Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - From "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finding Time to Cook, to Eat, and to Be With Family

Dad's house, winter 2008. 

I can't begin to tell you about how busy John and I have been the last few weeks. We knew in early February that the first two weeks of March were going to be very busy. Besides our regular Beekeepers meeting and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training classes, there would be doctor appointments for both of us and my father, dental appointments for me and John, an ongoing spring cleaning project, and special preparations for the bees as we get nearer to their swarming time.No sooner had the month arrived than a new project, more urgent, fell into our laps.

My father has been living with us since Mother passed away in 2010. I know, I've mentioned that before. Well, we've sort-of been taking our time cleaning the house out because we stay so busy here at the farm. (There is only so much the two of us can do with the time and other responsibilities we've been given.) We've advertised the house for sale, but had no buyers. Then, last week, our pastor, who knew we had an empty house, told us of some folks that needed to find a new place to live, and needed to move in rather quickly.
Dad and the greenhouse he built in 2009, at age 82

We all met, and, although Dad and I had been against renting (and the various problems associated with being a landlord ~ been there, done that), we found this situation to be one arranged by God. When we met the prospective tenants, we realized that these folks needed a home, but more than that, they needed a place to find peace and rest. We knew Dad's house could be that for them: a large, roomy structure on two acres out in the country (but only five minutes from downtown), grapevines my father had planted, birds my mother had enticed with seeds and breadcrumbs, and nightly visitations from a small herd of deer. Privacy too. There are neighbors on all sides, but the houses aren't on top of each other like they would be in a subdivision or city setting.
Greenhouse interior

We determined that these people would take better care of the property than many renters would, and that made Dad and me feel better about renting since the house wasn't selling. The timing for this was also good because the rent money is going to be used to help someone we know has a significant need. So we are all feeling good about this, and recognizing how God put it all together, because God never does just one good thing when He can do many, and in this situation, He is doing many good things!

Back to me and John though, and these very busy first two weeks of March! With the extra burden to get Dad's house emptied, John and I have been pushing ourselves well beyond our "plum tired" levels to new levels of "I can't feel my legs" exhaustion. If it hadn't been for our pastor, his son, and a friend helping us move out the boxes and furniture to storage, we couldn't have completed this mission without one of us ending up in the hospital. We are grateful to God that when He set this whole thing up, He also thought to provide the muscle for the move! (Thank you Gus, Anthony, and Sal).

I had to see my doctor today, and renew some important medications. We've got some finishing touches to do at Dad's house, and there's a birthday party in Marietta tomorrow for one of our grandsons, but we seem to be on the tail-end of this particular busy season. I have no doubt that more busy seasons are right around the corner, even in what remains of this month, but right now we are getting the chance to catch our breath again.
Dad's tomato plants

One of the first things we sacrifice when we get busy is healthy eating. I have absolutely no time to cook, and haven't figured out how to provide healthy, satisfying meals when we're constantly on the go. So we find ourselves eating convenient foods, snack foods, or whatever kills the hunger pains. Lately we've been eating carry-out pizza and chicken, sandwiches, canned soup, and hotdogs and hamburgers. Even breakfast has been a grab and go scenario! Besides disliking our limited choices, Frugal Me hates the fact that I'm spending so much money on food that I could be preparing at home for a fraction of the cost -- if I had time!

So it was really nice today to know that I was going to be preparing a home-cooked meal tonight. It was nice to have time to think about what we have (freezers and pantry stuffed full) and what i wantd to prepare for my family.

John is a big man, 6'5" tall, and 300 pounds. He will eat just about anything, but shouldn't. Here on the farm, he works hard physically, from morning till night, so he needs a hearty meal with significant protein and carbs, and fresh veggies. Things like quiche, veggie wraps, and simple sandwiches are not going to satisfy him. But John is a diabetic, so we have to make sure that what he is eating healthy foods in reasonable amounts that aren't sending his blood sugar count too low or too high out of whack.

My dad is 85 years old and won't wear dentures, so it's important for him to have foods that he can chew adequately and digest well. He isn't impressed by fancy gourmet meals, can no longer enjoy spicy or highly seasoned foods, and flat out refuses to eat most vegetables. He likes simple, uncomplicated foods, and I rotate his three favorite meals throughout each month (pork neck bones and rice, spaghetti, and chicken and macaroni). Dad is also a diabetic, but he's in good shape. His blood sugar level is rarely outside the normal range. My challenge with Dad is to provide good nutrition without cooking the food to mush because he has no teeth. The other challenge is to prepare vegetables he will eat!

Me? I'm also a diabetic. I focus on keeping my blood sugar in the normal range, and losing weight. I'm doing okay with the blood sugar, but weight loss is a constant struggle for me since there are plenty of factors working against me, even when I cut calories and exercise. Most of the time I juggle the same five pounds up and down. Sometimes I get tired of eating. Sometimes I graze looking for that one satisfying "thing". Sometimes, I have no appetite at all, but still need to prepare meals for Dad and John.

I've always loved cooking, but find that I no longer have the energy or stamina to prepare big meals for family and friends. Sometimes I have to force myself into the kitchen to prepare a meal for just the three of us. Tonight, however, it was a joy to get back into my kitchen and cook for the guys after these busy weeks of fast food.
Dad and Mom, Feb 5, 2009 (her birthday, age 81)

Whenever I'm working in my father's house, and especially this week as we've emptied out the last of my parents' belongings, I find myself thinking about my mother, and missing her. Among all the work and exhaustion this week, I've shed plenty of tears missing my mother and aching for her company.

Mother was my greatest food critic. Every other week, John and I ate breakfast with them on a Saturday. Every other week, they joined us for dinner and a movie on a Sunday afternoon.
Dinner and movie at 5~Acre Farm

Mother ate everything I ever prepared for her with delight and enthusiasm. She loved a formal table setting, a well-dressed plate, fancy food, and a taste of something that at least looked exotic. She never hesitated to tell me what she didn't like about one of my dishes, but she was also full of praise for the meals she enjoyed.

Really, I think my mother was my cooking muse. I was always excited to cook for her, challenged to prepare something beautiful and tasty that she would ooh and ah over in delight, devouring every morsel until she couldn't eat one more bite... until I presented her with an irresistible desert! I've had no cooking inspiration at all since Mother passed.

I could tell you much, much more about my mother, but to do so would take up many, many blog entries. So for now, because it fits, I'll just add that although my mother was born and raised in England, she was 100% Irish. Raised during WWII, with severe food rationing in place, however, my mother never learned to cook or enjoy cooking. She tried to learn and expand her skills, but found cooking a chore, not an effort of love. One of the sad things about this is that my mother couldn't introduce her faily to the foods of her country or her heritage. I've had to learn them on my own.

So, I've been thinking about my mom all week, and I'm also aware that St. Patrick's Day is right around the corner and my Irish is stirring. With time to think about it today, and time to prepare a proper meal for my family tonight, I chose to make something simple and familiar, but with an Irish twist. Cubed Steak with Colcannon and Brown Gravy.

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish. In its simplest form, it is made up of mashed potatoes, onions, and cabbage. I chopped the cabbage and onions, and simmered them together in butter over a low heat until both had caramelized. I seasoned the cabbage and onions with salt and pepper while they cooked, and stirred the mixture into the mashed potatoes when ready. Served with cubed steak and a peppery brown gravy, the meal was complete, tasty, hearty, somewhat nutritious, and quite comforting.

No comments:

Post a Comment