A Cardinal, Talisman and Spring.

Yesterday, while sipping tea and staring out my window, I was transfixed, mesmerized by a cardinal. Perched at a feeder, I’ve come to view this red-feathered guy as a pet of ours, of sorts.

Distant Memories.

For the past couple of years, he and his partner have made a home in our backyard pine tree.  Hubby and I are bird lovers and have made our backyard–with feeders and fresh-water baths–as inviting for them as possible.

This month Easter, Passover, and Ramadan are celebrated.  The season will be vastly different for those of us who embrace our cultural traditions.

Seeing as the Easter Bunny is an essential worker in our family, he will deliver eggs as expected but extended family will be absent. Richard and I will celebrate alone, which is, in fact, our job.

Asparagus, Mushroom, Gruyere Bread Pudding

Here’s a slideshow with a dozen recipes I’ve enjoyed making during the Easter season. This year I’ll grill a couple of lamb chops and serve it will this recipe for yummy Asparagus Bread Pudding. For once, there will be leftovers.

Back to the birds. Is it just me, or does their singing sound more melodic than in past Springs? Perhaps this year the world forced me to slow and appreciate them more.

A cardinal is symbolic of a loved one who has died. According to lore, their appearance means they visit you when you most need them. My father passed away in early April several years ago, and for once I feel his presence–not his absence.

I’ve also taken to afternoon tea out of my grandmother’s teacup, thinking of the vessel as a talisman, something to soothe my spirit and bring me hope.

My grandmother did, in fact, survive the Great Depression and World War 11, teacup in hand.

Polish-Stuffed Easter Eggs

Living in south-east Michigan, one of the hardest-hit areas in the country, almost everyone has a story of a friend or friends who died or is sick from this virus, as well as family members and neighbors who have filed for unemployment.

Today I read that more than seven-hundred health care workers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have tested positive for COVID-19. These are people who went to work to save the lives of those they didn’t know.

For me, the advent of Spring means birth and renewal. This year it brings me hope–hope that a more peaceful, wiser and compassionate world will emerge when the virus has met its antiviral match. In the meantime, a more pressing hope is that those of you hit hardest will find moments of peace, the best ways your souls can find it.

These days I’ve taken to roaming streets and city parks, of course keeping a healthy distance from those I pass along the way. The pianist Ludovico Einaudi is a delightful playlist companion, and I especially enjoy the compositions from Seven Days Walking. I’m preferring instrumentals these days. Because, when it comes right down to it, there are no words.

Here’s one entitled “Birdsong”.

 

 

 

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Those Marvelous Italians!

Life as I knew it changed over the weekend; last week, for me, is a fading dream. There’s a lot of noise, calamity and misinformation out there, but the smartest voices are saying the very same thing: STAY HOME. I saw a funny meme that put it best: If our parents and grandparents could go off and fight for humanity in WW11, we can hunker down on our sofas and watch Netflix.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with Horseradish-Watercress Dressing

Putting on some Irish ballads and making Corned Beef and Cabbage was just the tonic I needed to shake away my fears.

Even with my thoughts on the thousands who’ve been affected by this virus, to be honest, a couple of weeks ago I felt that some of my friends were overreacting. Wishful thinking––I’m good at that. And I’m also a slow learner. But the rapidity of how fast this virus is spreading has kicked me in the gut. The hashtag, #flattenthecurve, is now my battle cry.

If you’re sad, depressed and lonely, well, every one of us is on this collective journey staring down the same enemy. All of us. At the very same time. (Maybe not those of us under the age of 3. But even they are picking up the vibes.) Weird, huh? When has this ever happened in our lives?

Spaghetti Carbonara

Tomorrow I’m making Spaghetti Carbonara, one of my favorite comfort foods! Thank you, Italy, for your food!

The Italians, under coronavirus lockdown, are keeping their spirits up singing from balconies and cooking elaborate meals. You may have seen the U tubes and pics on Instagram—their glorious spirit is reassuring. I don’t have a balcony, but I am updating my playlist and, of course, cooking up a storm.

As Linnea put it in The Ruby of the Sea, “….at least for me, when combining ingredients for a recipe, I can give shape to the mess. With life, it’s not so easy. When depressing thoughts set in, the hum of the refrigerator and thwack of my knife stares my sadness down.”

Times are strange and scary, but we need to do things that make us happy. Read, laugh, cook, dial-up your friends. Give yourself a hall pass to while the day away on social media, if that’s what it takes to cheer you up. We are humans; we need to connect.

We are in this for the long haul. But as my father (who served in WW11) was fond of saying, “This, too, shall pass.” And it will.

In the meantime, Here’s one of the many UTubes that I’ve enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chikhirta: Georgian Chicken Soup

This could be my defining image for 2020.

Although Michigan has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures of late, it seems like a good time to make soup.

The panic buying felt by the coronavirus maelstrom is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve lived through the fallout of epidemics, famines and the scourge of the HIV virus, but the flames were never continuously fanned by instant media–non-stop overload.  I jump each time my phone pings!

I’ve bumped shopping carts with rest of you purchasing staples, disinfectants and masks (I did this before the Surgeon General said it was a no-no), but no good comes out of operating in panic mode.

For my own sanity, I do what I and my characters always do when confronted with events out of our control; we make soup. My daughter recently advised me to try out a chicken soup recipe from Milk Street, our favorite recipe go-to magazine of late.

If you prefer a thicker broth, double the amount of flour that the recipe calls for.

Beaten egg yolks create a creamy silken texture and impart a lovely lemony color to the broth.  I doubled the recipe (I’ve got several ailing friends), and added fennel seed and chopped fresh fennel, along with the carrots and onions, to the recipe. I love the flavor of fennel in brothy soups. If you like thicker soups, add a bit more flour.

 

Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and be well, my friends!

Chicken Legs, copious herbs and aromatics make for a savory stock!

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