“Rooting Through The Freezer” Soup

 

I had a professor in seminary who was prone to profound proclamations, made in a thundering sort of voice. This was one of my favorites:

Our God is a God who makes order out of chaos!!!

I believe. With all due respect, though, to Walter Brueggemann, not so much yesterday. I won’t bore you with the details except to say that there is a difference between a pair of pliers and a socket wrench and it’s likely to be another couple of weeks before the Muse is thrilled with the outcome of her plan.

Instead, let me tell you about my first real experiment with the new Instant Pot.

We’ve been doing great with boiled eggs and the pot roast adventure turned out pretty well, though a major change in seasoning is in order.

This week, though, I needed soup. Bill was in Seattle and the Farmer’s Market seemed farther away that it usually does.

(I’m new at this. Please read the directions that come with your particular electric pressure cooker! You could also do this in a slow cooker or stock pot, adjusting accordingly for time.)

I started with inventory.

I had a quart of homemade beef broth. (You could use chicken, turkey, or pork!) The usual complement of aromatics and herbs. A couple of cups of tiny Yukon Gold potatoes. About a pound of green beans. Four tiny turnips from the garden with the attached greens. A bag of frozen okra. And a major prize. Three pounds of local, sustainably raised smoked ham hocks, hiding under a batch of turkey bones. Oh, and a bottle of hard apple cider.

Inspiration!

Thursday, I thawed the ham hocks and then made the broth, placing beef broth, hocks, one yellow onion, halved with the skin on, a whole bulb of garlic, sliced in half, paper on, a bundle of fresh thyme, 3 fresh bay leaves, about a tsp. of freshly ground mixed peppercorns and the 12 ounces of hard cider in the inner pot for my 8 quart duo model.

I pushed enough buttons to set it on pressure cooking for 1 hour at the soup and broth setting, with the vent sealed.

If you’ve done this before, you realize it takes a while to come up to pressure and a while longer to release…about 2 hours, all told.

Then I pulled all the ham hocks out with tongs and picked out the meat, which I saved separately from the broth. After the broth cooled about an hour, I put it in the fridge with the handy silicone lid.

Expecting guests for lunch, it was time to work on the veg Friday morning. I started by placing the inner pot of broth back in the magic machine and setting it to slow cook on the medium setting for a couple of hours, while I went back to sorting bookcases.

I thawed the frozen okra in a small colander.

Then, I washed the potatoes, turnips and green beans and let them all dry a bit on a clean kitchen towel. I cut the potatoes and turnips in half, leaving the skins on and reserving the turnip greens, wrapped in a damp paper towel. I trimmed the green beans and cut them into bite sized pieces.

Now for the miracle!

I added all the veg, along with the reserved meat, to the warmed broth and changed the setting to pressure cook on high for 5 minutes, with the vent sealed.

It worked!!!

Again, allowing for getting the pressure up and back down, I actually had fabulous soup with perfectly tender veg in less than 20 minutes.

Deep. Rich. Smokey, yet oddly green as well.

I shredded the reserved turnip greens for garnish.

I believe that God creates order out of chaos.

It doesn’t feel like it happens at my house every day.

But this week, comfort happened.

Next week, I devoutly hope, a bit more order.

And some left over soup!

 

 

A Holy Thing

You may recall, if you’ve been hanging out for a while, that I went to Hungary in the winter of 1989. Six students and one of our professors from Columbia Theological Seminary in an Eastern bloc nation where none of us spoke the language, eating pig jello and waiting for our toes to actually freeze.

Mine very nearly did!

The memories and the things I learned that I never imagined on that trip tend to bubble up for me when things are shifting in my world.

This is one of those times.

I don’t recall seeing any Legos in Hungary but I think my current adventure with making new things out of old and shifting bits and pieces of what is into what is about to be have had me wandering, in my imagination, through those days again.

Today, I was sorting bookshelves.

This is a monumental undertaking in my family.

