August 31, 2010

Raspberry Season

Posted in Food, Garden, Recipes tagged , , , , at 8:17 pm by Liliana

Raspberries in Season

Raspberries in Season

Picking raspberries in late August is one of my favorite summer pastimes.

As a child, at the end of my summer vacations, I would walk with my grandparents along quiet country roads, carrying wicker baskets, and pick fruit from thorny raspberry bushes.

When my own children were little, I would take them to a raspberry farm outside our town. Everyone tied a plastic basket around their waist with a rope, and we would fan around the field. The boys mostly ate the berries, threw them at each other and played hide and seek. Very few berries made it to the bottom of their baskets. But Nena, Nicky and I usually worked hard to pick as much fruit as we could. Sometimes we had enough for freezing to eat with pancakes or vanilla ice cream during the winter months. A few times we picked enough to make jam, place it in pretty jars, and give it to friends at Christmas. Usually we had enough for luscious dessert that very evening.

Now, I mostly go picking raspberries with friends. I love the quiet laziness of late summer afternoons, as I stroll through the narrow paths between the bushes. Bees are buzzing everywhere, but there is plenty of fruit for us all, so we mostly ignore each other. I look for berries that will last for a day or two, ripe but not too soft.

The ones that are perfect at this very moment in time – deep red, faultlessly jewel like, delicately sweet – I pick slowly and carefully, bring to my mouth, and I close my eyes. Taste of summer.

Raspberry Jam

I found this delicious raspberry jam recipe at the Atlantic Magazine. It is very simple and requires only two ingredients: fruit and sugar. No pectin.

1. Take three cups of raspberries. Place in large pot and mash. Be sure the pot is much larger than the quantity of berries.

2. At the same time, place a large pot of water on to boil for sterilizing jam jars.

3. Heat the raspberry mash on the stove, stirring all the while. When the mash boils, let it boil for two minutes while stirring.

4. Add two cups of sugar. (If you like it more sweet, then add a total of three cups of sugar, but no more.)

5. Bring to boil again, stirring all the time. Boil for two minutes.

6. Remove from stove and mix with electric hand mixer for four minutes.

7. Pour into sterilized jars and close promptly. Let cool and place in the refrigerator.

August 29, 2010

Long, Hot, Busy Summer

Posted in Holidays tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 3:53 pm by Liliana

Walking by the lake

Walking by the lake

This has not been a summer to sit in the hammock and relax – not for my family, nor for me.

It has been a wonderful, eventful and adventurous summer.

But it has not been the kind of summer I have always idealized – long, lazy days of idling, reading, talking, napping, cooking, swimming, thinking. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had that kind of summer since I was seventeen years old. But I always have it in the back of my mind, a vision to relish and idealize.

These are some of the things we did do this summer:

I am sure that I am forgetting something, but right now, I can’t think of anything else.

The fact is, I am on vacation this week. I am at our cottage near Lake Michigan, relaxing and idling to my heart’s content.

This is how I hope to spend the time.

  • Sitting on the front porch for hours, drinking coffee and looking at the birds pecking seeds from the bird feeder.
  • Walking by the lake in the early mornings or at sunset.
  • Swimming in the warm lake water.
  • Talking to my daughter about the newest books she’s read and the latest songs she’s been singing.
  • Reading.
  • Buying fresh produce at the farmer’s market.
  • Cooking something new and unexpected.
  • Congregating at the long dining table with my family, eating a beautiful meal.
  • Talking.
  • Watching a good movie at the old movie theater, eating tons of popcorn.
  • Walking to our favorite ice cream store on a hot afternoon. Eating nothing but coconut ice cream.

Happy Summer to all!

August 25, 2010

William

Posted in Children, Friendships, Good people, Home, Organization, Travel tagged , , , at 6:51 am by Liliana

William enjoying hamburgers

William enjoying hamburgers

My friend Ann invited us over for dinner the other night. Her family is hosting an exchange student from Kenya and she wanted us to meet him. William is seventeen years old and a high school senior. This is his first trip ever outside his country.

I went with my youngest son, Sam, niece Nicole, and Joe, my brother-in-law. Sam and Nicky are William’s age so we were eager to introduce them.

Ann made a delicious dinner – salmon, chicken, salad, good bread. Most of us ate fish, but not William. He has lived his whole life far away from water and fish is not something he is used to. But he seems open to trying things that he is unaccustomed to, and much of what he sees in his new environment – he has never seen before.

