Monday, September 24, 2012

A Wedding in the West

This weekend I attended a very sweet wedding, a medium-sized wedding about 200 people, set in a lyrical  mountain valley surrounded by sky-high mountains, albeit there was some smoke.  Still, it was clear enough to see and we were outside.  Horses in the pasture.  Leaves starting to turn.   Little girls leaning out of the 2nd story window of a barn, waving to their family and friends.  Beautiful table settings with white flowers and little votive candles. The great expanse of newly mown grass, deeply green.

Tucker, a righteous young man, at a little over 30, is ready.  He married Daniela, the daughter of a South American family, now living in the Pacific Northwest.  Tucker is the son of close friends, Tom and Colleen, and handsome enough that people used walk up to him and comment; Daniela is a striking beauty.

As weddings go, it was Western casual.  The groom's men were dressed in their spanking new jeans, a tux shirt and suspenders, a little bit a humor was involved.  Tuck wore the standard denims with a tux shirt and jacket.  The bride's maids wore dresses they picked out, but were within the same color family. And leggings. Spritely and a little sassy.   Daniela wore Colleen's wedding dress, a cotton with exquisite embroidery.  Fresh and crisp and lovely.   And then there were the kids—these families have way-cute kids.  I'm looking forward to more of those.

Pastor Bob taught from the Song of Solomon, the basis of a very lusty, happy marriage. It is the first marriage for Tuck and Daniela, more than likely to be the last, given their parents' model of living through some tough times together and their own religious sensibilities.  My favorite line:  "You ravished my heart."  Deep sigh here.

Dinner was chicken and ham, salad and rice with little baby shrimps, homemade cookies.  This isn't a family that drinks, so there was fresh pink lemonade.  Besides the roads getting here require a clear head.

When I walked up to congratulate the bride and groom, Tuck blew me a kiss and breathed out,  "This is the best day of my life."  I promise more.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Festivals

This time of year is paradise.  The intolerable heat is gone, but the day time  temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and the evenings are long and sweet.  We have all kinds of festivals, an art in the park, a nationally known walk/race for women, and neighborhood festivals.  Since we're more urban than rural any more, the Harvest Festivals are out of town in the villages, and the neighborhoods, provided the neighborhood has a personality, has taken over the job of celebrating the season.

A favorite is the Hyde Park Street Fair, in a neighborhood known for it's iconoclasts, it's tree-lined streets, and it's artists.  Metal artists, potters, painters, dancers and young people engaged in politics and the ecology, meet in the coffee shops and talk away the afternoons.  A lot of them eke out skinny livelihoods, but have great lives.  It's a neighborhood not for the faint of heart.  You have to be know who you are and what you want from your life before you venture into those realms.  People who are clear-headed do fine.

I'm with some of my best buds: Tim and Julie, Cheryl and Larry.  And it's Tim that helps us find an old friend.  Rick, the guy who is in Iron Man training, has been out all week with a tummy upset.  Fair food doesn't seem like that good an idea.

There are a hundred booths, the usual political booths, but these are more towards the liberal side of things, in keeping with the accepting nature of this neighborhood, soy products, tie-dye shirts, summer hats.  If you think this is a throw-back to the 60s, you'd be right.

The Street Fair is a great place to people-watch.  At the pack of the park is one of our town's famous foothills, a golden one, and around the hill comes the local high school cross-country track team.  Their dark blue shorts are brilliant against the hills.  All night long the kids try to run up the trail and then slide back down.

A young woman, decked out in dred-locks, big thick honey-golden ones, and too little clothing steals our attention.  What clothing she had was beaded, tie-dyed, patched together.  She had on amazing amounts of jewelry: bangle bracelets, pendants, pierced earrings, and chokers.  She was astonishing enough, until we saw her mother.

A young handsome man who had shiny, beautiful  hair down to the middle of his back, was dressed in a mid-calf length wool coat.  Black.  Trimmed in fur.  He didn't have on a shirt.  He did have on black pants and knee-high black boots.  I watched him for about half an hour, and then he pulled up the hood on his coat and covered his head  and left.  It's 92 degrees.  So here is my question:  Do druggy kids have trouble maintaining a normal body temp?  I know, with some diseases, that some patients have a really hard time with that.  Cancer, for example.

Most of the people are young families, groups of friends, the adventurous, cyclists, runners, and mountain climbers, an outstanding number of athletes.

So, for the joy.  My friends and I got to see Dayo.  He went to our church for a time, and we grew so fond of him.  He is from Nigeria and has to be the son of a grand Nigerian king.  Has to be.  Stunningly handsome with a beautific smile.  His heart is big and his mind is a good one.   He has a daughter that he is so very proud of.   He works in a bank by day, and then is the heart and soul of a community organization that fosters the arts and the music of people from all over the globe. His life's work.  His area at the fair takes up a quarter of the park.  On stage, at that moment were beautiful young girls who were doing Mexican dances.  They are dressed in white lace gowns and vibrant, red flowers, and on each of their heads is an unlit candle (watchful mamas) that they balance throughout the dance.  Dayo is a great family and community man already, and this project will take him around the world.  He believes peace and understanding break out when people sing and dance together.

