Finding My Rhythm in Retirement

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible!”    Audrey Hepburn

It’s not that I never thought about retirement, or talked about it, or wondered what it would be like.  How would you answer the question, “When I retire, I’m going to …?” 

I’ve answered that question aloud and in my head hundreds of times over the years with answers such as:  play with my grandkids; design and make my own clothes; design counted cross-stitch; play with my grandkids; nap whenever I want; do all the things I’ve never had time to do; finish all the projects that are waiting for more time in my schedule; play with my grandkids; travel; raise chickens; raise goats; raise sheep; own a dairy cow; and, oh yeah, play with my grandkids!  😉    

Even though I thought about it, discussed it, and joked about it with family and friends, it was always a distant, faint and fuzzy something that would exist somewhere down the road.  Then, after a couple of sudden and unexpected major health crises in this, the craziest of all years, it was on my doorstep.  SURPRISE!  You’re retired!  Initially all I could think was, you know, this IS NOT in my plans; I’m not ready!

After a health crisis, you need to spend a bit of time getting things back on track:  seeing your PCP; seeing specialists; getting recommended diagnostic and follow-up testing; and working to recover your health. These things, and more, become a huge part of every single day.  It fills up your mind, your conversations, and your schedule; it becomes your life.  Eventually, however, appointments become less frequent and you begin to feel as though you’re getting a handle on how to maintain your health going forward. 

I am now eight months out from a small right-sided occipitoparietal infarct that caused a vision loss sufficient to eliminate my ability to drive, and a cardiac arrest.  Both of these were caused by having a hemoglobin of 6 and almost no iron.  I was losing blood and, had I been paying attention instead of adopting my usual hatred of the medical profession and an it’ll be a pig’s foot by morning attitude, I would have noticed that I was bleeding internally.  NEVER ignore your symptoms.  Long story short, I was taking far too much aspirin due to severe end-stage osteoarthritis of both knees, that caused seven bleeding ulcers. 

When I was finally discharged from hospital, I was advised that I also had diabetes.  Life has, indeed, been unbelievably exciting this year, and I’m delighted the year is almost over.  I’m thankful for many, many things:  a loving, supportive husband of 42 years, incredible family (immediate, extended, loved-in, and church) and, last but not least, having the ability to work hard to get back on my feet by getting off oxygen, ambulating without a walker, and cooking and eating a healthy diet that has worked to bring both my daily blood glucose measurements and A1c down to normal and reduce the inflammation in my knees to the point where I no longer require anything for pain.  I’m finally at a point where I can truly focus on being retired.  😊 

Still Standing

While I’m not yet fully in the groove, there is a recognizable though perhaps still a bit faltering rhythm now, the most important component of which, for me, is starting and ending each day with my Bible, prayer and contemplation.  I spend time each day looking for ways to be a blessing to others.  I have, indeed, started designing counted cross-stitch pieces, I’m learning to tat, relearning how to do handmade buttonholes (I’ve been using a machine so long that my 7th grade sewing class instructions have faded away) reading, cooking, baking, and spending time with my sweet hubby over wonderful meals and watching as many laugh-out-loud movies as we can find.  He’s trying to decide if it’s now time for his second retirement.  He’s been working part-time since we moved to Maine, having retired from his government job of 28 years right before the move.  The pandemic has made his part-time position more difficult and would increase his chances of exposure.  We’re working together to figure out what our non-working, fixed income budget would look like, and I’m working really hard to lure him into full retirement with me. 

We have a date night every week:  a candlelit dinner for two, followed by a board game, a movie, or just slow dancing together to music on the stereo.  I’m delighted that I’m finding the rhythm to this interesting and very different stage of life. Remember: anger, resentment, happiness, joy, and other emotions are choices. Choose joy, always.

Wishing you a healthy and joy-filled 2021!

Be blessed “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”   Ephesians 4:32

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A Panade Adds Panache

Meatballs?  Meatloaf?  Stuffed peppers?  Adding a panade to your ground/minced meat will give it a little panache and lighten rather than tighten the mixture.  A panade is, quite simply, a mixture of starch and liquid.  It seems one of the most common panades is bread – slices, pieces, crumbs – and milk.  I use panko and yogurt. 

