This morning when I assembled my skillet breakfast it was more colorful than usual, and that gave me the idea of sharing with you its picture, along with the key ingredient that made it also more brightly flavored than is typical for me these days.
The primary part was some ground meat that came from half a lamb I bought from farmer friend Esther last year. I remembered to defrost it yesterday!
Sautéed with carrots and Lebanese Spice Mix, frozen chopped spinach stirred in at the last (and steam blurring the image). The spice mix really makes it – click on the link to read the recipe I posted eight years ago.
March is the month that my husband fell asleep in the Lord, two years ago now. My experience of bereavement is all over the map, following the topography of the seasons and the holidays and whatever physical ailments fall on me.
Most of the time I am happily swamped by a myriad of plans and activities, and tasks I’m behind on. But sometimes the absence of my husband when I lie down and when I rise up, when I go from room to room or when I come home from a walk, is like a huge and strange presence.
March always features Lent, which is a mercy, because that is an opportunity to focus on prayer, which keeps me in the present, where my husband and I are both living in the Kingdom of God. I can put our marriage in historical perspective and in the context of eternity.
This year once again I cooked for 100 people, with the help of several dear friends, an agape meal after last Sunday’s Divine Liturgy, as a memorial for my husband. I made the same menu as last year. We had so much fun cooking on Saturday that I completely forgot to take pictures.
But the night before, I had been soaking 20# of Great Northern beans to make the Greek Beans , and I took pictures of them soaked and being dried off on a tablecloth. They have to be dried off a bit so you can sauté them in olive oil before stewing them. Neither of the photos shows the whole 20#.
I also borrowed some pictures from last year that are pretty much identical to the scene from last week.
Partly because of Lent, March is always very busy. Not all Orthodox churches are able to celebrate a full calendar of services, partly because many parishes have only one priest, and he might also have another job. But God has arranged for me to be where I can be nourished and helped a great deal by praying in church and receiving Communion several times a week during Lent. We have so many services that no one can attend all of them.
March is when the garden takes off. If I didn’t have my garden, what would my life be like? Would I keep a tidier house? Pray more? Probably neither. I am always happy in the garden – and it’s a good place to pray, without a doubt. Better to have a garden that is somewhat neglected than to have no garden.
I started thinning the lamb’s ears with the help of a kneeling bench
that my cousin Renée gave me.
I used to not like Euphorbia (above),
but now that it is falling over my own garden wall I find I am quite fond of it.
The native currant bushes (ribes) aren’t very bushy,
but they are three times as tall as last year.
The first week of Lent I started out grumpy. But Lent is a good cure for that. I have since been given wonderful gifts of thankfulness. God has let me see how all through my life He has abundantly provided for me, and He continues to do this every day. When I think of the love that has been given me in my childhood, my marriage, my children and my friends – and now the Holy Orthodox Church that is “the fullness of Him that fills all in all,” my cup runs over.
No doubt I will lapse into grumbling and self-pity before long, and have to repent again (That’s what life is for!) but the view of my widow’s world from this mountain on which I stand at the moment is quite beautiful, and it’s a Happy Spring.
I began this post yesterday, and then went out to pull weeds and deadhead flowers. I was kneeling in the mulch by the yarrow when the florist delivery girl walked up with an elegant vase for “Gretchen.” Lilies, roses, carnations, blue flowers, sweet smells… Before I could get it into the house I started weeping, not being able to guess who would do this – it could be anyone, in God’s world that is full of miracles, and seemingly brimming with people who care about me. But it was my children and their spouses, with an early remembrance of their parents’ wedding anniversary:
“Mama, these are sent in celebration of you and Papa, and with love for you,
from your children.” See what I mean about that landscape?
As I looked forward to National Pie Day — today, January 23rd — I’m afraid I let my thoughts swirl into heady daydreams that were like gusts of wind that pick up bits and pieces of litter here and there and then suddenly drop the lot in an untidy jumble.
First thought: Oh, Pie Day is coming again! I must bake a pie!
Thought #2: If I am going to all the trouble to make a pie, I might as well do more than one kind.