I started with two of the six-foot tall IKEA variety in the room formerly known as the living room.

Mostly foodie stuff and professional things… worship and counseling.

And writing books. Lots of those.

A couple of boxes for things that can be stashed in the basement and things that can be passed onto other homes. More than a bit of dust.

Suddenly, there I was in Hungary. I didn’t remember exactly where we were, except that, by pushing a couple of buttons on my phone, I found out!

The University of Jewish Studies is in Budapest and was established in 1877.

What I did remember was that it was the only rabbinical seminary in the Eastern bloc to survive World War II.

Also that it was cold.

We could still see damage from bombs to the building.

All the students were men, which made restroom issues a challenge for the three women in our group.  Let’s just say there was a moment when I feared I had broken every ritual purity law ever written!

The thing I’ll never forget, though, is the library.

We weren’t allowed to enter but I stood in the hall for a couple of hours, awed by the experience.

Our guide explained that they had no books printed since the war, which made a bit more sense when I realized that this was part of the reason we’d all packed as many bibles as we could fit into our luggage. (We might have forgotten to bring some of them home.)

The students removed their shoes before entering the library.

Removed their shoes in a building with no heat to stand, as it were, on holy ground.

And the silence that seeped out of that place literally vibrated with the wisdom of the ages.

So it is, I suspect, no real surprise that I didn’t get rid of too many books today.

Miracles of marks on paper, spreading stories and questions from hand to hand around more and more of the world.

Shoes off, though probably for other reasons as well.

There are a few diet books, cloaked in misplaced optimism, and a few more dusty but really sexy volumes full of bread and pasta we rarely eat these days.

(I’m still working on the food thing but those are pretty clearly on the list of things somebody else can use more than I will.)

Anne Lamott stays, of course. And SARK. Buechner and Brueggemann. Jean Houston. Kaffe Fasset. Alice Waters and Alice Walker. Shiloh Sophia. The guy from The French Laundry whose name I can never remember. A very cool book of symbols compiled by somebody named Taschen.

And four new friends, pictured above.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, make yourself a cup of tea and spend some time with paper and ink.

And a small child or two if you have any handy.

It is a holy thing.

 

 

 

 

Waking up in Lego Land!

Dave was the king of Legos. We had lots. Actually, we had way more than lots.

And, in those single mom, full-time student days, we didn’t have much else when it came to toys.

Transformers were the super cool thing back then. Dave built his transformers out of Legos. Seemed like a great deal on many levels!

My girls are fans of Legos, too. The pink and purple Cinderella ones are big favorites these days.

We still have lots of Legos.

There’s a closet in our basement where a stash of Dave’s stuff still camps out. Lots of that stuff is Legos.

I’m thinking some of them need to move to Virginia but taking them on a plane is a bit of a challenge.

This week, though, it’s kind of me with the Legos.

We’re ramping up for the next game of Furniture Yahtzee at our house.

(Shhhh… please don’t tell Luther just yet!)

My Muse painting came up with the plan. And, oddly, she’s right. Somehow, in the last couple of days, she’s figured out how to solve several of the chronic logistical problems we struggle with and get more space and better light for painting at the same time.

I’m optimistic!

After a day or so of pondering, Bill is in.

I’ve spent much of today wearing out my measuring tape and plotting what will go where.

Here’s where the Legos come in.

Lots of our furniture is composed of small tables and rustic benches in various colors, along with bits and pieces of homemade shelves and cubby holes.

I’m busy rearranging them in my head…like Legos!

The guy who built our house, back in the early 60’s, would probably be appalled.

We’ve lived here for almost 20 years now and I’ve never felt too tied to what’s “supposed” to go where.

I think we’re about to bust out a bit further.

I will admit that if you want to quilt and paint and collect enough books for a small library, while living with three Newfoundland dogs and stockpiling soup bones and raw dog food, a bit of busting out is necessary.