Today I’m making a ground meat mixture for stuffed peppers; anything not used for stuffing the peppers will be turned into meatballs, baked off and put in the freezer for another meal down the road.  There’s nothing better than a “two-fer” when you’re cooking!  😊  This is my go-to recipe for any needed meat mixtures, except my meatloaf and Swedish meatballs. 

Did anyone else help mom in the kitchen by breaking bread slices up into little bits for meatloaf and/or meatballs?  I now wonder if that was my mom’s panade.  There was never milk involved and, if you didn’t break the bread up into small enough pieces, you could easily end up with little white dots (I used to refer to them as eyeballs) peering out at you from your slice of meatloaf. 

On to the recipe! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 medium green sweet peppers, with tops and seed core removed.
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (I use my garlic press)
  • 1.5 cups panko crumbs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup onion, finely minced (I pulse it in my food processor a few times)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt (I use Celtic sea salt)
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, place your sweet peppers gently (no hot splashes, please) into the water.  I use my tongs for this. 
  • Allow the peppers to par boil for 3-4 minutes, and then gently remove them with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place open side down on clean toweling to drain while preparing your meat mixture.
  • Make panade:  In a bowl, mix together the panko and yogurt until combined.  Set this aside for 10-15 minutes while you make up your meat mixture.
  • Preheat your oven to 425º F, and prepare your baking dish.  For the peppers I use my 8×8 square Pyrex dish coated with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  For the meatballs made from the leftover meat mixture, I line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl mix together the meats, garlic, eggs, cheese, onion, fresh and dried herbs, Worcestershire, salt, and black and cayenne pepper.  Using your hands, begin to mix these together.  After working all the ingredients for a minute or so, add in the panade, and continue to mix until everything is evenly mixed together and there are no visible pockets of concentrated ingredients.
  • At this point your peppers should be cool enough to handle.  Pack each pepper lightly with your meat mixture and place them in a baking dish.  If the peppers won’t sit upright easily, I crumple up pieces of foil and place them so they keep the peppers upright.  I don’t like sauce on my sweet peppers, preferring to place a slice of cheese – usually fresh mozzarella – atop each pepper about 10 minutes before they are done.  Since I have no fresh mozzarella today, I’ll be using slices of muenster cheese instead.  You can, of course, top your peppers as you like, whether with cheese, ketchup or a tomato or other sauce. 
  • If you have any meat left after making the peppers, you can make them into meatballs and bake them off as well.  I use a medium cookie scoop to measure the amount of meat in my meatballs but, generally, you want to use about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture for each meatball. 
  • Cook your peppers for approximately 25 minutes.  The internal temperature should reach at least 165º F.  Since ovens can vary, I usually begin checking the temperature about 5 minutes before the timer goes off.  I usually let mine go to 170º F.  Your meatballs, being smaller than the pepper filling, will likely be done to 165º F in 12-15 minutes.  Please always be certain to check the internal temperature to ensure that your meat is fully cooked.  This recipe gave me four stuffed peppers and 28 meatballs.

Whether you’re making stuffed peppers or meatballs, or both!, please feel free to let me know how they turned out for you.  I hope you enjoy them!

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”  Matthew 25:35-36

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Unity

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

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Residual Oddments and A Fish Pie

… l’art d’accommoder les restes ….”  Christian Louboutin

Leftovers – in some circles a dirty word – can be wonderful, tasty, and invaluable to the conscientious culinarian.  Most of our weekday lunches are day-old or two-day-old leftovers camouflaged so as to reemerge as other than a redux of a prior meal.  Saturday’s pretzel rolls and “come back” sauce were used in Monday’s lunch of chicken salad following Sunday’s roast chicken.  I whipped up a lovely chicken salad with the leftover chicken (diced), celery, onion, grated carrot, and mayonnaise, added 2 tablespoons of the “come back” sauce to the mix, and plopped it on pretzel rolls with some hand-sliced Jarlsberg and lettuce (also from Saturday’s oyster po’boys) that had been washed and stored in paper towel to absorb any moisture.  All the rolls, but for one, were now gone, the sauce was substantially reduced (we finished all but a tablespoon or so of the sauce by serving it up alongside our Monday night frittata), the lettuce was gone, and the chicken was no more.  😊  Hubby even ate that last roll with his frittata. 

