"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sharing Maya

For literature Tuesday this week I thought I would share Maya. I have mentioned before that she is my idol. When I was a kid - lost and trying to find my way - Maya saved me. She showed me that women could be strong and scared at the same time. She showed me that honesty is always the best option. She showed me that I could dream and succeed and triumph. She gave me strength.

I devoured everything she wrote. But in the end this poem, the first poem, is my favorite. I also read the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which always helps me remember that even when I think life unbearable, it could be worse and I will survive.

I finally broke down and asked for a Nook this Christmas and I was lucky enough to receive it. I have always been a "book" person. I love them - the pages, the type, folding the corner neatly, writing notes in the margin - the experience of reading a book. On the other hand, it is difficult to carry all the books I love with me all the time, to read while waiting for an appointment, to read at lunch, to read on the train. This allows me to always have all the books I want in a format small enough to carry in my purse - plus I can watch movies, update facebook, and if I wanted to, write my blog. I decided on the Nook over the Kindle not because of any specific feature or the price because each device is primarily the same. But, if I have a problem with the Nook (which is completely possible since technology is moving faster than my brain can keep up) I can just go to the Barnes & Noble and get help, instead of trying to figure it out while on the phone with a tech person. I digress, but the point is, I have added a lot of Maya to my "wish list."

There are certain authors whose work I can read over and over again. Maya is one of them. Every time I open the book it is like a childhood blanket or those really comfortable shoes you just can't throw out. And at the same time, I always find something new.

She made me want to write, to paint pictures with words. She can get to the bare bones of pain on one page ..... and create a world of hope on the next. And I now intend to read it all again.

So, for today I share with you Maya ..... my idol!

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

Friday, January 13, 2012

Addendum to Broccoli Kazan!

I always start the day with the very best intentions! However, the day did not work out that way. Instead of a hair cut, food shopping and cooking I spent the day on the couch with a headache and an inability to get out of my own way.

Then the teenager decided to go out with friends instead of coming home for dinner and the 5-year-old didn't ask to cook. So instead of a gourmet dinner culminating in Broccoli Kazan, I made Hamburger Helper!

There is always tomorrow.

Family Friday ..... Broccoli Kazan!

Sometimes after story time, the 5-year-old doesn't like to go right to sleep so we lie down and watch TV. You have to be very careful what is on the television, the goal is for the child to be bored enough to fall asleep. So, we watch Food Network. I didn't realize how much he was absorbing. 

Yesterday he was shopping with my husband and wanted to get ingredients to make Broccoli Kazan (we still have no idea what that is). He began running around the produce section of the store grabbing ingredients (broccoli, cantaloupe, etc). When my husband asked what the heck he was doing his reply was "that is the way the chefs get ingredients on TV" ( think Chopped and The Next Iron Chef). 

So, this evening when dinner is being made - we will have a new side dish - Broccoli Kazan. And then tomorrow we will be having our own Cupcake Wars (that may be the next Wordless Wednesday post). For today I will share some recipes for a dinner that may go with broccoli kazan and cupcakes. Bon Appetit!. 

Stir-Fry Empress Lemon Chicken

I love this recipe. Since Broccoli Kazan ingredients include rice (and Apple Jacks Cereal) Lemon Chicken may be the way to go. Whenever I make this I always feel the need to add more lemon. I love lemon!

For this dinner I will make just the spinach. When I cook I like to have a "theme." For tonight I am thinking Lemon. Did I mention I love lemon!

I have never made this one but always wanted to. But I think I will forgo the lemon cup.

And then tomorrow for Cupcake Wars!

Strawberry-Lime Stuffed Cupcakes
Prep Time: 25 minutes Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 jumbo cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
o   1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
o   1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
o   2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
o   1 drop green food coloring
o   6 large ripe strawberries, hulled
o   Green sanding sugar
o   Fresh mint leaves or candied leaves

± Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the muffin tin with cupcake liners.
± Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
± In another medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. While beating, gradually pour in the butter and then the vanilla.
± While mixing slowly, add half the dry ingredients, then add all the milk, and follow with the rest of the dry ingredients. Take care not to over mix the batter. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared tin.
± Bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove. Cool on the rack completely.
± For icing: Mix the confectioners' sugar and lime zest in a medium bowl. Add the lime juice and mix with an electric mixer to make a firm but pourable icing. (If needed, add up to 1 teaspoon more juice, but take care if the icing is too loose it doesn't set properly.) Add food color to make a pale pastel green icing.
± To assemble: Remove cupcake from its liner. Cut and remove a strawberry (coned) shaped portion of cupcake from the top of each cupcake, leaving about 1/2 to 1-inch of cake in the bottom. Stuff each cake with a strawberry and cover with a little bit of cake. Spoon and spread icing over the top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle with green sanding sugar. Top with small mint leaves or candied leaves.