William belongs to the Masai tribe and lives near the Masai Mara National Park in south-western Kenya. His parents are farmers and he is the tenth of eleven children. An excellent student who speaks English beautifully, he has worked hard for everything he has achieved.

This is a trip of many firsts for William. This is the first time William has flown in an airplane. William is not used to western food, or living in a large house. His family lives in small communal huts. William is not used to technology, but has already started a facebook page, made a PowerPoint presentation about his homeland, and will be getting a cell phone soon.

What struck me most about this young man is his poise and sense of calm faith in himself. William showed us pictures of his family and schoolmates and spoke about his culture with great pride, but also unclouded honesty. Things are what they are, and he has the fortitude to see them as such. He told us that many Masai boys have to make a decision whether to become Masai warriors or receive a western style education. Becoming a warrior is a complicated ten year long indoctrination process, so many boys are opting for the less rigorous western schooling.

William hit it off with Sam and Nicky right away. The kids wanted to introduce him to their friends, take him to the movies, and have him join their teams.

Later in the evening, Sam and William went outside to play soccer. They talked and kicked the ball around for a long time. When they came back in tired and laughing, all we grownups could see was two boys – having fun. Same the world over.

August 23, 2010

Car Trouble in Toronto

Posted in Children, Travel tagged , , , , , , at 4:00 pm by Liliana

Toronto

Toronto

My youngest son, Sam, is interested in attending the University of Toronto. He, my husband Jeff, and I spent the weekend exploring the city and the campus.

Things didn’t go smoothly the entire trip. First, we were stopped at the border and had to  go to the immigration building and talk to serious looking officials. The traffic was congested. There was construction on the road and we had to take a number of detours. And when we were about an hour away from the city, our engine started to overheat and a warning light came on. Jeff drove very slowly and we worried the entire time but we made it to our hotel. The hotel was not as nice as we had expected. None of us slept well.

The next morning, we had an appointment with advisers at the university at 11 am. We decided to take the car to the mechanic (recommended by our hotel) first. We got stuck in traffic and made it to the Little Portugal part of the city late. The mechanic was not encouraging. The car radiator had developed a leak and needed to be replaced. They didn’t know if the engine was ruined. We didn’t know what to do. Should we fix the radiator, and then take the chance driving back to Michigan? What if the car breaks along the way? Should we spend several thousand dollars changing the entire motor? Is it worth it?

By this time, we had missed our college appointment, but made another for 2 pm. We told the mechanics that we needed to think things through and would call them after we made a decision. A niece of the owner gave us a ride to the campus.

The three of us met with the university counselors. We talked about admission requirements, the university, and our car. Everyone felt sorry for us.

Sam and I went on a campus tour, but Jeff stayed on a shady bench and tried to figure out what to do. He called his brother Joe, then his brother Randy. Randy called our mechanic in Michigan and Jeff had a long consultation with him. When we got back from the campus tour, Jeff had some facts to work with. Our Michigan mechanic thought that changing the radiator was a good place to start. If the motor made no noise, he believed it wasn’t damaged. We decided to do that and hope for the best. Jeff called the mechanics and they told us that the car would be done by 10 am the next morning.

There was a wonderful sense of release once our decision was made. We walked around the city center, and had a wonderful (and expensive) dinner in an Asian restaurant. We didn’t care. After the kind of day we had, we felt we deserved it.

We decided to see a movie. Sam wanted to see Salt, and Jeff and I wanted to make him happy. It was fun, but so unrealistic, that even in my desire for complete escape, I kept asking questions that just couldn’t be answered. We walked back to the hotel, got confused, got lost, then took a taxi. The taxi driver had trouble finding our hotel. When we finally made it, our dingy room looked very inviting. The three of us went to sleep immediately.

The next day, after breakfast in an outdoor café, Jeff took the trolley to Little Portugal to check up on the car. Sam and I decided to do some school clothes shopping. We were buying a sweater when Jeff called and said that the car looked good and the engine did not seem damaged. After everything that had happened, it seemed almost too good to be true.

We drove home to Michigan without further incident. The traffic was bad, and it rained most of the way, but our car seemed to be in good shape. We crossed the border without hassle.

Our home felt warm, cozy and very inviting when we arrived late that evening. Sam still wanted to apply to the university. We still loved the  city. But it felt good to be home.

August 18, 2010

Summer

Posted in Weather tagged , , , at 8:33 am by Liliana

Summer fruit

Summer fruit

The writer Henry James said:

“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Who of us could disagree?

