Tag Archives: family

Odds and Ends and Pots and Pans

Odds and ends
And pots and pans,
Champagne pops
And starts and stops,
Plants and things
And in between,
Tabletops with
Art and feeling.

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And art on my brother’s driveway.

Oh, assonance… And consonance…  And rhyme…  And half-rhyme… Happy new year, and new post, to you too.

Yes, a new year has begun (plus a few weeks now), and I’m happy to be starting it here with words and art, and to be sharing them with you. Words and art, yes, sounds like a good start. That’s one of several thoughts, or odds and ends, that I’ve been collecting. And here are a few more. They follow below, shared as always as a gift for me and you, to peruse and read and at your own pace go through.

1) Pots and Pans: I usually make a few resolutions at the start of each year (any time is good though), and this year was no different. On the afternoon of January 1st, I found myself creating a new note on my phone, a five-minute exercise that left me with some old favorites and general reminders.

Among the highlights was the perennial, “Learn how to juggle five” :), written more actionably and meditatively this time though as, “Juggle five – practice every day for five minutes, relax, and have fun.” (I’ve practiced a few days so far, but not quite yet…every day.) A few general feel-good reminders included, “Be kind every day” and “Be grateful every day.” And then there were some healthy environment ones like, “Do the dishes at least every other day.”

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They can really stack up after a while, right??? This was a week’s worth, and actually the first week of the year’s worth. To be fair though, I was sick and wasn’t doing much of anything that week. How about that After picture though?? Yes, thank you very much. (Two weeks later, I’m still kind of working on the ‘at least every other day’ part of this one…but details.)

2) Planting Plant Plans: I have a lot of starter houseplants and a lot of pots waiting for them, so one of my goals over the next few weeks is to bring them together. I have a vision for a garden apartment, with the garden on the inside.

Meanwhile on the outside, I planted some garlic.

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Planting garlic and growing and harvesting it is one of the easiest, and most satisfying, garden things you can do. It practically grows itself. It’s like magic – each clove that you plant turns into a full head of garlic.

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If you’re interested, and I hope you are :), here’s what to do. First get some garlic bulbs at the farmer’s market (the bulbs at the supermarket might have been treated to prevent sprouting). Then pull the cloves apart, leaving the papery husks on, and plant the cloves right side up about 2″ deep and 8″ apart. Usually, you plant them in late fall, but I’ve planted them as late as December…or also now, well, January 8th according to my notes. We’ll see how it goes! I also planted them in pots for the first time.

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The outer five, they got the garlic

It’s okay if the ground freezes after you plant the cloves too. The new plants should come up in the spring if not sooner. Then in April/May/June you snap off the garlic scapes (the green stems that start curling around themselves) to force more energy into the new bulb, and in June/July you harvest (dig up) the new bulbs when the leaves start to brown.

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Future houseplants, modeling

3) Freezer Files 

The fridge in my apartment came with a freezer (I know, pretty cool, right?), and over the past three years I’ve been doing my best to fill it.

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This was the actual view as of two weeks ago. The thing is, this was also essentially the actual view as of five months ago.

I’d filled it over time, and then I got leftover and other-frozen-food usage paralysis. I knew what I wanted to do, which was to go through everything, use it all, and write about it at the same time. It seemed so daunting though, so I never got started. What would the rules be? Would I have to eat only from the freezer until it was all gone? (Meaning no cooking, i.e., not doing something I like?) How long would it take? Would I write a single post at the end about the process, or also one at the beginning? Or should I write several along the way? What if I started and it didn’t go like I thought it would? What if it didn’t work out? What if I messed it up??

Okay, brain, let’s hold the phone for a second there.

What if I just started and saw how it went?

So that’s what I did (and recalled that, yes, that has worked many times in the past (ex. 1, ex. 2)). The beauty and the truth is that of course it’ll work, and that’s what it’s doing now, working out. Now a few weeks in, I’ve eaten or combined into new dishes several freezer items. I’ve also tossed a few items, a temporary affront to my ‘never waste anything’ ideal, but otherwise it’s going great. And it feels great. Item by frozen item, I’m cleaning up the freezer. I’m putting things to use, and I’m simplifying and letting go. Less is more.

