M.K. Burger eat your heart out. They tasted as good as they sound. I was getting out the plates, napkins, and burger toppings to bring to the roof when I noticed Chaco was prancing around the living room making wet footprints of the hardwoods. “Why are your feet wet?” I asked. I turned the corner, and there it was the thousandth pee puddle I have witnessed in the last two weeks, but this mess could not be cleaned with a simple wipe of a paper towel followed up by “Natures Miracle” cleaning agent to get ride of the smell of urine. No, this meant that I was not doing much tonight accept mopping our entire living room with “Natures Miracle.”

How did I get myself in this situation less than a month into marriage? Well, Joe loves dogs. Last  year he wanted to get one as soon as he moved into the condo, but I convinced him he was too busy and it was not a good time. This was very true, plus I still needed to work Joe up to big dog. See Joe grew up with a little Havanese dog named Snuggles–a four pound white fluffy bundle of love. I grew up with a Rhodesian Ridge-back mix named Rusty–a hundred pound regal testament of devotion.  I used to joke that one day Joe and I would be walking down the street and I would be walking a dog bigger than me and he would have a little toy dog.

Then a week before we were married I was talking to my brother’s wife about her dog and I turned to Joe and said, “how long do you think it will be until we get a dog?” “Two months,” he said. I was fine with that.  But it turns out that I only lasted one week of being a housewife without a constant companion. I was looking to adopt the perfect dog: 1-2 years old, house-trained, non-shedding, cute boy under 50lb. I could have been looking for a long time. But, Joe came to me on his own and said, “I’m okay with a bigger dog, then I could take him on a run with me.” Another time he said, ” We have to get a puppy so we can train him exactly the way we want.”  I also had my qualifications, and top of the list was adopting a dog from a shelter. I’m not in to puppy-mills or overpaying breeders. So we were set up for compromise. We would get a bigger breed puppy from a shelter…The first time we went to PAWS which is the most posh shelter you can imagine, we just didn’t see the dog for us. I was looking on pet-finder and other places. Then two days later, I checked the PAWS website because I heard that they add new dogs on their site everyday, and on that day there were too black lab puppies. They were so cute. I told Joe we just had to go see them. “Labs are huge,” Joe said. We’re not getting a lab. “I know,” I said, “just for fun let’s go see them.” “But, as I have been researching labs are some of the best with people of all ages.” When we saw the two puppies they were so cute. At first Joe wanted the smaller one because we were trying to not end up with a 100lb dog, but the more we played with them the more clear it became that the little one was the hyper one and the bigger one was the chill one. I wasn’t quite ready to make this decision so fast. I said, “I think a calm personality is more important than size.” We started focusing on the bigger one, then Joe said, “So, do you want him? Should we get him?” “Let’s go to lunch and come back,” I said. “The puppy will be gone by then,” Joe urged me to decide. “Ok, let’s do it, let’s get him,” I agreed.

And just like that we went from being a newly-weds to being a small family with our .5 child. Poddy-training a puppy is not easy and waking up early to take him out is not always my favorite, but having little creature to love, and project to share (training him), and most of all seeing him nap on Joe’s chest is worth it.

My Life as a Lincoln Park Housewife: Yeastless Pizza Crust

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I am hoping that I will not be a housewife for long…I know I know I am lucky to be here in this beautiful condo and for my biggest daily responsibilities to be talking the dog out, water the flowers, cooking dinner and cleaning the house. But, I just was not made for this life. I like challenges and, I like to really be active in the community. As I write, the dog snores and I think I better get the house to cleaner state before Joe gets home. The husband regularly has early morning cases out at a hospital and then works from home in the afternoon. I am not bothered by a little mess…it stresses him out. So for both of our happiness sakes it is better for me to at least do the minimal cleaning before he gets home. Having the kitchen counter clean makes all the difference. Shoot, I also need to unload the dishwasher and switch the laundry. I know, I know I am spoiled. I have a washer and drying in our unit, a dishwasher, and central air. It occurred to me the other day that in my adult life I have never had half of these luxuries. I told Joe that I currently have the largest, nicest bathroom with the most space for my things than I have ever had in my life.  Joe responded, “You’re Welcome.”

So, my favorite part about being a housewife is cooking so much. Tonight I am making a sausage margarita pizza on yeast-less thin crust. My friend Abby and I discovered this recipe because we didn’t have much money to go grocery shopping or out to dinner and we really wanted pizza. It turns out yeast isn’t good for you anyway…and this is a nice thin crust and you probably have the ingredients already. Unfortunately my tomato plants died while I was on my honeymoon, but the basil survived. Thankfully I got some beautiful tomatoes from the farmers market.