But I also love summer morning and midday, evening and night. Every part of a summer day has its own charms and delights. And every language has a beautiful word for this enchanting season.

Here is a sampling:

  • English – summer
  • Estonian – suvi
  • Filipino – tag-init
  • French – été
  • German – sommer
  • Hungarian – nyár
  • Icelandic – sumar
  • Indonesian – musim panas
  • Irish – samhradh
  • Italian- estate
  • Latvian – vasara
  • Romanian- vară
  • Serbian – leto
  • Swahili – majira
  • Turkish – yaz
  • Vietnamese – mùa hè
  • Welsh – haf

August 16, 2010

Transitions

Posted in Weather tagged , , , , , , at 9:37 am by Liliana

Lightning bug

Lightning bug

Height of summer.

Last week was unrelentingly hot and humid and even taking an evening walk has not been a pleasant activity.

And yet… Even at this moment when summer is at its peak, when crickets are flustered from their wing flapping song and dance, when the markets are overflowing with the bounty of ripeness and sweetness, I notice transition in the air.

Now, when I take Kaya for a walk, I observe subtle changes of color and dry, crunchy leaves underfoot. The sounds nature makes, especially at night, are frenzied and joyously celebratory. The languid slowness of early summer is gone.

The hot wind has an abundant, smoky and heavy essence, as though it is aggregating seeds of all things alive, and safeguarding them for next year.

When I wake up in the morning, the sky is dark, the days visibly shorter. I feel that I need to start soaking up the sunlight in preparation for the grayness of winter.

When I was a child, I would get deeply saddened by the passing of summer. I loved summer and wanted to hold it tightly in my fist and never let it go. Even though I loved fall and winter, I found transitions difficult and distressing. I didn’t want good things to pass.

Now, I find that it is those very changes and transitions that I embrace. Instead of fighting the winds and peddling against the current, I try to use the strength of change to propel me forward.

I try.

It doesn’t mean that I am not tempted, every once in a while, to want to catch a lightning bug and hold it captive in a mason jar.

August 13, 2010

Travels with Sam

Posted in Children, Family, Travel tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:47 am by Liliana

Sam - taking a break in Boston

Sam - taking a break in Boston

Sam and I spent a lot of time together this past week as we drove to Boston to help Mike and Karen move. I was taken aback by how much he has grown and changed this past summer.

I thought I knew everything about my youngest son. But in the tireless activity that has been our lifestyle the past year, I have missed the delicate signs of maturation that take time and close attention to recognize.

Sam drove most of the long way to Boston. Sometimes we listened to music that he loves. He told me stories about old rappers like Tupac and 50 Cent. Sometimes I told him family stories about people he never met. Sometimes we talked about history, war, the Russians, Napoleon, Stalin, Pat Tillman. Sometimes we drove in silence.

Sam worked hard helping with the move. Together with Mike he carried heavy furniture, boxes of books, kitchen paraphernalia, computers, suitcases. He spent hours helping Karen assemble IKEA furniture and I watched in wonder as he figured out how those complicated schematics fit together in three dimensional space. He worked with Karen to refinish a desk that has been her grandmothers, and that Mike will be using to work on.

I didn’t know Sam could do all that.

We didn’t just work. We spent hours walking, exploring the city, visiting colleges, eating.

Eating! These are some of the foods we ate: Southern Barbecue, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian. One night Sam ordered two lobsters, ate them both, and then finished Mike’s leftover cheeseburger. He is a growing boy all right.

But what impressed me most is Sam’s generosity. For his birthday last year, Sam got a present he dearly prized – a droid cell phone. He loved that thing, but when Mike asked if he’d be willing to trade with him for his (ordinary) phone, Sam did. He gave it some thought, he struggled to decide, but in the end, he not only gave the phone to Mike, he taught him how to use it.

On the way back to Michigan, Sam and I got stuck in terrible traffic, got lost in Buffalo, experienced rain and bad weather. We argued and got mad at each other because he wanted to drive straight through and I wanted to spend the night at a hotel.

But after we stopped, ate, rested and talked, we were on good terms again. We spent the evening at a tiny movie theater across the street from our hotel – watching Inception for the second time. We both loved it more (and understood it better) than the first time.

We slept through the night, woke up refreshed, had breakfast and got back on the road. Sam drove most of the way home.

