Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rosemary and Lemon Chicken

You will need:
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 cloves of garlic
red pepper flakes
dijon mustard
2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 skin on, bone-in chicken thighs
cremini mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put salt, garlic, some of the rosemary (off the stem, of course), red pepper flakes, a couple teaspoons dijon mustard, juice from one lemon, and the olive oil in a food processor.  Pulse until a paste is formed (it may be slightly watery---that's okay).  Blot the chicken off with a paper towel (damp meat won't brown).  Gently pull the skin away from the meat and stuff part of the paste into each chicken thigh.  Toss a bit of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  Put the chicken skin side down in a cast iron skillet and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.

Turn the chicken over and add in the juice from the remaining lemon.  Add the cremini mushrooms (chopped) into the skillet, along with the lemon halves and leftover sprigs of rosemary.

Put in the oven and roast for approximately 25 minutes.  

The best part of this meal is that the lemons were fresh off my father's lemon tree from his garden and the rosemary was clipped from my potted rosemary plant on my balcony.  Nothing beats fresh and home grown!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Counting My Blessings

One of my favorite Christmas movies is White Christmas.  Apart from the fun singing, dancing, costumes, and nostalgic appeal, there is a very real message embedded.  Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sing a beautiful song called "Count Your Blessings."

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

Whenever I hear this song now, I think of Ann Voskamp's beautiful book, One Thousand Gifts, which I read (twice) this year.  After reading her book, I intended to begin to count my blessings, listing all the gifts that are in my life up to a thousand (or more).  As 2011 comes to an end, I realize that this never came to fruition.  While others are lining up at store counters to get the best bargain, ordering the latest workout DVD or diet product, or buying a slinky strapless dress for New Year's Eve, (all of which I've done at one time or another in the past) I decided I'd better put my energy into something that will prove more meaningful.  So I intend to join Ann Voskamp on this journey.  I do not believe my list will be as inspired, articulate, or visually beautiful (hers has amazing photos), but it will be my list, and hopefully one of sincerity, candor, and joy.  So here goes.

1.  I am grateful for being able to spend today with my best friend.  She lives far away, and I only see her once a year now, but when we come together, it's as if we never parted.  I love her with all my heart.

2.  The beautiful Christmas Eve Mass with the amazing trumpet solo.  I felt Jesus there in that church with us.

3.  My sweet puppy dog asleep beside me, snuggled up and sighing as he dreams.

4.  My real Christmas tree, the glory of nature right in my own home, its lights shining and bouncing off the gold and red ornaments and reminding me of the light of Christ.

5.  The ring I received as a Christmas gift from my grandmother.  It belonged to my great great grandmother and reminds me of the importance of family and the way time marches on, the way we can cherish those who came before us.

6.  A sunset drive home on the causeway with dozens of pelicans coasting by and then swooping down into the water.

Our lives and our world are full of gifts, if we just open our eyes to their presence!

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Saturday, December 24, 2011


He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village,
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.

Then for three years
He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
One usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three
When the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies.
And went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross
Between two thieves.
While he was dying,
His executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on Earth.
When he was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone,
And today he is the central figure
Of the human race,
And the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed,
All the parliament that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned,
Put together have not affected
The life of man on Earth
As much as that

ne  olitary  ife.
~~Dr James Allen Francis, © 1926~~

Friday, November 4, 2011

2011 Books Thus Far

These are the stand out reads of the year to date.  I read more, but these are the ones I remember.

Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Howards End - E. M. Forster

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (re-read) - J. K. Rowling

Wives and Daughters - Elizabeth Gaskell

Jane Austen: A Life - Claire Tomalin

The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton - Kathryn Hughes

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake

Lark Rise to Candleford - Flora Thompson

A Family's Affairs - Ellen Douglas

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snap Beans and a Little Cooking Philosophy

Not green beans.  Not plain old beans.  Snap beans.  That's what we always called them growing up, and that's what I call them still.  I'm sure my French Creole ancestors called them haricots verts, but their twentieth century counterparts have always referred to them as the above.  They are snap beans because you have to snap off the ends, at least if they are fresh, which mine happily were.  Instead of the proverbial midlife crisis, my father planted a garden.  And then he made a bigger garden.  And finally an even bigger garden.  He grows all the best of South Louisiana, including the delicious Creole tomato, my favorite variety of tomatoes.  We have a long growing season here, and my dad takes advantage of it.  Right now he has lettuce just coming up and sugar snap peas starting to bloom.  But back to the snap bean, that crunchy, green delicacy.  Here is how I cooked my snap beans on Sunday evening:

1/2 lb of green beans
1 slice of bacon, cut up (I kept it at one because I was trying to keep down the fat, but you could go for more)
balsamic vinegar

Fry down the bacon.  (I used my wok, but you could use whatever is convenient.)  Throw in the beans and toss around with the bacon.  Add balsamic vinegar; I used about a quarter to a third of a cup, but you can do it according to your personal taste.  Cover and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes (less for al dente beans, more for beans with less bite).

