Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Evening Muse: Girlfriends

Today was one of those dreary, grey November days full of mundane chores and post holiday blues.  The bright spot of my day was dinner with my BFFE Lori.  There is nothing like a good friend to brighten my day.  We are there for each other like sisters.  We share our good times and our bad.  We give each other council, support, and loving kindness.  I know she will always have my back.

As I wrote this I remembered a greeting card quote I read in a card shop, "A Girlfriend Is a Sister You Choose."  I looked it up on line and found out it is the title of a book by Angela Joshi.  I haven't read the book but I agree with the title.  I am very blessed to have a biological sister, Lori my BFFE, and many mutually chosen sisters.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Household Hint: Quick Cooling Soups and Sauces

If you have a hot soup or sauce you want to cool quickly to refridgerate or freeze, add a few ice cubes to bring down the temperture.


A New Thanksgiving Tradition


I had hoped to post this last night, but I was exhausted after preparing and enjoying last night’s feast. If you read my earlier post from Thanksgiving night, I mentioned that our family decided to wait until Sunday to celebrate Thanksgiving.  My daughter had to work on Thursday, and it wouldn't have been Thanksgiving without her.

Our Thanksgiving tradition is in transition.  Yesterday as I stood in the kitchen preparing the feast, I felt a little melancholy with reminiscences of Thanksgiving’s past.  I remembered when I was a girl, Thanksgiving dinner preparation was my mother’s domain.  As I got older traditions changed.  I married, my in-law’s traditions were added to my own.  Our children arrived adding a new depth to the celebration.  My constant, I am always thankful to share this traditional turkey dinner with my beloved family and friends.  Now I am single, the children no longer live at home, in fact they never lived in my current home.   

Yesterday when Lauren (my daughter) arrived with her boyfriend Sam to help me finish preparing the evening feast, my mood lifted.  A few hours later my son, my mom, my ex, Sam's family arrived for dinner, then after dinner a group of close friends joined us for dessert.  The joy of the holiday continued to unfold, and a new Thanksgiving tradition began.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Adventure....Not

I guess if I had a real sense of adventure I would be shopping today. 


I could have camped out with friends last night. 



Black Friday shoppers wait outside of a Target ...



A race to the door as the store opened.



Shoppers run into a Target store as the doors ...



Then the competition of finding the most bargains before reaching the checkout.




A traffic jam is negotiated in the aisles of ...



Then again sleeping in on this grey November morning, after spending a relaxing evening with friends seemed like a much better idea.  Well maybe a spin class, so I can afford to do Thanksgiving Dinner all over again with my family on Sunday.

photos from Reuters via Yahoo News

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wonder and Thanks

Since my daughter had to work in NYC today, we decided to postpone our family Thanksgiving dinner until Sunday so we could all be together.  It is important that we all can still be together on this holiday.  Thanksgiving is all about the people we love, giving thanks, and food.  Its pure and simple.  It is also a tough holiday for me.  It brings back the memory of one of our family’s darkest days.  It occurred the Monday after Thanksgiving nine years ago, and changed us forever.

Monday morning, December 1, 2001,  my 16 year old son was curled up in a ball on the coach, then started moaning and crying out in pain.  He had an odd rash on his torso, and his abdomen grown over the course of the previous two months.  He now looked 5 months pregnant.   We had been to a variety of specialists, who did all kinds of tests to rule out a list of potential diagnoses.  The week prior, a bone marrow biopsy to rule out lymphoma.  We were waiting for the results.  It had been a very long frightening holiday weekend.

Panicked over his quickly worsening condition, I called his physician.  He told me over the phone that the bone marrow test was positive for lymphoma, and that I should get Iggy to the hospital for further tests.  I was terrified, but I knew I needed to stay calm for my son.  I took 3 deep breaths, sucked in the tears and tried to help Iggy to the car.  At that point he couldn’t move, let alone walk.   I called an ambulance, and then his father. 

Over the course of the following week we learned he had a very rare, fast growing and lethal lymphoma called Gamma Delta Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Out of the 60 known cases there were only 2 known survivors.  In our darkest moment, I prayed.  I asked the Lord for the strength and wisdom to get through this.  I asked for the right words to say to my son.  When I spoke to him, I focused my words and intent on the positive.  There were survivors. 

His father and I researched what key differences among the survivors vs. the other patients.   We sought out the best medical team and advice possible.  We decided the team at Dana Farber in Boston offered the best hope, and followed their protocol for care.  We worked as a team to save our sons life.

