Saturday, December 9, 2017

If All the Kids Ate Kale Ice Cream....

I admit it.

I am a 'foodie'.

I love food – eating it, reading about it, shopping for it...

Okay, that last one may be an exaggeration, although I have been known to drag people to farmer's markets while on vacation in hotel rooms where there is no hope of cooking that artisinal, heritage, kombucho-tomato-peach hybrid.

You give me a Buzzfeed list of TWENTY-THOUSAND CROCKPOT DINNERS UNDER FIVE MINUTES or a Tasteeee list of BREAKFASTS THAT WILL REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR MORNING ROUTINE AND MAKE YOU LOSE FIFTEEN POUNDS IN FIVE MINUTES

and I immediately pin-it, make a list, plan meals for the next seven months and spend way too much money at the grocery.

All to forget where I hid the list and wind up making my famous ground beef and broccoli with garlic salt.

I do pride myself on actually being somewhat ahead of the game:

Greek yogurt? First person to request it at our local market.

Hummus? Tried making my own with garbanzo beans and peanut butter for some vegetarian friends in the late 80's.

I even made borscht way back in 1979, long before it was politically trendy to be associated with Russia.

But all buzz about 'overnight oats'?

I have resisted whole-heart-healthily. There was nothing about 'overnight oats' that appealed to me. Oats, milk, fruit mixed and placed in the fridge for twelve hours, then eaten cold???

Sounded like the fixings for a container of cement at worst and a soggy bowl of cold soggy grain at almost worst.

I am that person who barely pours milk on regular cereal, let alone marinate my flakes in it.

Frankly, oatmeal in my opinion is best hot, and as cookies.



It took Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman of Food Network fame, to convince me to attempt 'overnight oats'. Her pleasant, sweet optimism as she poured heavy cream, fresh chopped strawberries, half and half, brown sugar and oats into a mason jar, tightened the lid, shook it up and place it in her perfectly organized refrigerator gave me hope that if I too gave 'overnight oats' a try, my morning would greet me with a lovely pink sunrise over a beautiful field of horses.



This is what my breakfast looked like: 
There is not a photo filter in the world that could improve on this picture.

I concede, I did not use a mason jar and I did not have fresh strawberries. And while I did have heavy cream in the fridge, I opted for slightly lighter almond milk and a splash of half and half with blueberries and banana standing in for the fruit component.
You can never convince me that there is some special Mason Jar Alchemy that magically turns this pile of goo into a creamy bowl of deliciousness.
And its ice cold.

I took a couple tastes straight from the fridge before dumping my Rubbermaid container into a bowl and microwaving for a few minutes.

Which succeeded in putting the missing component of heat into this messed up experiment and turned the cold bowl of goo into a warm bowl of slightly banana scented plaster. And since I was short one monkey with a broken leg in need of casting, or a fracture in the New Madrid Fault line in need of shoring up, I tossed the entire mess into the trash and opted for what may be the new breakfast trend: 
Peanut butter and those fantastic cookies Southwest Airlines passes out with Pour Over coffee on the side. That's right, I am that person...

Rob took the trash out later that day and commented on the heftiness of the bag comparable to the actual amount of trash in the can.

I kept my mouth shut and read up on SEVENTY TWO INGENIOUS WAYS TO USE KOHLRABI. 


*Those 'Southwest' cookies are made by belVita. They boast a hefty dose of protein to keep you full all rolled into a delicious cookie. This is, in fact, true.

 
***I am very excited to announce that Coast of Illinois will be included in an upcoming list of Best Blogs to Follow in 2017! by Wendy Dressler. And if you are a blogger go on over to my Because Friends tab for info on her Guest Posting Sites guide.
You can find Wendy at http://www.outreachmama.com.****



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanks

It's Thanksgiving.

Which means that even though we are going to my sister's home today for dinner, I have been up since 5:30am, wrestled a minimum 14 pound turkey from its briny soak into the sink, washed it, patted it dry, oiled it and gently placed it into the World's Largest Roasting pan, gently tucking turkey's wings under that gross piece of skin at the neck opening and sliding it into a pleasantly warmed oven. Because it HAS to smell like Thanksgiving when everyone wakes up.
The cat is now guarding the oven door.
I got this.
 I don't think either of our children got such 5-star treatment at bedtime...

This is my favorite holiday.
No pressure with gifts, no blazing hot BBQs, no random forgotten dyed eggs escaping discovery...
Only food and family and sometimes extra friends.
Oh yes, and thankfulness.

