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Monday, April 29, 2013

Transported by Memory

I am a very visual, experiential person.  I remember weird details in things that other people may not remember because I fall in love with them, the details.  I could find places I visited 20 years ago because I memorized the place by the experience that occurred.

I love to travel, to see new views, to collect those images in my mind.  Today, I was listening to some music and it absolutely triggered Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Particularly, it triggered a rainy afternoon, arriving tired and going to my room at Spinnakers Guest House, looking out across a cloudy harbor at the boatyard, the sea planes landing and taking off, and the fire place crackling at the foot of my bed. 

For those of you who haven't visited there, let me tell you about Victoria, and our favorite little hidden place there.  Victoria is a town of about 344,615 people.  It is a pretty large town, really, but it feels quaint and small.  When you arrive by ferry, you are at the tiny little harbor and you step off to the boat docks, smelling of sea and food stands.  The sea birds are squawking overhead, and if you have food, better be prepared to defend it, as they don't wait for dropped food, but would prefer to pluck it from your hands as you attempt to shoo them away.  Large yachts are anchored in the harbor, just in front of the Fairmont Empress Resort and Hotel, famous for it's high tea and imposing structure, lit up at night and visible from anywhere in the harbor.

Spinnaker's Brew Pub and Guest House is an out of the way restaurant and room accommodations situated right on the harbor, but further away from active city center.  A biking / running trail runs right beneath it's deck, and as we enjoyed an afternoon refreshment and watched them move back and forth below.  In Victoria you understand health and fitness in a way that isn't evident in small communities in Nebraska.  The guest house sits back a building from the restaurant, and is in an old Victorian house, long ago remodeled into guest rooms. The suites include nice big soaking tubs, a fire place, reading chairs, and a great big bed to nestle down in at night.

When I arrived in January, it was raining, and that wasn't surprising, as it rains a lot there.  That didn't bother me.  I dropped my luggage and headed straight for the little gift area at the front of the restaurant, also famous for their chocolates.  Lemon thyme white chocolate truffles were calling my name.  I purchased a small bag of them, knowing I would have to indulge in more before I left the next day.  I ordered a good hot cup of coffee and a sandwich and watched the rain come down outside.  For some people, the rain may have been disappointing.  Rainy days, with a comfy place to read, some good music, and a fire going, is one of my very favorite things.

I only had a little over 24 hours in Victoria this time, so I was thrilled to wake up to sunshine the next morning, along with a basket with a coffee pot full of the best coffee and tea, cream, scones, muffins, and all kinds of locally made jams and jellies.  I broke my own rule, crawling into bed to enjoy my coffee and muffin.  And continue to read.  We took off on the biking trail, heading into the city.  The trail meanders around along the coast of the harbor for miles.  We walked all of the way around it and out onto the break point, stopping here and there for a coffee, breakfast, or just enjoy the view.

What we didn't expect was the lovely day after the rain the day before.  It was around 65 degrees, and it was January mind you, and there was green grass, some trees with leaves, and roses blooming. On our walk, we heard the history of the island, and met a man whose family was one of the original settlers on the island.  He smiled while he talked about the past, full of pride about the place he lived and could share with us.  We heard about the modern trends and concerns about how things were changing too.

People there seemed to have what we selfishly claim here in Nebraska as our welcoming and kind nature and attitude.  They have it too.  Maybe it's because it's Canada and there is a different personal drive or mindset.  Maybe we were the ones that were different but it doesn't matter because it exists when we are there, and it is almost a tangible memory now, so strong I can taste those chocolates, that coffee, or smell the sea air. The idea of place conscience struck me today, when those memories came rushing in.  Traveling anywhere, witnessing culture and scenery and smells and tastes first hand, is something to revel in.  The memories of those experiences are sustaining.  When I am no longer able to travel because my strength or age or health won't let me, I'll have those memories burned in my brain, blessings themselves, so real I can smell the coffee.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sodium Replacement Therapy

O.k.  I haven't cooked as much low sodium as I'd like, but we have been experimenting.  One of our favorite things is an experiment, but would/could be called Balsamic Chicken or Beef on  Noodles.  You can use any type of  noodle as you  like, as long as the sodium count is low (under 100 mg) per serving.  Take an onion and a package of mushrooms and saute them in olive oil until they are carmelized..about 10 minutes.  Add a 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar,  1/8 cup cooking wine or white wine, 1/8 cup no sodium chicken broth, and a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, and a teaspoon of pressed garlic.  Put that in with the mushrooms and onions, and then remove from the pan.  Add back a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, add the cubed beef or chicken, saute until medium rare, and then add mushroom and onion mixture to the meat.  If it doesn't thicken naturally, add one tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with water to the mixture and cook until thickened...serve over noodles.  There is literally hardly any added sodium...comes to around 120 mgs, and is SOOOO good.  Even if you aren't on a low sodium diet.

Balsamic vinegar and lemon juice are proving to be two really good flavor enhancers for most anything.  We made a lower carb mashed potatoes this week too,  using regular yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes, equal portions.  We boiled the potatoes, added a stick of unsalted butter and a tiny bit of lemon juice, milk, no sodium chicken broth, and brown sugar to the potatoes.  Sounds crazy doesn't it. But it was good.  Go easy on the lemon juice but it adds a little zing that helps replace the lack of salt.

Mom is doing well by the way, in great spirits, and trusting that God heals. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Straws

This year has been full of trials already, and I am taking them one day at a time.  Some days better than others.  First, my son had two knee surgeries and he is only 17.  Then my husband was being treated for a liver disease that it turns out he doesn't have, only is the carrier for.  Then, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, my healthy, hard to keep up with mom, out of the blue was diagnosed with severe congestive heart failure.  That one threw me for a loop.  It came out of no where, and literally in a matter of days she went from my mom who can't sit still, to my mom who has to sit still, have a very low sodium diet, oxygen at night mom.  Time marches on in spite of us, and we all know changes are ahead, but I'm being honest here, and I am full. I keep saying that, but the truth is, God's grace is enough in every situation, and God is blessing us with His grace, and His love, and His mercy, and His healing.  So, I am very intentionally giving this over to God, praying for my mother's healing, and doing everything God has given me the ability to do to help her.

Most importantly mom's diet.  You'd think she'd have big changes to make but in addition to not being over weight, not eating unhealthy, and being completely active, the big thing is the sodium awareness that occurs naturally in foods.  So we are all learning, trying to adjust our tastebuds, and give her good food that is very low in sodium.  I've been doing some research, and I am going to be experimenting with foods.  I am going to post our favorites, just in case you know of someone who can use that kind of lifestyle change as well.  Today I am going shopping.  What I can't find locally my dad and I will order online.  Let the cooking begin.