We also had a strong faith in God.  I mentioned to Iggy research that had been done on positive medical outcomes and prayer.  With his permission, I called upon everyone we knew to pray for him.  I also invited them to share his name with any prayer group or spiritual person to pray for him as well.  We never met many of the people that prayed for him, but they included pilgrims to the Wailing Wall in Israel, a Shaman in Arizona, and he was prayed for at an Ordination Mass for Catholic Priests.

After a rigorous course of cancer therapy, many complications, and a few close brushes with death, nine years later he is cured and finishing up college.  I am very thankful for my son.  I am thankful to all the people who helped and supported us along the way.  I am thankful for my family, our ability to persevere when going through hell, and our deeper appreciation and love of life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Midday Muse: John Muir

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”  John Muir.

It has been a year since I was inspired by Ken Burns's PBS series "The National Parks:  America's Best Idea".  The series renewed my longing to see the parks.  Last year I was lucky enough to visit four of the parks; Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Everglades and Biscayne National Parks.  Each very unique, beautiful, and awe inspiring.  This year I hope to get to a few more.  Glacier and Acadia National Parks are high on my list.

I dedicate this Midday Muse to John Muir the father of the National Parks and one of the founders of the Sierra Club.  Without his vision and determination these gems might have been lost or spoiled.  The over commercialism of Niagara Falls is a good example of what happened to a natural wonder without the protection of our National Park Service.

Please share your National Park experiences and wonders.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Midday Muse: She Let Herself Go

I was listening to the radio today, and I heard this song by George Straight.  It reminded me of when my ex and I first seperated.  My friends/family gave me plenty of support and TLC.   I could tell they were concerned, afraid I might just let myself go...    I did let myself go, but not the way they expected.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Killington Wonder

After a pleasant morning skiing in the soft snow, it started to rain, and I decided it was time to head back home to Connecticut.  As I drove home I felt content.  You know that feeling.  The feeling you have after you have spent time with a dear old friend you hadn't seen in quite a while.  The time and distance spent apart disappears.  

The feeling reminds me of how good I felt after a trip to the Catskills to celebrate with an old friend, Sara, who had colon cancer. We celebrated life, she was cancer free and feeling great.  I felt her joy long after we parted.

Ok, does it sound strange that I feel that way about a mountain?  It is more then just a place to me.  Killington is about expressing my passion.  It is the endorphin rush I get schussing down the hill, the beauty and fresh air of the mountains, the laid back Vermont lifestyle and the friendships. It is the tonic for my heart and soul.  In the past, I would begin to tense up and feel stressed again when I left.  Not today.  I brought that feeling back with me.  Just like the joy I felt after my visit with Sara.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Adventure in the Kitchen: Chicken Soup

Before I hit the slopes this morning, I loaded up the crockpot with the makings for chicken soup. When I returned home, I was rewarded with the aroma of simmering chicken soup.  Just the perfect comfort food after a day of skiing.  I know chicken soup is pretty basic, but I thought I would share my version with you. 

You can adjust the amount of ingredients to fit into your crockpot.  I have a few crockpots and I usually use the 4 or 6 qt crockpot.

1 chicken (usually use a 2 lb fryer, preferably organic)
2 or 3 large carrots cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion chopped
1/4 c of chopped red pepper
4 cloves of garlic pealed and crushed
1-2 tsp of chicken base or boullion
water enough to cover chicken.
2-3 oz or 3 large handfuls of spinach or arugala
1/2 cup of rice or small pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Put first 8 ingredients into the crockpot.  I usually start the crockpot on high initially, if I want the soup done in 3 1/2 or 4 hours I leave it on high.  if I want it for later I turn it on low after about 20 minutes.  About 30-40 minutes before serving, I use a large slatted spoon to remove the chicken and place it in a large bowl.  Then add the rest of the ingredients to cook while I remove the bones and skin from the cooked chicken.  I add then returned the meat to the crockpot.

Please let me know if you enjoy the soup, or if you have any suggestions to make it more interesting.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friends, Fun and Food at Killington

This morning I headed out to Killington at 7:30 am to be in line when the lifts opened at 8 am.  The wind was howling, and there was a light film of ice covering the ground.  When I arrived I found out there was delayed opening due to the wind and ice.  The mountain needed extra time to prepare the lifts and runs.

I was disappointed over the delay, but I wasn't alone in the lodge.  It gave me a chance to hang out with good friends, and meet a couple of new ones.  The lifts opened around 10 am, and we broke up into small groups or our own.  I chose the latter.  I was now in a good mood, and felt like wandering around the mountain without any real plan.  On the lifts I chatted with many different people, shared stories and laughs.  Around 2:30 I skied down, no more stairway to heaven, today the mountain opened top to bottom, it was a wonderful surprise after the late start.

