Sunday, November 13, 2016

There are no coincidences

st-bernadette
(This post was originally published on thesabbaticalchef.com on October 31, 2016.)

One Girlie I am particularly fond of likes to say “Mrs. E, there are no coincidences.  Things happen for a reason.”  I completely agree.  But I am still astounded sometimes when I run across what, on the surface, seem to be totally unrelated facts or events.  Here is what happened to me yesterday.
Saturday, I went up to the mountains to check on Mama Mildred.  She has not been feeling well for a couple of months.  And when Mildred misses Sunday church services it’s serious. Last week, she saw a specialist in Asheville who did blood tests and discovered that her liver is seriously out of whack.  A blood clot maybe?  A tumor?  More tests, a scan, and a biopsy followed.  With a promise from the doctor to call her on Saturday with the results. We waited.  And waited. Mama finally gave up around 9:00pm and went to bed.  She is exhausted all of the time, but she only said that she guessed the results hadn’t come in yet and she was sure he would call on Sunday.  The phone rang at about 30 minutes later. Sister Moo answered. (She and my mom live together.)  Lo and behold, it was the doctor.  It seems that the medication Mama had been taking for an infection has caused liver damage.  Thanks to my friend Google, I found this on WebMD–
This drug may rarely cause serious (possibly fatal) liver disease, blood or nerve problems. Tell your doctor right away if you notice any of the following rare but very serious side effects: persistent nausea/vomiting, dark urine, yellowing of eyes/skin, unusual/persistent fatigue, fast/pounding heartbeat, numbness/tingling of the arms/legs, muscle weakness.
The fine print.  And as I have heard more than one mountain person say “If the sickness don’t kill you, the medicine will.”  I am not that cynical and am thankful for modern medicine, but still…
Mama Mildred will go back for more blood tests this week and enroll in a study through the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill medical school for others like her.  At least her oldest daughter has told her to. The doctor running the study will be in Asheville next week and hopefully she will go meet him.  (If she considers backing out, I will drive back up there, put her in the car and take her my own self.  Not that I am bossy or anything.)
I left Spruce Pine Sunday afternoon and decided to drive back through Linville and Boone instead of down the mountain to Marion and straight to I-40.  I wanted to see the scenery. It is good for my soul to see that stretch of road.  US- 221N and NC-105N.  Mitchell County to Avery County to Watauga County.  Through Linville, at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.
I spent three summers working at Eseeola Lodge in Linville.  They hire college students to work in the summer.  At least they did in the late 70’s and I hope that they still do.  Those were amazing summers.  I worked as a waitress and met some wonderful people.  Mr. Pottle, who ran the Lodge at the time, took me under his raspberry-colored jacketed arm and designated me as waitress to the folks who came and stayed for the summer.  Major and Mrs. Lane particularly stand out in my memory.  She had to have baby gherkins on her table.  Not much of a tipper at the end of the summer, but what a character.  I stopped at the Lodge, now quiet, and wandered around, taking lots of photos, picking up some beautiful red leaves and a couple of rocks.  (The BFF always insists on a rock.)
I got back on highway 105, heading towards Boone, with an eye on the clock and a desire to get home to Durham before dark. But as I drove past St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church something made me turn around and go back.  I had it in my head that this is where my high school French teacher, Mme Buchanan, went to church.  But she attended St. Lucien’s.  Anyway, I drove up the steep drive to the church, just to see what was behind the church.  Maybe a cemetery?   At least a great view of Grandfather Mountain and the Mile High Bridge, if nothing else.
grandfather

