Do More Of What Makes You Happy

Prior to last month’s shelter-in-place orders going into effect (aka: lockdowns, quarantines, or stay-at-home mandates re: Covid-19) I visited a lovely local shop and picked up several notepads for future gift giving. Not only did they offer upbeat sayings, they included a color-coordinated spatula. (Some folks call them “scrapers” — in this case a mini-scraper — but I still call them “spatulas” no matter what size.) Figured they’d come in handy for ekeing out the last of whatever folks were trying to use and was cheered by the postive message. Apologies to whoever coined the logo above; I’ve seen it a number of times so I figured it was “public domain.” May you reap your reward in heaven for such an uplifting thought! Thank you.

Little did I know how important that phrase would become in the coming months. These days we’re all trying to reduce/re-use/recycle bits and bobs at the bottom of the bottles lurking on our fridge shelves. Truthfully, they’ve escalated to even more importance than we ever could’ve imagined. One more ounce of flavor = another meal. For those suffering from food shortages, my prayers are with you. I feel entirely blessed to have enough (so far) and the means to splurge now and then. I also continue to donate to our local food shelf and I hope other folks do, too.

Mother’s Day came and went. My annual tradition usually includes making something with lobster (don’t I wish?) but it wasn’t meant to be this year. Frozen shrimp was the only seafood alternative. (Does anyone else dread going to the grocery store until absolutely neccesary like I do?) Still, I was overjoyed that they carried some sort of crustacean. I also had a recipe in mind…

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything)

1 large clove garlic (I used 1 tsp. refrigerated minced garlic)

1 T. Kosher salt (his recipe specified “coarse salt”)

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. hot paprika

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

15 to 20 medium-sized shrimp, peeled & deveined with tails intact (I used the frozen/thawed equivalent)

  1. Mince garlic with salt until fine. Add both paprikas and blend well.
  2. Stir in lemon juice and EVOO to make a paste. (I transferred the above to a bowl before making the paste.)
  3. Add shrimp; mix gently to coat thoroughly.
  4. Allow to marinate for a few minutes or up to 1 hour.
  5. Preheat grill (or broiler) to high. Place shrimp skewers as close as possible to heat source.
  6. Grill (or broil) 2-3 minutes per side or until shrimp are pink.
  7. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

I added two skewers of veggies, too — mushrooms, onions, and grape tomatoes — before I tossed the shrimp on the grill (shown slightly “charbroiled” above by the time I got to ’em) but they were a delightful addition to my holiday meal. Bonus points for “Chili Lime Fish En Papillote.” (No recipe… just sprinkle fish filets with extra virgin olive oil, S & P, chili powder, and freshly-squeezed lime juice wrapped in foil.) YUM! The rest of the shrimp and veggies are headed for a batch of Jambalaya tonight along with some rice, smoked sausage, and chicken from my freezer. Reduce/reuse/recycle. And, do more of what makes you happy!

For me that involves cooking (or grilling) by the seat of my pants, letting nothing go to waste, watching Jeopardy (even the re-runs lol), reading books, practicing the piano, going outside to snap a photo now and then, writing letters, keeping “the castle” clean for TMOFW, and hopefully posting an upbeat message whenever I’m so inclined.

Be safe and well, my friends, xo.

Enjoying present-day life despite the ongoing restrictions,

~ Kim

Did I mention dancing?! What makes YOU happy these days?

Fried Rice and Another Flowergram

With everything that’s going on in our country right now, including food shortages, I’ve refrained from posting “foodie pics” until today. They just didn’t feel right under the present circumstances. (No offense to those of you who have — thanks for the recipe ideas, too.) I stopped counting Flowergrams after my recent post… the less “statistics” or advice the better.

However, since I’m faced with the same shortages as you are and know how to stretch a meal, I thought I’d share a supper: Fried Rice. (Chop sticks not included.)

Whatever brings you JOY and/or feeds you ‘n’ your family!

This particular batch involved water chestnuts, yellow onions, green onions, part of a red pepper (the rest was reserved for omelets), frozen peas (briefly steamed), and a scrambled egg seared in sesame oil. FYI, I used vegetable oil to start things out, so as not to overwhelm the final dish with the sesame oil flavor. A lil’ goes a long way! Feel free to add a splash of soy sauce and/or gluten-free tamari at will, too.

Rice has long been a staple of the world. Folks’ lives depend on it! Often paired with fish, Beans ‘n’ Rice is a favorite dish o’ mine, too. Gotta love cross-cultural cooking.

Ironically, I forgot to include any meat (supposedly on the endangered list, too, or so “they” say), but my hubby ‘n’ I didn’t miss it at all. It was hot, hearty, and healthy, plus it filled us up — and then some.

Last, but not least (and owing to the predominant color scheme of the day…) here’s a rose that bloomed despite our stormy weather.

