a trip to IKEA

I know it may seem as if I have fallen off the face of the earth lately because I’ve posted less often than usual but I am still here.

Well, not my usual “here” as I am in London visiting daughter E and her family. Yesterday, E and granddaughter JG took us to IKEA for the first time. While there are IKEAs in the US, none of them are near our home. E was explaining that in some places, like Germany, rentals tend to have just the four walls so stores like IKEA offer furnishings for whole rooms as a package.

We ate lunch there. Of course, I had to try the Swedish meatballs. They reminded me a bit of the Swedish meatballs my mom used to make using a recipe from her Swedish neighbor. None of this putting sour cream in the gravy nonsense!

I’m still struggling a bit with jet lag but slept almost normal hours last night. Today is the first day of the half-term break for granddaughter ABC and for son-in-law L. We are hoping to do a bit of sight-seeing next week, although we may try to do gardens and outdoor venues as much as possible. We need to stay COVID-free if at all possible!

I’ll try to get some posts out in the coming days. I had intended to write a post about the mass shooting in Buffalo but then the Texas school shooting happened so I need to expand somewhat.

Stay tuned…

SoCS: dinner?

“Whatever” is usually my first thought when the question is “What’s for dinner?”

Not that that is what I say…

For almost forty years, I’ve been the frontline person in the house for shopping and deciding what is for dinner.

It’s not one of my favorite tasks. I’ve tried at various points to enlist help and can sometimes get an answer if I give people a few choices of what is on hand. There have also been stretches of time when I did hand off meal planning to other household adults, especially during the illnesses of Nana and Paco when I was too overwhelmed to deal with such things – or even to care much about food.

While I have been trying to be better about menu planning and execution recently, I’m still struggling. I think part of it is that I’m still alternating between not feeling like eating or even thinking about food and just wanting to eat anything in sight but not caring much about what that is. It’s likely related to grieving and part of the more general problem of still having limited energy and decision-making capabilities. It’s still difficult to make myself do things.

Or maybe that’s just an excuse or rationalization.

Whatever…
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “whatever.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/02/18/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-feb-19-2022/

(not) a party weekend

Here in the US, this past weekend was a major event for lots of folks. Sunday was the Super Bowl, which football fans watch for the game and lots of others watch for the innovative commercials and the halftime show. It’s a long period of time so there tends to be be lots of snacking with chips and dip and wings and pizza and beer and such. Some people are binging on winter Olympic viewing, instead of or in addition to the Super Bowl. Many people also moved their celebration of Valentine’s Day to the weekend, encouraged by restaurants who are still trying to re-build their business as the pandemic (maybe) winds down or, at least, this most recent wave.

Things were pretty quiet at our house, though.

We aren’t big football fans. We have only been watching limited amounts of the Olympics, mostly figure skating, and often via DVR so we can watch the events without all the ads and commentary. I admit that I usually watch more Olympic coverage but the complications of Chinese politics and the bizarre participation of Russia with the doping problem still hanging over them make me less enthused about these particular games. The threat of Russia to Ukraine is also casting a pall, especially since Russia has previously used the time of the Olympics to take military action, hoping the world was too preoccupied to notice.

We did observe Valentine’s Day, but quietly at home and on Monday instead of over the weekend. As I am at a point in my grief process where planning celebrations is still difficult, spouse B did the lion’s share of the work, with daughter T contributing thoughtful cards and candles for the table. I did bring home a pot of mini-daffodils and some dairy-free chocolate for B and T, a token nod to the tradition of flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day.

B planned and executed a lovely dinner for the three of us. He made individual Beef Wellington with mushrooms rather pâté, served with fresh sautéed green beans. For dessert, he made white chocolate mousse, which was rich and delicious. He chose that because I can no longer eat cocoa but still enjoy the luxurious melt-in-your-mouth-ness of cocoa butter.

A sweet and quiet Valentine’s Day suits me.

Thanks to B, it was what we were able to celebrate.

trip reflections

Over the past three weeks, I’ve posted frequently about the trip spouse B, daughter T, and I took to London to visit daughter E, her spouse L, our granddaughters ABC and JG, and L’s parents, with whom they live.

Here at Top of JC’s Mind, I always try to be truthful, so I must say that the best word to describe the trip as a whole is complicated.

