Monday, November 22, 2010

Tea Time and Cranberry-Nut Bread

Lately I have been enjoying afternoon tea.

Proper tea.

Where you brew loose tea in a proper teapot and serve it in a proper teacup atop a saucer.

Sometimes at night, after dinner, I brew another pot of something soothing - camomile or mint or earl gray. The 16 year old often joins me (I get a kick out of that). We sit together, have a cookie or a scone, sip our tea and chat for a few minutes. TBHITW and I often enjoyed tea together on frosty winter nights but that was before I discovered the civility of a teapot and proper tea cups. We always sipped ours from steaming mugs with the tea strings wrapped around the handles.

This cranberry-nut bread is a perfect addition to a spot of tea. It is sweet and tangy and comforting. If you haven't already finished your Thanksgiving day shopping this bread may be a welcome addition to your table. If you are traveling, I recommend it as a perfect hostess gift. Perhaps along side a proper teapot.

Cranberry-Nut Bread: makes 2 loaves

Fresh cranberries, about 3 cups whole
2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder*
1 teaspoon baking soda*
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chilled unsalted butter
1 egg
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 loaf pans.

Rinse the berries and discard any soft or wrinkled ones. Place in a food processor and pulse about 5 times until rough chopped. Measure out 1 1/2 cups for the recipe.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar. With a pastry blender or 2 butter knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it has the consistency of rolled oats. Add the egg, orange juice and orange zest and mix well using a wooden spoon. Stir in the cranberries, raisins and nuts.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, set on racks and let cool completely in the pans before turning out. Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices to serve.

*with the holiday season coming into full swing and ovens working over time with holiday baking now is the time to buy fresh baking powder and baking soda. Use any old baking soda in your fridge or freezer or pour down the garbage disposal to freshen it.

A Cook's Notes: these loaves give off the best aroma when baking so don't be surprised if one loaf disappears before you ever get to tea time. For breakfast, a slice of this bread toasted and then smeared with a dab of cream cheese will cure whatever is ailing you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Being Thankful

I went to Costco yesterday with a friend, she needed a few things and I went along for the ride.

Costco assaulted me.

That's the only way I can put it.

It is not even Thanksgiving yet and the entire store was decked out in Christmas lights, trees, bows, ribbons, wrappings and sparkling gifts just waiting to be snatched up by eager shoppers.

I stood in the middle of Costco stunned.

I KNOW the holidays are coming. I wish I could fly away somewhere - but where don't they celebrate Christmas?

I cried in the middle of Costco. I don't think I can do Christmas this year. I don't think I have the strength.

Instead, I am going to concentrate on Thanksgiving.

Here is what I am thankful for:

I am thankful that I had a wonderful marriage full of love, respect and humor.
I am thankful for the years I had with my husband.
I am thankful that TBHITW did not suffer in life or in death.
I am thankful that I have a loving family who listens to me, loves me and offers me their support.
I am thankful that my family is healthy.
I am thankful that I have a home.
I am thankful that we are safe from the terrors of the world.
I am thankful that the life TBHITW and I had was the best life we could possibly have had.
I am thankful for all of you who read this blog and keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Imaging Center

I went for my annual mammogram today at The Imaging Center.

I have gone to the same facility for the past nine years.

The receptionist asked me to update all my contact information.

Address: Same
Phone: Same
Email: Same
Insurance: change
Who to contact in case of emergency.........

Who to contact in case of emergency?

How many times over the years did I write in TBHITW's name and cell phone number. A hundred? A thousand? How many forms at how many doctor offices?

Who to contact in case of emergency?
My vision blurred as my eyes filled up with tears.

The receptionist was busy entering my new insurance information into the computer. She didn't notice my tears or my hesitation.

I finally took a deep breath and wrote in the line next to: Who to contact in case of emergency?


Humor helps sometimes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Swimming Through Grief

I joined our community's indoor pool.

I used to swim. A lot.

I was nervous when I entered the Ladies Locker room today. I hadn't done any lap swimming for many  years.

I had my brand new Speedo swim suit (modest cut) on. I had a brand new Speedo swim cap and goggles.

I stowed all my stuff in a locker and wrapping a towel around me followed the signs to the indoor pool. Six lanes were marked off for lap swimmers. Three were occupied. I choose lane #5.

The air was warm but the water was cold. I eased myself into the five foot deep water, did some stretching and looked around. The teenage lifeguard looked bored. The other swimmers were deep into their own exercise routine.

I pushed off from the side and glided easily into the water. One stroke, two. It all came back. Freestyle, Breast Stroke, Backstroke, Butterfly, rest. Side Stroke. Ease back into freestyle. Breathe. No one was watching. Everyone was occupied with their own rhythm, their own strokes.

Four laps, five. Ten. Fifteen. My heart was beating out of my chest. I remembered to kick. To breathe. To ease into each stroke. My body remembered. My brain went into autopilot. Stroke. Breathe. Kick.

The water eased over me and through me. I forgot about everything. Time. Grief. Loneliness. Stroke, Breathe. Kick. Turn. Another lap.

