Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve at our house 2015

 It's a quiet Xmas eve. All the decorating is done, and presents are wrapped though several still need gift tags. Time for that in the morning. I made New York slice bars, but no other cooking though may make some shortbread and an Ohio lemon pie before New Years Eve. With Cal recovering and school, it has just been an unambitious Christmas season. No concerts nor special events. Cal and I do not plan to exchange gifts; we pretty much leave that for birthdays only. If it were not for son, Joseph Charles Heffernan Jr., nothing Xmas would have been done at all. Thanks, Joe! It's so delightful to have the decorated house looking so much like Christmas. Joe was here helping with some last minute things this afternoon and stayed for a nice steak dinner with us. Later, Joe and I made some cards with Christmas music in the background, and the football game was playing. Just simple designs with supplies from my stash much is years old!). I'll grab some photos of mine in the am for this post (as above), just too tired now. Cal is recovering quickly from the knee replacement. He even helped cook the steaks tonight. Our other Joe will be here with his family tomorrow am, and they said they are bringing ingredients and will be making a bacon and egg breakfast and Mimosas! The grandkids are apparently going to clean up. Sounds delightful. I got sandwich fixings, cookies and chocolates for the holiday weekend. Cooking is not my thing! OK, you know I do fix the occasional dish; but, I'm not a regular chef. I'm looking forward to a nice quiet holiday weekend at home with family.
Wishes for Peace on Earth as I say good night tonight.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Getting ready for the holidays - decorating the house

Joe and I are still decorating for the holidays. We have a lot done. Joe started outdoors with a wreath on the door and some lights. Simple but nice. The indoor decor is also much as always. There is a  heavenly host of Barbie dolls; stockings hung near the fireplace represent all the family members, and Joe put those 500 ornaments on the tree and wrapped several presents.  The 3 French Hens sit on the buffet in the dining room. The table needs to be cleared to lay out the rest of the 12 days of Christmas tableware. It's slow but steady work. Nonetheless, I love how it all comes together. 

2015, coming to a close and an essay on resiliency

Nice to have Cal come home from rehab. He had his right knee replaced a week ago. He is doing well. I hope it makes as much difference for him as it did for me. I got more active than I had been, so I lost more weight. Best of all was how the operation reduced the pain in my life, too. Amazing, how we let things get so bad before fixing them. Of course, modern knee surgery is excellent. Cal and I had the same rock star surgeon, too. Still, having operative procedures is very emotionally tough. I'm not sure I'd repeat the operations done this year even though I'm delighted with the results. Cal says much the same thing.
I am fortunate to have a stalwart life partner in Cal. He is kind, forgiving and a dear friend, too. On the other hand, he does try my patience at times. I was upset with him about his attitude about life and was going to complain; but, have edited this paragraph. Today he was much more hopeful about life; and, I realized that the statements he was making before surgery and since had more to do with facing the procedure and the pain and not with giving up. He seems hopeful; so, I think he is on the road to recovery. I look forward to some fun times and fun travels ahead!
Also, thank goodness school is out. Straight A's! Well, I did withdraw from one class, four was just too much, or I might not have had those straight A's. I have several things planned for this week, not the least of which is getting ready for Christmas. The kids all have busy schedules and will be dropping by at different times. So, we will have a perpetual holiday open house it seems! Lots of food ordered. We will not be hungry.
I've been reflecting on this past year. Lots of ups and downs. I did not realize the impact of becoming a senior citizen would have on my life. It changed my perspective on so much! I wish I had suddenly become wiser and more at peace; but, it is not so, sigh! 
I have been doing a lot of philosophical thinking lately about some topics, such as friendship, disappointments, getting older and resiliency. Writing my thoughts down has helped me sort through some things.  