I that happens too when people eat together. So what did I have for dinner:  A Baja Taco with shrimp.  Here's how I would make it at home.  They had 4 large shrimp for each taco.  I'd use 10 or 12 big ones.  They grilled them a minute or two, seasoned them with salt and pepper and a little mild chili powder. They used a grill pan, which is what I have too.   They used homemade tortillas and since those are beyond me, I'd use a large flour or corn tortillas.  They used diced fresh tomatoes, crunchy shreds of both red and green cabbage,  green onion, cilantro, and a little bit of lime.  They had a sauce,  which was delicious and is still a mystery to me.  I'd get close with a little bit of sour cream, thinned with lime juice and some chili powder, salt and pepper.

You eat these tacos with a fork, if you treasure foods that actually make it to your mouth.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blueberries, anyone?

Last night, I attended a cancer survivors workshop at our local hospital with my cousin, Julie.  They had a wonderful agenda, one of the social workers talked about coping with massive change; the acupuncturist, a guy's guy,  gave a cooking demo and a dietician gave wonderful, practical advice about developing menus that were easy, packed with nutrition, and practical.  I think she needs her own advice, because she hates grocery shopping, and cooking, for that matter.  Funny.

Here's what she recommended for both prevention of cancer and  treatment of  cancer:  eat 2 1/2 cups of veggies a day; along with a 1 1/2 cups fruit.  I love those foods, but you have to realize the French fries don't count.  We're talking broccoli here.

Anyway, as helpful as these workshops are, the really interesting part was the survivors.  It was easy to spot the survivors and their caregivers.  Everybody looked as if they had been through a major war and had lost ever so much, rattled and not entirely clear about what their lives might be.

As helpful as the new meds are, and they are saving the lives of people right and left, cancer still scares us at the core.  I've felt that fear myself, and my cousin, Julie, got the big whammy.  She knows what it is.  It turns out that 1 in 25 Americans is now a cancer survivor.  So the good news, lots and lots of people live through it.  Kudos to them.  The bad news?  Too many people have cancer.  One person is bad enough.

I noticed this:  Hair.  Post-chemo, the hair comes back.  But it doesn't come back in the way it left.  It can stick out in odd directions, be beyond any attempts at control, or it can be a different color or texture.  Most people in the room were in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Some of those folks tried to master their new hairs, others just let them be what they wanted to be.  My personal favorite: the 80-year-old woman who dyed the ends of her hair pink.  She's my kind of person, with the strength and humor to take something very bad—and put it in its place. Pink is the color of breast cancer survival.

The other thing I noticed was that kindness and compassion, a deep understanding of real live suffering is prevalent. Anything other than kindness is sacrilege.  Nothing else is called for.

They ended with a panel.  Dr. Dan was on it.  While everybody did a really good job, Dr. Dan was our favorite.  In this community, he is a beloved oncologist. We trust  him so deeply.

So, blueberries?  Here is the recipe for Blueberry Granita,  We had it for dessert; it was miraculous.  The recipe was developed by Alan Shaw, our chef/acupuncturist.  A couple of caveats here:  my math is not up to changing pounds and ounces into cups and half-cups; and the sugar issue.  Sugar feeds tumors, not something you want to be doing if you have active tumors.  It was also a little sweet for me.  So, I'd start with 4 ounces of sugar, and then add 1 tablespoon at a time until it becomes sweet enough.  Or you can use non-sugar sweetener.  You already know which ones work for you.   Start with a little, (very little actually, 8 ounces of sweeteners will melt off your ears—they are thousands of times sweeter than sugar) and work up.  It's worth the effort, because the taste of blueberries is regal.

Blueberries are one of the super-fruits, bold fighters against cancers of all stripes and stages.  You can eat as much as you can hold.  Turns out that your veggies and fruits are primary warriors against cancer.  That's what Julie did.  She took hold of her own recovery and eats fruits and vegg by the bucket-full.  She's closing in on her 5th anniversary.

Blueberry Granita
1 pound and 8 ounces of blueberry puree ( You can't buy blueberry puree in the store; but you can buy 3 small cartons of blueberries, cook them down  on top  of the stove with about 1/4 cup water, and then run them through a colander or a strainer. The liquidy stuff is puree.)
24 fluid ounces of water.
8 ounces of sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pour the mixture into a metal pan and place in your freezer.  Sir the mixture every 15-20 minutes until it resembles crushed ice.  Think snow cone ice.  Cover it tightly and keep it in the freezer until you serve it, or it  disappears.  I like it better than ice cream; and I like ice cream plenty well.