I wandered around, went into the chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, said a short prayer, took some photos, and went back to my car.
I left an offering and took a little packet containing a prayer and medal.
st-anthony-prayer
I am not Catholic.  I am a reformed Southern Baptist, as I like to say (but absolutely not in front of Mama Mildred).  I do believe in a higher power or powers.  I think that this Power wants us to help our fellow man and that He/She could care less about our politics or who wins a football game to be perfectly honest.  Mama was raised in a serious Baptist home. She is a bit suspicious of Catholics, but we can’t hold that against her.  She did go to the Catholic church once for my cousin’s son’s baptism. I may not be Catholic, but I light candles in every cathedral I enter and offer up a little prayer for the safety of my loved ones and thanks for the life of Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, my beloved French teacher.  I filled in the blank of the prayer above with:
“Obtain for me good health for my mama.”  
Short, sweet and to the point, St. Anthony, Saint of Miracles.  He was a Franciscan monk who lived from 1195-1231.  He was canonized only a year after his death.  It seems his body was exhumed 336 years after his death and his tongue was found to be totally intact although the rest of his body was “corrupted.” He was known for his “simple and resounding” teaching and taught occasionally at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in my beloved southern France.  He is the patron saint of lost articles and was known for his undying devotion to the poor and sick.  Mama Mildred is both, dear Anthony, so send her some love, please.  How can it be fair that a woman such as my mother can work for at least 50 years of her life, at mostly minimum wage jobs, raise four children plus a mostly lovable but irresponsible alcoholic husband, finally retire and try to live on her social security check?  Answer that one, politicians?  How was she supposed to save for retirement?  You try it and see how easy it is, Senator or Congressman Whomever. Anyway, I digress.  Back to my story.
As I got in my car, I noticed what looked to be a statue across the parking lot.  I decided to walk up and check it out.  It turned out to be a grotto dedicated to St. Bernadette, the namesake of the church.  As I approached it, I realized that this is why I felt the pull to turn my car around and visit this spot.  St. Bernadette of Lourdes.  I have never visited Lourdes, in southwest France near Spain, but I have read about her.
55
Bernadette lived from 1844-1879.  She was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933.  She is the patron saint of illness, people ridiculed for their piety, poverty, shepherds and shepherdesses.  Thousands of sick people flock to Lourdes every year, hoping for a miracle cure.  We can’t make the trip to Lourdes, but it felt rather holy at this grotto yesterday, as I lit a candle and said a prayer.
3candles
bernadette1
As I researched Bernadette this morning, I found the quote below, written by Dr. Comte upon the 1928 exhumation of Bernadette’s body.  He published his findings in the Bulletin de l’Association medicale de Notre-Dame de Lourdes.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so.
“What struck me during this examination, of course, was the state of perfect preservation of the skeleton, the fibrous tissues of the muscles (still supple and firm), of the ligaments, and of the skin, and above all the totally unexpected state of the liver after 46 years. One would have thought that this organ, which is basically soft and inclined to crumble, would have decomposed very rapidly or would have hardened to a chalky consistency. Yet, when it was cut it was soft and almost normal in consistency. I pointed this out to those present, remarking that this did not seem to be a natural phenomenon.”
pumpkin-muffin-face
pumpkin muffin (baked in a jack o’lantern mold) with apple butter from The Orchard at Altapass.  Yum!
Bon appétit and Happy Halloween to all.  All Saints Day, Toussaint, is tomorrow.  Say a prayer for Mama Mildred or send up good thoughts to whatever higher power you believe in.  

Red boots of courage


boots-3

(This post was originally posted on October 8, 2016 on thesabbaticalchef.com.)

Tomorrow, when I get dressed, I will slip my feet into what I call my Red Boots of Courage.  It’s going to be a long day.  Americans will choose the 45th President of the United States in the 58th election held since we became a country.  All American women have had the right to vote only since 1920. For first the first time in 240 years, we may have a female president. Anyone remember the cigarette campaign, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”?  At least there will be an end to the ugly political ads.

In the spirit of focusing on the positive, I will compose a list of my favorites as of late.


  1.  The potato soup I made for dinner tonight was pretty darned delicious, if I do say so myself.  And easy.
potato-soup
2.  My weekly muffins- banana oatmeal this time.  How else should you use up a stash of overripe bananas?
banana-oatmeal-muffins
3.  American history trivia.  Always interesting.
history-facts
4.  Poetry.  Especially sad poems in French.  My 8th graders are reviewing the passé composé so I thought of Jacques Prévert’s Déjeuner du matin written in 1946. First, I showed them a silent film made about the poem in 2013 by Emmanuel Tenenbaum.  Afterwards, I gave them the words, after asking for ideas about the verbs used in the actual poem.


“Déjeuner du matin” by Jacques Prévert
annotated by Maureen Jameson
Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler
Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
Il s’est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis son manteau de pluie
Parce qu’il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder
Et moi j’ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j’ai pleuré.
5.  Last weekend’s trip to the mountains.  Linville.
red-leaf
bench
6.  French-themed baby quilt made by Sister Moo for granddaughter-to-be Kennedy
baby-quilt
7.  Knock out roses that I see everyday at school
roses
8.  Humble and Kind, written by Lori McKenna and sung by Tim McGraw.
Pink and red make me happy.  So do Carolina Blue skies and fall.  So, no matter what happens in tomorrow’s election, I will still be able to see the beauty that surrounds me.  I will still have good things to eat, good friends to make me laugh and lend a shoulder to cry on when I need one, good stories to read by incredibly talented writers, good music to listen to, and the ability to experience feelings that run deep and true.  I am, above all, a lucky girl.
Potato Soup
This is a lot of guess work and easy to adapt to serve however many eaters you have.  Nothing could be easier!
Bacon, cut into small, diced pieces
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium-sized onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
 Potatoes- Yukon Gold or Russett, washed, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
Chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Cheddar Cheese, optional
Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add bacon and fry until well-done and crisp.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  Add celery and onions, to hot oil and stir to coat.  Sauté until soft.  Drain most of the fat, keeping about one teaspoon.  Add about a cup of broth and heat to boiling, scraping the bottom of the pot, if necessary.  Add potatoes to the mixture.  Pour enough broth over the potatoes to cover them.  Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with bacon and shredded cheddar cheese on top.
Bon appétit to my fellow Americans.  Exercise your right to vote.  Believe in goodness and actively search for it.  Be humble and kind.