Enjoying savoring blessings — foodie, floral, or otherwise,

~ Kim

Flowergram XI

Flowers are blooming around the lake so I thought I’d reinstate a former tradition: the Flowergram. (You can view the other ten by typing ‘flowergram’ into the “looking for something?” tab in my sidebar.) Too beautiful not to share!

Easter lillies were absent from our at-home holiday (Happy Easter, y’all!), plus it was the first time I didn’t play piano or organ for that church service in over 50 years. Yup, I’ve been at it for that long… and I miss it. Imagine my delight seeing an iris blooming against all odds to cheer me up. So delicate. So intricate. So aptly timed.

The world needs a lil’ cheering up these days.

So COLD for Oklahoma, too!

The weather took an “unseasonal” dip overnight (30-degrees with 30 mph winds) and I had to brave the elements to take pics this morning. I dressed in a hot pink bathrobe, black hooded sweatshirt, an old green raincoat, and my Wellingtons. (The Man Of Few Words has seen worse, lol!) So how’s your isolation wardrobe these days?

Despite my avant-garde attire, it was uplifting to see the earth adorning itself in beauty once again. There’s a lot of HOPE in that. Life goes on… despite the odds.

Whatever you wear, be safe! It’s a jungle out there.

Enjoying local flora & fauna,

~ Kim

Truth From The Lake

I’ve wept for worldwide losses. Smiled over simple joys. Felt blessed to make dinner despite shortages. Prayed for the less fortunate. Contributed to causes.

What more could I do while social distancing and staying at home, as “personally” as the internet allows? Make bread.

A lil’ lovin’ from the oven goes a long way — plus the store was almost out.

This is 2020, yes? What a different world we live in. But, back to the basics can be a good thing — a vital reminder to cherish life and change what you can, even if it means kneading dough after your arms are tired. (Imagine what it must be like for folks on the front lines… doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMT’s, police, firefighters, first responders, gas station/convenience store/ grocery clerks, etc. — God bless ’em all — and thank you.) Sometimes we need to start “from scratch.”

While I was pummeling dough, the song “I Need You” by America came to mind. (Probably because my brain accesses random trivia when I least expect it; remind me to become a Jeopardy contestant.) “I knead you, like the flour needs the rain.” [sic]. You get the idea. Hopefully you can access this link to their recording session, along with a few o’my own in bold blue. Some things bear repeating.

I especially loved the banter at the beginning wondering if they should do over and their producer’s advice: “Just keep going.” That’s where we’re at right now, America.  Just keep going! Stay inside, wash your hands, listen to/follow the CDC guidlines, and make the most of your time on the planet. Make bread and music if you can, too — you never know whose soul you might inspire, save, or feed. Keep it up!

Enjoying an introspective moment at the lake,

~ Kim

Snooze If You Must

How many people do you know who’ve made best friends with a fox?

Other than Kevin Costner’s scenes in Dances With Wolves while he attempted to befriend “Two Socks” (the elusive wolf), I seriously doubted it could happen for “real” unless it was cinematographically staged. Then I ran across this photo in my archives, which immediately sparked a sense of wonder to the point of being compelled to share it with you again… with a story.

Yes, this actually happened.

In the weeks prior to that Kodak moment, my ever-lovin’ patient hubby (The Man Of Few Words, aka: TMOFW) worked as a groundskeeper at a retirement community between trucking jobs — mowing lawns, edging sidewalks, watering flower beds, making repairs, and courteously attending to its elderly residents.

One day he came home and said a fox showed up at his workshop door. Per TMOFW, he proffered a nonchalant “hi” (in a no rush, whenever you’re ready tone of voice) and the fox stuck around to “observe.” Later, it began following him on his rounds — trotting beside him or slightly behind. What a sight that must have been.

Their relationship continued to grow on innate curiosity and a mutual respect for boundaries — the story of our marriage (feeling blessed) — even though it was tentative at first. Sometimes the fox skittered off when TMOFW made a sudden move (truthfully, I did too) and other times it stuck around longer and longer to absorb the wonder. Isn’t that what life is about? Building trust one day at a time?

Long story short, I’m certain the fox never encountered such a calm human being. (Bonus points for Russ’s moniker meaning “red like a fox.”) As the days wore on they continued to forge the bonds of friendship.

Kindred souls.

One day TMOFW called. “Can you bring your camera please? Mr. Fox is getting sleepy.” I arrived just as it sidled up to a cedar fence and yawned. The fox didn’t appear overly concerned about my presence (see trust above) and allowed me to get fairly close before he settled in for a snooze. Speaking of which…

How do you feel about using the snooze button on your alarm clock and/or phone? Although I resort to it every once in awhile, it feels like I’m delaying the inevitable. As Maria Von Trapp once extolled: “When you wake up, WAKE UP! It’s healthy…

That said, I’ve adopted a much more relaxed approach to life and blogging lately, despite my previously stated intentions to post more frequently. Some days I don’t have much to say, but I observe a lot. Spring is just around the corner and I plan to write more… cook more… show you more… after I hit the the snooze button.