An Essay on Resiliency

I know my strengths; yet, at times, know that I am fragile and wonder how I have not broken into a million pieces. Nevertheless, bits of Karen are not scattered everywhere. I remain whole. My surface has taken on a fine network of cracks, a craze (ironically, situations like I will describe can lead to some temporary insanity) and over time, that exterior has developed a well-worn and rich patina. Some people say that pain and tribulation shape us and good experience adds to our form. Deep in our core, loving ourselves, we develop the substrate that holds our parts together. Sometimes, we find something or someone outside ourselves which prop us up and help bind the broken bits. Regrettably, that external fix can leave us with a weak and vulnerable spot. I had a friend, who lives across the country (Penfield, New York; I live in Sacramento, California), to whom I revealed a significant break and hurt. My friend said I did not deserve such pain. However, I discovered that those words of comfort meant, to the speaker, that "only they" were free to inflict more of that same pain. Why our existence, like a Roy Lichtenstein painting, is full of comic melodrama seems weird. Life can be that, very bizarre. When I reacted with hurt, frustration and anger to a broken promise, I revealed a secret story of even more betrayal. It was an over-reaction, true. Telling the truth, revealing a secret though it was my secret, too, made me the villain. I admit, I was ugly about it. Betraying a confidence was out of character for me, too. Then again, I had never let myself feel free to be so hurt and angry before. I knew that the result was too often "kill the messenger.” I understand that reaction. It does serve to move attention from the bigger deeper problem to one more immediate and solvable. My friend informed me there were fatal consequences to my actions; my response meant the loss of everything. (The story about losing the dog in particular really got to me.) I am a woman, and of a generation where we learned, and we are expected, to take our hurts and keep them quiet. Speaking up makes us, not the perpetrator, evil. Of course, this conditioning also made me worried; I tried to learn if I truly had caused my friend grief. Those efforts solidified me as "the bad guy". However, it helped me discover that much of the story was indeed melodrama; solely, to cause me anguish. I have felt pain; but, am not shattered. There are a lot of rough and jagged bits; there are regrets. Sadly, while my friend has a life philosophy predicated on seeking mercy (“It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”), I doubt my friend's philosophy extends to granting forgiveness to others. I recently attended a talk about regret and medical personnel. It got me thinking yet again about the topic of resiliency. How do we go on after an unfortunate occurrence? The primary and most efficient system to avoid problems and to mend them is talking things over - communicating. It works well when situations are prone to mistakes: medical management, flying airplanes, and everyday life.  There is not always the opportunity to discuss things and situations do run awry. Systems shut off communication and errors are often the result. Forgiving ourselves, no matter the situation, is an important part of resiliency. There are some life situations when avoidance does seem to work and appears to be an approach recommended by most contemporary therapists. I think our huge population and mobility of society make this way possible. My niece is one of those who just swears, says forget it, and puts things behind her - avoiding the turmoil altogether. I think she has developed a protective coating. It is an approach many contemporary young women have learned. My generation has an approach that has failed to be effective and I think may account for this generation's response. Helen Mirren says, "At 70 years old if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words ‘fuck off’ much more frequently,” If only I could have carried through on that! Helen Mirren also said, "Unfortunately, at least for my generation, growing up (we didn’t say that) and I love the fact that girls are so much more confident and outspoken than my generation were. We were sort of brought up to be polite and sometimes politeness, in certain circumstances, is not what’s required, you’ve got to have the courage to stand up for yourself occasionally when it's needed.” Oh, to have the confidence to know you were right, to be righteously angry and not have regrets! I know I was right to be angry. Nonetheless, I do miss my friend, do have regrets, and, for the moment, I cry a lot. Will a tough outer coating wear as well over the years as my more exposed surface? Young women, like my niece, will likely, over time, have a form with more original shape and definition. Me? I'm not sure I want all those sharp and prickly bits. Whatever the final form of our lives, we are beautiful, we love ourselves, we are resilient. (I know my audience all too well; you need an animal report. You will be happy to learn the dog is well, not lost, and living comfortably with a human caretaker, Mike Kerwin.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A recipe gift for you on my Birthday

I do not cook. Well, almost never. I tried a goat cheese scalloped potato dish for Thanksgiving but it did not work out as well as I’d liked. I tried it again; but, I modified the recipe and the results were amazingly good. It is definitely for special occasions only because it is high in fat!
So here is my recipe version for 

Lactose free chèvre potato gratin. 
(Full dairy and a vegan (for my niece, Danielle) option also listed.)
Serves 8-12

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare casserole dish (9.5 x 14 x 2.5 inches) by coating interior with olive oil or butter.

5 lb russet potatoes
1 medium to large white onion
1-2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon)
1-2 cups of crumbled goat cheese or vegan chèvre (1 cup minimum to 2 cups maximum should work, just depends on how cheesy you want the dish. I use closer to 1 cup.)
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste and ground nutmeg (less than 1/4 teaspoon total of the nutmeg)
2 cups lactose-free whole milk and 1 cup olive oil (OR 3 cups heavy cream for full dairy version OR 2 cups soy milk and 1 cup olive oil for vegan alternative)

Peel and slice one medium size white onion to 1/4 inch slices
Heat skillet with vegetable oil or butter to medium heat and add onion slices to caramelize.
Mince 1-2 cloves of garlic, about 1 teaspoon) and add to onions when almost done caramelization. Remove onions from heat when lightly caramelized.
Peel the russet potatoes and slice to 1/4 inch slices .
Divide potatoes in three parts and layer one portion in casserole. Sprinkle with a third of goat cheese (or vegan chèvre) spread a third of prepared onion/garlic over top of layer.
Season with sprinkled kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and very fine dust of nutmeg (I used a barely visible amount).
Repeat layers and seasoning for two more layers.
Pour two cups lactose-free milk and one cup of olive oil over ingredients. (Substitute 3 cups of heavy cream OR two cups of soy milk and one cup olive oil, if full dairy or vegan alternatives desired)
Bake for 90 minutes.

If you make this, please let me know how it turned out, if you liked it and if you have any suggestions for improvement.

Montreal - A Girdled Porcupine (reflections on a reunion in 2013)

Forty years, unbelievable and yet, a reality; that it's been that long since I graduated from McGill with my M.D.;C.M. and a l...