Can you tell I am all about personal freedom in cooking?  Be aware of the main rules of cooking (don't put red wine in the fridge, use wine that you would drink while cooking, salt your pasta water, etc.) and then build upon them.  By main rules, I mean most basic tenets.  Truly, there are only a few from which you cannot deviate.  If you've mastered the basics, you can start breaking the smaller, more inconsequential rules.  You can experiment, add, subtract, and multiply ingredients.  The key is to know your own palate and that of your family and to create dishes that suit those needs.

(Sorry for the awful picture.  I forgot to take a photo right after cooking and wound up using my camera while sitting at my desk eating during lunch at work the next day.)

Friday, June 3, 2011


Virginia Woolf once said that a woman needs a room of her own to write.  She needs a place of refuge from the hectic nature of the world---the babies crying, the dirty dishes, the waiting bills, and perhaps even---perhaps especially---the judgment and contempt of those of the opposite sex who deem themselves far too erudite to stoop to read her work.  Woolf is just one of the many great female writers the world has seen thus far.  Why is it important that women in the past took up their pens and put ink to paper, why it is crucial that women today put fingers to keys?  Why do the achievements of such great women as Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Charlotte Bronte remain so pivotal over a century after they first sought publication?  Why must women continue to be women of letters, whether those strung together letters become words and whole thoughts on blogs, in essays, newspapers, e-mails, letters, magazines, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, poems, and novels?  Because of misguided and delusional men like V. S. Naipaul.  Have you heard of him?  I tend to doubt it.  Have you heard of Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte? I would certainly think so.  Perhaps there is a good reason for this.

What can you do to combat the misogynistic, backward, ignorant views aired by the Trinidadian Nobel laureate?  Pick up one of the masterpieces of these great authors.  They are literary greats who just happen to be women.  They wrote about issues close to women's (and men's) hearts---love, death, social mores, family, ambition, greed, honor, religion, and forgiveness.  Open their books and let their words come pouring out, letting each woman live through her words long after she was buried in the churchyard.  Lose yourself in the majesty of these great works.  When you close their covers, I guarantee that not only will you have been moved, but that you will also be amazed by what you have discovered about yourself and your world.


The thermostat will not go below 79 degrees.  This is actually an improvement compared to the 80 degrees a few hours earlier.  My poor air conditioning is running non-stop.  I even broke down and dusted so that I could put on the ceiling fan.  It helps recirculate the air but doesn't bring down the temperature.  Let's hope the new drapes I just purchased help.  They are blackout/thermal lined.  This is going to be a long summer!!!

Here's the fabric.  I ironed the first two panels for the living room window but still need to do the other two for the dining room.  I love it because it combines robin's egg blue (LOVE) and terra cotta (WARM).  My walls are cream, so I wanted something with a pattern to liven up the room.  It's Brittany Rose by Pottery Barn.

Reading To-Do List

I have a BA in English literature.  Before I acquired that, I had an unofficial degree in voracious reading.  I was the child with the flashlight and a novel under the sheets.  Or kneeling on the ground, book open, close up to the night light.  Most of my life has been dedicated to American literature.  Now I have fallen in love with the British.  I love British literature and have certain life goals when it comes to my reading.  I want to read the greats of British literature, the classics, the masterpieces!  Here is how far I have come and how far I have yet to go.  Don't you think it's pretty ambitious?  Thank goodness I have the rest of my life to accomplish this feat.