This morning with my coffee, I enjoyed the last slice of Monday’s “Perfect Pear Cake,” and for lunch today, we finished off the last two slices of last night’s frittata with the rice remaining from Sunday’s dinner.  I chopped up the last of the frittata and “stir fried” it in a little olive oil with the rice for lunch today.  That and some apple slices made for a yummilicious meal.

Today there was vegetable broth simmering away on the stovetop in preparation for tonight’s fish pie and Thursday night’s butternut-pear soup.  I had a head of Napa cabbage that, on its arrival last Thursday, was looking a tad sad.  I bagged it and put it in the fridge and, when I checked on its welfare this morning, it was looking even more forlorn.  ☹  So, before all was lost, I cut it up and tossed it in with the celery, carrots, mushrooms, onions, garlic cloves, and parsley that is my veggie broth combo.  WOO HOO!  No waste!  😊  Not sure about others, but I always do my stock/broth in my pasta pot.  It has the removable insert that is so handy for draining even non-pasta, and I don’t have to strain it through a colander or sieve and into yet another something.  I’m always delighted with just one pot! 

Tonight’s fish pie is my adaptation of the “Easy British Fish Pie” found at The Spruce Eats: https://www.thespruceeats.com/traditional-british-fish-pie-recipe-435284.  I do add chopped hard-cooked egg to mine, dice up a couple small gold potatoes, and use puff pastry for the top.  If I have shrimp shells in the freezer, I’ll make a seafood stock but, more often than not, I use a quick and easy veggie broth to make this dish.  One time I completely forgot about whipping up some potatoes for the topping and turned this into an awesome seafood chowder with the addition of a little bit of heavy cream to thin (but not too thin!) out the creamy base.  SO GOOD!  We’ll have the fish pie tonight with zucchini sliced and sautéed in ghee until the slices caramelize. 

As you plan your menu, do you think about how to use up those residual oddments for another meal?  It’s taken me a while and, if I’m honest, I’m still learning all the various parts of creative culinaria.  😉 

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.  He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”  Proverbs 18:8-9

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A Perfect Pear Cake

“Maggie: Sweet, juicy, soft on your tongue, grainy like a sugary sand that dissolves in your mouth. How’s that? Seth: It’s perfect.”

City of Angels (1998)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 8 tablespoons (0.5 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 mall pears, cored and sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F., and grease a 9-inch cake pan (I use a bit of olive oil, but you can also use butter).
  2. In a bowl, mix/whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. Add half the flour mixture alternating with the the milk, and finishing with the remaining half of the flour mixture, beating on low speed until smooth. (Note: the batter will be thick.)
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the pear pieces on top, skin side up, evenly over the top of the batter. Most recently I used one large Bosc pear which worked beautifully.
  5. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until the top is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. While the cake is still hot, run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cake. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. After covering the top of the pan with a plate, invert the plate and pan and, if needed, gently tap the bottom of the pan to release the cake. Once the cake is out of the pan, you can invert it once more onto another plate to serve. If you prefer, you can cut and serve this directly from the pan. While I cut this into 8 slices, it could easily serve 10. We absolutely love this with some good French vanilla ice cream, and just a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t all get eaten; just wrap it tightly and leave it on the counter. It makes a fabulous breakfast with a cup of coffee. I can’t wait to try this when peaches are in season; I’m certain it will be swoon worthy.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

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“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold

This quote reminds me of that old photography instruction, “Fill the frame!” Hubby and I love frames, especially old and antique wooden frames.  When we see a frame that we like or, as in this case, something that would make a fabulous frame, we snap it up immediately!  About a month ago, hubby was in a local secondhand store, saw a lovely old wooden tray with brass handles, and snatched it up for $5.00.  Under the clear glass center of the tray was a handmade, filet crochet, dove-drawn chariot complete with cherub or, perhaps, it’s Cupid (who, by the way, was not always portrayed as chubby and naked).  While I love filet crochet, I’m not a huge fan of cherubs (or Cupid) unless, of course, it’s Valentine’s Day.  😊 This particular scene included a couple of holes and other needed repair work, and was slowly slipping downward.