Then there’s the matter of the basement steps which don’t work too well for me or the dogs.

Hence, furniture that works like Legos.

And the occasional gift of a whole different perspective.

In this case, one that has, apparently, been lurking inside me for a while.

All this transformation will probably take a couple of weeks.

We’ll need to rent a bit of muscle, after we review the plan 47 times and wear out another tape measure.

Some touch up paint will probably be involved here and there.

I have bigger paint plans for the hall, but that’s a problem for a different day.

I’m still hoping to win the HGTV house in South Carolina, but that’s a bit of a commute so making this one work better seems like a good start.

That, and finishing the Muse painting.

And crossed fingers for Luther. His pattern learning thing is about to get interrupted!

In the meantime, I’m grateful for Legos.

 

A Changing World

Yesterday was hectic. All the usual things, plus a big dog food delivery complete with lots of time hanging out in the freezer, a really helpful conversation with a friend, and — drum roll, please — my Muse painting, my inspiration toward my own best self, now has hair!

I suppose you had to be there, but, trust me, it’s been quite a bumpy journey so far.

I’m celebrating.

She has bio-photons, too. And one of these days she’ll be camera-ready!

Finally, though, the time for feet up and Chopped arrived.

Somewhere between my Facebook farming and a cup of hot water with lemon, I think  the contestant chefs were cooking with something called cricket Bolognese, which seemed to involve actual bugs.

The next thing I remember noticing was an ad for some technical college.

You’ve probably seen it. The young cartoon mother works and works until all of her co-workers have been replaced by machines.

Of course, the day arrives when she, too, is made, as the Brits would say, redundant.

Off she goes to learn Information Technology and we viewers are left to assume that she and her family live happily ever after.

I hope so.

Here’s what struck me, though.

The tagline on the ad is “Reinventing yourself for a changing world.”

I can relate.

Somehow, though, this particular Grammy seems to be headed in a different direction.

(Which is probably just as well when it comes to natural skill sets!)

Having developed just enough talent to text my kids and squeeze blog posts out of my laptop, I’m spending most of my time growing leafy green things, boiling bones, and learning the ancient arts of essential oils and putting paint on canvas.

There’s more to it than that, though.

There’s the vital notion of intention.

When I garden and cook I am acting, enormous though it may seem, out of the intention of healing the planet and those with whom I share it.

When I paint, I am acting out of the intention to learn about myself and what it means to heal and be human and create.

(It’s probably about other things, too, but I’m new at this and still working on the big concepts!)

This learning isn’t about gold stars on my permanent record.

It’s about my two girls who are growing up in this world. And your kids. And my neighbors’ kids. And kids in places that have had five new names since I took geography in the 7th grade.

It’s about justice and community.

And the radish I had for lunch yesterday. Just picked. Tiny. Ruby red. Crisp. Peppery. Real.

I’m not saying that all the old ways were good and the new ways are bad.

I am suggesting that we’ve wandered too far from some of what matters.

Perhaps we might intend together to wander back a bit.

For now, another radish or two for lunch and a chapter of Alice Waters’ fabulous new book, Coming to My Senses…the making of a counterculture cook.

Then, more paint. Apparently the Muse wants earrings!

Luther and Philosophy 201

For those of you who have joined us more recently, let’s start today with a bit of history after Wednesday’s post about having another go at philosophy.

Luther is our most recent Newfoundland rescue. In addition to Sarah and Phoebe, he makes three in residence, for a total of about 350 pounds of dog. Much of it hair.

In the 14 months this big guy has been with us, he has become one of my greatest teachers.

Luther came from a puppy mill in Michigan. He was estimated to be between two and three years old at the time.

Clearly, it was not a healthy existence.

The poor guy was terribly thin. He had scraggly, patchy hair, poorly developed eyesight, and, to add to the indignity of all that, had just been neutered.

Beyond those challenges, he was terrified. Of people. Noises. Cars.

Did I say noises?