A Christmas Carol  ---  read it

A Tale of Two Cities  ---  read it

Barnaby Rudge

Bleak House  ---  read it

David Copperfield  ---  read it

Dombey and Sons

Great Expectations  ---  read it

Hard Times  ---  read it

Little Dorrit

Martin Chuzzlewit

Nicholas Nickleby

Oliver Twist  ---  read it

Our Mutual Friend

The Old Curiosity Shop

Pictures from Italy

American Notes

The Uncommon Traveller

Sketches by Boz

A Child's History of England

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Christmas Stories


Northanger Abbey

Pride and Prejudice  --- read it

Sense and Sensibility  --- read it

Mansfield Park  ---  half way read it, must re-read in full

Emma  --- read it

Persuasion  ---  read it


Jane Eyre  ---  read it



The Professor


Agnes Grey  ---  read it

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall  ---read it


Wuthering Heights ---  read it


Mary Barton

Cranford  --- read it


North and South

My Lady Ludlow  --- read it

Sylvia's Lovers

Wives and Daughters



Daniel Deronda

Adam Bede

The Mill on the Floss

Silas Marner --- read it


Far From the Madding Crowd

The Return of the Native  ---  read it

The Mayor of Casterbridge

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Jude the Obscure




The Remains of the Day


Howards End

A Passage to India

A Room with a View


Vanity Fair


Cold Comfort Farm


Barchester Towers

The Way We Live Now

Sunday, May 29, 2011

David Copperfield

I finished David Copperfield last week.  It was Dickens's favorite of all his novels and considered the most autobiographical work he had ever produced.  This was the first Dickens novel to be narrated in the first person and would pave the way for my favorite of his novels, Great Expectations, also in first person.  This is Freud's favorite novel.  I'm not entirely sure what to make of that, but I know it's indicative of something.  The completion of David Copperfield is part of a larger project I have undertaken.  Almost two years ago, I purchased the collected works of Charles Dickens, the goal being to read every word he ever wrote.  Growing up, I read Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol.  Earlier this year, I read Bleak House, which I loved.

I first encountered David Copperfield when I was three years old and in a very circumvented way.  In fact, I was completely unaware that I had encountered Dickens at all; it was not until many years later that I even realized that I had undergone such an early exposure.  My mother made the ultimately life shaping decision of letting me watch Gone With the Wind at the tender age of three, thereby ensuring a lifelong preoccupation with the subject and a bit of melodrama that no amount of efforts in humility could break.  (Neither here nor there when it comes to Copperfield.)  During the scene when Scarlett's second husband Frank Kennedy and Ashley were going through the shanty town to find the man who had earlier attempted to attack her and to "clear it out," Scarlett, Melanie, and a host of other ladies sat around sewing and pretending that their husbands were at a "political meeting."  Melanie decided to read.  I will never forget the sound of her voice, "Chapter One, I am born. . ."  And a few chapters later "I passed a memorable birthday. . ."  And upon the banging on the door, "I remember nothing. . ."  What book was she reading?  Why, David Copperfield!  Twenty-six years after first encountering the scene, I encountered the words on the page when I opened one of Dickens's most famous works.  And I was not disappointed.

Entirely random and (I'm afraid) not particularly profound thoughts upon the completion of Charles Dickens's David Copperfield:

*  Dickens routinely outdoes himself in the amazing characters he creates.  This book was no exception. From the no-nonsense, high strung, amazingly liberated aunt Betsy Trotwood screaming at donkeys while chasing them with brooms to the bombastic, forever insolvent, and absolutely hilarious Mr. Micawber---I can't begin to describe the characters.  Each character would warrant pages of explanation. They are so developed, so unique, yet so universally sympathetic at the same time.  And of course, he always gives some of the best names.  Obviously a man named Uriah Heep was born to be a villain.

*I have never encountered a more favorable---in fact jubilant account---of being forced into circumstances that warranted a relocation to the penal colony of Australia.

*David's nurse, Peggoty, stands as one of the most beloved, nurturing characters in all of literature, while still managing to be comical.

*How convenient that Dora dies so that David could be with the woman he was truly meant to marry.  How nice to be able to kill off young, naive first wives when it suits the plot.

*This novel actually features a dog named Jip who walks up and down the top of the dinner table---as in between the plates---and lives in a doghouse made to resemble a Chinese pagoda.  This dog also curiously meets its demise simultaneously as his mistress does (one of the only disappointing moments of over sentimentality on Dickens's part).

*Copperfield's best friend and sidekick, Traddles, could possibly cause one to laugh out loud, particularly towards the end of the novel when he finally weds "the dearest girl of all" and then proceeds to spend their honeymoon catering to her nine sisters.

*When I read about David's travels, I long to see the cathedral in Canterbury and the cliffs of Dover, not to mention St. Paul's as is featured on Peggoty's sewing kit.

*I had no idea that rooks were birds.  They were featured prominently in this text, and since learning this, I have encountered references to rooks no less than 14 other times in other venues.

*How interesting that David's father marries a "child-wife" and that David goes on to initially do the same.

*The description of the forays of David's servants is laugh out loud funny.  They blatantly steal from him, and yet David tells it as if it is all an inevitability and truly stemming from his own character flaws.

*Who wouldn't wish to be Agnes?  Really?