The fact that there should be one day set aside to be 'thankful' seems rather wrong. Oh sure, since the advent of social media the #BLESSED flies around willy-nilly, proclaiming blessedness over all things large and small. But with such constant blessings over co-workers, great kids, a steal on boots are we really truly thankful?
Or are we semi-taunting others with our good fortune?

Lets face it, it has been a rough year here in the good ole US of A.
Political and social unrest, terrorist acts, natural disasters.
There are those who would question the ability to feel thankful for anything.

But I am that Half Glass Full sort of person and while I do feel the #Blessed is way over-used, I will admit, I am thankful every single day.
It helps that I work in an environment that reminds me every minute of my shift that there is someone out there less fortunate than I.
Which is why I will never complain about that 5:30am wake up call to bake a giant poultry.
Besides, I wouldn't want to know what Joey would do if there were no turkey....
He has been sitting in the kitchen since 6am. I am hoping he is thankful for his warm home and his people. I fear he is only thankful for turkey.
Wishing each of you a Thanksgiving full of many large and small #Blessings.
Eat all you want, take a walk, drive safely, pass on your good tidings and do not forget to feed the cat.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Coast of Illinois!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Farmer Gene



I grew up on a farm.
Surrounded by farmers.
Autumn was a time of much activity. Corn and beans were picked, with combines and grain trucks running late into the evening. The slightly musty smell of dusty cornstalks and freshly tilled earth filled the air and settled on all the furniture. The grain bin fan was my lullaby.
Consequently, even though my 'farm' consists of four raised beds no larger than 6x8 each, when November rolls around, I have the uncontrollable urge to put up 'crops' and put the farm to bed.
I manage to refrain from the desire to run out and buy a pair of overalls...

Our garden was pretty sad this year. I got a passable crop of lettuce and radishes. I think we managed to find about 8 grape tomatoes. But where Miracle Grow dirt failed at zucchini and peppers, it excelled at carrots.
Weird, toe-shaped carrots.
But no matter their anatomical shape, they remain sweet and crisp.
Which is why I am roasting them for dinner.
I am just not sure how much longer I can open the crisper drawer and see that zipper bag full of orange tarsals.
 Roasted Carrots
as many carrots as will fit on a baking sheet
toss with enough olive oil to coat
sprinkle with salt, pepper and around 1-2 Tbs of fresh, crushed thyme and rosemary
roast at 400 for 20 minutes or until of desired doneness.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction

I had better luck with my herbs.
If you have never gardened and have the tiniest desire to give it a try, I highly recommend herbs. They are forgiving of most transgressions – failure to water, feed, weed, water... And there is nothing better than adding a fresh picked handful of basil to spaghetti sauce or lording it over a co-worker that you have fresh tarragon on the sauteed mushroom...
I mean adding some freshly picked rosemary to homemade bread.

As it was, I nearly missed getting the last of my basil picked.
Thank you 39 degree day last week.
But the basil stood strong with only a few brown leaves. And once it was picked and cleaned there was just enough for one last batch of pesto. 
 Pesto
1- 2 cups fresh basil
1-3 cloves of garlic
1/4 or so cups of pine nuts
drizzles of olive oil
blend to a paste
Add to pasta sauce, salad dressing, or use as a topping on toast when the hipsters have nabbed all the avocados.
(As you can tell, pesto is not an exact science. But, it tastes wonderful and smells even better. You can keep it in the fridge for around a week or bag it in small zip lock baggies and freeze for later use. Preferable in the dead of winter when the scent of fresh basil makes you forget the fact that you haven't seen the yard flamingo in 3 weeks as its buried under twelve feet of snow.)

Rosemary also outperformed this year. 

Sadly, rosemary does not over-winter on this Coast. I have tried repotting and bringing it inside but I just can't bear to watch as those beautiful fragrant leaves pine for the great wide open and slowly shrivel and die.
This year I cut the plant back to about 6 inches in height, mulched it with half a ton of leaves (leaving only 17.5 tons on the grass to be mulched) and brought the remaining stalks in to dry. Where I can watch it shrivel and turn brown but without the guilt of seeing the entire plant fade to a pitiful twig.
I have only recently arrived at a love of rosemary. But I am making up for lost time. I love adding it to roasted veggies (see carrots above) and homemade breads.
Or if you are short on the homemade bread department, you can add it to softened butter and spread it on whatever bread type product you have.
Plus it just looks so homey hanging in the window. 


I managed to finish up my tiny harvest just in time to watch as the storms began to blow in.
See all those leaves on those trees?

Tomorrow morning they will all be in our back yard.
Even though they are on the neighbor's trees.
Across the street.