It featured: L’s bout with Omicron that began several days before we arrived; delayed COVID test results that kept B and T in Newark overnight while I flew alone to London; bad colds for B and me; flares of chronic health conditions among several of us; a couple of bad backs; booster shot side effects; a lot of restless nights without adequate sleep; teething; upset tummies; a couple of strained backs; the news of the death of a friend back home; a badly swollen nose from JG throwing her head back into the person holding her, as toddlers are wont to do; a dearth of alone time for the introverts among us; the inadvisability of going to church for Christmas, Sundays, and Epiphany; JG’s reluctance to let us hold her if her mom was in the building; and a dead battery in our van after we flew back into Newark.

Despite all that there are many thing for which I am grateful:

That we were able to go at all, despite Omicron running rampant on both sides of the pond, and that the UK didn’t impose restrictions on private gatherings as they had done earlier in the pandemic. We appreciated the high level of compliance with masking and distancing and avoided crowds. I credit that, along with being triple vaxed with Pfizer/BioNTech and testing, for keeping us COVID-free.

Our Airbnb in E’s neighborhood, only a couple of blocks from their house. Being so close meant we didn’t need to go on public transport to visit. It also gave us the opportunity to have sleepovers, including having E, JG, and ABC overnight on Christmas Eve, just as L was able to finish up his COVID isolation period. It was fun to have Christmas stockings and breakfast with them at our place before going over to their house for Christmas dinner and presents. Four-year-old ABC was also thrilled to have some solo sleepovers with her Nana, Grandpa, and Auntie T, including our last night in town. ABC even got to help with making some Christmas cookies in our kitchen, reminding us of her days helping Grandpa in our kitchen back home in New York when she and E lived with us for over two years before E’s spousal visa came through.

Getting to have a lot of family meals together. Most were cooked at home, but we also were able to do some by delivery, including some yummy London fish and chips.

Walks in the neighborhood, in the parks, and to ABC’s school. She was on break most of the time we were there, but did have three days of school during our last week there. E and T even got to have a special sisters outing to a botanic garden. It was strange, though, to see some flowers still blooming, including roses. London was having an oddly warm spell. We did see quite a lot of holly and ivy, though, bringing to mind the traditional British Christmas carols.

Television and Internet. While we couldn’t go to church in person for fear of Omicron, we were able to watch Lessons and Carols live on Christmas Eve. I was able to watch recordings of liturgies from my local parishes back home on my laptop. We were also able to enjoy some children’s programming with ABC and JG. I especially like Bluey, an Australian series which is part of the CBeebies (BBC’s children’s television channel) line-up. ABC was also watching Frozen II and Encanto quite frequently, both of which were new to us.

The chance to renew bonds with ABC, who can remember us from when she lived with us. The opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to JG, who we met for the first time when she came to the States last August, just after she turned one. We are hoping that she will be able to realize who we are now when we videochat so that we aren’t starting from scratch again as strangers when next we meet, but it’s difficult to know if that is possible. A few months between visits is a significant chunk of a lifetime to a toddler.

Seeing E. Even though we were both tired and stressed, I appreciated the snatches of conversation we were able to have. I remember what it was like to be responsible for two little girls under five, with a lot of that time being solo. I sincerely wish I could be there more to help but that isn’t in the cards right now. The ocean is a big barrier, except for my love, sympathy, and empathy.

E will always have my heart.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/11/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-11th-2022/

sad news and shopping

We are nearing the end of our holiday visit to London. Today is our last full day with granddaughter ABC who will go back to school to begin the new term tomorrow. As a treat, ABC stayed over at our Airbnb with us last night. B made a yummy coffee cake for our breakfast. We had plans to meet up with our daughter E, her spouse L, and granddaughter JG for a morning shopping excursion and lunch.

I checked my email and found the sad news that one of the long-time members of the spirituality book study group at our neighborhood church that I facilitate had passed away. We had not seen each other since our group was suspended in March 2020 due to the pandemic, although we spoke by phone periodically. I had sent her a Christmas card not long before we left for the UK. I tried to bring up her obituary through our online subscription to our local newspaper, but, for some reason, it doesn’t work outside the US. I wish I could be there to attend the funeral but I’m afraid it will be held before I get back to the States. We had hoped to resume class in the spring, but it will be missing a certain spark without Christine.

