Wednesday, May 19, 2010


(PHOTO: E.f.R.'s Summer Berry Salad with balsamic vinegrette)

Berry season is a few weeks away for most of us in the Plains, but we can get these summer gems at our supermarkets at sweet prices. Before P'UP, this time of year would have been prime poundcake season, too. I'd be up to my elbows in Cool Whip. Now that I've been smoke-free for 39 days (THIRTY NINE DAYS), and now that I've come to better understand the "bliss zone" of my palette, I'm thinking this season is the start of something rather new (for me).

As I've mentioned before, using vinegars can help you to satisfy salt cravings without increasing your salt intake. Vinegars can also help to intensify certain flavors, particularly those with natural sugars. My favorite all-around vinegars (balsamic, rice, and raspberry) have proven to be rather satisfying when paired up in salads that contain fruits. This week, I made the above berry salad that contains red leaf lettuce, slivered almonds, blackberries, strawberries, and green onions. This is a nutritionally powerful and tasty salad. If you want to add an extra zing, consider adding feta crumbles or blue cheese crumbles. If you add these tart cheeses, consider using pecans instead of almonds, and add a teaspoon of honey to the dressing.

Basic Berry Salad

3 cups torn fresh red leaf lettuce or a mixture of spinach and lettuce
1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 green onions, sliced lengthwise into "matches' (instead of rounds - it's a flavor balance thing).

Basic Balsamic Vinegrette:

1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried Italian Seasoning (or use three tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano, basil, and thyme)
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
(1 tsp. honey if using blue cheese in your salad)

Combine vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in a glass or ceramic bowl (metal bowls will alter the taste of your dressing). Let "steep" for an hour or longer. Just before serving, whisk oil into the vinegar mixture thoroughly. Pour over salad.

This is a very affordable dressing alternative to store-bought, particularly if you have potted herbs at home like I do. I keep a kitchen garden on my apartment patio (that's another blog entry coming soon).

Good, happy eating!

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I took this photo while biking the MoPac trail, not too far from Eagle, Nebraska. A storm rolled in on top of us, so my son and I sought shelter in a lean-to built by Boy Scout troop 49 to wait out the front. Watching the rain, feeling the miles as a dull ache in my legs, I stared at the horizon. My son, eating canned chicken with robust zeal, told me his own Scout stories while I considered the weight of my existence.

As much as I write about life, all I really know is this: Beginnings only follow endings. I’m packing up my university apartment, ending a semester of teaching, and coming to terms with one of my kid’s decision to launch herself into a complicated life on her own. There’s a lot to do, a lot to keep me busy, and I’m feeling a bit too isolated. But this is the nature of endings; this is just how life works.

I did find an apartment, a beautiful 930 square foot craftsmen place with mahogany woodwork, double French-doors, and a refurbished galley kitchen perfect for me. Come June 1, I will live in a place less expensive but far more beautiful. I will live in my first apartment ever sought just for me. I didn’t have to choose it for its schools or neighborhood. I didn’t have to consider the number of bedrooms or the color of its carpet (kids are hell on carpeting).

Instead, I spent several days searching for the sort of place that felt like me. As an academic working with spatiality and cognition, issues of place/space intrigue me. I knew, for example, that wherever I lived I would experience some shifts in both my thinking and my self-perception so it was important to find someplace that felt at home even without furniture.

After four days, I found it. It felt so good there I didn’t want to leave. Maybe it was the French doors. Maybe it was the natural light and all the windows. Maybe it was all the greenery in the neighborhood, or the fact the landlord said, “Feel free to put plants on the balcony, to hang flowers.” Or maybe it was the fact that the kitchen was painted a beautiful shade of grey and had brand-new everything.

Whatever it was or is, I’m moving in a couple of weeks to an eight-unit brick apartment built in the 1920s that’s a short walk from my oldest daughter’s little yellow house, a grocery store, and the coolest little Mexican bakery I’ve ever seen. My familial-centered day-to-day existence is changing into a single lady life. As sad as I am about the ending, I am equally happy at the prospects of my beginning. I’m too far into the journey to turn back, and there’s some difficult stuff ahead.

I’ve wondered if I’m at the crux of my life itself …

I’ve channeled a lot of my feelings into climbing. This week, I topped out a 5.7+ with a tricky backward slant at the crux that I had been projecting, and then topped out a new 5.7 with an overhang. I’ve started working with the fingerboards, learning to “hang” because I can’t quite do a pull-up. In short, I’ve started to think of my own development as a climber instead of just being happy I could get UP at all. As one of my fellow climbers said to me, “You’ve not a noob anymore, Rogers.”

I certainly don’t feel like a noob. My oldest daughter is getting married in two weeks, and that alone can make you feel far from new. She and her fiancĂ© are excited and happy as we plan our BBQ celebration, their trip to the courthouse for a secular wedding, and navigate their entry into the next phase of their lives. He’s 28 to her 22, but you’d never know it. They’re in love all over again, and just last month they discovered they would be parents before Christmas. They’re a couple of grinning dopes.

With moving and their marriage comes a whole lot of change. Some things will stay the same. I’ll still bike to work and back every day – no matter the weather this year. I will still shop at Open Harvest, stop in at Le Quartier - the French bakery - on my way back from Eagle on the MoPac, and take Sunday coffee at Indigo Bridge Books in the Haymarket. I’ll still go with the boys (my son and son-in-law) to the batting cages on the weekends to work out the psychological kinks. And I’ll still climb three days a week – thank goodness.

What I won’t be doing, which seems really foreign and nonsensical to me, is living with another’s needs positioned as equal to or even greater than, my own. And that, I have to admit, is an intimidating yet exciting proposition - sort of like that 5.8 on the north wall at our Rec that I have been eyeing the way a woman gives a man the once over in a crowded bar.

All I do know is that I'll be climbing to keep myself together.