Mmmmmmm, no longer frozen and so tasty again eggplant rollatini

Food is meant to be eaten. And you have to start somewhere, so start where you’re at. Get going.

The rules are There are no rules. I’ll use as many things as I can, cook and combine them whenever possible, and take notes along the way, leading to probably a final post but perhaps some interim ones too. I’ll figure it out as I go.

4) Marathon Miles

I signed up for the New Jersey Marathon! Yay!

That decision, made two months ago, was followed by me starting to increase my miles and do some speed workouts. Also yay, except that my doctor had advised against doing the latter workouts so as not to aggravate a minor hip injury. After about three weeks, I realized I should have followed his advice. Boo.

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So I bought myself a foam roller (thank you, Princeton Running Company) and have been doing some eggplant side-rollatini-ing. And doing way fewer miles. And going slower. I also starting some physical therapy (diagnosis: gluteus medius strain (yup…weak cheeks)).

The calendar reality is that I don’t think I’ll be doing the marathon now. Maybe I could still do the half, but we’ll see. My freezer file mind is reminding that it’ll all work out, and that once again, as always, I should start where I’m at.

If you can’t run 10 miles, run 3.
If you’re injured, do PT.
If you have an itch in the middle of your leg, scratch your knee.

Okay, that last one was just for the rhymes 🙂

5) March Saneness

This one deserves to go in the opposite direction of alliteration.

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There was nothing mad about the Women’s March on Washington this past Saturday. It was solidarity, love, inspiration, and the opposite of hate and madness. I can’t think of a more right place to have been that day than right there with a number of friends, and with everyone else who marched there in Washington and also around the county and the world. We all have our own steps, and for me there was no decision to make but to step out of my own quiet kitchen and start going. The following is what I shared on Facebook that evening:

“We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance” – America Ferrera
“Courage will not skip this generation” – Roslyn Brock
“Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are.” – Gloria Steinem

– Words heard and felt today in Washington, D.C.

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6) The Art of Food and Life

How lucky are we, how lucky am I, really.

I have friends I can march with. I can take care of my body, and my mind. I have a freezer full of food. I have plants. I have a kitchen. I have words, and I have art.

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There is art on driveways (thank you, artist sister-in-law). And there is art on my kitchen table, a rotating temporary art installation. The current view includes tomatoes from the community garden at work, grapefruit from my mom, and odds and ends from myself and friends.

The view, the backdrop, also includes one of my grandfather’s watercolors, a gift a few years ago from my great aunt. There was a time I thought I would hang it up one day, but I’ve realized I like where it’s at. Along with everything else, it helps make for a full table. And it feels good.

A two t-shirt day

Those who know me, and in particular those who have seen my closet, know that I have a fair amount of t-shirts.

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I can’t remember the last time I bought a t-shirt, but I sure do have a lot of them. On this one shelf (not all pictured) there are 81. I counted. After tidying them up for the picture.

They have a variety of origins – gifts, giveaways, events, races, and the occasional (way back when) purchase – but mostly they’re from races. Run a race? You get a shirt! You get a shirt? Add it to the shelf! And then you kind of rotate through them, with some getting more attention than others, owing to factors like a good design, a better fit, and that it’s easier to grab the ones near the top.

This past Sunday was a two t-shirt day, as in, I got two new shirts to add to the collection. The reason was that I did a 5K, which naturally came with getting a t-shirt, and then after the race they gave me another t-shirt as part of the award…for winning the race!

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Race shirt

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Award shirt from one of the race sponsors, a toute heure

I usually don’t make a big deal about accomplishments, and part of me, as I’m writing this, wonders if I’ll actually post this when I’m done, but what the hell :). I haven’t written a race recap in a while, and I felt good and had a good time doing it, as in I was enjoying it while I was running. So here we go!

