My New Pressure Cooker ~ also a slow cooker

Impulse purchase, but a good decision.

I had no thought yesterday of purchasing a pressure cooker while shopping at Walmart. However, the price was GREAT and there was only one left on the shelf. Nuff said.

Now mind, I have a pressure cooker, a classic T-fal that I’m leery of using only because I don’t use it often enough to be skilled at it, and they can be dangerous. I have it on my list to donate of a local thrift shop that supports several shelters for abused women in the city.

Of course the first thing I did, even before I unpacked the pressure cooker was to look at the enclosed recipe booklet…only a few recipes. However, the Chicken Cacciatore recipe caught my eye. It looked pretty authentic. The list of ingredients was exactly the same as my husband’s godmother’s recipe. We called her Aunt Anna.

To me this is really what cooking is about. The sharing of recipes, the enjoyment of the process of cooking, eating with family and/or friends, and having food centered memories. All good. Well…Aunt Anna made her own from-scratch marinara sauce. She might’ve used canned tomatoes, but in season she used fresh tomatoes for her sauce, and it took hours to cook. In Brooklyn (NYC) they have green grocers in all residential neighborhoods where you can get  fresh produce. Aunt Anna liked to make fresh marinara for Sunday dinner.

On the Sundays we were going to eat at her house, we’d go to Mass with her, then take her out for breakfast at the local Greek diner. After that, she’d cook and we’d watch TV until dinner was on the table. She always went out to the green grocer looking for a few pounds of ripe tomatoes on Saturday. With all the settings, bells and whistles on the pressure cooker, a fresh marinara sauce that took Aunt Anna hours to make can be made in about 30 minute. And I like that.  And I like remembering Aunt Anna and her excellent Sunday dinners.

If you like foodie fiction you might like to try HARMFUL INTENT, a fast moving murder mystery with wit, humor, and it’s also uplifting.

Just Say No ~ to some things

A birdYes things…objects

I knocked my head against the wall until I realized that Chip and Joanna Gaines aren’t the only ones in the “Fixer-Upper” business. The Holy Spirit invented inner transformation…and He’ll get into what’s in your house too. After a lot of kicking and screaming…mostly whining…I’m really good at whining, I allowed Him to show me and teach me about deep issues that were confirmed in God’s Word. I say, “allow,” because the Holy Spirit will not impose Himself upon anyone. I had to be ready, and I had to be a full participant in the journey. And I also allowed Him to do some housecleaning.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7, King James Version [KJV]

I’ve seen Chip and Joanna throw away dysfunctional, non-useful, objectionable, eyesore things/objects when they renovate. The Holy Spirit showed me that I had things, yes things in my house that brought pain.

Say No to Things! ~ The Holy Spirit started teaching me…and I didn’t want to hear it…about some objects/things I owned that were toxic, and I didn’t realize it. Well, that’s not being totally honest. I often felt bad when I looked at the object(s), but I wanted to keep them anyway. They’d been given to me by someone I ‘hoped’ would be able to treat me better, a relative, maybe. Or, they’d been given to me during a special time in my life that I wanted to remember fondly, but the giver had been a wet blanket, had been begrudging. The event I wanted to remember was wonderful, the gift might’ve been lovely, but the giver was toxic, and the object brought a pang of pain when I gazed upon it.

A fairy house

So, the object had negative “soul ties” attached to it. ~~  Biblically, what is the soul. It is our mind, will, and emotions. This is what the Bible calls our soul. It’s not at all the same thing as our spirit, which God breathed into us. Our spirit is our essence and is the very image of God. Yes, we are born with a mind, will, and emotions but they can and will be shaped by exterior things and occurrences. We can have negative soul (mind, will, and emotion) ties to things, to people, and to places.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog article that my mother was born with juvenile diabetes and back then the disease was a sure killer. However, my grandparents were brave and decided to try a new treatment at that time…insulin. She lived, got married, had a family, but was extremely, exceedingly negative all of her life. Untreated chronic depression. Christmas could be difficult for her. She loved bird ornaments. So, I gave her a bunch of them. However, over the years these ornaments were central to some deeply painful moments. I can recall her lips slipping into that all too familiar gash of a frown. When she passed, I got many of her Christmas decorations, including all of the bird ornaments. Every year, when I hooked them on the branches of my tree, I recalled the love I put into buying them, and then I’d feel pain. Finally, my walk with the Holy Spirit had deepened enough that when I felt him nudging for the third or fourth time (I’d ignored the nudge for a few years), I gave them all to a thrift shop. A year or two later, I was putting up my tree and realized that I was pain free. I was fully enjoying my tree. Praise the Lord.