Yeast-less Thin Crust Pizza

2 1/2 c. flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder (if using baking soda use half and omit salt)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. oil
3/4 to 1 c. water

Mix dry ingredients. add 3/4 cup water and oil. Stir until it forms a ball. If dough is stiff, add more water.

The dough will be soft. Knead on a floured surface for 3-4 minutes and then roll out to fit the size of your pizza pan.

Bake at 400°F for 5-10 minutes

Add toppings. For Margarita Pizza brush with an olive oil & minced garlic mixture and top with fresh mozerrella, fresh basil leaves, slices of  tomato and  a few slices of chicken sausage.

Bake at 400F for 15 more minutes.

Joe liked this so much that he ate the first half before class on Tuesday and the second half after class on Tuesday. I had one piece. He is afraid I am trying to make him fat.

The Event of the Summer: The Wedding Was Amazing, Planning it Was Not.

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Planning our wedding was not fun. Okay there were some good moments such as when good deals worked out, but so many things went wrong or went complicated that I was at almost a constant state of wanting to pull my hair out. And I was paranoid that Joe was going to leave me during this time of engagement because honestly if I was him, I might have left me. When it was all said and done and we were sitting on the white sand of the Caribbean drinks in hand, I asked Joe if he ever considered breaking up. “No,” he said, and he meant it.

Here is are a few of the fiascoes that we went through in planning our wedding: finding that 90% of the Chicago hotels were booked due to a conference and we couldn’t get a block of rooms or a honeymoon suite downtown,  discovering that our reception venue could not formally seat 150 guests after the invitations were sent out and my parents had purchased over 150 place-mats in India, when the U.S. postal service lost my engagement ring for over 24hrs, and when the bar owner downstairs from our venue threatened to call the cops on any events held on the weekends at the Portfoilio Annex and we were asked to move our reception (luckily though it was a longer story we just ended the party at 10pm).  All of this combined with making $1,000 decisions everyday with your fiance, your parents, and your parents-in-law made for a stressful time indeed. And, the week just before the wedding might have been the most jam backed stressful time ever. But, by the week of the wedding due to the calling the cops episode I was laughing instead of crying. The week of the wedding, I had to make the programs twice due to misspelling, Joe sprained his ankle, our friend’s trunk he offered to help us move with was broken into, the bathtub in my apartment stopped draining, we forgot the seating chart for the rehearsal dinner, and my dear friend who made our amazing cakes got in a car accident and by the time she got to venue to deliver the cake it was locked up and the cakes were melting. I was standing outside of the Ethiopian Church where the rehearsal dinner was hosted thinking–really? The drama continues?

But, the day of the wedding could not have been better. We had a blast. We didn’t let anything bother us. The ceremony was beautiful. The music was more than I dreamed of…my friends Abby, Allison, Chad, and the violinist Igor made it beautiful. It was contemporary, but simple and classic at the same time. We used the grand piano, a guitar, and violin.  The weather was perfect. When I was little I always said I wanted it to rain on my wedding day (too many bollywood movies I guess). But then as the day approached I thought, “no, please, no, I don’t want it to rain.” So it was beautiful and sunny but a little humid. Then right as we walked out the chapel as a married couple for the first time…it was raining. Joe gave me his coat to cover my head and we ran to the side room to wait until the chapel emptied. I loved how my dress turned out. It was beautiful…my greatgrandmothers 1930’s dress redesigned…gorgeous silk satin and lace. Plus I got to play fashion designer! I remember walking down the aisle and thinking, why is Joe not looking at me. Look at me! Then when he wiped his eye I knew why he had been looking down. Steve’s message about learning to love someone so different than yourself was encouraging.

Then we got in the Limo…the hummer Limo. It was Joe’s dream…and it was fun. We went downtown and took pictures on Michigan Ave, Franklin Bridge and Millennium Park. I felt like a super-model. The funny thing was that Joe is shy of kissing in front of anyone and the photographer. My dear friend Robert of Shades of Grey kept asking us to kiss for pics. I loved it! h

When we got to the reception. It was like the this is the greatest party ever!!! The food from Catered by Design was beautiful and delicious. And the space was so cool. Then the band started playing. They were amazing… All of our hard work to get the best quality for the best price was paying off. Matt gave a great best man speech. I might post it here. But, our very favorite part of the evening was when the band played OMG…somehow Joe and I ended up dancing in the middle of the room with everyone surrounding us and cheering. I cannot wait to see that on video!