August 12, 2010

Living with Less

Posted in Children, Home tagged , , , , , , , at 7:35 am by Liliana

Mike and Karen - new apartment

Mike and Karen - new apartment

I read a wonderful article in the New York Times last weekend about simplifying one’s life, downsizing, living with fewer possessions.

I read it right after helping my son Mike and his girlfriend Karen move into a small studio apartment in Boston. Mike is starting law school and this is their first apartment together.

Their apartment is on the first floor of an old brick building on a very steep street of a mostly student neighborhood. The entire studio is about 400 square feet. The main room is large and open, with a separate kitchen, a little hallway with two closets and a small bathroom beyond it.

The ceilings, with old painted beams, are tall and make the room airy. The wooden floors are polished and shiny. The kitchen has a gas stove, a refrigerator and tiny bit of cabinet space. This is the space the kids started with.

Mike and Karen agreed that they wanted to keep their apartment clean and uncluttered, but also homey, warm and functional for their lifestyle.

They placed their bed in an alcove on the far side of the main room with a little table next to it. Karen, who is much more handy of the two, hung up a beautiful silk sari that she bought in Singapore as divider curtains. They had a bedroom.

In the middle of the room they placed a futon couch which opens into a bed, so is practical when they have visitors. Next to it Karen spread a light brown, braided jute rug. They had plenty of room for their yoga mats. A desk for Mike to work on is on the left, a side table on the right. The tall bookshelf (already full of books) was placed across the room against a narrow wall. They had a living room.

Karen loves to cook and when we unpacked her boxes (labeled cocina) it showed. At IKEA we had bought a white table and fold-able wooden chairs; also, a side cabinet with many cubicles that added an entire wall of counter space to the kitchen. Karen placed her books, pots, plates, glasses, linens and other necessities in the shelf cubicles. On the wall above, she placed a hanging shelf and displayed her sea green glass bowl, her blue pitcher, and her copper pots. Everything had a place. They had a kitchen.

I was happy to leave the kids in this spartan, beautifully compact space. I wish them luck and happiness. And hope that their life will never get too cluttered. There is freedom in simplicity.

August 11, 2010

A Day of Rest

Posted in Health, Women, Work tagged , , , , at 7:34 am by Liliana

Time to rest

Time to rest

I am not always good about listening to my body and realizing when I need to slow down and take a bit of rest.

When there is a lot to do, I will push myself and push myself until there is nothing left to give. No matter how many times I say that I will pace myself and be sensible, my instinctive reaction to any situation is to take care of what needs to be done.

So, on occasion my body refuses to obey and makes me slow down whether I want to or not.

When my alarm went off at 6 am yesterday morning I jumped up the way I always do. But before I even reached the bathroom, I knew something was not right. I felt dizzy, tired and nauseated but I still tried to go about my morning routine. I tried to brush my teeth, but I didn’t have the strength to do it. I quickly rinsed out the toothpaste and crawled back into my bed. Making the slightest movement seemed beyond my powers.

My husband Jeff woke up and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know. All I knew is that I wanted some mineral water to drink and be left alone to sleep.

And sleep I did. I woke up around 11 am, and felt a bit better. I had the strength to get up, make myself a piece of toast with jam and have a bit more mineral water. Then I slept some more.

I slept until 5 pm.

I woke up, had dinner with my family, then sat and watched a movie on TV with my sister. By 10 pm, I was in bed, and I slept soundly through the night.

I woke up this morning, and I feel better. I am still a bit under the weather, but the rest I got yesterday made all the difference in the world.

When will I learn?

August 10, 2010

Trip to Serbia

Posted in Family, Friendships, Home, Serbia, Travel tagged , , , , at 5:14 pm by Liliana

My father in Serbia - August 2010

My father in Serbia - August 2010

My father has not visited Serbia in over twenty years.

Last week, he and my step-mother (Nana) took the long trip from Florida to Belgrade. It took a lot of courage on my father’s part to fly in an airplane. He hates to fly.

Also, as much as one yearns to see the people one loves, the longer one stays away, the harder it is to go back.

My father is seventy seven years old. He is not in best health, and his heart is not very strong. We all worried about his ability to handle the intensity of emotion that would flood him as soon as he stepped off the airplane.

So far, he and Nana are doing great. They went to a huge, old fashioned wedding that my father’s entire village attended (close to four hindered people!) They danced, sang songs, and partied with young and old.

They saw family, and old friends. They met children who were born since they left. They went to the cemetery to visit those who had departed.

And when I saw this picture of my father’s face, I knew that he was where he needed to be.

I hope that it will be a wonderful trip.

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