First as a disclaimer, I would say that yes, my current running fitness is pretty good, but it’s also not at the level that would typically win a race. Usually even in a smaller race like this one, there’s a handful of people who will go faster than the 19+ minutes I did. I also didn’t enter it because I had visions of winning. I entered because my brother was doing it and it would be another opportunity go see him and his family. Running it could also confirm where I was at running-wise; in the past month or two, I feel like I’ve been getting back into it, enjoying it more again and feeling like I want to keep building it up.

All things considered, my finishing position at the end was a highlight, since it’s a pretty rare thing for me end up there, but what else stood out? Mostly it was the process, which is to also say the story, the guts of it.

While warming up and then standing at the start, my mindset this time was actually better than it usually is. I was pretty successful at staying relaxed and not worrying about it. I don’t do too many races, but often there’ll be a time right before the start that involves some focused worries about ‘not doing well’ or ‘not running good enough’ (‘what if I can’t do it?’, ‘what if I don’t go fast enough,’), which are typical and understandable thoughts but also ones I could a little more without. Butterflies are good, but to a point.

A minute or two after the start, the field settled, and the following became clear: there were only two people in front of me, they were at most five seconds in front of me, and we were going about the same pace. My basic, non-winning and relaxing-but-still-pushing-it-a-little plan going into the race was simply to stay calm and collected and go slightly faster than would feel comfortable. And there I was, doing that, and near the front. Which then produced a minute or two of the old worry…what if I keep this up? what if I pass them and take the lead? what if I can’t do it after that???

And then I was like, Whatever, I’m just going to keep doing my thing. We passed the first mile mark at just over six minutes, with me still a few seconds behind and feeling good, and then the guy in second slowed his pace just slightly. I had a brief moment where I thought, I could just hang back, not take a chance, and run with this guy, and then the moment passed, and I passed him. And then I was up behind the guy in front, who now also was slowing. The thought repeated itself, but this time in more of a split-second format, and I passed him. It was about seven or eight minutes in, and I never looked back.

I kept going at my pace and my original plan, and it flew by. I noticed that being in front also seems to get you more cheers, but not considerably more than say, two years ago, when I last did the race and did it at a more modest pace, while pushing my niece in the Bob. I led in the stroller division that day and remember getting a equal amount of “Go Dad!” cheers from the people watching and “Go faster Uncle D! You’re not going fast enough!” statements from the four-year old getting the free ride.

My brother pushed his other, younger daughter in the Bob this time, and a highlight of the race this year came a little over two miles in, as the route made a left turn past the corner where my sister-in-law and my now six-year old niece were standing.

“Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D! Uncle D!”

I think that’ s an exact quote.

Plus or minus.

And then before I knew it, I crossed the finish line. And my thoughts went from, I’m doing this, to, I did it 🙂

What if I can do it. What if I believe in myself. What if I keep doing my own thing and keep enjoying it. What if what if becomes more of memory.

It was a good run, and one of more to come.

In Remembrance

It was six weeks ago on July 13 that my aunt passed away, and last weekend that I went to her memorial service.

At the reception afterwards in the memorial hall, there was a small array of cheese spreads, crackers, and fruits and vegetables. There was also apple cake, with the cake prepared by the caterer using my aunt’s recipe.

I wasn’t sure if I’d had my aunt’s apple cake before (I thought I had), but in any case it tasted good that day. On the table next to the cake was also the recipe, printed simply on
5″ x 8″ slips of orange paper, there for all to take. The slips also noted the recipe’s origins: it had come from a customer of the family’s old apple orchard, collected by my grandmother and modified by my aunt.

apple cake ingredients

apple cake instructions

For the cake

apple cake topping instructions

For the topping

apple cake topping instructions

I didn’t take any pictures that day, but I took some a few days later when I decided to try making the recipe myself. The only variations I made were to use Ginger Gold apples (the folks at the farmers’ market said I could get Jonathans starting in a maybe 3-4 weeks) and to skip the topping. The cake turned out good, but it was also easy to tell that it wasn’t quite the same as the original, which had more of a definite, ‘Okay, even though I’ve already had three or four pieces, I think I’ll have just one more,’ quality to it.