So, this weekend will be a fun-filled cooking weekend! Perhaps I am planting the seeds for the next celebrity chef! Have a great weekend!!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Literature Tuesday..... Mariana

I remember when I started college I had very little experience with "literature." I read a lot, but I was unfamiliar with literature. American public high schools do not prepare students for that. I of course was not a great student so that may have also been part of the problem.

But then we read Tennyson and I met Mariana. My heart broke for her. I wanted to put my arm around her and help diminish her pain. And for the first time I started to look at language and the ability to paint pictures with words. While in college I tried to appreciate literature, but never had the time. There were works to be read and papers to be written and all on deadline. The professors wanted us to analyze and dissect and explain. All of this took the brief spark of Mariana away and I studies, as I was supposed to and got through college.

And then I began commuting to work and needed something to read on the train. I reintroduced myself to the authors and the words that had been mundane while I was studying them. I fell in love with Dickens and Austen .... muddled my way through Hawthorne and Shakespeare. And even if I did not understand the political background or the satire I enjoyed the stories.

Today my bookshelves are full of the classics (and every Stephen King book written). They have become fond friends. And while I got a Nook for Christmas which will make carrying my "books" easier, I will never dispose of the books on my shelves ..... even the ones that are highlighted to the hilt with notes in the margins!

Mariana by Henrietta Rae

Mariana in the moated Grange
Alfred Tennyson

With blackest moss the flowerpots
   Were thickly crusted, one and all,
The rusted nails fell from the knots
   That held the peach to the garden wall.
The broken sheds looked sad and strange,
   Unlifted was the clinking latch,
   Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
     She only said, "My life is dreary,
       He cometh not," she said;
     She said, "I am aweary, aweary;
       I would that I were dead!" 

 Her tears fell with the dews at even,
   Her tears fell ere the dews were dried,
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
   Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
   When thickest dark did trance the sky,
   She drew her casementcurtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
     She only said, "The night is dreary,
       He cometh not," she said:
     She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
       I would that I were dead!" 

 Upon the middle of the night,
   Waking she heard the nightfowl crow:
The cock sung out an hour ere light:
   From the dark fen the oxen's low
Came to her: without hope of change,
   In sleep she seemed to walk forlorn,
   Till cold winds woke the grey-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
     She only said, "The day is dreary,
       He cometh not," she said;
     She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
       I would that I were dead!"

About a stonecast from the wall,
   A sluice with blackened waters slept,
And o'er it many, round and small,
   The clustered marishmosses crept.
 Hard by a poplar shook alway,
   All silvergreen with gnarled bark,
   For leagues no other tree did dark
The level waste, the rounding grey.
     She only said, "My life is dreary,
       He cometh not," she said;
     She said "I am aweary, aweary,
       I would that I were dead!" 

 And ever when the moon was low,
   And the shrill winds were up an' away,
 In the white curtain, to and fro,
   She saw the gusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low,
   And wild winds bound within their cell,
   The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
     She only said, "The night is dreary,
       He cometh not," she said;
     She said "I am aweary, aweary,
       I would that I were dead!"

All day within the dreamy house,
   The doors upon their hinges creaked;
The blue fly sung i' the pane; the mouse
   Behind the mouldering wainscot shrieked,
Or from the crevice peer'd about.
   Old faces glimmered through the doors,
   Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices called her from without.
     She only said, "My life is dreary,
       He cometh not," she said;
     She said, "I am aweary, aweary,
       I would that I were dead!" 

 The sparrow's chirrup on the roof,
   The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
   The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
   When the thickmoted sunbeam lay
   Athwart the chambers, and the day
Downsloped was westering in his bower.
     Then, said she, "I am very dreary,
       He will not come," she said;
     She wept, "I am aweary, aweary,
       Oh God, that I were dead!"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Medical Monday: I wish I understood this better!

