French Week Comes to a Tasty End

14Jan

Sadly, French week at Chez Fouquet has come to an end. Monsieur Fouquet has eaten well.

In my efforts to be creative and, truth be told, make menu planning more fun, I decided we would have a meal theme each week. It’s made the task of what to eat for the week much more adventurous. It’s also become more a chemistry experiment as well, since we are gluten and dairy free. Monsieur Fouquet didn’t plan to be gluten and dairy free, but he has discovered the path to his heart is through his gluten and dairy free stomach.

Our first week of the New Year was Mexican week featuring Beef Taco Bake and Skillet Beef Enchiladas. Both meals yielded yummy leftovers which were perfect for the cold, stormy weather we were having. Plus, after all the cooking I did for the holidays, it was a nice reprieve to not have to cook every night.

I’ve been wanting to make a gluten-free French Apple Tart, so it only made sense to have French week. My only real experience with real French cuisine was at a wedding in France several years ago. The groom is French. The wedding was at a beautiful 16th century chateau, with classic French cuisine (yes, foie gras) paired with the appropriate wines. It was exquisite.

I opted for a week of more humble faire: Pot-Au-Feh, French-Style Pot-Roasted Pork Loin with Marsala and Mushrooms, and [goat cheese] Cheese Souffle. The French Apple Tart was a lot of fun to make. Monsieur Fouquet enjoyed two pieces a day. Needless to say, it did not last the week. I can say with all humility, I have finally conquered the gluten-free pastry, thanks to America’s Test Kitchen!

Asian week begins today! I am re-working some of my 40-year old, authentic Japanese recipes from the Issei (first-generation) women at the United Methodist Church of West L.A. Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Pho, a staple in Vietnamese homes, will be a totally new recipe we’re trying.

America’s greatness is rooted in our diversity. All of us, except for the Native Peoples, have come from somewhere else. We brought our foods and customs. Some were adapted. Some were adopted. All are woven into the fabric that is American.

And lest we forget, we ALL have a seat at God’s table.

The Zen of Dead Bugs

12Jan

Dead bugs. Can you picture that? Bugs on their backs with their six legs flailing? Maybe the bugs are already dead and their legs are stuck in a bent position. No longer in the air. More curled up against their bodies.

I don’t really like thinking about bugs, dead or alive. But a couple of times a month we do dead bugs in my physical therapy class. This evening was a dead bug night. And my rotation to dead bugs was after 56 minutes of other cardio-strength training-balance work. I was ready to be the dead bug. A four minute dead bug.
Which meant I had to do something to get through my four minute dying bug workout.

An internet search for a dead bug picture revealed that there are serious ab workouts called dead bugs. Here I thought is was a term for a specific exercise the physical therapists made up. They seem to have all kinds of code terms for positions and exercise components. I can tell you, our dead bugs don’t look like the dead bugs from the Arthritis Foundation or even some of the body-building programs.

And then, my dead bug doesn’t look like anything everyone else in the class does. Everyone else in the class is on a thirteen-inch diameter disk with a centered ball underneath. They are on their backs, balancing on the disk, while alternating top taps alternating with straight arms in the air. For four minutes. Instead of a disk, I use an exercise ball, in a semi-crunch position. I can’t really toe tap with the fused ankle and the replaced shoulder only gets some time in the straightened position. I imagine I look like a maimed, dying bug.

Dead bugs is an excellent zen opportunity. Fortunately, I was positioned under the skylight, giving me my choice of focal points. The moon-lit clouds. The beams that ran from side to side half-way up the skylight. The magnificent cob webs. The paint. Brigette, the therapist, gave us minute alerts, which gave me one minute of zen for each focal point. Dead bugs was over before I was completely dead!

As I was driving home, a familiar passage about meditating came to mind:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:8

The spiritual application came a little late for dead bugs. Maybe next time. Sometimes you have to make do with what you have at the time. Tonight is was the paint in the skylight.

Nature and Our Iconic Redwood Trees

10Jan

We have coastal redwood trees in our front yard. It’s a beautiful, majestic tree that proudly stands out on our block. It is the only one on the street. There are some other redwoods up in the neighborhood hills behind our house which we visit on our walks.

There are only three species of redwoods. California has two, coastal redwoods and giant sequoia. The dawn redwood grows only in a remote part of China. Coastal redwoods are native up and down the coast of northern California. Giant Sequoias grow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. They are so unique, you have to take your out-of-town visitors to see these incredible, natural wonders. Both my sons lived in the redwoods when they were at University of California, Santa Cruz. I grew up camping in the redwoods. It’s in our native northern California DNA.

We’ve been in a severe drought the past several years. There was drought when we lived in Texas. We moved back to California and began another couple of years of intense drought. We really worried about our redwood tree. Redwoods need lots of water and usually get it in the coastal and mountain areas. Inland, not so much. We were on severe water restriction so she didn’t get much water.

Then we got rain. And more rain. And even more rain. An iconic giant sequoia (think online Geico commercial) was toppled in this massive rain storm we’re having. That tree has probably been here for over 1,000 years! You haven’t been able to drive through the human-created tunnel for several years, but there’s an easy hiking trail that’s accessible for just about everyone.

Redwoods have a unique root system that allows them to withstand earthquakes, floods, and winds. Redwoods are easily over 250 feet tall. You’d think their roots would have to be deep, but that isn’t the case. Instead, their roots are shallow, going down only about six feet. What they lack in depth, they make up for in width. Redwood roots extend out, sometimes over 100 feet from the trunk. They also join forces with grooves, rocks, and other redwood roots to form a strong, stable, connection that allows them to withstand the forces of nature.

