Growing Up – With Marcella – #129 (of 466)

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This past year, while I’ve been on the same land mass as my family, I’ve had the joy of occasionally travelling up to my brother’s to cook dinner for us all and catch up for the evening.

I still feel there’s so much to catch up on…so many days of life and inches of growth that my niece and nephew have experienced while I wasn’t looking, while a sea or two or three and a nation or two or three or ten have separated us.

Every few years I’ve parachuted in and seen them that bit older and wiser and chattier and funnier.

Yet, I think back to the baby boy I held and spent time with for the first four months of his life before I flew away for the first time. Eighteen years later, he’s taller than me, and he’s still so lovely and he makes my heart swell and hurt with love all at the same time. He’s a butcher in the making just now. He’s always been a sensitive, caring soul in the making.

I think back to the little, feisty toddling girl I met for the first time when I traveled back many years ago. She was already a budding actress and a very clever little girl. She could put her mind to anything and do it well. She still can. She loves quiet time. She loves learning. She’s pretty much the same height as me now, and I can’t believe how she’s grown into a young woman already. She knows more about doing her hair and makeup than I do. All while she excels at school.

I’m so proud of them both. I love having more time to see them. Though these days I have to take what time they can give me in the midst of their busy, social lives.

But I’ll take whatever time and hugs and laughs I can get. I’ll take, and give, as many ‘I love you’ s as we can say. I’ll keep enjoying all the cooking and feeding and sitting and taking around a table as we can manage.

Time is short. They are not! They keep growing!

#129 Fusilli pasta with ‘Courgette Sauce with Basil and Beaten Egg Yolk’ with brother, nephew and niece at my brother’s table.

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Free Writing – Ultimate Meringue Therapy

The inside of an egg holds the promise of the ultimate meringue recipe – half of the insides of four eggs, anyway.

This morning I made a batch of meringues for a friend.

When I went to bed last night, and as my friends’s birthday came to an end, I fell asleep with the intention to awake the next morning and make those meringues she loves so much. A promised birthday gift, albeit a day late.

This morning I woke to an email she’d written last night, after my bedtime, telling us, her friends and family, that her dear brother had died that very day.

A day of birth and a day of death.

The thing about meringues is that they’re good for both. At least I trust they are. A light crust that holds things together just long enough – until one reaches the soft comfort of the marshmallow-like interior.

I hope the meringues are a comfort to this friend as she grieves – with family afar, friends nearby, and alone as she settles into bed to sleep tonight.

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Meringue Therapy

4 egg whites

3/4 cup castor sugar

1 cup of icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 100 degrees celsius (or as low as your oven will go – mine is 120 degrees.)

Line baking tray with baking paper (I use two trays).

With electric mixer on medium speed, whip egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Turn the mixer to high speed and add the castor sugar a dessert spoon at a time. Beat until the castor sugar is dissolved.

Sift in the icing sugar and then fold the mixture with a large metal spoon until it’s combined – don’t overmix.

Spoon onto the trays in clumps! I get about 15-16 from this batch – but you could make them bigger or smaller if you prefer.

Bake in the oven for an hour – more if they’re not crisp when you touch them. (I swap the trays around on the two shelves in my oven, half-way through the cooking time).

When they crusty on the outside, take them out and carefully remove them onto a cooling rack.

Serve with a bowl of whipped cream and a bowl of berries.

Cafe Disloyalty

Today, I am to write about the space in which I write. Yet, that very topic brings me face to face with the current crisis that I face.

Perhaps ‘crisis’ is a tad dramatic.

Yet, as I sit here in this new space, two doors down from my old space, I’m feeling a little anxious. Admittedly a little less anxious than I was a few minutes ago as I tried to approach the new space from a different direction so that the owners of the old space wouldn’t see me. Having memorised my name and coffee order within two visits, I imagined them calling out my name in enthusiastic greeting, only to fade on the last syllable as I slinked past them to the other place.

Cafe loyalty or, calling it as it is, disloyalty.

I wanted to be loyal. I really did. I’d made headway with remembering the names of the staff and other fellow patrons. I was enjoying the free newspaper and the feeling of belonging.

