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Outstanding in his field.
I am now more educated. Yay, women!
Love the New Mexico sky.
He’s wearing a bow tie.
At my shoulder.
Our favorite pastime. Though we accidentally drove through a gravel pit to get there.
My first roadrunner.

Daily gratitudes:

  • MKL
  • Do-overs
  • That the wind has calmed a smidge

If you haven’t been around the blog for long, you might not know that my relationship with cooking is what one might called complicated. Perhaps I’ll explore that history in the future, but for now, I’ve decided to share with you some of the things that I can cook that actually turn out well. And so, Feed Me Friday is born.

Today’s recipe is Crescent Moon Gumbo, adapted from a New Orleans recipe. I’ve made a lot of gumbos in my day, because it’s hard for me to screw up soup. This one is a keeper though. Contrary to its name, you do not have to make it at said phase of the moon (though I could said you did if I wanted to be all witchy). Some may argue that this is not actual gumbo because the recipe does not call for file powder. But I don’t like file powder, so it’s not in there. The roux and okra serve as fine thickeners.

Before we get to the heart of the gumbo, here are a few things to know about making this:

  • Have everything prepped, chopped, measured, and at hand before you start. I mean everything. I’ve learned this the hard way.
  • Spice amounts are always approximate. I seldom measure spices unless I’m futilely trying to bake something, and even then it’s anybody’s guess if I’m going to measure or eyeball it. My dad was a wonderful baker and he always doubled any spice he was using because he said most recipes were written for American palates which preferred their food bland (think pilgrims and puritans).
  • If you don’t have something, feel free to substitute. That’s the thing about gumbo — it’s very forgiving. For example, right now, there is literally not a shrimp to be had within 30 miles, so I substituted bay scallops.

Enough preamble. Here you go.

Crescent Moon Gumbo

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (I just used diced roast chicken today, but raw chicken breast is fine too)
  • 1 lb. turkey kielbasa, cut into thin quarters (I used a 13oz. turkey smoked sausage today, because it’s what I had)
  • 2 c. chopped yellow onion
  • 1 c. chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 c. chopped celery
  • 1+ tbsp. minced garlic (I use the stuff in the jar instead of fresh, but you do you)
  • 1.5 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 5 c. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • 16 oz. cut okra (I use frozen)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. cooked shrimp, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1 tsp. olive oil, diced chicken, and kielbasa and sauté until browned. Remove from pan. Sauté onion, bell pepper, and celery in dripping for 4 minutes. If it seems too dry, add a little chicken broth to the pan. Add garlic and all spices to the pan and sauté until the onion is tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining oil to the pan and lower the heat. Add flour, whisking constantly, until you’ve made a light brown roux. Gradually add broth, whisking constantly, until there are no lumps. Add the chicken, kielbasa, and onion mixture back to the pan, along with the okra, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. Add shrimp and parsley and heat through. Makes 6-8 servings. Can be served over rice. Enjoy!

Because I don’t take good food pictures, here’s a cat picture.

I started back to work last week, working remotely as I have for years. Most days are all right, though it’s hard to keep my head in the game sometimes and the Rona hasn’t helped. Thoughts about the house, about K, about recovery, about the future flit through my mind as I’m trying to focus on what pays my bills. If a thought finds a vacant mind branch on which to sit, it will do so, wrapping its tiny talons around the synapse and singing a song of distraction.

Work friends who are also social media friends know what’s happened, because obviously I haven’t been shy about expressing myself there. But only a very few direct coworkers know. I don’t want to talk about it to people who can’t relate or who don’t know me well. I have always been shy to speak, which surprises many and is a therapy session for another day. Letting colleagues know feels like it would lead to an endless repetition of emotions, and knowing me, I’d try to make THEM feel better about feeling bad for me. I just don’t need anyone feeling bad for me.

All that said, in these days of Zoom calls and Teams calls, where we have to be on camera and where our backgrounds have been curated to reflect our desired self-image, I keep looking at myself on camera and wondering why I look the same. The background isn’t an issue, as I never worked from the cozy house. I am the issue.

I am damaged from the inside out. Shouldn’t it show? Shouldn’t my face reflect the blush of ash that skimmed my cheeks as I sifted through the ruins? Shouldn’t my eyes be hollow with the cold of the hearth that will never see another home fire? Shouldn’t my lashes be stiff with the tears trapped there by asbestos dust? Shouldn’t my lips be blue with unspoken sorrow and unshouted curses?

Isn’t the toll this is taking on my soul obvious? It is to me. When I look in the mirror, I see sadness in my eyes, an absence of a light that I’m used to seeing within me, one that glows through to the world outside. Perhaps those folks on Zoom know they’re seeing that something is off but they can’t put their finger on what it is. And they’re too polite to put their fingers on me regardless.

I know this lightless landscape within me. I have walked here before, via other paths, and I know I will walk out of it. It’s what I do. The light and the laughter will return. Because it does.

Quarantine Cat Picture

And that something is COVID-19. Yes, so far 2022, is, for me, just banging. Coming in hot on Friday night, with a positive diagnosis on Saturday, fully vaccinated and boosted me has the Rona. I feel my symptoms are somewhere between mild and death.

I’m doing all the right things to take care of myself, so I’m sure it will be in my rear view mirror soon. Right now (perhaps as a blessing in disguise?), it has fogged my mind and taken my thoughts off of the loss of Roscoe, Dusty, and the house. I’m safe with and well cared for by MKL. My dear friend (who has lost her house and all her belongings in the fire) wonderfully brought me at-home tests, beautiful flowers, hot cocoa, and her lovely self yesterday. She came down with COVID-19 about one week after the fire; at least the virus was considerate enough to wait an extra week for me.

So, I feel bad. Just a different sort of bad than only emotionally bad. Achy. Coughy. Sniffy. Feverish. Sore throat. Headache. And grateful for the love, support, and caring that my friends have shown me. I am indeed living in interesting times.

It’s that faraway stare. I don’t think “faraway” is usually one word, but it feels fitting. I had started to call it “vacuous” but that implies a detachment, and this is far from detached. This is a survivor’s stare, one I engage in when I’m sitting on the remains of a brick wall amidst the melted glass that used to be my greenhouse. When I’m seemingly looking at a patch of unmelted ice or something beyond the sky.

Behind my eyes, I’m seeing the golden knotty pine of the living room walls. I’m seeing us rolling a ball from one side of the light lavender kitchen floor to the other, to verify the slope of the room. I’m seeing myself painting the cat room a lovely peach color. I’m seeing K’s blue carpet and sunny walls and the abstract statue of a mother holding a child – a statue my mother gave me, to represent us – that was on the shelf above the desk in K’s room, the desk that has been my grandfather’s. I’m seeing the corner of the garden where the moonflowers bloomed.

I’m seeing what was and what might have been, while looking through what is as if it isn’t. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me.

Amber the Bloodhound came out with her handlers, Duffy and Brittany, to look for Dusty. We’ve concluded that my sweet little snuggle bug did not make it out. But the fire was so fast and the smoke so dense that it was likely only a single breath, and then peace. A small comfort but right now, I’ll take any comfort, no matter how small. As soon as they left, I found what looked like the tiniest glass paw print in the ashes. Thank you, Dusty, for letting me know you’re all right.

For those of you who haven’t met him, this is Mr. Man. He is my constant companion in what we call the “North House” aka, the Bungalow, and keeps me feeling well-loved and snuggled when MKL is in the “South House”. Some people say he has a big nose, but I think it’s beautiful. As a Maine Coon, which people say is “the dog of cats”, he is a vocal fellow. If he loves you, he will give you headbutts – after smelling your forehead to be sure no imposter is disguising herself as his Mom. Mr. Man, also known as Mr. Boo, has only had one other owner besides me in his whole life. I adopted him when he was 13 as a birthday present to myself three years ago. Yes, he’s 16 now, and has had a few problems with pancreatitis, from which he almost died two years ago. That experience – my helping him get better – was a turning point in our relationship. He finally came to trust me, eight months after I’d adopted him. Now, I don’t think we can imagine our lives without each other, though having had cats before (my first one lived to 20), I know that one day, I will have to do so.  But I hope that’s a long time off.

20160402_102113
Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” — Terry Pratchett

Daily gratitudes:
A successful chainsaw massacre with no loss of limb
An old favorite movie
MKL
Strong arms
True love

 

The Cat

He sits
close enough to my head
on the Red Couch
to be within reach
and to lick
the salt of my tears
off my hand
with his sandpaper tongue.

20140519_004638

Quote of the Day: “Dignity: The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. ” — Shannon L. Alder

Daily gratitudes:
Tomatoes ripening on the vine (not mine this year)
The other house in my neighborhood with a metal winged pig
MKL
Kelsea’s happiness
Horseradish cheddar cheese toast for dinner
The return of Peyton Manning

Here’s the reason I’ve been a bit remiss in posting.  It’s not a very good picture….

20130710_191832

but this is Mr. Man. He’s 13 1/2 years old, and 17 1/2 pounds and he joined the household today from the Boulder Valley Humane Society. Even though MKL is rather allergic to cats (and claims he can’t eat a whole one), he was intrigued by the idea of having a Maine Coon. They are known as “the dog of the cat world” because of their size and their chill tendencies. Mr. Man is doing quite well for his first night in a strange house (with a strange woman). He did spend part of the evening under the bathtub, but I probably would have too.  He’s having a hard time jumping up on the bed, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s high (it is), he’s high (he is, on pain medications since he had four teeth extracted yesterday) or he just needs to figure it all out. I may have to get him a step stool if he wants to snuggle in the bed.

So, right now, he is consuming me – not literally, but mentally. He’s a love and I’m so happy.

Cat Loaf

Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Rivers spill mysteries into the ocean, and the ocean washes the answer to the shore.”  —  Tanja Kobasic

Daily gratitudes:
My daughter
Cold remedies
Tea
Red roses
MKL

Opposable thumbs
A capricious gift wasted
On clueless humans.

Birds behind a screen
Taunt me with their carefree song.
“Hush” aches in my claws.

In home’s sweet darkness
I race with wild abandon
Alarming sleepers.

They say they own me.
Enslavement is elusive.
Who is the keeper?

I dislike this food
So I return it to you
A gift for bare feet.

Scratch behind my ears.
I share my love sparingly.
Stop at my command.

Sleeping pillowed head,
Path for my little cat feet
To the other side.

Still as a statue
I curl next to your ankles
Waiting for your step.

Your cooking tempts me.
Chicken on the countertop.
My claws climb your leg.

Nestled in your curves
I spoon with you warily
Until you crush me.

I allow the dog
To drool without cessation
Lying in  your bed.

Lest you forget me
I leave my most precious hairs
Upon your best clothes.

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