And I will enjoy watching Rob push the mulching mower over them as I eat pesto toast for breakfast and prepare to clean all the furniture which is coated with leaf dust.
Its not grain bins and combines, but it will do.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Haunting

The house was quiet, save for the muffled thud of clothes in the dryer. Outside autumn blustered its way in with gusting breezes which sent falling leaves into a frenzied swirl. The kitchen was warm and smelled slightly of pumpkin as soup simmered on the stove.
All in all a pleasant morning.
But the woman was restless. She drank her coffee and glanced cautiously at the phone. It lay on the table in a mocking silence. The minutes passed. The phone remained still. The woman grew nervous, afraid to consider the consequences.
Still the phone refused to ring....

Welcome to my morning.
I am off but on-call.
Every hospital workers' nightmare.

On-call is a mixed bag.
Get called in – it's time and a half. And sometimes a bonus on top.
But
Get called in – and it's no longer a day off.
Do you know how many things I can think to do on my on-call day?
Five. Just off the top of my head.
Get called in and you know how many things get done?
ZERO.

But so far, it is 1050 and that phone remains silent.
I started a load of wash.
I put a pot of soup on.
I messaged our son to stop by for dinner.
Contingent on the silence of the Phone....

Now I am flying in the face of all that is evil and work related and have started a new blog post...
It's nearly Halloween. According to every scary movie I have ever watched, no good can come of this. 
This is NOT my house. Because there is clearly a little girl ghost in that attic window...and I draw the line a little girl ghosts...
Why oh why is it so fun to be scared?
Not real life scared: Will the kids get home safe? Just what will that biopsy show? Which line will our political leaders cross today?
Oh no. I am not talking that sort of scared.
I'm talking that reading a Stephen King book right before bedtime after watching the Walking Dead sort of scared.

Scary movies are on a continuous loop around here in October if I am in charge of the remote.
My husband hates them. Too much shrieking and silliness.
Thankfully my son loves them. Together we watched that poor woman get sucked down the well in The Ring. We discovered that daylight is the best time to watch a bootleg version of Paranormal Activity. And covering your EARS is way better than covering your eyes when watching The Grudge.
(Although it is still possible to scare the beejeezus out of each other by making that ehehehehe sound as you creep down the dark hallway.)

I am fairly certain my first truly scary movie was The Legend of Hell House circa 1973. I would have been 12. I remember sitting in my Grandma's living room, mesmerized by a handsome Roddy McDowell. I have no idea why I was watching this movie in my grandparent's living room. We rarely watched TV at their house and we certainly wouldn't have been allowed to watch something with HELL in the title. I don't know where my siblings were. Or my parents. I do recall it was night time.
The movie was scary and awesome and I have been hooked ever since.
Keep in mind, I am talking scary. Not slashery.
I have no use for torture and murder.
Give me good ghost story any day.

Which makes a lot of sense.

St. Louis has a rich history of hauntings: The Lemp Mansion, The Bissel Mansion, the library at UMSL, Alexian Brothers Hospital... This is just the beginning.

I have had dinner at the Lemp Mansion – the former home of the Lemp family of brewers in the 1800s. Several family members killed themselves in the house, it was rumored that a 'monkey boy' was housed in the attic, a sister was certified insane and there may have been a murder...
The place was creepy from the start. Lights flickered and the hair literally stood up on the back of my neck when I walked into the ladies room. You can stay at the Lemp, IF YOU ARE INSANE!

I worked at Alexian Brothers Hospital for nearly 15 years. The current building sits on the grounds where the original hospital was built and where part of the exorcism in the movie The Exorcist occurred. Several of the brothers who were involved in that event still lived and worked on the grounds. We were told in orientation to NEVER ask about the exorcism. So I didn't. But I can tell you that many evenings, while working in the OR suites with one other nurse, there were mysterious doors slamming and footsteps where there were no people.

We live in a haunted house. Mrs. Durbin passed in our kitchen and she stops by every now and then to open a cupboard door or have a smoke in the basement. No one would support my opinion on this guest until the evening my husband and I both felt the cat walk across the back of the sofa. The cat who was asleep in his box on the opposite side of the room....
This was in the rafters of our basement. Wisely, Rob made it into a tray, coated it with many layers of mod-podge to seal in the evil and then we gave it to our daughter's boyfriend's parents. I think that makes us ecto-plamically related now...
But its okay.
Maybe it's because I have spent most of my life in hospitals where the line between life and death is all to clear.
I have heard that these 'hauntings' are just the energy left over from previous lives. In a weird way I find this comforting. I like the idea that some energy is strong enough to remain behind and touch the future.
Some would argue that not all that strong energy is 'good'. True, there is a lot of bad energy in the world. I want to believe that bad energy burns itself out over time, provided it is not allowed to gain momentum.
Which is all the more reason to put only GOOD energy out there. Embrace that energy from previous lives and roll it into one big monumentous wave.
And think how wonderful it would be to be described as haunting...








