Sunday, March 11, 2012

In the Know: In the Wake of the Wake

It was impossible to read the second annual care giving issue of Woman's Day without considering what lies in the aftermath. It may sound morbid that the pink and flowered casserole tote, intended to celebrate tuna surprise and family gatherings, reminded me of  book famous in my own hometown. Food to Die For: A Book of Funeral Food, Tips, and Tales from the Old City Cemetery reminds Southerners like me of little blue haired ladies from a small country church bringing over Big Ma's macaroni and cheese in a tin pan. These times are generally few and far between when we're younger and grow closer together as the years pass and we accrue a wider array of friendships and connections. And, of course, we age.

I have unfortunately suffered through more than a few premature deaths in the last few years, but the book is comforting in it's humor, it's familiarity, and the acknowledgement that in times of mourning we all share from a common plate and that plate is the desire to know and to be known: we need intimacy, community, and communion through food and drink.

There are few things more comforting than enjoying good food in the company of good friends. I am certain that no one in the United States realizes this better than Southerners. Our fried foods, our cheesy casseroles, our greens and okra--they are our celebratory delights--misunderstood by California health nuts, condemned by the National Health Association, replicated unsuccessfully by reality show chefs.

As convenience becomes more of a priority I wonder if this tradition of wake food will, er, die out. We eat out more, dine in less, and invite others to dine with us even more infrequently. Is this a tradition my generation or the generation after me will leave behind? Do we know the recipes of our mothers and grandmothers? Is a better question this: do we celebrate the fact that we know them and that we can reproduce them?

For me, the answer is yes. I know my Grandma Tinsley's macaroni and cheese recipe. I made it this Thanksgiving along with most everything else. I still have a grandmother to tell me what I'm doing wrong and who will fix the "turkey balls" during the holiday preparation reminding me for the umpeenth time that she won't be here next year to help.

One year she'll be right.

The same blue haired ladies I remember from childhood won't be there with their Liz Taylor perfume and support hose. Will I be able to depend upon my peers to tote the casserole and buckets of chicken--even if it's from KFC?

I make a quick laundry list of close friends in my head and I am relieved to hear my internal response answer "yes."

My desire for everyone reading this blog is that you'll prioritize the communal opportunities in your life and share your traditions with others.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ads: Lovender

I was reminded of a few lavender products I saw advertized in Woman's Day while shopping this evening. Honestly, I was really sad that the Glade Plug-In pine scent is seasonal. It's really heavenly walking through your home and smelling the forest. I can't think of anything better unless they develop a hot-dogs-on-the-grill scent.

But I'm going to give the lavender products a try. I saw a laundry detergent, dish detergent. I like to be uniform in my smells--kind of like matching your underwear.

There are a lot of benefits rumored around lavender. Mood enhancement, insomnia, digestive issues. It may or may not be true but I can tell you about some great opportunities in our area for a fantastic lavender experience:

1. Seven Oaks Lavender Farm (Catlett, VA)

You can pick your own lavender, take classes, buy products, and enjoy the views of the countryside.

2. Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery

Not far from Charlottesville, Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery serves both wine and mead. One of their most memorable selections is called "Lavender Metheglin" which is a lovely Celtic nod to the Welsh word "meddyglyn" meaning "healing drink." Hill Top recommends heating it for the holidays or pairing it with a yummy dessert.

3. Night Sky Farm Lavender Goat Cheese

Cheese is my favorite food in general and the distinctive flavor of goat cheese makes it one of my favorites. Night Sky Farm, located in Brookneal Virginia, offers a wide variety of flavors including lavender. We've enjoyed her Havarti cheese and I discovered that her homemade goat soap can be used on sensitive areas like the face and hands without drying the skin--I was amazed.

I am planning to visit Seven Oaks Farm in June with numbers 2 and 3 in tow. Maybe you'd like to join!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Best Pizza Picks for Dieters

My dieting experience isn't what I would call vast, but I have tried more than a few: Adkins, Southbeach, some cabbage soup diet in High School that was ghastly. What I've learned is this: life style changes and exercise work best. Part of that success for me is realizing I will go out to eat and abiding by basic rules. I let myself eat fast food once in a while and when I do, I don't feel so bad if I know what my better options are.

Pizza is arguably the most popular fast food. Besides Chinese, pizza is the only food you can have delivered and it includes many of the four food groups.  I can eat anything on my pizza although I don't prefer meat. My favorites are Pizza Hut's thin and crispy with anchovies, Dominos Fiery Hawaiian (includes jalapenos, bacon, and hot sauce), and a plain mushroom pizza from PaPa Johns (and I eat the pepper). Most of my friends think these pizzas are gross. I say it could be worse--some of the more popular toppings in Japan are squid and Mayo Jaga (mayo, potato, and bacon).

These choices would be a splurge, but there are other options that aren't that bad. Woman's Day falsely stated that the thin crust is always the best option--it's not. Dominos pizza's thin has extra butter, making it higher in both calories and fat. There are a few choices that won't make you go home guilty:

1. Two slices of a  medium Pizza Hut Thin and Crispy Ham and Pineapple have 360 calories and 12 grams of fat. The elliptical for half an hour should burn that off.

2. Two slices of a small, hand tossed, Pacific Veggie American Legends Dominos pizza is 460 calories. You can burn that off by playing an hour and a half of bowling.

 (people at Forest Dominos hate making this btw)

3. Two medium slices of PaPa John's Tuscan Six Cheese is 460 calories. You'll have to play an hour of tennis to get that off but it's fun and there are plenty of courts around the city.

What is your favorite pizza and where does it come from?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Be Quick to Be Slow

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." James 1:19

In the edition that confronts the different facets of caregiving, I can't think of a more appropriate verse. Most women become a caregiver at some point in their lives for an individual or individuals that fit into one of two categories: child or elderly.

This week I watched a nurse walk our 95-year-old neighbor down the street at 8 a.m. I learned that a coworker is pregnant for the first time. I heard a new friend discuss taking action in defending an elderly acquaintance who was forced from her home.

Every day I help my grandmother with one small task or another and wonder when the bigger tasks will arrive. I am often too quick to snap, raise my voice, roll my eyes. I am proud of the moments I listen and really hear what she is saying. When she admonishes me,"Your dog really needs you to spend more time with her," I know that sometimes she is projecting her own feelings of need on the dog because her pride won't let her say otherwise.

It is the hardest task to be kind to those who may need us most. Without being slow to anger and seeking diligence in listening, the most important people in our lives can suffer. And we suffer too. Guilt is a huge agent in defeat and discouragement.

This month I hope to familiarize myself about what support is available in our area for those either weary from caretaking or people just in need of encouragement and support. I hope the journey will lead me to the smallest and greatest pleasures in life.

I hope you'll join me--my dog needs you.