I just wasn’t enjoying the coffee.

That’s a problem when you’re sitting in a cafe.

It’s not that I’m a coffee snob. I actually would have been OK with an instant coffee. It was just that this particular blend, in the form of my customary ‘long black’, was literally making me shudder each time a took a mouthful. That’s a problem when you’re trying to look friendly, appreciative, and, well, just normal, really.

So, while I don’t take kindly to disloyalty in any area of life, I had to make the decision. It felt cruel. The reality is, they may not even notice I’m no longer a regular patron…? This is not likely, given that when I visited yesterday, they said ‘So good to see you back after being away for work.’

One thing that nearly held me there, in the old space, clutching my coffee with determination and preemptive shuddering, was the free newspapers and the crossword found therein.

But now I’m here in the new space, with a much better coffee for my tastes, brighter surroundings, free wifi and – you guessed it – a free newspaper.

Coffee and Crossword

Coffee and Crossword

What else can I do, but embrace disloyalty? With time, my disloyalty will become a new loyalty, to a new writing space.

Watch this space.

Postscript: I turned to the crossword. Someone had got there before me. Could this be my punishment for disloyalty?

Two minutes later: the friendly, ¬†loyalty-seeking waitress just brought me the other newspaper in the cafe (after another loyal patron had finished with it). The crossword therein is as yet untouched. I believe I’m hooked.

Lists: Top Tips, Goodnight Thank Yous, and Blessings

If we’re to write using lists in today’s challenge, I might well start with this trusty old post card that is usually pinned to a noticeboard in my kitchen.

10 Tips to Stress Less:

  1. Remember to get your zzzz’s
  2. Talk out your troubles
  3. Notice something beautiful
  4. De-clutter your life
  5. Do more of what makes you feel most alive
  6. Practice compassion
  7. Learn to listen and be heard
  8. Delegate
  9. Plan date nights with your friends
  10. End the day well
Ten Tips to Stress Less

Ten Tips to Stress Less

Tonight, I had the unexpected delight of minding other people’s children. Not that I expected it would be awful or demanding. I just didn’t expect that it would be a delight.

I arrived to find the kids fed, dishes done and a meal kept warm for me. The kids and I played my all time favourite ‘quieten down the kids’ game – ‘Boxes’ – not putting the kids in boxes – rather that little game of dots on a page eventually joined up into boxes.

This was followed by staggered bedtimes, strictly adhered to. Some reading aloud to the youngest, some quiet companionable reading with the older siblings. Followed by tuck-ins and bedtime prayers. I asked each child for some things from their day, for which we could thank God. Here’s a collected summary:

  1. Friends
  2. Fun at school
  3. Comfy beds
  4. Term being half way through
  5. Holidays coming soon
  6. Books to read
  7. Sleep
  8. Friends in another country

While we’re in the business of saying thank you, I could list some things from my day, for which I am thankful to God:

  1. An afternoon nap when I needed it
  2. Chocolate that my brother left in the fridge
  3. An easy-reading book
  4. Quiet companions to read with tonight
  5. Some final duties completed for the year
  6. A good-morning pat, for the Stella the cat, on the outside mat
  7. Work companions, including a lovely catchup with one not seen for a while
  8. Purple flowers everywhere
  9. Friends to pray with
  10. A roof over my head

Tonight, while reading with the youngest before he was tucked in and wished a good night, we read these words, spoken from a mountain by Jesus, to his disciples and a great crowd of people:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew Chapter 5)

As I left the youngest child’s bedroom, turned out the light, and said goodnight, I heard him quietly say from his bed, ‘God bless!’.

God has blessed me, indeed!

I Write Because…

I write because I’ve set the timer to write. I write because the first writing prompt for this month’s writing challenge is to set the timer and write about why I write.

I pause to drink some sparkling water, and I write about that because that’s one of the points of these free-writing exercises: to write whatever comes into your head.

I’m not sure I could write whatever comes into my head. Though it’s true that I often write because what I write is often a truer version of what’s in my head than any words I might speak out loud.

I write because I can say what I mean to say. It comes out differently. There’s silence in my head which allows the words to form a little more before they are birthed on the page.