Wonder is where you look for it (and blessed to find it) when you’re AWAKE!

Enjoying memories at a slower pace,

~ Kim

Sharing Is Caring (Carnitas)

Some things are too good not to share. Take Carnitas for instance. Translated as “little meats”, a hunk of pork is slow-cooked for hours, shredded into shards after it’s fork-tender, then sautee’d prior to serving. Talk about flavor this side of heaven. (The leftovers freeze and reheat well, I might add.)

A few simple ingredients contributed to that stunning transformation: onions, oranges, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt, sweetened condensed milk (truth be told, I punted and mixed coconut oil and coconut palm sugar to achieve that effect due to my dairy allergies) and lard. Confession, I subbed “bacon fat” — a Southern staple. Oh my!

Several years ago I made David Leite’s Authentic Carnitas and enjoyed every bite, then filed his recipe for future refence. When I looked it up again last week, the only note I discovered on it was: “These are fabulous!” (Click on the link for the recipe.) Who doesn’t want to eat fabulous food?

Shown above with a skewer of black olives, a side-salad of baby spinach, arugula, and orange segments dressed in a lime vinaigrette with avocado slices drizzled with lime juice and liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, plus a gluten-free wrap I was trying out that evening, (ditto on oh my!) it exceeded my flavor expectations. In the future I may incorporate some of the sides into that hefty structure (who doesn’t love a good fusion taco?!), but on that particular evening I wanted to taste everything separately. Unfettered. Fabulous!

Re: the taco shells… BFree Sweet Potato Wraps. Described on their packaging as: “Scrummy with sweet potato, beetroot & carrot” I have no idea how they ended up on our local grocer’s shelf with their UK pricing and origins, but they were mighty tasty. (Thanks, adventurous grocery store buyers!) FYI, they’re also good with a slice of pastrami, a “schmear” of Dijon mustard mixed with mayo, and an assortment of greens. Gotta love cross-cultural-flavor adventures.

Re: Life On The Lake, we’re still in the throes of winter in Oklahoma — torrential rains, hail, tornadoes, fog, frost, ice, sleet, snow, and temps ranging from 70 to 30 or below — but I still love it here. Don’t let weather — or life — distract you from your dreams. You never know when the next surprise or inspiration will show up.
Speaking of which — above is a “just because” mid-winter bouquet TMOFW showed up with one afternoon. It was least I could do was to surprise him with FABULOUS food that evening. Isn’t it lovely how that all works out?

Well, that pretty much sums up life at the lake lately. Cook! Eat! Enjoy! And, be sure to look up a few recipes while you’re at it.

Enjoying revisiting FABOULOUS food,

~ Kim

Bleak Friday at the Lake

Yes, you read that right. Today is “Bleak Friday” at the lake. God bless the folks who brave early morning risings and long lines on Black Friday, but I’m not one of them. Especially when it’s raining, thanks to a continuation of Thanksgiving Day’s 24-hour drizzle. The sky is overcast (not to mention dripping) so I opted to stay put. Ahhhh… it’s been a productive day.

Thanksgiving leftovers bagged, tagged, and in the fridge or freezer for future use? Check. House cleaned and festooned for Christmas? (Paltry though my decorations may be…) Check. Music perused, practiced, and in place for a memorial service on Saturday and two church services Sunday morning? Check. Dishes and laundry done? Check. Airplane ticket booked for a holiday in New Hampshire? WOOHOO!

You get the idea. I don’t sit around or shop much. (Unless it involves following my heart to visit my daughter on the East Coast between Christmas and New Year’s — the first holiday we’ve spent together in over a decade — plus I get to meet my son-in-law to be and his family!) Some things are worth the wait or long overdue. Decide what’s important to you! Even if it means standing in line.

Below is a synopsis of Thanksgiving dinner. (After the fact I know, but it was wonderful.) Hope yours was as equally magical, colorful, and tasty! Smiling about the empty “pumpkin without the pie” dish, thanks to TMOFW and his Mom. After 50+ years of rolling out pie crusts for family dinners, she decided to bake the filling (or in my case, the overflow filling) in a separate dish. No fuss, no muss. Russ ate the whole thing before dinner! Who says dessert can’t come first?

Although that turkey breast may resemble Ol’ Mother Hubbard’s shoe, it was the perfect size for the two of us. After it was stuffed, skewered, and roasted I served it alongside a very small ham with a few side dishes. We felt blessed (and stuffed) beyond measure! Thanksgiving was good at the lake — hope yours was, too. And if you’re still standing in line to snag more Black Friday deals, God bless you.

The roses were my last-minute idea for a lil’ shot of color to overcome a soggy Thanksgiving Day. (And today.) So glad I impulse-bought ’em. I’m sure there’s a lot of that going on yet. :) You GO!

Enjoying “Bleak Friday”,

~ Kim