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My aunt was many things, a baker, scholar, wife, friend, sister, aunt, gardener, leader, quilter, and crafts-person. But’s that’s saying too much, and too little.

The memorial service, following my aunt’s request, consisted of a musical selection of folk and traditional songs that she liked and that meant something to her, played live by friends, with a minimum of talking about her in between the songs. She had requested that the collective comments last no more than five minutes altogether. There were eight songs, eleven performers, and a welcome, and you could feel the performer-friends wanting to say more, even as they kept true to the program.

There was a lot that made my aunt’s life full, and we all wish it would have continued to be full for a little longer, beyond when the progression of cancer, back again, finally said it was time.

I’ve gone back and forth on what to say about myself and how I feel, including whether to say anything at all since it’s not really about me. What I’ll just say is that I have a feeling that I imagine others may have felt at similar times in their lives: a wish or regret not necessarily to have said more, but to have asked more, and to have learned more about her and the perspective, knowledge, and life and family history she knew and could share.

The morning after the memorial, I walked through my aunt and uncle’s garden and took pictures of the flowers. It was mostly my aunt who would do the flowers, and mostly my uncle who would do the vegetables.

Here’s how the flowers looked that day, a day after my aunt would have been 79. There was and still is a lot of color.

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Hello World! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

Hello! It’s Gooda Bartha to meet you!

I’d been thinking of starting something like this for a while now, and today’s the day it’s happening! Are you ready too? Let’s go! It will be a story in words and pictures, a mix of food and life. And even if it doesn’t always turn out as planned or hoped for, it’ll still be good.

Gooda Bartha

Gooda Bartha! But how did you end up looking so good??

So I had Good Bartha (Zucchini puree) for the first time three years ago, and it was one of those times when after tasting it, I thought or said something like, Wow, that’s really good, that’s amazing, let me finish this so I can have some more. I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Illinois at the time, and my uncle was cooking. I think he made rice and dal that night too.

I got the recipe from my uncle a few weeks ago, and now it was my turn. Time for some re-creation recreation.

Gooda Bartha (Zucchini puree)

  • 1 lb zucchini (about 2)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 teasp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teasp black mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh green jalapeno chili
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 teasp salt
  • 1/2 teasp chili powder
The players

But it says 2 zucchini, 1 chili, and 1 onion! That’s okay – let’s make it a double!

Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow!

The players, more prepared

The players, now more prepared

Here’s how to get everything ready:

The zucchini gets chopped,
the onion gets sliced, and
the chili gets seeded and sliced.

And here’s what to do in five easy steps:

  1. Put the zucchini in a saucepan, and cook with water until soft. (I used 1 cup water for 4 zucchini, and I covered the pan to have it cook faster.) Then drain the water, and mash.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry the cumin and mustard seeds until the mustard seeds crackle.
  3. Add in the onion and chili, and cook until the onion is soft. (I covered the pan again during this step.)
  4. Add in the mashed zucchini, salt, and chili powder, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until the liquid evaporates.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    (Recipe modified from “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon)
Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini, ready to go

Zucchini mashed up

Zucchini mashed up

Seeds in the pan

Onion and chili added

Onion and chili added

All together now

And now, ready to be introduced:

On the plate

Gooda Bartha close up

Gooda Bartha, with friends

I also made some friendly beaners while I was cooking and let them join the party too. They’re the red and black you see balancing out the picture.

And in the end? It was pretty good! My uncle’s was better (at least according to my memory), but that’s okay. I can compare notes and do some cooking with him the next time I’m in Illinois. Lucky for me, that next time is going to be in two weeks, when I head out there to do the Illinois Marathon and see my aunt and uncle and brother.

I’ll see you later too – here are some Gooda Bartha seeds and spices to chew on until then.

Cumin seedschili powdercumin seedssalt