Christmas 2014

One of the sisters came to celebrate Christmas and also our daughter & her husband from New York. That was very special but in addition we had cousins from down the street & additional cousins from Houston & California.  The cousin from California is 81vn and the youngest is 14. We also have a baby on the way in May: our daughter & son in-law are expecting. It was a wonderful time. The food was great but it was really the fellowship that made the day so special. We talked about everything imaginable: health, family, faith. It is a unique thing with family that we have a shared history. We were all telling family stories that sometimes were familiar and sometimes not. It didn’t matter so much the content of the stories but that the participants were all known & loved by all. One of the cousins remarked that he really doesn’t have anyone to share so freely with in his circle of friends but he feels so loved and accepted that he can reveal himself more. What a wonderful Christmas gift: that feeling of being loved. But that truly is what Christ came to give to us so how appropriate to experience it at Christmas dinner!

Perfect Gifts

Christmas Gifts--Yum!

Christmas Gifts–Yum!

Sarah

It seems that there comes a time in life when the giving and receiving of consumable gifts seems appropriate and appreciated.  I gave and received those sorts of gifts this Christmas.  I was given tangerines from the Texas valley, pecans from San Saba, Texas, local honey, coffee, homemade apple bread, wine, port, chocolate, tea, hand soaps, a container of narcissus and jars of dip and jam.  I love all of these things!  In turn I gave grapefruit & oranges from the valley,  tamales from a local bakery, toasted pecans, wine, coffee, jam, balsamic vinegar and organic pomegranate juice!

I guess most of my friends and family who are mid-60′s plus, just don’t need or want more things–unless they’re big ticket items which they buy for themselves–a new car, a green egg,  Alaskan cruise or tickets to a Las Vegas or Broadway show.  I sort of like this point in my life.  Certainly things have to be replaced, maintained and updated (bathrooms, kitchens, the house in general,  clothes, shoes, plants in the landscape), but I don’t really need or want to accumulate more objects.  There’s a certain freedom in that circumstance.

Exceptions to the  list of consumable things that one might want to acquire are books, CDs or DVDs. I was very pleased to receive a book on yoga which was on my wish list.  I also purchased an Andrea Bocelli Christmas CD which I’ve enjoyed, and I can’t wait to see the Advanced Style DVD which Susan is bringing for our birthday celebration!

Hmmm, maybe I’m not as free from the desire to acquire things as I thought!  Happy New Year!

 

 

Simple Pleasures

Sleeping cats

Sarah 

Evenings, I love them!  A good CD playing, a glass of wine, a cozy fire burning and a cat or two (or three) to keep you company.  What could be better?  I recently got a pick-up load of wood from a reliable source so I’m set for the winter.  I try to gather a little kindling and lay the firewood early in the day so that all I have to do is stuff a little newspaper below the logs and strike a match to get the fire started.    It’s such a pleasure to return from working or from yoga practice to this inviting retreat.

I also love a good cup of coffee or tea in the morning.   Someone gave me a can of Polar Bear tea which is a holiday blend of black tea with cranberries and spices.  I’ll try it tomorrow morning.  Hope it tastes as good as it smells!

According to the Bible, when King Solomon ruled over all of Israel his people lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree.  That’s about the sum of my aspirations–to live in safety under my fig tree.  I’m just glad my fig tree has a fireplace!`

 

Trees in the Fall

Sarah

I live in a wooded part of the state of Texas.  The woods are filled with several varieties of oak, sweet gum, hickory, pine and magnolia.  Every year about Thanksgiving, which is coming up this week, the leaves of the deciduous trees turn all sorts of glorious colors:  yellow, bronze, copper, gold, orange, red and maroon.  The view of the trees from my house is fabulous!  I know the northeast is known for spectacular fall color, but this is pretty impressive.  Crepe myrtles are commonly planted here, and they can be quite vivid.  There are a couple of other trees that should be mentioned:  the Chinese tallow and the ornamental pear.  The tallow tree is not a native and is really a trashy tree and not long lived, but it redeems itself every fall with its showy leaves.  The ornamental pear is not particularly long lived either, but the white blossoms in the early spring and beautiful fall color make it quite popular.  Another of my favorites for its color is the bald cypress. It’s actually a conifer that’s deciduous.  The bald cypress is fast growing and lives a long time.  I have one in my yard which I planted.  The only thing I don’t like about it is its “knees” which come up in inappropriate places!

