Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Skies

Driving home it moved me
The colors of the evening sky
The twilight hours painting their rosy glow across landscapes of concrete and stone
And I think of him...

He who loves the twilight the way I do
Who understands the subtlety of light as it recedes slowly through the passing evening minutes
Appreciating each moment as unique and breathtaking
Knowing how it feels to be a witness to the unfolding magic
And I want him to share this.

So I take the long way home
Climbing through the hills for a glimpse of the unfolding drama
Walking to the places we have stood together, gazing in wonder
And he is there with me.

He loves this place as I do
For in all its flawed grandeur there is an irresistible magic
Painted across the evening sky in shades of smoke, gold and indigo
He is here, always....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kitchen Adventures: All Good Things Come From The Crock Pot

The crock pot is one of the most magical tools in a a kitchen. I'm always amazed how you can throw a bunch of roughly chopped stuff in it, turn it on, leave it for an entire day and come home to something yummy to eat. The food practically cooks itself!

It's also great for office potlucks. I work with people who love to eat together and cook for each other, so I pulled out my trusty crock pot for the office Thanksgiving potluck this week past week. I wanted to bring something warm to hearty in keeping with the occasion, so I pulled out an oldie but goodie from my 1990 edition of the Milford Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Cookbook.

Crock Pot Steak - by Marian Marshall
"Steak" is a bit of a misnomer in this case, because the finished product is more similar to a beef stew. Regardless of the name, it's easy and tastes great.

1 1/2 pounds chuck or round steak
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 large onion
1-2 green peppers
16 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
4 oz. canned mushrooms, drained
2 Tbsp molasses
3 Tbsp soy sauce

1) Cut steak into strips (I cheated on this part and bought pre-cubed beef at the store -- different shape, same result).

2) Put steak strips, flour, salt and pepper in pot. Stir well to coat steak.

3) Chop onion and green pepper. Add all ingredients to the steak.

4) Cover. Cook on high for one hour then turn to low for 8 hours.

5) Serve over rice.

Rice it great, but I LOVE biscuits and I don't have enough legitimate reasons to eat them, so I made a substitution.

Who doesn't love a nice golden brown biscuit?  

The finished product served over half a biscuit at my office potluck!

If you're using a normal sized crock pot (3 1/2 quarts) the recipe is perfect as is. If you're feeding more people like me and using a larger pot, (5 quarts) you can easily double the recipe and it will still cook in the same amount of time.

So the next time you need an easy, satisfying meal for yourself or a crowd, give this a try! And if you're feeling brave, substitute chicken for the beef and let me know how it turns out....

What is YOUR favorite crock pot recipe?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reflections On A Thanksgiving Alone

When most people think of Thanksgiving, it's a group endeavor. Family and friends gather together, a huge meal is involved, football is on TV, games are played and stories get swapped. I've enjoyed plenty of those types of holidays in the past, but this year I decided to switch it up and try something different -- I went solo.

I've been on the go a lot lately, so part of my desire for solitude was simply to help maintain my sanity. But the other part was a sincere desire to spend some time reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to what is left -- which isn't a lot, at least in terms of time. Lately I've been feeling like I spend lots of time running around, always "doing" something but not accomplishing anything significant. I want that to change. So I thought spending some time alone with my thoughts would be the best way to sort through the clutter and focus on what really matters so I can get myself headed in the right direction again.

This has definitely been a year when I've learned a lot about what REALLY matters. Besides the myriad of challenges in my own life, I've seen friends lives turned upside down by terrible illnesses, family problems, break-ups, job losses -- you name it and it's probably happened this year. All of that made Thanksgiving an even more important time to reflect on the positive things that have happened this year and not get so bogged down in the things that didn't meet my expectations.

I have been blessed with a lot of positives.
  • This month I celebrated 17 years working for a company where I've always managed to find opportunities for growth and development, all while working with people I'm lucky to think of not only as co-workers but friends.
  • Thanks to the wonderfully connected digital world we live in, I was able to share my friends Thanksgiving celebrations on Facebook, chat via phone and even Skype with people I love. As a result I never once felt "alone" even though no one was with me at dinner. In fact, those connections are with me all year long, helping me stay close in spite of sometimes less than desirable geography.
  • I've lost people this year too, some by choice and some through terrible circumstances. As sad as it is to lose people you care about, I was reminded by a Facebook post from a friend that everyone who passes through your life contributes to your story in some way. The reason they are gone is because their part in your story has ended. I am grateful to everyone I lost for making my story a better one through their presence in my life.
  • I've been blessed with the constant support of the best group of friends in the world through the struggles I have experienced. They help me find the silver lining in every situation when I'm too bogged down in my own negative thoughts to see the way out of the darkness.
  •  I am beyond blessed and lucky to have found true love in my life -- the kind that is not only romantic, but kind, supportive, steadfast, honest and true. That love is the one thing I am most thankful for this year.

My time spent reflecting turned out to be a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving alone. And even though my path to all the things I hope to accomplish in the coming months and years is still unclear, remembering how much I have to be grateful for taught me that there is still hope for all of it to happen. And even if it doesn't, I already have what really matters.