Our group (aka The Herd) met for dinner at the Wobbly Barn Steak House to recap day's adventures, and to celebrate two friends' birthdays.  After dinner we went upstairs to dance and listen to Sauce, a jazzy, funky band.  I left tired, but content.  Tomorrow I will be at the lift at 8 to do it all over again. 

Harmony: Prince Charles film on the Environment

As if you couldn't tell by now, I am passionate about the environment.  I love to be outside and appreciate natures many gifts.  Last night as I was flipping through TV channels, I came across Brian Williams interview with Prince Charles on Dateline NBC.  I usually don't watch Dateline, nor am I a big Royal follower, but there wasn't really anything on so I turned it on.

I am now a fan of the Prince. I learned he has been a champion of the environment for the past 30 years, long before Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth."   He describes himself as the "defender of nature."   Actually he sounds like part of the local Green Party here in Vermont, instead of the next in line to be King of England.

During the interview I learned he has made two films on the environment.  The first one in 1990, "Earth in Balance... A Personal View of the Environment," and a second, that aired as a short version, last night on NBC  "Harmony."  The Prince is a proponent sustainability practices like organic farming and other in industry.  He says this not only protects our environment but makes financial, health, and aesthetic sense.  On the program, they showed his sustainable organic gardens at his castle in Scotland.  The flowers and vegetables were huge and colorful. His livestock looked healthy.

I have to admit he and I have very similar views on balance, harmony, and man's responsibility to be a good shepherd to our earth.  If you share this view, please check out "Harmony."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Snowmakers My Heros

Today was officially hug a Snowmaker Day at Killington.  I didn't realize it until I returned home and saw it on a Facebook Post, but I did get a photo of them.  They really are my heros.  They have been up around the clock producing an amazing quality and quantity of wonderful snow. 

Due to their efforts I have had two more wonderful days on the mountain not only skiing, but meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones.  When you talk to true skiers, you soon realized it is more then just a sport--it is a frame of mind.  For the most part we are hardy, out going fun loving people, who revel in the beauty and nature of the mountains. 

That is why I salute the Killington Snowmakers.  While the rest of New England still is waiting to sky, we have already begun.  Thank you! 

It's Snowing at Killinginton!

A photo from the back side of Killington.  It is snowing!   They are still blowing snow as well, but not on the main trails today.  Wo hoo, it is going to be a very good day.  I am on my way out the door with skis in tow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Killington Skiing Under the Guns

I drove up first thing this morning psyched to be skiing again.  I have to admit I did have some doubts about what the conditions would be like after the rain and warm weather earlier in the week. 

Well Killington didn't disappoint.  The first thing I noticed when I got on the mountain was that every available snow gun was on blanketing the mountain with a beautiful soft layer of the white stuff.  Ok I have to admit the visibility was a little challenging at times, and it was a little bit cold when skiing under the guns, but it was worth it.





Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Save Connecticut Farmland: Working Lands Alliance

Today my good friend Di invited me to attend the Annual Meeting of the Working Lands Alliance at the Capitol Building.  WLA is a member of the American Farmland Trust, was formed in 1999 with the sole purpose of preserving Connecticut’s most precious natural resource – its farmland. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, but she guaranteed an awesome lunch, along with some interesting and somewhat humorous speeches.  I have to say it was the best lunch ever for only $10.  All the food showcased our awesome CT farms.  The lunch included Pumpkin Soup, Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Salad, Spicy Greens with Black Eyed Peas, seasonal sandwiches, Apple and Chestnut Flan, and Ice Cream.

Besides the awesome lunch I learned about the progress this organization has made in saving CT farmland and promoting Connecticut grown foods.  I found it astonishing, only 1% of the food purchased in CT is produced in CT.  All summer long I purchase most, if not all, my produce at local farm stands and farmer markets.  The quality and taste far surpasses anything I can find at a retail grocer. 

The Governor Jodi Rell, Faith Middleton and other award recipients, not only received the obligatory plaque or gift, but the biggest darn vegetables I have ever seen.  I should have take a photo of the cauliflowers bigger then a basketball, and the turnips almost the size of a football.  They were amazing.

Attendees included various state representatives and senators, plus a bounty of other environmentally like minded individuals from national, state and organizations.  They also made available Planning for Agriculture:  A Guide for CT municipalities.






Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Feeling Middle-Aged

Today I truly felt middle-aged.  It started at my yoga class this morning.  I was really trying to keep my head clear and be "in the moment".  But as I was doing downward dog, my t-shirt creeped up, and my once perky tummy skin was doing downward dog as well.  Age and a couple of babies did take its toll.  So much for being in the moment.