The headlines are a little scary!

First I needed to look up the word "Chimeric." Which, according to Merriam-Webster means: "relating to, derived from, or being a genetic chimera or its genetic material." So I looked up the term Chimeric and came up with this:
a fire-breathing she-monster in Greek mythology having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail an imaginary monster compounded of incongruous parts

So, that made it a little more scary .... so I investigated further and looked up the medical definition and came up with this: An individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution

Still pretty scary! So I started reading the articles. And I admittidly did not fully understand what they were talking about. But several phrases made me even more nervous:
"cloning primate and even human stem cells, into living breathing organisms"
"More interestingly, although they have both male and female DNA, they are all developing as males, because masculine genes have dominated the monkeys development"

Science is not my area of expertise. I won't even try and pretend otherwise. But I do understand the basic need for stem cell research. And I am torn. I understand the desire to be able to regenerate organs to save lives; the desire to use stem cells to treate Type 1 Diabetes and the desire to relieve symptoms of Parkinson's Disease. But it is scary.

My dad remembers when things like stem cell technology were part of comics. I remember when video phones were on the The Jetsons and yet today even my Nana Skypes. So, I look to todays science fiction (movies like Children of Men, I am Legend even Project X); creating life from a petri dish scares me. My fear is are we playing God and what will the consequences of that be?

I completely understand the desire to end pain and save lives. But what if we are not supposed to? What if this is how the human population contains growth? I would love to find a cure for Lupus. I would love to find a cure for small cell lung cancer (a disease a very good family friend was recently diagnosed with). But at what cost?

I don't have the answers. I am not even going to try and have the answers to these questions. It hurts my head enough to get through the articles. But a future of genetically modified children, genetically modified food, growing organs in a petri dish, creating life in a lab scares me ~ I think it should scare all of us to the point that we keep a closer eye on the people push the line in the sand a little bit further all the time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year .... what are your resolutions?

It is now midnight! A new year has begun. My days of going out and drinking myself senseless with my friends have long since past and this evening I altered between watching the Walking Dead marathon and cooking for dinner with friends tomorrow. But now it is 12:01 am and it is officially time for the best New Year tradition .... the resolutions!

I am not sure why I go through this process every year. I never keep them, and by February I feel like a failure. But here I am doing it again.

  1. I will not procrastinate! It is probably my worst habit. I am full of good intentions but in the end I work better under stress and I do things last minute (seeing as I started this post on New Year's Eve and have still not posed it, I am not sure this resolution is going to work for me this year).
  2. I will quit smoking!!!! I want to purchase a new car. I am hoping that if I start putting the money I save from smoking less away for the car I will have a better chance of quitting. I decided that I will not focus only on the fact that it is bad for me. I have been smoking since I was 14 years old and have known for the past 24 years that it is bad for me and obviously that hasn't changed my mind. Maybe a monetary reward will. Since New Year's I have not smoked more that 10 cigarettes a day. In February I will cut that down and then in March cut it down again and so on, until I quit.
  3. I will listen more than I speak. I am outspoken. I need to remember that not everyone wants my opinion when they tell me something. I know this because most of the time I don't want people's opinions when I tell them things. I need to remember that the best friends, spouses, and parents are better listeners than they are speakers.
  4. I will stop trying to be superwoman!!! Logically I know that the more I try and do, the more tired I will be and the less I will accomplish. For the past five years I have tried to do everything I did before I had lupus. I basically try and forget I am sick. I want my youngest son to have the same mom my oldest son has. That just isn't possible and it is about time that I realize it. That does not mean I am giving in .... it means I am becoming realistic.
  5. I am going to go to the gym! I don't understand why this is such a problem for me. I fully admit that I feel better when I go to the gym. I have more energy, I eat less, I don't need as much pain medication, I can focus better ..... and yet if there is something I need to give up I give up the gym. Can someone explain this to me please.
  6. I will find my creativity again! When we purchased our house I lost my craft room. All my supplies are still in the basement waiting for a home. I will organize the guest room so that it can be a multi use room, guest room, office & craft space! And I will create!

So that is it!
Tomorrow starts a new week and I have done some organizing so that a few of my resolutions will be worked on. I got a Nook for Christmas and there are several apps I have been looking into that will help me to organize and live better. It is time I start using technology for more than my job!

Here is to a fabulous new year!!!!