So, there was a need to decide what should go under the glass in our newly acquired tray.  Sadly, although we have many things — art, stitchery, etc. – in need of framing, we had nothing that would really be a perfect fit for the tray.  I pondered, we talked, I pondered, and we talked some more.  Eureka!  What are trays used for?  Other than decoration, they are used to carry and serve, yes?  In short, entertainment/hospitality. 

I had recently been hanging ten on the web, not really looking for anything specific; it was a rare opportunity to simply kill a little time.  As I did so, I found a truly beautiful bench.  Now the price of the bench was far beyond my means, BUT if I turned it into counted cross-stitch, I could own the bench, et voila, an idea was born.  A well-cushioned bench for two; company and me.  There’s that hospitality thing again, and then the perfect Bible verse hit me. I’ll be stitching this on 36-count linen, over two, and it will undoubtedly take quite a while. I promise, however, to post a picture of it in its lovely tray frame once completed.  

Every day is an opportunity to be a blessing to someone. How can you be a blessing today? Make it a magnificent Monday! 😊

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Hebrews 13:2

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“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.”

Thank you, Robbie Burns.  And thanks as well to my sister-in-law who has always been fond of the phrase, “Man plans and God laughs.”  (Der mentsh trakht un got lakht.) 

When I prepared last week’s menu plan, I failed to take into consideration that the week contained not only Christmas, but also Christmas Eve.  Not only that, but Christmas Day fell smack on no-cook Friday.  Something had to give. My guess was that it wouldn’t be Christmas. 😉 So, Christmas Eve became our no-cook dinner, but the day was spent in the kitchen prepping for Christmas Day which has a very specific menu.  Once our no-cook Thursday dinner was finished – early, too, since our favorite grill closed at 5:30 PM and, in order to avoid any potential last-minute crush of orders, we actually ordered at 4:30 PM – we headed back into the kitchen to prep the sticky buns for Christmas Day brunch.  As a result of the shifting menu, we did not get to have the cheeseburgers on pretzel rolls and, since we only eat red meat once every couple weeks, I’ve put stuffed peppers on this week’s menu plan since my Misfits box contained a few more sweet peppers than will be used in other meals this week. 

Tonight’s (Christmas) dinner was leftover quiche with some fruit.  Dinner on Christmas Day is always an easy leftover meal, which is wonderful after a day full of excitement.  😉

I try each week to include two each of vegetarian, chicken/poultry, and seafood entrées.  Every couple of weeks I throw in a red meat entrée instead of a poultry recipe.  And thus I give you this week’s menu plan:

SATURDAYOYSTER PO’BOYS ON PRETZEL ROLLS WITH ROASTED GARLIC POTATOES
SUNDAYJERUSALEM STYLE ROAST CHICKEN W/CARROTS, RAISINS & BASMATI RICE
MONDAYMUSHROOM, SPINACH & FETA FRITTATA WITH GREEN SALAD
TUESDAYFISH PIE & CARAMELIZED ZUCCHINI
WEDNESDAYSTUFFED PEPPERS WITH HOMEMADE EGG NOODLES
THURSDAYBUTTERNUT-PEAR SOUP WITH HOMEMADE BISCUITS
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊
Jerusalem-style chicken

I’d love to know what’s on your menu plan this week!

Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.” Psalm 17:5

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“Have yourself a merry little Christmas …”

Despite all the craziness of 2020 — the pandemic (of course!), earthquakes, floods, wild fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and who could forget the “killer wasp”? — or perhaps because of it, Christmas seems to have arrived far more quickly this year. I feel as though I’m in one of those old cartoons where I’m watching the pages fly off the wall calendar while the hands on the clock face spin dizzyingly round and round. Tempus sure does fugit, doesn’t it?