*You feel for David, from the first page to the last.  You pull for him every step of the way.  I know how NOT post-modern it is and how lacking in sophistication it is for me to admit this, but I love a good hero you can get behind.  David is most certainly that.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dwelling Places

Father's homily last Sunday centered around John 14:2.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.

Father pointed out that each of us has a place in Heaven prepared for us by God if we choose to open our hearts to Jesus.  But he also pointed out that Jesus's name is Emmanuel---God WITH us.  He is with us here on earth, too, and provides dwelling places for us here as well.  These dwelling places are special places of peace where we can be at one with Him and feel Him more deeply than ever.  It's a place where we can be close to God and feel most comfortable speaking to Him with an open heart.  Father encouraged every one of us to seek out a place like this.  The act of seeking a special dwelling place such as this will also ensure that we set aside time every day to have conversations with Jesus.  Whether it's sitting out on the swing on a front porch watching the world go by, crabbing at the lake, a special chair, a ride on the ferry, or playing the piano, we all need a place where we can connect with God on an intimate level.  He asked us to think of where that place was for us personally and to truly make an effort to dwell in that place as much as possible.

My special dwelling place would have to be the park.  The joy of seeing God in nature is sometimes unbearable for me; I can't contain it---I want to cry, sing out, run after my puppy in sheer ecstasy!  Joy is everywhere at the park, and God's love shows itself in so many ways.  Fathers teaching their children to ride bikes.  Mothers with babies feeding the ducks.  Friends sharing conversation.  Not to mention the beauty of enormous oaks, the budding of knockout roses and hydragneas, swans and ducks floating over the water, birds tending to their nests, trees soaring up high, reaching their branches to the sky, gloriously waving to God.  And a sweet little puppy looking up at me adoringly, a huge grin on his face for being in this place, at this time.  My little dog reminds me to cherish the gifts God gives me in the moment, at this place in my life, embracing the present.  All of the things I encounter in the park hearken back to the essence of what Father was trying to tell us.  EMMANUEL.  God with us.

He most certainly is.  Every single day.  If we just open our eyes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


For a single girl like me, purchasing an entire sack of vine ripened tomatoes is a bit of a commitment.  Or a waste.  Whichever you'd prefer.  A commitment to either eat them all---and quickly---or to waste them.  It's so hard planning meals just for you.  You wind up cooking way too much food and tiring of eating it over five days, or not wanting to cook at all.  And I love to cook, so it's always sad when I resign myself to take out simply because it's "just me."  So what to do with the tomatoes. . .SANDWICHES!  Lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich, with a twist.  I used mozzarella cheese, lots of fresh basil leaves, and tomatoes.  A sandwich take on the Caprese salad.  Dinner was an enormous BLT with corn on the cob, fresh not frozen. . .yum.  (Btw. . .I had tomatoes on both sides of the sandwich and used 2 tomatoes on it.)

I try to find those sweet, little things that make me smile; there are so many of them that they often add up to a pretty BIG thing in a day if I let them.  Something happened today that really made me smile.  One of my little girls drew a picture for another one of my little girls.  Walking by the desk of the recipient, I found that she was writing her a sort of notebook paper thank you note:
"[Name] your drawing was so pretty it belongs in an art muzeum"
How sweet and smart is that?!

Also, I said the rosary yesterday, and I intend to say the rosary again today.  It brought me so much peace and helped me to relax after a stressful day.  Of course, it helped me relax so much that I almost fell asleep!  Not a good thing at only 7 p.m.!  Looking forward to the school year coming to its natural end, but I'm going to miss my kids so much.  I don't think it's really hit me yet that they aren't going to be mine anymore.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Mystery of Faith

My priest gives such great homilies.  I always feel so moved and inspired after hearing him speak.  Yet the week is so hectic, I often forget the main points of his homily by the time the following Sunday rolls around.  I'm going to try to make a point of sitting down each Sunday and recording what I feel was most memorable about Father's homily so that it can stay with me all week long.

Before touching on the gospel today, Father discussed Mary's role in the Church.  She is our Savior's mother, was present at his birth, death, and resurrection, and other than God the Father, was closest to Him.  Mary remains close to Jesus and can help bring our needs to Him.  We can look to her to remember the important events of His life and the miracle of his birth.  We all want to be close to Jesus and to know him intimately; what better way than to make Mary, the human being who was closest to Him, our dear confidante?