Climate change contributed to sickening the great sequoia Pioneer Tunnel tree that went down in one of our recent storms. Humanity is responsible for that loss.

What kind of root system do you have? Do you have an Amen Corner of others who are joined with you as an intertwined and interconnected, supportive and interdependent network? Are you anchored in your faith?

They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit. ~ Jeremiah 17:8

Random Quotes Collected in 2016 for Your Edification

8Jan

Quotes have a way of offering a fresh perspective. I started seriously collecting quotes – or sermon illustrations as it was known in those days – almost forty years ago! I always had a stack of colored 3×5 cards with me. I never read a book or article without a few cards and pen nearby. I carried them in my purse and the diaper bag.

That was the dark ages. No internet. No smart phones. No computers. I did have a manual typewriter, but was not going to waste any effort typing them up after I had already written them down by hand. Plus I usually had a little cherub sitting in my lap or sleeping in my arms, so typing was reserved for actually writing a paper. I had a color code system and the cards were filed in either a 3×5 or 5×8 card box. I used that system for decades. (Yes, I am older than dirt.)

I thought I’d share a ten of my favorite quotes collected last year. It’s a random selection. Sometimes other people’s words speak fresh truth to our hearts.

In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do [God’s] work, to bear [God’s] glory. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. ~ Shirley Chisholm

Don’t waste you life trying to belong. Spend it learning to love. ~ Umair Haque

Our job is to challenge the systems that marginalize any member of the human family. ~ Rev. Ed Bacon

It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the **gift of life and allows us to choose** the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity. ~ Cesar Chavez

Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. ~ Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. ~ Simone Weil

What is justice? Giving water to trees.
What is injustice? Giving water to thorns.
Justice consists of bestowing bounty in its proper place, not on every root that will absorb water. ~ Rumi

There are spaces of sorrow only God can touch. ~ Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J.

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. ~ Mary Oliver

Spin Out on St. Distaff’s Day

7Jan

It’s St. Distaff’s Day. The official day ending the Christmas break and signaling the return to work. We can thank the medievals for this unofficial holiday.

However, it’s not really a holiday. The distaff, used in spinning, was a medieval symbol of women’s work. In many European cultures, women resumed their household work after the Twelve Days of Christmas. Women of all classes would spend their evenings at the spinning wheel. During the day, however, they carried a drop spindle with them. Spinning was the only way they could turn raw wool, cotton, or flax into thread for weaving. Alas, a woman’s work is never done.

Men also had a name day for returning to work after Epiphany. Epiphany doesn’t always occur as the Twelve Days ends, so often the men had a few extra days for loafing. Plough Monday, the first Monday after Epiphany, was when they were to return to work. I can’t imagine the ground being plough-able that time of year, but I supposed they needed a reason to go back to work, whether they were going to plough or not.

I selected the Pantone Color of the Year as the official color to be used in all St. Distaff’s Day celebrations. It’s called Greenery and it’s the color used in Jan 7. It seems that all of the paint companies have jumped on the Color of the Year bandwagon. I almost selected Sherwin-Williams color Poised Taupe which seemed like a good candidate for the distaff. But if I incorporated the Year of the Red Fire Rooster with St. Distaff’s Day, would we get a color available in medieval times? Finally, maybe Kelly-Moore’s Kettleman might suffice for Plough Monday. 

And there you have it: the official non-official feast day to end feast days with appropriate color for all celebration vestments. It’s a good thing Saint Sam and I aren’t obligated to St. Distaff’s Day or Plough Monday. We might be naked and hungry!

Epiphany ~ A Moment of Truth

6Jan

I love epiphanies. Those moments when your heart and mind sync up. Something shakes loose inside you and you know in your knower. You settle into that aha moment and feel an assurance that, “Yes. I can. I will. I am.”

Epiphanies happen all throughout our lives. Sometimes they’re take-your-breath-away experiences. Other times, it’s just a quietness and peace that feels like a warm cloak. I wonder which kind of epiphany Jesus had at his baptism?

This is what Matthew tells us:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” ~ Matthew 3:13-17

I’d like to experience a little more of the clouds parting and a strong voice coming from the heavens saying, “This is my beloved daughter, Linda, with whom I am well pleased!”

John the Baptizer talked up Jesus for a long time and, when the moment of truth is right before him, he has a brief bit of wonder. Almost like he’s questioning if him baptizing Jesus is how the drill goes. Maybe it should it be the other way around; Jesus baptizing John? I think even Jesus was a bit hesitant. After all, isn’t that how we humans are? A little bit hesitant, wondering if we’re reading the signs correctly. Pausing to make sure we’re getting “it” right. We don’t know if they had a guidance dream like Joseph or the magi.

While we never fully know what that moment of truth was like for Jesus, we do know he was fully committed to the work before him from that moment on. Jesus was intimately familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, reciting from Isaiah more than any other. When he heard God’s voice from heaven, he must have recalled the passage from Isaiah:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. ~ Isaiah 42:1

In that moment, it became clear what his mission was; his purpose here on this planet.

Have you had a moment of truth yet this New Year? Maybe recalling a previous epiphany that somehow got buried under distractions? We won’t always hear the strong voice from heaven. Sometimes it’s a whisper. Take a moment to be silent. Listen.