I think every family likely does Christmas/the holidays a little differently, celebrating the traditions of their family and their heritage. Growing up in the suburbs of, and then living in Philadelphia, we always attended a Christmas Eve church service. It was usually a candlelight service with a short Christmas message, oftentimes a Christmas pageant put on by the children, and many wonderful Christmas carols celebrating the birth of Christ, our savior. As a child Christmas Day usually started just after my parents had fallen, completely exhausted, into their bed after assembling all the toys and wrapping all the gifts (I was the oldest of six children); usually in the “wee small hours of the morning” when excited children were waking their exhausted parents with far too much noise.

As adults, my hubby and I decided that we needed food on Christmas Day that could be prepared, at least partially, in advance so that it could be baked off while gifts were being unwrapped so that we could sit down for a brunch after the morning’s excitement. And so the decision was made to have quiche, a fruit salad, and biscuits. A couple years ago, after figuring out that my sticky buns were pretty amazing, they were added to the celebratory brunch. And so, with no Christmas Eve church services where we now live, Christmas Eve became a day of serious preparation for our family Christmas Day with our children and grandchildren.

https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/sticky-buns-recipe

Today I will prep all the ingredients for the smoked salmon and three-cheese quiche, make the fruit salad and tuck it away in the fridge, and make the biscuits through cutting them out, place them on sheet pans to freeze, and then bag them to have them ready to bake off in the morning. Tonight hubby and I will make the sticky buns and cover them and place them in the fridge to rise slowly in the fridge overnight. (I may do the work, but it’s definitely a King Arthur recipe.) Before the kids and grandkids arrive in the morning, I will assemble the quiche, place the frozen biscuits onto sheet pans to defrost a bit, and remove the sticky buns from the fridge as well. All will bake while we open presents, with the biscuits going in last since they are the fastest and baked at the highest temperature.

While brunch bakes, with only occasional attention needed, we sip our coffee and watch while gifts are opened. Contrary to the pandemonium of six children ripping open carefully wrapped gifts all at once when I was a child, we start with the youngest (presumably the one with the least patience who can then play contentedly while others open their gifts) and open gifts with time to truly appreciate the joy and excitement.

However and whatever you celebrate, I wish you a joyous holiday filled with family, friends, love, and tradition. May ALL your days be merry and bright.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

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“Taco Tuesday” = Halibut Fajitas

Okay, the truth is that I am NOT a food photographer but I just had to commemorate these incredible halibut fajitas — colorful sweet peppers, purple onion, and tender halibut sautéed in ghee with just a kiss of homemade taco seasoning, all piled into soft wrap bread (https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/soft-wrap-bread-recipe) with a squeeze of sweet chili sauce and avocado-lime crema (flesh of one avocado, about a tablespoon of lime juice or to taste, and three-quarters of a cup of sour cream placed in your blender or food processor and processed until smooth). “Please sir, I want some more.” Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Now that is some serious deliciousness!

We followed that up with some truly incredible pear-cardamom cake topped with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. Sadly there are no pictures; we just demolished it too quickly!

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8

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And So It Begins …

The many twists and turns of this 2020 pandemic year have necessitated changes in our lives and in our living. We venture forth only for appointments due primarily to age-related health changes and, instead of enjoying the great outdoors, we savor the smaller indoors and its activities.

On these pages, we’ll be discussing faith, food, sewing, and crafty indoor homemade joys. So let us begin with food. On our menu plan this week are the following dinner items (breakfast is usually either oatmeal or Greek yogurt with some fruit and a tablespoon of real maple syrup, and lunch is typically leftovers):

SUNDAYCRISPY ZA’ATAR CHICKEN WINGS W/MUSHROOM RISOTTO
MONDAYCHICKEN-CORN CHOWDER W/BISCUITS
TUESDAYHALIBUT FAJITAS W/AVOCADO-LIME CREMA ON HOMEMADE TORTILLAS & LEFTOVER RISOTTO
WEDNESDAYCHEESEBURGERS ON HOMEMADE PRETZEL ROLLS W/OVEN FRIES
THURSDAYSPANISH TORTILLA W/CORN SALAD

Friday is usually our no-cook, give-the-cook-a-break-and-splurge-a-little-night. What’s on your menu plan for this week? As I have the opportunity, I will post pictures and recipes as well. For now, however, make this a truly fabulous week and remember, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18.

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