Saturday, October 21, 2017

Seasonally Affected

So, here it is, nearly the end of October.
We have survived the beginning stages of Rob's retirement...and by 'we' I mean 'me'...although he seems to be making something of a transition as well. And by 'transition' I mean 'discovering Pickleball and thus setting out to kick some 80 year old butt...'. But let's save that for another day...

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year and it is in full swing here on the Coast today. The breeze is consistent but not gale force. The temp is a pleasant 65 degrees with the threat of 500% humidity this afternoon giving way to massive thunderstorms and subsequent leaf droppage overnight. Perfect weather for chili and caramel apples and cups of ginger tea.
Some see autumn as a season of dying off and preparation for hibernation, for me it has always been a trigger of creativity.
Basil and catnip being counted down by the sundial.
Maybe its a hangover from years of school projects.
Perhaps it is rebellion against the certain, and much too soon, inability to sit on my deck.
Or maybe it was the wonderful phone conversation I had with Suzanne from Adventures of Empty Nesters, who has agreed to mentor me for a while in this blogging adventure...
This morning on the deck. Please note JoeyKatt, who is enjoying some of the above catnip.
Whatever the cause -cough cough – Suzanne – cough cough- I have had a sufficient kick in the pants and am looking towards a renewed Coast of Illinois.

I have several plans for the coming months.
The blog will remain, with weekly posts. My hope is to have a 'sort of' theme each week, each revolving around the trials and tribulations of midlife, but with my own particular Coastal bent...
Look forward to:
Cooking For Two
All About A Boat
Trip-ticks
Rando Weirdness 
 
and an occasional deviation from any of the above.
Because...Pirate!
My pirate crew,bringing in Cool Change at the end of a recent sailing weekend at Lake of the Ozarks. Son at the bowline, daughter at the helm, captain standing watch for the really expensive boats all around our fixer upper.
A very special THANKS to Suzanne Simone Stavert over at Adventures of Empty Nesters. She has been an on-line friend for several years and her new role as mentor was just the boot I needed. Please take the time to check out her wonderful site. 

See you all soon! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

When a Spouse Retires

It's here.
Finally.
My husband works his last day of 'real' work this week.
That's right.
He is retiring...

And I have never been more stressed.
I thought this was an exaggeration, until I did a little research.

According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, developed in 1967 as a way to predict a person's likely hood of becoming ill, Retirement hits about in the center with a score of 45, above such events as vacation, change of personal habits and outranked only by multiple deaths and major imprisonment.

I scored a 289:
Vacation -13- we are just a few weeks away from a first time trip to Las Vegas.
Change in Sleep Habits – 15- I am no longer going to be able to rely on my husband's alarm to get me out of bed. Instead, I am now required to actually GET UP when my stupid alarm goes off. The alarm which is set to get me out of bed in time to work out...
Change in Recreation – 19- I am envisioning multiple days where my plan is going to work but my spouse's plan is sailing, or hiking, or lounging.
Change in Work Hours – 20 – see above.
Change in Personal Habits – 24 - again, see above.
Change in Living Conditions – 25 – I am envisioning a loss of days home alone. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my spouse, but we both noted long ago that time in the house without anyone else around is a luxury of Tag Heuer Watch, Mercedes Benz, Four Seasons Hotel quality. No longer will I have a weekday alone in my Pjs with my pot of coffee, the Today show, my home design game and a texting round robin with family. Oh, I will still do these things, I will just feel guilty about them as my spouse showers, eats a healthy breakfast and begins doing productive things or worse, makes me watch some ridiculous crab fishing show or King of Queens reruns.
Spouse Stops Working – 26 – Helloooo....
Change in Financial State – 38 – Der. We have run the numbers, It will work. Pretty sure...
Retirement – 45 – Okay. I am not the one retiring. But you know what? I feel that being the one NOT retiring in the relationship is actually way more stressful. I have now begun to wonder about my own retirement date. And I have to tell you SIX years is a depressing number right now.

Now all you math wizzes have probably added this up in your head and realized that my number only reaches 226. However, if you figure in the POTENTIAL for Major Imprisonment – 63- from Murder Death of a Spouse – 100-
I actually hit 389 which is OFF THE CHART.

(Oh sure, Rob is the one retiring and planning to start a new career as a substitute teacher in the high school districts around us which places his actual stress level at a 247 but he can start his own blog. Which I bet he does. And he will post way more often than I do and I will feel like a failure and now my stress has shot up another 57 points...)