We were able to meet up in Stratford for shopping, quite close to the site of the Olympic Park. I went by car with L so JG and ABC could be in their car seats, while B, T, and E took the bus. Had the weather been less chilly and rainy, they might have walked. We did a bit of shopping for ABC who needed some new skirts and black shoes as part of her school uniform. I was shocked to find a pair of boots for myself; I have short but narrow feet so tend to be hard to fit. We had lunch at a pasta shop in the mall, followed by gelato and sorbetto at another shop. We navigated our way back to the house and our nearby Airbnb and are now having naptime for the children (and some adults) before meeting up later for supper together.

We have been being careful about being out in public. This was our biggest encounter in public since our arrival days, but we wore our masks on the busses and in the shopping center, except while eating. The shops open onto a covered space that is open to the outdoors, so air circulation was good where we were walking and eating. We were also able to keep a good distance between groups of people. It helps to give peace of mind that B, T, E, and I are all boosted. L is just recently recovered from omicron but will be eligible to be boosted soon. We all need to protect ABC and JG, as well as keep ourselves negative so we can fly back to the US on Saturday.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2022/01/04/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-4th-2022/

2022

We are celebrating New Year’s with the UK branch of the family. For New Year’s Eve dinner, daughter E and spouse L prepared Korean food. I admit that I didn’t stay up for the midnight festivities which follow the Filipino tradition of L’s parents, with whom E and L and their daughters ABC and JG live.

At midnight, they bang on pots and pans to make noise to drive away evil spirits. There were not organized fireworks due to COVID, but there were lots of fireworks in the streets – all evening and until about 3 this morning. Actually, there have been fireworks in the neighborhood for the past several nights, as though people needed to practice for the big event.

E and L went shopping for fruits as they prepared bowls with 12 different round fruits, which symbolizes prosperity for the household for each month of the year. They even prepared a bowl for us to have in our Airbnb. It’s important not to eat any of the fruits until the new year has begun. L’s family will also hang grapes above the front door, where they remain for the year. First they will have to take down the 2021 grapes which are now a bunch of raisins!


For New Year’s dinner, E is planning to make lasagna and homemade bread. This is our family’s traditional Christmas dinner which got transferred to New Year’s Day this year. It will be a nice way to remember my parents as we move into our first year with them both gone.

Wishing all of us peace, contentment, and good health in 2022!
*****
Linda is once again hosting Just Jot It January to encourage daily posting to get the new year off to a good start! Prompts are provided, but not required. Learn more here: https://lindaghill.com/2021/12/31/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2022-daily-prompt-jan-1/

SoCS: Christmas food

Linda extended Stream of Consciousness Saturday into Sunday this week, giving those of us celebrating Christmas a bit more time to post. She also gave us an easy prompt – yum – so, of course, I am going to write about all the yummy food we had yesterday.

I am in London UK to celebrate the holidays with daughter E and her family, so we ate differently than most Christmases. When E and T were growing up, they usually sang at our church Christmas morning, so we developed the tradition of having lasagna on Christmas Day because it was easy to prepare ahead and then bake after church. It was also a nod to my mother’s Italian heritage.

This year, we did have a bit of Italian heritage by having panettone for breakfast, but our main meal was an amalgam of British and Filipino dishes, as E’s parents-in-law are immigrants to the U.K. from the Philippines. We had pancit, mushroom stuffed puff pastry cups, bacon wrapped sausages over stuffing, a clove-studded baked ham, glazed carrots, and shaved Brussels sprout salad. Everything was yummy!

We had great desserts, too! December 25th is also E’s father-in-law’s birthday so there was a decorated applesauce cake with appropriate singing, of course, and two pies that we had made in our rental flat, one pumpkin and one apple. All of them were yummy. Of course, I had to sample all three!

I did have a very traditional evening snack. Spouse B had made shortbreads from his family’s recipe and gingerbreads from a recipe he made every year with E and T as they were growing up. It was a bit of a challenge adapting the recipes from US to U.K. ingredients and measurements but they are still familiar and yummy!

I hope that everyone, wherever you are and whether you are celebrating a holiday or not, is blessed with some yummy food in your life this weekend!