After yoga I took my 88 year old mom to the doctor.  It was her second and third appointments in two days.  It dawned on me middle-age meant the responsibilities of a good mother, were now that of a good daughter. I am her driver, her advocate at the doctor, her laundress, accountant, personal shopper, personal caregiver when needed.  I look at her, and I see someone who despite her physical limitations has finally found a confidence I had never seen in her before.

She was widowed 10 years ago and moved out of her home of 40 years, away from her sisters to be near her daughters.  Up until that point of her life her friends were always her family, and she never described herself as healthy. 

In the process of moving, she has grown immensely as a person.  She has made friends, and she has had many new experiences.  It warms my heart to see her as she walks through her senior community with a bounty of friends.  Now she looks around her community, realizes her good fortunes and says she is in good shape for 88.

I had one last middle-age realization today.  It was a profound appreciation of my mother's ability, even in her 80's, to successfully acclimate to a new life, to find her own voice.

Please share your middle-age realizations?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wanders in CT: Farmington Valley Greenway

Saturday while I was at the CT Bike/Walk Summit, I had the privilege of meeting the President of the Farmington Valley Trails Council Bruce Donald.  I love riding and walking on the trail system created from the abandon rail corridor through the Farmington Valley, as well as other parts of Connecticut and the East Coast Greenway.  Bruce shared with me their progress on the completion of these trails. 

There are two paved trail systems that pass through the Farmington Valley.  The first is the Farmington Valley River Trail.  Currently it starts on Red Oak Hill Road and New Britain Road in Farmington and the paving ends on Route 4 in Farmington and resumes in Collinsville where the trail ends.  I was thrilled to hear that by the end of next summer the trail should be paved not only all the way to Collinsville, but all the way to parking lot of the Shoppes of Farmington Valley on Route 44 in Canton. 

The second trail, the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway, covers approximately 84 miles from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA.  Unfortunately, there is still a 9.1 gap in this trail.  Part of the problem, rail still uses that part of the corridor.  FVTC plans on purchasing land in Farmington and Plainville to fill in around 4 miles of this gap by next summer, then start work the the design of the trail.

Last fall I biked from the start of the FCHG to the Mass. border one day--about 50 miles round trip.  It was the entire length of the northern continuous portion of the trail.  I hope to do it again next year with new additional sections added on!

These trails are real Connecticut gems.  They are a great place to see wild life as well.  I have had to stop to allow bear, deer, turkeys, quail, and even a few a slow moving turtles cross the trail.   I have even seen blue heron and a bald eagle perched in the trees near the river.  Needless to say I am very thankful to the FVTC for all of their efforts.

I would love to hear if you have riden any portions of the East Coast Greenway, or and other rail trails.  I am always looking for a good ride.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Evening Muse

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open,” Jawaharlal Nehru

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bike Walk Summit

After staying out late last night enjoying the revelry of my birthday celebration, I got up early this morning to attend the Connecticut Bike Walk Summit 2010. Roads are meant for more then just cars. I love to bike, and I want to do so safely. Roads are the most efficient route to get just about anywhere. That is why I dragged my sorry butt out of bed this morning to attend this summit.

The summit joined together the many organizations and individuals working together for a bike walk friendly Connecticut. Nationally CT is ranked 40th as a bike friendly state. For me personally, anytime I can turn exercise into fun or just part of my daily life, my life is better--physically, emotionally, and environmentally. One interesting observation I made as I looked over the 200+ people attending this summit, they were all fit. Ok there were 3 over weight attendees. This was a group of individuals that rountinely, walk, bike, or ran for fun or for transportation.

What city do you think is the most physically fit in the nation? It is Manhattan. People walk to where they are going, because it is the easiest way to get around. Mayor Bloomberg is dedicated to making it even easier.

If you are for bikes, making it easier and safer to ride them in your community and our country, please sign the pledge at PeopleForBike.org.

There was to much good information at this conference to write, but if you are interested I am including some of the local and national links referred to at the summit.

I would love to know what is going on in your community.

CompleteStreets.org Policy, planning and designing streets for all users in mind.

HartfordiQuilt.org A plan to make Hartford park to river more pedestrian friendly.

BikesBelong.org Federal policy and funding.

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's My Birthday!

I truly believe it is my own responsiblity to be happy.  It is a conscious decision that I have made.  So to guarantee that I have a Happy Birthday, every year I plan my party and buy myself some special gift.