Basically, he was terrified of everything.

The therapist-type in me who is conversant in the DSM-5 realized quickly that he was frequently dissociative which means that anything or anyone new triggered his only survival strategy… literally trying to disappear into the floor.

To say that he is a whole different dog these days is the understatement of several centuries!

He loves everybody and is always ready to join the wave of dog-ness that washes over people at our door.

He rides happily in the car and is thrilled to go to Camp. He even wags all over when the Vet comes to visit.

Sometimes I forget how far he’s come.

Like when I’m tired and pissed at him for not quite having figured out “No”, which happened, as you may recall, just this week.

Tonight I got a huge reminder of all the ways his spirit continues to triumph despite all he’s been through.

Tonight, he let me trim his ears. With scissors!

To say that Luther’s been reluctant to come on board with the notion of grooming is yet another huge understatement.

We’ve taken it slow. Microscopically slow.

Petting was a first start. Touching his toes and ears. Hugging.

Eventually, we got to brushing. Along his spine only, at first. Slowly. Oh, so slowly we made it to towels, which are still an if-fy proposition some days.

His ears have remained the big issue. We’re talking lots of dog with lots of hair on the inside of his ears where it causes lots of trouble.

Perhaps it was the phase of the moon, but tonight he was ready.

We got one ear all cleaned up and the second (far worse) one about 75% done. I’m talking scissors and everything!

The ironic thing is that I almost didn’t try.

I was going to be happy with just some general brushing and bonding, complete with a small truckload of dehydrated beef liver treats.

Instead, we even got a bit of hair trimmed around the edge of the ear leather. He’s in no danger of winning Westminster but he doesn’t look nearly so much like his mama dresses him funny.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I went for it tonight.

I am, too!

It kind of reminds me of Dave’s first hair cut.

I suspect it has something to do with a recent Zoom meeting that reminded me of the theory that virtually all human choices are made out of either fear or some variation on love/passion/enthusiasm.

I’m trying hard to choose love.

I’m also hoping Luther and I are both going to sleep better tonight.

He looks pretty tired right now. After all, teaching is hard work!

Maybe next week we’ll work on the philosophy thing some more. And the second ear.

Many things are possible!

Ready For Another Go!

I took a course in Philosophy once.

Thirty years or so ago.

I wanted to love it.

Our professor loved it and I thought him a miracle of wisdom and kindliness.

I wanted to know what he knew. To glimpse what he loved.

In that moment, though, I did not love philosophy.

My mind, raised as it had been by mostly modernist world views, wondered alternately how we as humans could have been in a place when we did not know this or that and how we might ever have questioned thus or so.

In my defense, I was also consumed at the time with the seemingly more urgent matters of baby Greek, putting groceries on the table, and a document we Presbyterian types refer to as the Book of Order.

Lately, I have begun to expect that the mere mortal intellects among us cease to be philosophical somewhere around the age of four or five and, if we are lucky, find ourselves ready for another go at it somewhere on the far side of fifty.

Which might suggest that we wonder a bit about the usefulness of conventional American Kindergarten and many of the survival skills we take for granted in our world, though that is, perhaps, an issue for a different day.

Another professor of mine said much the same thing when he called to us to be poets. If you don’t know Walter Brueggemann, there’s an episode of The West Wing that covers this nicely. I think it’s the one about the late night flight to Portland.

In any event, I found myself in a philosophical mode this morning.

I started out pissed.

Actually, I started out tired but, in my experience, tired often leads to pissed.

In this case, the immediate cause appeared to be Luther.

The same Luther who went out, with the four-footed girls, for his last stroll around the back forty about 11:00 last night.

I knew, when he barked at precisely 6:45 this morning, that he had no urgent personal needs. He simply wanted to go lay outside on the cool, damp ground and feel the world come alive.

Now, I’m not opposed to such a wish, in principle. On this particular morning, though, it coincided with a long night full of two paintings clamoring for my attention and nowhere near enough sleep.