That is not a put down of my mother. I honor her and her struggle with two wicked diseases: juvenile diabetes and untreated chronic depression. She was also an ethical, decent woman. I have numerous other things/objects that belonged to her that do not have a painful-pang attached to them. I hope somebody purchased those bird ornaments who will love them. I hope the money the gift shop received will go into helping those in need in the community.a vase

That said, I not suggesting that everyone run around their house throwing out, willy-nilly. I’m suggesting that when you feel pain over an object, pray about it, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Is there strife and dysfunction attached to it? On the other hand…He might not tell you to get rid of it at all. The object might have been given to you totally with love by someone who has moved far away, or who has passed away. That isn’t necessarily a toxic pain, but a reminder of love. Sometimes genuine love hurts, but it’s part of a healthy, spiritually maturing life. We have to discern. Discernment is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and reflection, we can allow Godly discernment to flow in our lives. It will illuminate the way we are to go.

Good Thoughts – Good Memories ~ in 2020

2020 photo

What Are You Thinking On?

My mother had severe juvenile diabetes (type 1) in a time when the disease was a death sentence and insulin was a very new medical treatment. She grew up in the Ukrainian immigrant community where, at that time, there was tremendous fear of injections. My grandparents bravely decided that she should have insulin and she lived. Not only did she live, she married my father, had two children, and had a life. However, she was an exceedingly negative person all of her life. As a child, I didn’t understand her struggle, and I found her constant negativity painful. Despite my mother’s untreated chronic depression, she was a decent and ethical person who tried really hard to live her life and have a family. I understand that now, as an adult and how I think of her has changed a great deal. I now see her in a much more positive light without denying her faults.

My father was pragmatic, unemotional, bookish, and often withdrawn. But he could be very funny and for me that was some relief from the darkness of talking about every thing that was wrong or was about to go wrong.

I took after my dad in a lot of ways. I found refuge in books, and I’d make a joke out of whatever was upsetting and dysfunctional. That was when I was around other people. In private, I was more like my mom, focused excessively on the painful and the negative.

It wasn’t until my mid-forties that I first heard teaching on renewing of the mind and the importance of focusing on the lovely and the good. And by that time, I had  focused on the unlovely, the broken, and the sad so much, that I hardly had any good memories from my childhood, and even from my adult life. They’d all been overshadowed and buried by my rehashing of all the dark and negative moments.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~ Philippians 4:8, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I married a man whose family was even more dysfunctional than mine…if that is even possible. My own immediate family and my extended family had PhDs in negativity. (See, I am still able to make a joke out of the gruesome.)

Well, one day there was great turmoil in my husband’s family. A lot of yelling in the kitchen and people running in and out of the house. So, I went into the living room and started surfing channels on the TV just to block the chaos out. It was a Sunday and I clicked onto this petite blonde lady standing behind a podium. Gloria Copeland. I thought she was preaching, but she is much more a teacher than a preacher. She was no-nonsense positive. Positive that God is a good God, is a healing God, is a loving God. She was intelligent, logical, and didn’t have big hair. That sealed it for me, and by the end of the program, I put my hands on the TV and got saved.

I am aware of true ‘Christian’ positive-thinking that first manifested itself in the 1950s, and that is good. But what I’m talking about is deeper.  It is a real and abiding belief that the power of the Word as written in the Bible is transformative and healing. It is the belief in the supernatural power of God’s living Word. I have to point out here that God’s Word in the Bible is not magical, not hokus-pokus, nor abracadabra. It is the belief that if the living Word gets deep-down within the heart and soul of the believer, it will start to heal those hidden, broken places.