My daughter took the train in from NYC last night to spend the day with me.  We went to breakfast, went yoga and then for a walk.  Tonight my children (both adults) and a few friends are joining me at Black Eyed Sally's for dinner and live music.  It should be a blast. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adventure in the Kitchen: Apple-Butternut Squash and Curry Soup

I am back home today. No mountain to ski or climb today.  I began the day just doing the mundane things of daily living.  Got up, worked out, went grocery shopping, and laundry.  Since I was home, I thought it would be a good day to try something adventuresome in the kitchen. Why not Apple-Butternut Squash and Curry Soup. My high school friend Kathy (she now lives in Seattle) had made it for me when she visited 2 years ago to celebrate my 50th birthday.

      I started out following the recipe, but I felt something was missing.  I called Kathy and asked what she had done differently.  She said she also added apple juice.  So I added a half cup of apple juice it did the trick.  I used Granny Smith Apples, also I skipped the half and half, and used a dolop of sour cream when serving the soup.  I hope you enjoy the recipe.

APPLE-BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CURRY SOUP

1 med. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced coarsely
2 c. Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 c. onion, chopped
3 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. apple cider or juice
3 T. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 T. curry powder
 salt and pepper to taste
Sour Cream
Minced cilantro
(if using cooked squash, add about 2-3 cups when you add the chicken broth)

Melt butter in soup pot.  Add squash, onion, apples and curry saute for 5 minutes stirring frequently making sure it doesn't brown.  Add flour and mix well.  Cook, with constant stirring for two minutes.  Add broth.

Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes with occasional stirring.  Add apple juice. Puree with food processor or immersion blender, then return to the pot. Bring to serving temperature but do not boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Midday Muse

Source: Stuff No One Told Me

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful Killington Ski Day


My wanders for the day brought me to the beautiful peak of Killington Mountain.  There was plenty snow up top, and the sun was shining.  Today was ski day 4 for me.  I met up with my friends on the mountain.   We enjoyed watching the Killington Mountain School training for racing season.  The KMS team, as always, was fun and inspiring to watch.  They have put out many fantastic skiers.  Last year two of their alumni made it to the Olympics, Chelsea Marshall and Michael Morse. 

After four hours of nonstop skiing I was tired, hungry, and it was time to get back down to the base lodge.  As I said there is plenty of snow up top, but there is little to none from midway to the bottom of the mountain. 

That means to get off the mountain we needed to ride the chairlift to the top, walk up the "Stairway to Heaven" to get to the the top of the K1 Gondola to download to the base lodge.  I try to think of it as just a little additional early season training.

Scoliosis: Motivation to Stay Fit

I grew up in the stereotypical traditional working class Italian-Catholic family. Mom, dad, and one older sister. My life was fairly ordinary until junior high school when I was diagnosed with scoliosis.

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. I was told I would need to where a Milwaukee Brace until I was done growing. My first reaction was to think forget it, no way, I wouldn’t where it.  I was already dealing with the usual horrors of adolescence, acne, braces, and trying to fit in.  How much more could a girl endure?!

My mom dragged me to a scoliosis clinic at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.  While I was waiting for my appointment, I saw other people with scoliosis.  I talked to a girl who refused to wear the brace, and her curve continued to get worse.  She now needed a metal rod surgically implanted to her spine forever.  I saw some girls with back braces, they didn't seem to mind too much.  Numerous people whose backs were obviously not straight.  I had a conversation with an elderly man whose back was contorted.  He convinced me that I should do everything I could not to end up in his condition. The deformity limited his mobility, caused him constant pain and respiratory problems.  The day at the clinic scared me enough to know I would do anything nonsurgical to keep my back as straight as possible.

The reason I am telling you about my scoliosis, it is my motivation to always keep my back healthy by staying physically fit.  I wore the brace in middle school through my senior year of high school. It was once I started swimming and exercising my core on a regular basis that I saw dramatic results in my treatment. My curve actually improved! It kept improving into my adulthood. When I was rechecked in my 20’s, my double curve went from 25 and 15 degrees to 18 and 8 degrees, an impressive improvement. I actually grew ½ inch -- one hell of a good motivation.  In the process of staying fit for my back, I also learned how to play and enjoy the outdoors.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why This Blog?

Two years ago I found myself single and living alone for the first time in my life.  My children were grown and my 29 year marriage was over.
 
To offset the heart ache a divorce brings, I started planning adventures to exciting places I had always wanted to experience.  At each stage of the long painful process when a door would close, I made sure to always looked for the new one in front of me to open.

I don’t see my marriage as a failure, but the end of a successful relationship that we had both out grown.   I am now rediscovering my voice, self, and dreams.  I was a muse for my family, now I find my own inspiration.  I am allowing myself to wander and wonder through life, just enjoying the moment.  I would like an online community to share this journey.   I hope you will join me and share your journey as well.