(Now comes the part of the post where I try to do a pingback to Linda’s blog. I’m uncharacteristically writing this from an app so we’ll see if I can manage it. I’m definitely not trying to copy in the SoCS logo this time around! /https://lindaghill.com/2021/12/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socss-dec-25-26-2021/ )

another day

So, as I write this, it is December 25th which we celebrate as Christmas, but 2020 is very different.

I haven’t been able to post much this month, in large part because we have been dealing with some health difficulties with my father, known here as Paco. He spent five days in the hospital and, earlier this week, was admitted to the skilled nursing and rehabilitation unit in the senior community where he lives.

Because of COVID restrictions, no visitors are allowed but we have been in touch by phone. Before he went to rehab, we did have a family early-Christmas celebration, but we sent a couple of small gifts to his room so he would have something to open today.

We hope to videochat with daughter E and family in London UK this afternoon, which will be evening there. They have already posted photos of granddaughters ABC and JG in their holiday attire. Last night, we were able to watch the Christmas Eve mass from their church. While it is sad that we were not able to see them at all in 2020, technology does help.

Spouse B, daughter T, and I are spending the day at home with scaled-back gift exchange and lots of our family favorite foods, fresh-baked date nut and cranberry breads for breakfast and lasagna from Nana’s recipe with homemade braided herb bread for dinner and apple-blackberry and an outrageously good brown-sugar and maple pecan pie for dessert. B enjoys cooking and baking special meals, so he is taking the lead with all this while I act assitant. It’s nice to have familiar things in such a topsy-turvy year.

Unfortunately, the huge snowstorm we had last week that dropped forty inches (one meter) of snow on us has set us up for flood warnings today. We got about three inches (8 cm) of rain yesterday and overnight, which, coupled with at least another couple of inches from snowmelt, has led to flooding. The Susquehanna is expected to crest tonight at major flood stage level in our town. While our home should be okay, we are concerned for our neighbors who live closer to the river.

I know for many Christians around the world, this Christmas is very different than the usual celebrations, but the underlying message of peace and good will to all is still there to bring comfort to us in these troubled times. I share wishes for peace and good will, for good health and love with all of you; whatever your personal faith or philosophy might be, these gifts are universal.

JC’s Confessions #15

In the first few seasons of The Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.

JC

I’m not a vegan.

I’m also not likely to become one.

I know that eating a vegan diet is gentlest on the planet and its resources and I have made a lot of lifestyle changes to address climate change and other environmental threats, but I can’t manage going vegan.

I try to be mindful of what we eat and where it comes from. We eat a number of vegetarian meals during each week and utilize local, in-season produce when available. You can read my paean to the 2020 strawberry season here. I often have access to organic produce and meats, which are less stressful on the ecosystem than large-scale conventional farming. I have tried to experiment with some of the plant-based substitutes for ground meat, but the smell, taste, and digestibility caused a number of issues within our family.

I enjoy lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts.

The problem is that I have a couple of medical issues that limit or eliminate quite a few vegan sources of important nutrients and there are times when symptoms are acting up that it is already difficult to figure out what I can safely eat without throwing in the additional strictures of veganism.

So, I will keep on, in my less-than-perfect way, eating not as bad-for-the-planet as I could be, but not as good-for-the-planet as I could be, either…

another strawberry season

We are almost at the end of strawberry season here in upstate New York.

When I was growing up in rural New England, we always went strawberrying every spring and made lots of recipes with the fresh, flavorful berries. Back then, you only had access to fresh strawberries when they were available locally. Now you can buy them in the grocery store year-round grown somewhere far away, but we seldom buy them because they are never as good as local ones.

For many years, I picked my own from nearby farms, but now I buy them from the farmstands and embark on the annual strawberry binge.

This year, we had some of our old favorites – strawberry shortcake, fresh strawberry pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry salad, strawberry sundaes, strawberries with yogurt, and strawberries on pancakes. We also tried some new recipes – strawberry spoon cake, strawberry-rhubarb muffins, fresh strawberry tarts, and strawberry bread pudding.

Wow! That looks like a lot when it is all written out.

I think it will tide us over until next spring, when I’m sure we’ll be ready to dive into strawberry season once again.

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