#3: If I am baking more than one pie, I better invite some guests to help me eat them.
#4: Why not plan for 3-4 kinds of pie, and have a Pie Open House, say from 4-7 p.m. on Pie Day, to accommodate the schedules of several friends.
Another chain of events and thoughts brought me to my senses. Last week at our agape meal I was served a big slice of cheesecake, enough pie to last me a month at least. And this morning I reviewed my short-term goals and realized that Pie Day does not facilitate them…
Goals? Since when do I have goals? I am certainly not the goal-oriented type, but I am trying some wintertime goals this year that involve: 1) spending time in a large room that needs a thorough sorting and organizing, and it’s not the kitchen; and 2) ramping up my exercise to recover strength I’ve lost in the last two years or so — also not going to happen in the kitchen.
If you let me count the ways I love pie, it might be that I love the idea and history and symbolism of pies more than the eating of them. I remember my grandma and a friend named Kris, either of whom could put together a pie and have it in the oven as easily as some of us butter a piece of bread. There was the time we watched my daughter Pippin form the first rustic galette I ever saw made, one of the select few pies ever to come out of the difficult oven in our mountain cabin. I recall happy days in the kitchen with the counters — and sometimes floors — white with flour, when I would revel in being able to accomplish this kind of nourishment for the body and soul.
In later years it has been easy to take pictures of these pastries, each one a unique event. When Mr. Glad was still my fiancé we never thought of taking a picture of the first pie either of us had made, as we worked together on it and laughed (afterward) about the Pie Predicament we ran into. But it is the one part of that Thanksgiving feast that remains in my mind.
When I am reading the recipes and remembering pies of the past, or rolling out the crust — or especially admiring one fresh from the oven! — I’m energized with creative joy and the idealism of family love and tradition. When I sit down to eat my pie, I am faced with — my weakness. I am one of those people for whom the wholesome enjoyment of that first bite quickly turns into a passion of the wrong kind.
Pie as an ideal and as memories brought me to the creative satisfaction of writing this post. Pie as a reality becomes something I too often consume with a lack of reverence. It’s not too late for repentance, you say? That is true; we must never stop repenting. 🙂 I won’t refuse gifts of pie, but this year at least I will let my celebration be mostly in words and pictures, without spending a whole day at it.
One thing I might like to do today is look around Blogland and see if any of you are baking and/or eating a special pie today. I will love to look at your pictures and celebrate together!
A big branch fell from my Canary Island Pine last night, just missing the lemon tree that we intentionally planted under its leggy canopy, hoping for a bit of frost protection; I hadn’t thought it might be a dangerous location instead. It’s been very blowy and wet in these parts – lots of flooding in the county, though not in my neighborhood. Today came a break in the rain, so I walked again along the muddy creeks.
I was surprised to see this tree looking like Autumn. How could it still hold on to its leaves through the gale? I guess our winter is very like some people’s Fall.
It was cool, not cold, the air as fresh as can be. A hundred robins would startle and rise up in a swirl out of the cotoneaster bushes when I walked past, and then settle back down to eat the berries. One is sitting in this bush but he is hard to see.
Big limbs had fallen from eucalyptus trees along the path, and in many places the pavement was strewn with redwood cones and needles. I was alone the whole two miles of my loop.
Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders:
the LORD is upon many waters.
A few of these words from Psalm 29 were quoted by our rector on Sunday, referring to the storms that, surprisingly, didn’t force us all to stay home. My youngest two children and I memorized this Psalm about 20 years ago. I think I picked it for them because of all the vivid imagery like skipping, flames, cedars breaking, hinds giving birth. It still thrills me, and is indeed a good Psalm for stormy weather.
The thought of gingerbread came to me out there on my winter walk. So I came home and put together yet another version of Wheatless Gingerbread. This time it was even gluten-free, because I used the flour mix from Minimalist Baker.
It came out lovely and light. This time I also added milk powder and used butter… I think I might still be able to improve on this recipe in various ways, so I should try to make some again soon.
We’ve been keeping the stoves busy in our house. Someone even cooked her chicken breast and handmade tortillas on the wood stove last week. Keepin’ cozy!