I’ve tried growing a couple of Japanese maples with no success.  That maple is an under story tree.  I made the mistake of planting one in an area that receives intense afternoon sun.  Its leaves sort of fried every summer.  In another attempt, I planted a maple near my front door.  It seemed to thrive for several years but suddenly died.  I don’t think I’ll try another one.

There are many folks that love the desert and others who like an expanse of sandy beach, but I’m very pleased and thankful to live in the forest– particularly at this time of year.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Drink to Your Health

Becker Vineyards Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon

Becker Vineyards Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon

Sarah

From Health:

“The list of wines’ benefits is long—and getting more surprising all the time. Already well-known as heart healthy, wine in moderation might help you lose weight, reduce forgetfulness, boost your immunity, and help prevent bone loss.”

Wow! I’ve enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine in the evening for some time.  I didn’t realize I was drinking to my health.

Others claim that wine consumption lowers the risk of having a stroke, cuts the chance of developing cataracts and diminishes the risk of contracting colon cancer.  This just gets better and better!

There are a lot of wineries in Texas, and many produce good wine.  One of my favorites is Becker Winery which is located in the Texas Hill Country.  Their Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon is quite reasonably priced.  Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is pricier but highly recommended.

I was recently surprised to read that Mexico is listed among the top 10 wine travel destinations. As I read further, I learned that the article was referring to the Guadalupe Valley (Baja California) which is less than two hours south of San Diego.  Wineries, hotels and chefs have teamed up to create a wine route along Route 3.  I hadn’t seen Mexican wines for sale locally, but after a bit of a search I found that they’re sold at a nearby Spec’s.  This location offers two reds and a white.  I plan to stop by and buy a bottle of each–unless they’re exorbitantly priced!

Cheers!

The Practice of Yoga

 

Susan

I went to a yoga class last night at a neighborhood church and left feeling very energized. My sister Sarah has been practicing yoga since May and has been encouraging the other two sisters to do this also. She and I have had a few back issues and she believes the yoga has been very therapeutic. She practices a form of yoga called hatha. The class I attended was Iyengar yoga which emphasizes flexibility and involves the use of props which enable the participant to perform the various poses. That means if you are very stiff and inflexible you can use a towel or something to perform the pose without risk of injury. My instructor believes that it is very important to maintain correct alignment, especially as we age, to enable our organs and bones to function optimally. I intend to continue to attend the classes in the hope of increasing my flexibility and balance. I will report on any major breakthroughs: if I am ever able to do the wheel pose, urdhva dhanurasana!

Fall Veggies

Sarah

We have such a great variety of vegetables available to us.  At this time of year I’m particularly enjoying all kinds of squash.  I recently fixed butternut squash for the first time., and today I’m trying spaghetti squash.  I just follow the recipes on the stickers on the squash.  The spaghetti squash recipe recommends adding butter, Parmesan cheese and garlic to the shredded squash.  Sounds good.  The most difficult thing about working with these squash is splitting them open to scrape out the seeds and strings!

I’m also cooking beets (for a very long time).  When cool, I’ll peel and slice them and add olive oil and vinegar to sort of pickle them.  Delicious served cold.  Acorn squash is another of my favorites.  I have an old recipe that includes sauteed onion and herb seasoned stuffing.  Of course, sweet potatoes are wonderful and a staple in my diet.  I’m thinking of making the recipe below to enjoy after the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  Yum!