Father particularly encouraged us to grow closer to Mary and Jesus by praying the rosary.  I admit that I neglect this important part of my unique Catholic faith.  Recently I purchased a new rosary (the one I had was given to me as a child during CCD, or catechism), and searched online for sites that say the rosary for you.  You just say it along with them.  Perhaps this sounds lazy, but if it helps me to broaden my faith and actually grow accustomed to the process of saying the rosary, I'm all for it!  I am positive I know all the joyful mysteries; things start to go off course with the others, particularly the Luminous mysteries, which are newer.  By using the websites, I can focus on my prayer while listening to the mysteries said aloud and hopefully fully learn them and open my heart to their richness.

Father said something concerning the rosary that really hit home with me.  He said a quote that held deep meaning (possibly said by Kirkegaard, though there seem to be variations in his words):

Life is not a problem to be solved.  It is a mystery to be lived.

Saying the rosary helps us through the mysteries of life.  The rosary and its mysteries are akin to the nature of life itself.  When we say the Joyful Mysteries, we experience the joy of Jesus's birth, the Visitation, Mary's Annunciation, etc., and can also think of times in our own lives in which we have experienced joy.  We can share this joy with Jesus and grow in our understanding of the joy He experienced in His own life and the joy we receive from Him.  When we are on top of the world and experiencing amazing and profound glory, we can say the Glorious Mysteries, and share in Jesus's life and works yet again.  When we are despairing, hopeless, and feeling tremendous sadness, we can say the Sorrowful Mysteries, taking comfort in the fact that our Savior also suffered and that He is aware of how we feel and wants to bring us solace.  When we are at our most enlightened and feel that ideas and concepts are truly becoming clear to us, we can say the Luminous Mysteries, and share yet in again in Jesus's experience, growing in understanding of our own life through His.

The homily itself was about Jesus's use of the phrase "I am."  Today He said He was the gate and the shepherd.  I love the idea of Jesus as a shepherd, caring for us, bringing us all together, feeding us, nurturing us.  Father went on about this as well, but his words concerning the Mysteries of the rosary were what really struck me today.

Here is my new rosary.  It is made of turquoise and Desert Sun beads.  Desert Sun glass beads are wrapped in precious metal foil (gold on mine) and then painted with a special paint that shrinks when the beads are fired.   I purchased it from The Littlest Rosary Shop.  It was handcrafted by a Catholic family, which means a lot more to me than if it just came off an assembly line in a factory.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Outlook

I'm pretty behind on this.  That's what happens when I make New Year's resolutions---um, would goals be a better word---concerning diet, exercise, cleanliness, keeping up with friends, writing, praying, and vitamins.

A while back I read Tracy's post about having a word of the year.  You were supposed to pick a word that would define your year.  Something to work on, inspire, and guide.  A theme, if you will.  (Writing "theme" has now caused "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"'s them song to play in my head).  Tracy got this idea from another blogger.  To give you some examples, Tracy's word for 2011 is BALANCE.  Kim's word for 2011 is BUILD.

I thought it was a cool concept.  And beyond that, my thoughts ceased.  I seemed to lack inspiration.  Later the opposite occurred.  I was flooded with words.  It was a veritable deluge of vocabulary.  Everything from balance to hope to truth to dream to. . .well, it went on and on.  They all seemed lovely.  Couldn't I have MANY words?  But that seemed to defeat the purpose.

I shrugged my shoulders and determined to forget about it.  While I had recognized that this was a cool concept, obviously it wasn't resonating enough with me.  If it had, I would have been able to apply it to my own life.  I put it out of my head.

Fast forward to Mass on January 2nd.  We were celebrating the Epiphany, even though the actual date isn't really until January 6th.  The first reading was Isaiah 60:1-6.  It began:

Arise, shine out, for your light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen on you.

There seemed to be a theme of light.  Wise men guided by a star.  The candles twinkling on the altar.  I was already feeling it.

The reading continued until the following line stood out to me:

At this sight you will grow radiant, your heart will throb and dilate, since the riches of the sea willflow to you, the wealth of the nations come to you;

RADIANT.  It hit me!  As if something actually flew into my forehead.  Boom!  I knew my word for 2011.  RADIANT.

RADIANT.  I will recognize Christ's radiance.  I will be radiant, as Jesus was.  I will be a light in the darkness, just as Jesus asks us to be.  I will recognize those things that are radiant in my own life.  I will rid myself of those things that are not radiant in my soul and in my day to day life.  I will focus on the light, not the darkness, opening my heart to the positive and turning away from the negative.  

As we sang the words to "We Three Kings," my voice rose higher as the chorus came:

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

His Perfect Light.  His radiant nature.  And finding that which is radiant in me.  It all made sense now.