Thursday, May 29, 2014

Such a Simple Remedy.....

This is just one of the 6 vases of beautifully scented lilacs my son and I picked today. My favorite fragrance in the world, EVER, these flowering plants don't last nearly as long as I would like them. Does anyone remember picking a single flowering shoot and sucking out the sweet pollen hidden inside when you were a kid?

Not only do these flowers brighten my day in every 'scents' for 3 weeks a year, but they hold a very special significance. When my Dad was alive, he always took walks and picked them to place throughout his home for as long as I can remember. When he was ill and held up at either the hospital or nursing home at the end of his life, we desperately tried to get permission for him to have them in his room, but rules were rules and we never received the okay. BUT, that never stopped me from sneaking them in(along with Smiths beef jerky which was strictly against his dietary regiment) and putting them in a plastic glass of water. The nurses only checked on him every few hours, so the smell wafted through his room long enough so that when they were removed(and they ultimately were every time I brought them in) the scent still lingered for some time after.

It was that time of year that I visited Dad almost every day solely because I knew that they were confiscated the same day. Why those nurses never put two and two together and noticed that whenever I came, the lilacs stayed I will never know.

I started writing this post with no moral intended but as I start thinking about those times that gave my father some solace, enjoyment and tranquility a moral arises.

Although his doctors strictly forbade him to eat certain things(such as the beef jerky previously mentioned) and enjoy simple pleasures, I made sure my cunning superseded professional criteria. Many of us take things for granted, especially the minute details of every day lives. The simple smell of your favorite flower, or scent, can be just as much of a remedy as any medicine. Like i wrote in an article for Deepak Chopra's website, your body can do amazing things to heal itself. Not to go on and on like I did for vivid.e but when your sole and emotions feel good, you feel good. When your blood pressure is down and you are at peace with yourself, all sorts of good things happen with the cells in your body and all of it good.

As Dad was dying, I truly believe that his time with us was extended because he enjoyed the "illegal' jerky I snuck into him and the fragrance from the lilacs were instrumental in his quality of life while sick. That, my friends, is the motto. Do things that make yourself feel good and understand that those little things that we give no thought to and are not very high on any ones list of 'must haves' mean a great deal to others.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Shameful Thing.....

I noticed a post from a very good friend of mine named Cindy on Facebook recently referring to the fact that her and her daughter went to a forgotten cemetery and "payed it forward'. They weren't related to anyone in this particualr cemetery but felt that human urge to be kind simply for kindness sake. They spent a good part of a sunny day tending to long forgotten graves, time-ignored trinkets that had been so thoughtfully placed so long ago and pulling overgrown weeds obscuring those long-forgotten ancestors.

Our forefathers, struggling to feed the ever growing brood our foremothers bore, now lay forgotten. Their headstones toppled from weathering and hidden from sight and mind by azalea wild and rhodora. The women and children who are memorialized by the mere fact of our presence are peacefully resting under the tread of doe, moose and the heavy-footed bear. Their lives entering like a snap shot to us, but sadly exiting with the next shutter, not to be remembered until prod.

It may be because of our increasingly assiduous lives which has us rowing down the river of lethean. Understood.

Maybe it is because our antecendent series of daily tasks has us choosing our considerations. Understood.

To remind ourselves that in a few generations, our essence will be as short-lived as that of a lilac, fresh and lively but for a short period, not to be enjoyed or remembered until awakened through purpose. Understood.

Solace and contentment, to me is remembering those of whom I sprouted and those whose lineage have long moved on. Serenity whirls about when I take that phusical walk to their charnel and that imperceptible stroll through a time when they endured. The fright they must have felt when a child was sick and only the hope of the hyssop could help. Or the contentment obvious when the children chased each other, giggling when caught or screaming when jumped. The smell of a great pot of beans, tinged with the rendering fat nestled within, wafts in this world of mine when I take my erstwhile journey.

I am proud to have found my family cemetery from many generations ago. This, too, has been long neglected and forgotten. My Dad and I took a few days to find it before he passed on and these are the pictures I took when I visited a month ago. This is one of the oldest cemeteries in New England but is not recognized as such simply because it is forgotten. There are many first, second and third generation  settlers buried here at Sawyer Hill Cemetery and I am proud to say that Mr. Isaac Bailey Sr. and Jr., Deacon Edmund Bailey and each of his three wives and many other Baileys are resting next to the Coffin family, who are nestled with the Frosts of old and the ancient Poore family.
My great, great, great, great, great grandfather Deacon Edmund lost his first two wives along with all his children from both marriages from a throat distemper of the 1730s in Newburyport, Massachusetts. They are all buried here.

I feel solace and comfort knowing that I have not neglected this cemetery and my family buried within. Nor have I neglected my family on Bailey Hill in Topsfield and Baileyville, Maine. I may not be able to physically visit each cemetery or grave as often as I wish but there truly isn't day that I don't think about my progenitors... because a neglected life is a shameful thing!



Saturday, May 3, 2014

My Favorite(and simplest)Octopus Dish

I must credit a certain Gayle Bailey(Yup, another gorgeous member of my family) as the inspiration behind this recipe. My children NEVER knew they were eating octopus until after they finished. While sitting down at my home, her and I started talking and talking and never finished a complete thought because we had so much to gab about. I could literally sit down with her and just plain listen to her culinary stories from various countries she has frequented, as well as her deep-rooted, Southern upbringing that is so obvious when talking with her. In one particularly interesting topic, Gayle related to me that she had visited Italy in the past and had enjoyed an addition in her tomato sauce while there. She loved it and now only makes her tomato sauces using this addition. that .  Grated lemon rind! I had to experiment and on the first try I was taken aback. Not only was the sauce perfectly balanced in flavor with the addition of lemon, but to combine this sauce with the great taste of seafood and the kick of a little chile oil, it was spot on. Thank you Gayle, life is much tastier because of your brains AND beauty.

This recipe is aptly named for the lady who inspired me to rush to the store. If you translate the title of this aromatic dish, you will see to whom it is named. It may take a little "out-of-the-box" thinking, but I think you will get it. In the meantime, octopus is found fresh and it is not that expensive. If you happen to purchase frozen octopus or squid "leg meat", simply thaw before continue with recipe.

Polpo Ventoso

12 ounces linguine

2 tablespoons chile oil

1/2 pound sliced octopus*

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspon chopped basil

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and diced



Cook pasta according to package directions; set aside in strainer. Over medium heat, add the chile oil to a large skillet until hot. Add the prepared octopus and cook for 4-5 mintues, or until just cooked through. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, grated lemon zest, sugar, oregano and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the octopus is done, add the bell pepper and continue cooking and additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomato suace mixture, stir to combine and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Remove lid, add the pasta and toss(or stir) to coat well. Be careful, since the pasta is now very dry and lumped together somewhat, you will need caution when separating strands while tossing with the sauce. Divide evenly among plates and serve hot. Enough for 4-6 servings.

If you don't have any chile oil on hand and you really want this dish, simply add 1 cup olive oil to a small suacepan with 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes. Turn heat to low and let oil and pepper flakes gently warm together for 5 mintues. Remvoe from heat, cool to room temperature and transfer to a container with a lid. This will keep very well in the refrigerator for a month.

*You can buy fresh baby octopus at your local supermarket or use frozen, already sliced octopus (or squid) tentacles. I removed the "suckers' only for my children but feel free to leave on.