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

1/4 c. finely chopped onion                                                                                   1 t. brown sugar

2 T. butter                                                                                                                       1/8 t. ground nutmeg

1 t. curry powder                                                                                                          1/4 t. salt

1 T. flour                                                                                                                            1/8 t. pepper

2 cans (10.5 oz each) chicken broth                                                                      1 c. light cream

1 can (1 lb.) pumpkin                                                                                                    Minced chives for garnish

In a 3-qt. saucepan, saute onion in butter over medium heat until limp.  Stir in curry and flour and cook until bubbly.  Remove from heat, and gradually stir in chicken broth.  Add pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to simmer.  Stir in cream, and continue heating, but do not boil.  Garnish with a few minced chives or parsley when served.

Serves 8

Food

Menu

 

Susan

I am taking inspiration from the idea that was on the back of the menu when the sisters and I had lunch at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  This was from the U.S. Food Administration published in 1917!   It is so very appropriate for all of us today.  There is so much food available today, and in such variety.  When we were growing up, food was fairly seasonal:  apples in the fall, citrus in the winter, melons in the summer, and only iceburg lettuce.  Times have changed so much because of the changes in the way food is produced:  enormous farms with an emphasis on quantitiy not quality; and  transportation:  food literally from all over the world.  Of course I love that we have access to so much wonderful produce year round, but I think the availablity has made me less appreciative of food:  the actual process by which that kale or spinach or artichoke was produced.  One of the consequences of my thoughtless attitude is waste.  I frequently misjudge the amount of produce I need or will be able to use from lack of foresight.  Then it is thrown away.  Not good!  I am also just beginning to truly appreciate the farmers’ markets that are springing up around town.  The produce is local and most of the time it is organic.  It can be expensive sometimes, but maybe that will cause me to be thoughtful in my purchases.  I think the poster had it right in 1917.

The Sisters Visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Susan

The sisters came last week for two nights:  what a treat!  We all love gardening so we went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Have you been?  The mission of the Center is to “..increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.” It really is a fantastic place.  It displays an enormous variety of native plants and demonstrates how they can be used in the landscape but it is also a research center to deal with dwindling water supplies, climate change, pollution and invasive species, all by harnessing the power of native plants. If you have ever found yourself somewhat pessimistic about the future of our planet, this will give you great hope and inspiration!  I have been doing a survey of my yard in view of this visit and am looking at plants that should not be there because they do not follow this concept.  The most obvious problem I have is my very large lawn of St. Augustine grass which demands water, even when it is not available.  I also planted “Heavenly Bamboo” or nandina domestica, which is extremely invasive in Central Texas.  If you do any walking in natural areas around town you will be shocked at the multitude of nandina plants growing all over the place.  And it is extremely difficult to get rid of.  I have dug up one bush at least 3 times but it always comes back!  I think we all need to view ourselves as caretakers of this earth.  Now, what am I going to do about all that grass?

Bits of Widsom

Sarah

Martha and I made a quick visit to Susan’s in Austin last week.  While there I bought a pair of yoga pants at Lululemon.  It’s a store that sells fitness wear.  All of the sales personnel are young and very fit!  (Probably a requirement to work there.)

My purchase was put in a very nice bag which I’m sure is covered in the price of the garments.  I didn’t pay much attention to the messages on the bag until I got home but found there’s some pretty good advice given:

  • A daily hit of athletic-induced endorphins gives you the power to make better decisions, help you be at peace with yourself and offsets stress.
  • Friends are more important than money.
  • Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself.
  • Drink fresh water and as much water as you can.  Fresh water flushes toxins from your body and keeps your brain sharp
  • Write down two personal, two business and two health goals for the next 1, 5 and 10 years.  Do this four times a year.  Goal setting triggers your subconscious computer.
  • Practice yoga so you can remain active in physical sports as you age.
  • Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment.

and finally

  • Don’t trust that an old age pension will be sufficient!

You just never know where you may discover a pearl of wisdom.  I think I’ll go get a glass of water and write down a few goals!–Then I’ll call a friend.