Note: God’s Word in the Holy Bible has structure, context, and order. The Word of God can’t be ripped out of the Bible and thrown around as a quick affirmation for selfish purposes. Any phrase we wish to speak over our situation has to be understood in terms of what came before and after it in the chapter (and even in other chapters and in other books of the Bible). The Bible is a cohesive whole, pointing to and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior.

That said, if you want to get rid of darkness and negativity in your life…if you want to start making some good memories, a good place to start is the Philippians 4 Scripture noted above. Take it apart and on purpose (even if you have to force yourself) start to focus on what is:

  • True
  • Honorable
  • Right
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Of Good Repute
  • Having or Striving for Excellence
  • Worthy of Praise

 

Jacksonville ~ Is Christmas Town

JAX Chick-fil-A 19

First Coast All About Christmas

A neighbor in my condo complex wanted to see the local  Mandarin Chick-fil-A’s Twelve Nights of Christmas, again. Mandarin is our neighborhood in the geographically huge city of Jacksonville.

She’d been there the night before to support her daughter’s school. Each night if customers mentioned the name of the particular local not-for-profit showcased, the organization received a percentage of the price of the meal. So, I said, “Why take two cars, I’ll drive.”JAX Xmas Tree 3

We had our chicken sandwich meal and the place was packed with families. Squirming, laughing children couldn’t wait to rush over to the the outside decorated area and see what was going on. Many of the not-for-profits had decorated a tree.

JAX Chick-fil-A 19 2

We were early-birds and the singing presentation would be quite a bit later. We didn’t stay for it. We did listen to the teenagers rehearsing their Christmas carols. They sounded great.JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers

Jacksonville is on the First Coast (called thus because St. Augustine was the first permanent settlement by Europeans in the Americas) and the First Coast is very Christmasy. Nothing can compare to it.  It seems every single church is having a presentation of some type (classical Christmas music, Christmas worship music, children’s presentations, a series of family-friendly Christmas movies, and much more). There are local neighborhood Christmas crafts fairs, food fairs, and the like.

JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

I did get to meet the Chick-fil-A cow from the television commercials. He is real.

The Jacksonville Historical Society has an extraordinary Gingerbread Extravaganza display every year. Grade school classes contribute displays as well as professional bakers.

Jacksonville Beach has Deck the Chairs every year. I went last year and it was spectacular…forty decorated lifeguard chairs.

When I lived in NYC, my husband and I went many times to see “the tree” and huge lighted angels at Rockefeller Center. Each time it was wonderful. But, let me tell you, St. Augustine’s Night of Lights at Christmas has NYC beat by a mile. You have not seen a Christmas light display like this. It’s not to be missed.

My Christmas Mug ‘O ~ tea!!!

Christmas Mug TeaHo, ho, ho. You thought I was going to have something thrilling, with kick, spiked even.

I pulled one of my Christmas mugs out today. I have six, purchased in various places: Christmas fairs, while on vacation.

It’s mid-morning and tea was in order. My usual brew is Lipton Organic Tea. It’s warming, inviting, has a lovely aroma and taste. Highly underrated, IMO. Note: I am not a spokesperson, have no relationship to the company at all.

I’m a black tea drinker. I’ll drink Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, Darjeeling. But Lipton is what I keep in my airtight tea caddy and is my go to. It brings up comfy feelings that hearken back to my childhood. If a cold was threatening, my mom made me a cup of Lipton tea with honey and lemon. I still do that if my sinuses are clogging except, that I might add a shot of Bourbon.

Yes, black tea has the health benefits of antioxidants and I am into health. But I pulled out a Christmas mug and brewed a cuppa for myself today because in this wonderful holiday season it brings up a lovely memory of my mom.

Fire and Thorn, a fantasy by Mary Vee ~ a review

Fire and Thorn

Fantasy, Middle Grade, Juvenile Literature

At the beginning of this novel, just like so many kids today, Gilbert is self-centered. He’s a bit arrogant too, as he’s a prince and heir to the throne. Then his father, the king, is killed by a dragon and his mother is captured and taken away. This forces Gilbert to quickly begin the maturing process. And I loved that about this book. He’s forced to make decisions beyond his ability as he begins the fight to save his kingdom from darkness. He tries, often makes mistakes and tries again.