Fifteen minutes passed, thirty minutes passed. I swam. I breathed. Twenty laps.

When finally my legs were shaking, my shoulder aching and I could barely raise my arms over my head I climbed out of the pool.

I am swimming through grief. I am going back tomorrow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Full House

The 41st. running of the NYC Marathon took place yesterday.

Over 45,000 people ran this year. Forty-one years ago 127 people ran for an admission fee of $1.00.

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their children arrived Friday night. Mark and Dee would be running on Sunday.

My table was full for the first time in many weeks.

So were my evenings, after dinner, when we gathered to just talk and be a family.

This is Shane. What a difference a year makes! Happy, healthy and cancer free!

It was a difficult race for Mark and Dee. The conditions were cold and windy. Emotions ran high as they raced with Fred's Team, raising money for Pediatric Cancer Research. They also ran for the memory of Jim, TBHITW and marathon lover.

When they arrived back "home" from NY we popped a bottle of champagne and laughed and talked about the race. Then everyone ate one last dinner together before the runners headed off to sleep - exhausted, but happy for making the journey of 26.2 miles. It was a full day.

This morning they all packed up and headed home to Michigan.

As I was tidying up the guest room I found this Marathon shirt and note on the bed:

The note reads,

Thank you so much for letting us feel like we never left our home! You and the kids are always in our prayers and thoughts.
It goes without saying that a day doesn't go by that we don't think of Jimmy. We just want you to know we are always here for you and the kids.
Please take this shirt as a small 'thank you'. Jimmy's marathon shirt went to heaven with him, but I like to think another one came back to your home. It can never replace his shirt, but I hope it reminds you to keep moving forward, just like a marathon."

I read this note clutching the shirt to me and then with a full heart, I cried.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Marathon Weekend and Fettucine Alfredo

This weekend is the running of the 41st. New York City Marathon.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law and three children are on their way from Michigan as I type this. They will arrive sometime today, around dinner time.

Mark and Dee will be running on Sunday as part of Fred's Team. Thank you all for supporting them in their efforts.

My niece, Kaitlyn, had one request. Would I make them Fettucine Alfredo as their carbo loaded dinner?

I am a sucker for food requests. This evening, when they arrive we will sit down to this decadent pasta dinner. We will join our hands in prayer and thank our God and the universe for a cancer free year for Shane. We will also remember in our hearts TBHITW - husband, father, brother, uncle. He would have been so happy to have our table full of family and good food.

On, On.

Fettucine Alfredo: 

  • 1 pound dried fettucine
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • shallot, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional


Cook the fettucine in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al denteDrain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepanover medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in, set over medium-high heat along with the reserved cooking liquid. Add the butter-creammixture and half of the Parmesan and toss to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

TBHITW - Last Year in NY at the Marathon

Mark and Dee - Last year's marathon - Mark had shaved his head in solidarity with Shane

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Eating Alone, A Visit and Crab Cakes, Revisited

I enjoyed a four day visit from my sister and my niece this past weekend.

Sue, my older sister has been a pillar of strength, a source of wisdom and a listening heart throughout this sad journey of mine.

Phoebe, her daughter, my niece and god daughter, accompanied her on this most recent visit from Virginia.

What joy! Phoebe recently passed her state boards and like her mom is now a Registered Nurse. RN.

We carved pumpkins on Sunday; this in the one I carved for Phoebe:

We carved a couple of other pumpkins too. All the pumpkins came courtesy of my CSA. My neighbor, a graphic artist stopped by on Saturday and brought me a picture from last year's Halloween. Halloween was one of those holidays that TBHITW embraced in all his Best Husband In The World's style. We made a little "shrine" on the front porch with our candy and pumpkins for all the trick or treaters:

Most people would think this obscene at the least and inappropriate at the most - but we laughed and remembered what a kick TBHITW would have gotten out of this. Anyway, all the candy was gone long before Trick or Treat was done.

Tonight I ate alone. Lonely for my sister, my niece, but most of all my husband.

He always liked my crab cakes but as I was putting it all together I decided to forgo the most fattening elements of crab cakes and focus on the flavor and overall lightness of crab.

Here's what I came up with:

Lighten Up You Crab: serves 2

1/2 pound jumbo lump crab, picked clean of any residual shells
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 small onion, minced
Dash smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 lemon, squeezed (plus another half lemon, sliced for serving)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Saute the celery and onion over very low heat in a bit of butter and equal part olive oil until soft.
While the celery and onion are sauteing, comb the crab for shells, place in a bowl, dash with the paprika and squeeze the lemon half over the crab. Add the fresh thyme.

Add the crab mixture to the saute pan and turn up the heat to medium. Stir and toss until heated through. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

I ate this with a small salad with honey mustard dressing and a side of tri-colored couscous. Pass lemon wedges to squeeze on top of hot crab.

If you are eating alone you can freeze the remainder crab and just reheat. If you are making this for two, say a silent thank you to the universe - meals are made to be shared.

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