I digress.

In an effort to cope with the impending life changes I searched my previous education and fell upon the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief. Which feels right as I have noticed that I have a whole lot of grief going on here.

The Stages of Grief were developed in 1969 as a way of coping with death but was later expanded to many other life events such as children working through a divorce. Overindulgent spouses of retiring spouses seems to have been overlooked. Never fear, I am here to walk us through it.

Denial – Denying the inevitable retirement has not been an issue. I have been looking forward to Rob's retirement ever since that morning I was awakened by him clicking the magazine into his side arm.

Anger – No anger here....okay, maybe that 'denial' thing is a little real...Although I can't say I am 'angry' its more of a jealous thing. But then I remember all those years I was home with the kids and Rob was going to school and working a job and a part time job...

Bargaining – I am not a very good bargainer. I prefer concrete numbers. And I ran the numbers multiple times, usually around two in the morning when I should have been asleep. As I recall there were a whole lot of 'dear God, make this work' and 'Lord, can I just have one night of decent sleep' and 'Come on Baby Jesus! Make this the winning lottery ticket'....
(What? You say this isn't true bargaining? You do remember you are dealing with a highly stressed woman here. Do you want me to revisit that Anger phase?)

Depression – It is anticipated that this phase will be entered on Friday September 1 at 0530 when I am required to roll out of bed and go to work while SOMEONE sleeps in and begins what promises to be a fantastic new phase of his life, working prn thus allowing us more days off together in which to travel.

Acceptance – This change is inevitable. Rob has put in way too many years in an underpaid, at times, extremely dangerous job. I am lucky to still have him here, healthy and willing to indulge me in my craziness. Although he is really going to have to get on board with this whole cooking dinner plan. That is inevitable too...

A Retiree in his natural habitat




 Congratulations Rob! 
I am so happy for you and truly looking forward to what this next stage of our life has in store!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Well...it's like this...

Here I am. Saturday morning.
I am sitting on the deck with the cat, who is not happy and is shooting me ever increasingly dagger eyes which translate into 'FEED ME SOON OR I EAT YOUR FACE!'.
But I can't because the cat is NPO. (That's medical terminology for No! Put that food and/or beverage down! Or else!). You know, that whole, no eating before anesthesia rule.
And the cat is under the most evil of rules at the present as we are waiting for the first AM appointment at the vet to get the fur knots shaved from his hindquarters. He has medium fur with a wooly undercoat and try as I might, when the weather hits 1000 degrees around here I can't keep up with the de-thatching.
Oh, I try. But it isn't pretty.

So...we wait on the deck to help muffle his incessant meowing.
It doesn't help that I went ahead and fed the birds, while his food bowl remains empty.
Oh! The Humanity!

But trying to stay positive, I am enjoying the sudden shift in temperature and humidity - it's around 77 degrees right now with a gentle breeze. Much more suited to sailing than cat consoling and hummingbird dodging.
(It should be noted that I have nearly been headbutted SIX times in the past twenty minutes as the three couples zoom back and forth from their freshly filled feeder. Another slight that JoeyKatt will never forgive.)

And as I haven't updated in a while, it suddenly felt right to dig out the computer, dust off the excess cat hair and send out an entry.
Creativity has been in short supply for me lately.
I am not sure if its the pace at work, the oppressive weather, the crap ton of anti-histamines I am taking or possibly the upcoming life event of retirement for my husband....
Whatever the cause, I have had not a thought worth expressing nor the desire to try.
But I have to admit, sitting here in the lovely morning with my famished companion feels rather nice as does tapping out these past few paragraphs.
So maybe there is hope...

Please bear with me. I do plan to return to weekly installments. There is much to discuss...previous trips to the Keys require eventual conversation. I feel it is safe to say that Rob's retirement will provide at least a little fodder for hilarity. (Don't  tell him, but he will be getting assigned dinner duty a couple nights a week...beyond his fantastic grilling skill that is.)
And while I don't like to present super serious stuff around here, I am planning to do a post or two on this ridiculous malady that has ascended on me. (Not a lethal issue but one requiring a very annoying change in diet, yet not causing any discernible weight loss).

So until the next time, enjoy the following photograph and let your mind wander to seas yet uncharted....
Peace

This is an old picture from a long ago trip to Destin, Florida. Rob and I were sitting on the deck at AJ's-our favorite Destin hangout, enjoying tuna dip and mojitos when I happened to notice, across the bay, this spontaneous rock formation and soaring seagull. I return to this photo frequently.
The message is undeniable.