Mystery and suspense are my jam, and there was no shortage of those.

The author sprinkles wry humor throughout. One bit that made me chuckle happens before Gilbert’s coronation when the heavy, royal robe is placed on his shoulders. Gilbert feels like a coat rack. When the Lord Chancellor asks him if he’s ready, Gilbert replies, “As much as possible, Lord Chancellor Matthias.”

I would recommend this novel for all middle grade, juvenile, and YA readers who have a sense of adventure and a questing spirit. If CHRONICLES OF NARNIA was their thing, this is a good read for them.

He Chose His Mother ~ over his wife

50 Something Woman

I’m no expert on marriage, but I’ve been on this planet several decades and have observed a few things. So, Let’s talk about three couples (nice people) where the husband chose his mother over his wife. Minor details will be slightly changed to protect the innocent…there’s really nobody guilty here. They are couples who went into marriage seeing hearts and roses and made terrible mistakes.

Couple number one: He was raised by his mother in a rural American community after his abusive father abandoned the family. His mother sacrificed and insisted that he go to college, which he did, majoring in business. In his senior year he met and fell in love with a young nursing student who grew up in a middle class suburb of a medium-sized city. They were both ambitious and wanted success in their respective careers, they wanted children in a few years (and had one), they read the same novels and liked the same movies,  went crazy for the same types of food. What could go wrong? Those are similarities in life-style and that’s important, very important. But are these things core values? She was startled and dismayed when he insisted on using money she thought they were saving to go on a luxury cruise to move his less-than-affluent mother to an apartment in their town. He also wanted his mother to babysit their child. She thinks his mother has too much say in their immediate family’s life. The marriage now has serious cracks.

Couple number two: He was born in India and came to America as a teen and grew up seemingly very American. Now he’s a manager in a fast food chain. His parents and cousins live in a close-by neighboring city. He calls them and sees them fairly often. She’s working in the Big Apple and is an energized, happy-go-lucky New Yo’Rican. She’s born and bread in New York City with a family heritage from Puerto Rico. She has some serious family baggage (don’t we all). When they met, she frequently said of him, “He’s amazing.” He commented that she knew how to do so many things. What they shared in common was a burning desire to make some money and build a successful life in New York City. She had no idea that when push came to shove, he’d revert to culturally eastern core values. He’s very close to his mother, and now that his parents are struggling financially, he’s been helping them out in a significant way. His wife is not pleased with the money leaking out of their bank account.

Couple number three: He’s a bit of a buttoned-down middle-management guy who came from a working class Puerto Rican family. His father died young and his mother worked hard to make sure the family of two stayed secure. His wife is a millennial with pink tipped hair and a certified professional in her field. Her family background is more middle-class. They share similar professional goals, want to own a house and be seen as successful. She was shocked when he insisted his mother move from another city (where she had no family) and come live with them. Although his mother is quiet and tries not to interfere, shortly after she moved in, the marriage began a downward spiral.

What I see here is making the mistake of thinking lifestyle choices (what TV shows they’re both fans of, what foods they like, if they’re both athletic) are core values. And yes, these are very important. But they might not be bedrock values. Core values are things that will take precedence. They will rise up and over-rule other likes and lifestyle choices.  Core values might be deeply held religious values. When it comes to raising children, this core value will be very important and could become a source of huge conflict. Core values rise and move to a prominent place when trouble comes. Is it a core value to care for an ailing parent? Then again, what do you want for your children? Is it really totally okay to place small children in daycare while both parents pursue careers? Or is resentment brewing over this choice? What about when he has a picture in his mind of a successful professional couple, then she announces she wants to be a stay-at-home-mom because she’s found profound value in motherhood? Then again, it could be that one partner in the marriage has a firm concept of family legacy and what their children can and will become, while the other partner has a much more lais·sez-faire attitude toward parenting?

Today we lose sight of the fact that marriage is a contract. That’s why they had a longish period of “courtship” in days gone by. It’s important to take the time to intentionally find out if this other person is really suitable to be your life-partner and the parent of your children. It’s important to discover who your in-laws are and how they live…and if you can live with that. Because that is what you are doing. You are entering into a life and living contract with another human being. That’s marriage.