Give thanks

gratitude-tree
(This post was originally published on thesabbaticalchef.com on November 8, 2016.)

Practice gratitude.  Easily said.  Not so easily done sometimes.  But I try to do this every day.  By nature, I am not a negative person.  EB recently gave me this little gratitude tree. She and Son #1 have one in their apartment. Last time I was there, I noticed that theirs has more leaves on it than mine and that makes me very happy.  Now that I look at mine, so far I have the letter F covered!  When I begin to feel worried or upset, I take deep breaths and try to focus on the good.  This morning’s grateful list in no particular order.
  • My health.  A little neck pain requiring some treatment but nothing debilitating or too serious.  Getting older isn’t for sissies.
  • Two amazing sons finding their way into adulthood and their own happiness.
  • The Ex-Ex. We recently celebrated the anniversary of our first official date. We went to the 30th birthday party of a colleague (who has become a very dear friend and is still a colleague) in 1981.  2016-1981= 35.  Wow.
  • Mama Mildred.  Still my hero.
  • Sister Moo.  More.
  • Technology.  I have the world at the touch of a button or the click of a key.  Amazing.
  • A well-stocked pantry and refrigerator.
  • Leftovers.  Specifically chili and potato soup at the moment.
  • Fall.  It is going to be the perfect day today.  Sunny with a high of 65˚F.  We have had the bluest skies lately.  I actually had to find my ice scraper this morning to get the frost off my windshield for the first time.
  • My friends.  We laugh.  We cry.  We celebrate.  We mourn.
  • My home.  Warm. Dry. Comfortable. Casual.
  • Books.  My escape.
  • My students.  They inspire me, make me laugh, make me want to pull my hair out, keep me young.
  • My comfortable, warm clothes.  All my black dresses.  My black tights.  My Dansko clogs.  My boots.  A great pair of jeans I found at a consignment shop– on sale.  The cashmere sweater I found on get-rid-of-it sale and I had a coupon.
  • Durham.  The town I live in.  Keep it dirty, Durham.  I love you just the way the are.  Great restaurants.  The American Tobacco Trail.  Duke.  The Durham Bulls. DPAC.  Duke Gardens.
  • The student who inspired me (and, more importantly, helped me) to set up this blog. The people who read my blog.  Thank you very much.  Merci beaucoup.
banana-oatmeal-muffins
Oatmeal Banana Muffins
Makes 12
Inspired by Allrecipes
1-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup Old-Fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas (2 med-sized bananas)
Pre-heat oven to 400˚F.  Line muffin tin with paper cups or coat with cooking spray.
Whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the egg slightly with a fork.  Stir in milk, oil, and vanilla.  Add the bananas and mix thoroughly.
Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture just until combined.  Batter will be a bit lumpy.
Divide the batter evenly among the cups.  If desired, sprinkle turbinado sugar mixed with cinnamon over the tops.
Bake 15-18 minutes or until muffins test done.
Bon appétit and practice gratitude and kindness.  It has been an ugly presidential campaign and I am glad it’s over as of today.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Come on over!



I've updated my look.  My personal look above (school photo 2016) and my blog's look.  Same rambling thoughts, same stash of recipes, same daydreams about France, details from past trips and plans for future trips.  Give it a try!  I'd even love to hear your opinion about which platform you prefer.

The Sabbatical Chef

Bon appétit!  Keep cooking, eating, and daydreaming!

P.S.  I love my gray hair!  The Going Gray Gracefully Program went well and although at first every time I looked in the mirror I wondered who that old lady was, I am now so incredibly glad I took the leap.  Luckily (for him), the Ex-Ex (well, he actually named it the GGGP) embraces the new look as well.  Unlike some man whose wife wrote in Going Grey Gracefully, a FB group I belong to.  The gist of the comment is that she has decided to go gray and he is embarrassed to take her to his office parties and to be seen out in public with her.  I can answer that in one word JERK! And just to be clear, the Ex-Ex coined the name of my "Program" before I found the FB group.  I have to offer that disclaimer before he calls me on it!