Luther, however, has not yet developed a neurological circuit for, “I’ve heard your message and the answer is, ‘No.'”

I caved, reluctantly, justified by the other relevant factor that Bill’s shoulder hurts and he hadn’t slept well either.

About 20 minutes and a brief visit to my paintings later, I sat curled under a favorite quilt in my magic chair with a steaming cup of lemon water in my hands, listening to the birds sing the garden awake.

All the while, I fumed.

“Rotten, no-good dog! When is he going to learn?”

“He’s never going to learn if I keep caving in.”

“How am I supposed to get anything done today if I lost another hour’s worth of sleep?”

Feel free to fill in some more blanks, if you like. You get the drift.

Suddenly, though, I heard two of the more philosophical voices in my current universe warming up in my head.

“Expectations are the root of suffering,” said Qigong master, Chunyi Lin.

And, with a throaty California sort of accent, “In this moment, nothing is wrong,” from actor, author, and teacher, Samantha Bennett.

Frankly, it’s taken me a while to get on board with Chunyi. And, at the risk of plunking a detour in the midst of your own philosophical journey, I’m going to leave you with that one to chew on in your own way.

Sam has been a bit easier for me to wrap my head around.

It has a lot to do with here and now. And with a bit of relief from the shoulda-woulda-coulda routine that calls us to the past or the future, neither of which is actually happening.

Except in the sense that it’s really all kind of the same and Dave was right about time!

That, however, is a bit ambitious for morning, so I decided to notice, at least for a moment, that I was warm and safe. There were crows playing in the garden and roses peeking through the dawn. My world was filled with the happy scent of lemon. And there were three big dogs snoring gently at my feet.

All of whom I love.

Usually.

When I took my glasses off and squinted just so, I could almost see Ben grinning.

 

 

 

 

Of Golden Acrylics & Empowering Filters…

It is 2:46 pm, EDT in Atlanta. Just in this moment, a day that began chilly, breezy, and gray turned instantly warmer and brighter, helped along by a gizmo in my ceiling called a Sola-Tube.

It’s a sort of sky light, really, but much easier to install than the more traditional versions in a pre-Seasonal Affective Disorder urban ranch house.

There’s a thing in the ceiling that resembles one of those toys kids love called a dragon fly’s eye with all the prisms in a circle. This, according to the manufacturer, is called the filter.

The filter is connected through your attic space by a thing that looks a lot like a very shiny dryer vent hose.

The shiny vent hose then connects to a light collector placed on the roof and aimed to gather southern light.

These things are magical. We have five of them in our house, spread out over a couple of major remodeling projects. I’d take at least four more in a minute.

Most of the time they just quietly hang out, not making a fuss, and adding very welcome, gentle light to a house that would be way too dark even if I wasn’t a quilter and painter who grew up in Florida.

On days like today, though, they remind me of the power of the filters through which we all experience the world.

Brighter and more hopeful, in what seems like an instant.

Or flashing with lightning on a dark and stormy night. (Ok, I’m a writer, too!)

I’ve been thinking about filters a lot lately.

It has a lot to do with a painting I’m working on. Or, perhaps, a painting that’s working on me.

The class is called Apothecary. As in the old-fashioned word for a place we might go to find medicines or other aids to healing.

We’ve been rooting around in our old stories. The ones that have defined us. The ones through which we filter our day-to-day experience. Many of them, hard ones.

Discovering symbols for those stories which changes, in the moment, the ways we relate to those stories.

And, each in our own way, claiming all of those stories in bringing us to this day.

Yep, all of them.

An old friend of mine has been singing along in the background while the drips of paint and scrubby brushes and vestiges of shame fall to the floor.

His name is Ken Medema and, if you don’t know it, his story is fascinating. I hope you’ll check it out.

For this minute, though, his music…in the midst of whatever day you’re having in whatever place you are.

 

 

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher