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Walnuts

When I was a very young women and at that point  of my life,  I lived with my  Grandmother on my Mom’s side  who we  referred to as Mammaw.    She lived in a big old white  Victorian home with a porch and a wonderful swing that you could sit and swing while sipping your fresh lemonade.

I remember that during the summer when the windows were open, a breeze which carried a blend of honey and grass to my nose  would awake me in the morning.  In the evening, the moist smell of the air was thicker and had almost a woody hint to it along with the sounds of crickets whose rhythm would put you to sleep.    Morning was the sound of birds chirping and singing.  I always wondered   what they were saying to one another or were they talking to me? There were chores for each day so no guessing, if it was Monday, you would do the laundry, Wednesday then you would dust, and Thursday, you would mop.  The other days were optional to other things that needed daily care.   Bringing the sheets in from the line and folding was one of my favorite chores as the smell of freshness stayed in the cotton fabric and would refresh me.

Dinner was something we would think about early because it needed to be prepared.  Unlike today were life speeds along with prepared foods and machinery to adjust time to your liking, this was not the case. One  memory that I did not like at the time, but find myself going back to recall was the gathering of walnuts from Mammaw’s  yard.  The big Walnut tree would yield a great many and I would take the basket out to be filled when it was time.    That was not the end of the chore.  It was the beginning.

imagesH0J14JK5The Walnuts were rough and hard and I did not see the purpose of all of the effort to retrieve a small piece of something to eat.   Gathering the nuts sounds easy; however they have a green moss like cover to them that needs to be taken off before   cracking open the shell with a hammer on the step.   I then would pick out the source of the meat of this nut and place it into a pretty medium sized bowl that we designated our Walnut bowl.   Behind the shell is a black and very ugly protective coating before you get to the   nutmeat.  Once the job is done, the nuts would be placed into a large jar and used sparingly for fudge, walnut bread and other good eats of that time.

Very nostalgic thoughts they are. I suppose,   my thoughts seem to go to places that made sense.   At that time, most of life was simple and the parts that were complicated were unknown to me.    Well, that is not totally true because the process of life is not unlike the process of preparing the Walnuts to eat.   There are moss like, hard shells and dark protective coatings to our human psyche as well. Everything has a season, and although our seasons have become not as predictable as those decades ago, we still look forward to life.

I share these thoughts with you in hopes that you too will ponder a simpler time in your life when baseball, ice cream trucks and cardboard doll houses were vogue.  We did not get our cars detailed and nails done because it did not matter.   I wonder what will matter to our little ones in their future. A good friend once told me that “Everything will be all right”.  I now know these words to be true.

Happy New Year to you and yours in 2015.

Date Walnut Bread Recipe

datewalnutbread

In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In your food processor place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon. Process to combine and then add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chopped walnuts. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.  Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out just clean. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan.

This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen. Makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf

You’ll need:

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts
  • 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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Trust Your Abundant Instincts

    Abundance,

The seminar was listed in a local paper. It stated that it was a weekend and that it would be “transforming to your life”.   It sounded good.   I was thirty-three years of age and I knew that I had issues as everyone does, and I also knew that they were holding me back from being happy.   Yes, I could use some transforming.  My soul was bruised and I didn’t think that I could make it through life without some help.

Life had been difficult from the start. Parents who didn’t realize what parenting was  and who lived day to day, making decisions based on egos and alcohol.  This left a great deal of work in hands of the children.  Being an older one, and a worker I got more than my fair share.

Abundance was the title of the seminar and it would teach you how to trust the universe and get what you want and need out of life. Truly, this was something my parents and school had not told me, so “let’s gets started”.  We met at a church in Philadelphia and it was not dedicated to a particular religion.   There were about fifteen of us registered and everyone looked like a nice person just trying to get some personal answers.   You can only go so far and then it is time to stop and figure out what happened and why so that you can proceed and hopefully be successful.   It was not inexpensive and I do not remember the cost,  but only that it was more than  I had to spend on this recreation .  However, justification is a plus when you feel that this might be the answer to your questions. So, I  paid  and arrived on time.   The group was a friendly bunch and the conversation was directed at each one of us to draw out the personal reasons for being there.  We  explained our backgrounds and everyone  but me  had a degree of some sort.  I considered myself a professional sales person so I was not totally unnerved by this, but felt weak in my credentials.  The seminar was instructed by the minister who was quite intense and he had several helpers who observed and directed us to achieve the levels laid out for us.  First, we had an exercise of trust.   And believe me; I did not fare well on this one.   Blindfolded and walked out to the city street, you are listening to the sound of cars and strangers and it is not a comfortable place to be.      So, of course I wanted to rip the blindfold off but was encouraged to continue and that I would be OK.   The balance of this weekend went well and was conversational and deep with intense moments for all who attended, but rewarding emotionally and there was a level of bonding that took place.   I had a new found respect for myself and for these people who were like me looking for answers.   Funny, I thought if you had a law or medical degree that you got the answers along the way and now I knew that was not the case.  A personal struggle is so entirely different than looking for a career.  Sometimes you are lucky enough for the two to meet.

We graduated on Sunday of this weekend and it was required that the participants join in on the service at the church that day so that you could give thanks for the blessings received in this experience. No problem for me as I am a spiritual person and found this part very comfortable.     There were a couple people who I had met that wanted to keep contact and so we exchanged our personal information.

A few days later, I receive a call from one of the guys who played my partner in a role play.   He said that he had been prompted to call me because someone from his church had spotted me in the service and would like to ask me out.  OUT?     A date with a  retired police officer who thought I was attractive and he and his wife would attend .  Well, it seemed a little soon to try on the new trust hat, but I agreed only if we were doubling and going for brunch in a public place did not sound too risky.     Of course when the day arrived,   the other couple cannot make it and so I am on my own to meet this unknown person.   I can handle it or so that is what I tell myself but my gut is screaming “STOP”.     I met Richard, and we were supposed to go to brunch, however he insisted that I go with him in his car which was not cool as far as I was concerned.  But, he had a police officer nature about him and appeared gentleman like after all; I had met him at the church.   We drove over to Philadelphia and into an older neighborhood.  I could not understand why we were going there and then he explains that this is where he used to live as a child.   Well,” thanks for sharing but, I don’t even know you so can we go into the city please”   It seemed odd from the start.   He wasn’t going to take me to brunch at the Four Seasons which was what I had accepted with two other people attending.   Instead, we wondered South Philadelphia and he told me of his beat experiences.  Then, he chooses an Indian restaurant for our meal.  I had never had Indian food and had my reservations about it but didn’t get an option so at this point; I just want to get through this day with this strange man.    As we waited for the food, that he ordered, I listen to the music and the smell of curry permeates my mind with “God, when will this be over?”   Richard is staring at me intently, almost trance like.   I’m feeling very uncomfortable to the point; I excuse myself and go to the ladies room.  When I return, he tells me that he is amazed at how much I look like his Mother.   This is not a compliment for me and I’d love to go home.  He tells me that when he was ten years old he came home from school and found his Mother napping upstairs, except she wasn’t napping, she was dead.

All right, I am so sorry, but my feelings are telling me that whatever I learned last weekend about trust has not kicked in so can we leave now?

On the way home, he once again goes through the old neighborhood and giving me his childhood tour. Over the bridge to New Jersey, I begin to withdraw.  Richard picks up on my mood and starts to insert religious and psychological statements that are pushing my emotional buttons.  I do not even know this person, nor do I want to.   We arrive to my home where he insisted on taking me as opposed to dropping me where I was picked up.  So now he knows where I live.

He begins to tell me about his many guns, and how he thinks of killing himself since his Mother is gone.   Given, that I had a brother commit suicide, I am not happy about the conversation and of course I do not want to be the blame     So, I invite him to coffee where I begin to explain in my best communication skills that I am not interested in a relationship at this time.  I am trying to figure things out in my life.  Thanks for your kindness and it was nice to meet you and all that stuff.

I wish that I could say that it ended there, but no, it continued for about three months. He stalked me, watching and calling me and threating to use his many guns to take revenge for the hurt and loss in his life.  Of course, the unspoken words were that I had not provided the completion of whatever deranged story he was creating with me, the girl that looked like his Mother!

I did call the church and spoke with the minister about this man Richard who I had met there and could they please help me as I was scared of what could come of this situation, but the minister asked me what where my intentions for going out with him?  Did I think he had money?  What did I do that caused this situation?   I knew that help would not come from him or His Abundant Universe.    Finally, I contacted the Philadelphia Police and was able to find out which precinct he was from.

There, I put a restraining order on him and so it ended.

Lesson learned, “always trust your abundant  instincts”.