The clock on the kitchen wall is ticking just now. The dog in the neighbour’s yard just barked. A short, sharp, high-pitched ‘YIP’ that would drive you to distraction. Maybe not you. Maybe you’re more patient. But me? It can do my head in – consume my thoughts – so that what I write – the words that flow from my head to my hands – are filled with the dog next door.

The dog has stopped and a siren starts. It’s in the distance, so I needn’t wonder if it’s coming for someone near by – the neighbour perhaps? The siren is getting closer…and the dog has stopped barking…are these things connected?

Now the siren and the dog have both stopped their high-pitched noise-making. I’m left with my own thoughts again.

What was I thinking about?

I write because…

Why do I write?

Most of the reasons I write are the same reasons that others will be writing about in this challenge. I needn’t repeat them here.

I write for me. To give expression to thought. To create something new. I also write because I hope it will be read. I hope it might give expression to other’s thoughts. But that’s a more difficult, nobler task.

I write now. I write right this very minute in honour of the 200th follower of my blog! You know who you are! I know who you are! I was there when you followed my blog this evening. Sitting right next to you was the 1st follower of my blog. Hello to you, too!

The timer is almost up.

I may write alone. But I write because I imagine you’re there with me as I write.

Whoever you are.

But tonight, a big hello to follower #1 and follower #200. Two very special people in my life. Both with a love of words and the communicating of them. Both lovers of ‘the Word who became flesh’. Followers of Jesus who just happen to follow my blog.

His words are certainly worth following.

Cooking Catchup – With Marcella #124, #125, #126, #127 & #128 (of 466)

The past few weeks I’ve been catching up, turning up, clearing up and cooking up – not storms, mind you, though there have been storms brewing, literally, the last few days. As the thunder has rolled and the hail stones have fallen, I’ve been reminded that I’m in a different country to the one I’ve been living in for so long.

I’m living in another time of transition, just now. I don’t love transition – though I often love the fruit of it and the next stage. I just don’t like the waiting to arrive.

While this past year hasn’t afforded the time to cook as often from Marcella’s book. The recipes remain one of the few constants in my life. Constant, in the sense that I know the recipe will work if I follow it. Even my brother, who is not known for trying lots of new foods, pronounced while looking tentatively into an unfamiliar concoction brewing on the stove, ‘It’ll be good! It has to be. It’s in the book!’

Recently, in another book, I’ve been reading the wisdom of Qoheleth, the Preacher. Ecclesiastes reminds me that everything in this life is transient. I may struggle with transition and wish things to be concrete, but wisdom is found in acknowledging the fleetingness of things. In these mist-filled moments, I am exhorted to enjoy the life that God has given me. Eat, drink and be merry. Do whatever work God gives me, with all of my might. Wisdom is seizing the day as it is, just one day. Just one, among many, in the light of a certain and concrete eternity to come.

I’m glad then, that one book (Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’) fits with the exhortations in another book (Ecclesiastes, The Bible). So here, below, you’ll find the fruit of my eating and drinking and being merry with many different folk, as I live through transition and put my hope in a sure, eternal future to come.

#124 ‘Frittata with Asparagus’ with my Mum and two Aunties at my parent’s table, outdoors in the warmth of an Australian Spring.

Asparagus Frittata

Asparagus Frittata

#125 ‘Grilled Chicken, Alla Diavola, Roman Style’ with family at my parent’s table, making prior use of their BBQ for this delicious dish.

Grilled Chicken alla Diavola

Grilled Chicken alla Diavola

#126 ‘Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce with Garlic and Basil’ with a wise, like-minded friend at my Australian table. (This particular photo is of leftovers eaten the following evening).

Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce with Garlic and Basil

Roasted Red and Yellow Pepper Sauce with Garlic and Basil

#127 ‘Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms’ with my family visiting at my table, for my Dad’s birthday dinner. The blossoms travelled from my parent’s garden and made for a tasty start to dinner.

Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms

Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms

#128 ‘Asparagus Risotto’ – with Mum, Dad and Brother continuing at my table. Dad declared it to be ‘much better than the frozen risotto packs he heats up when at work!’

Risotto with Asparagus

Risotto with Asparagus