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 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 4, 2010

A Long Holiday

Posted in Books, Family tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:56 am by Liliana

A perfect escape

A perfect escape

I haven’t been able to take a relaxing vacation this summer.

Our family has a lot going on.

We celebrated three graduations  (one high school and two college); people moving out of and people moving into our house;  lots of visitors; children preparing for law school, college and jobs; people starting graduate school.

It has not been a lazy summer, but eventful and overflowing with new and transitional events.

I needed to escape.

And I have, with an intriguing book. For the last few weeks, I have been reading The Passage, by Justin Cronin.

It is a frightening account of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world – part social commentary, part science fiction. It is not the kind of book I usually like to read.

But for this summer, it is perfect.

A serious and accomplished writer, Cronin has weaved an engrossing plot with engaging characters and elegant prose.

This first book of a trilogy is over 700 pages long.

A perfect escape. A long holiday.

July 10, 2010

Israeli Couscous Salad

Posted in Food, Health, Recipes, Weather tagged , , , , , , at 6:11 am by Liliana

Israeli Couscous Salad

During these long, hot summer days, refresh yourself with this healthy and nutritious salad. It is very filling.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 1 heaping cup cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 large stalk celery, strings removed and diced
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, or more, to taste
  • 10 to 12 basil leaves, thinly sliced, or more, to taste
  • 4 medium firm, ripe apricots or 3 medium firm, ripe nectarines, pitted and diced
  • 1 heaping cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes (red or yellow, or a combination)
  • 1 medium firm, ripe avocado, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or less if you’d like a lower fat dish)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Mixed baby greens, as needed
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

Directions:

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the Israeli couscous and cook at a rapid simmer for about 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water until the couscous is at room temperature.

In a mixing bowl, combine the couscous with the remaining ingredients except the last two. Toss well to combine.

Line a large serving platter with some greens. Mound the salad over them, letting some of the greens show along the edge. Sprinkle the top with the toasted nuts. Serve at once or cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Source: FatFree Vegan Kitchen

June 26, 2010

Blueberry Parfait

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Food, Health, Recipes tagged , , , , , at 7:27 am by Liliana

Blueberries are in season

Blueberries are in season

Blueberries are in season.

One of the most nutritious and delicious fruits, blueberries can be eaten in an infinite variety of ways.

You can make this easy-to-prepare recipe with blueberries or any one of your favorite fruits for a quick and elegant dessert.

Indulge yourself or impress a guest.

Prep and Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 4 oz low-fat yogurt
  • 1 TBS chopped walnuts
  • 2 tsp grated dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Layer yogurt and blueberries in 2 wine glasses.
  2. Top with chopped walnuts.
  3. Sprinkle grated chocolate

Serves 2

June 23, 2010

Apricot Smoothie

Posted in Food, Health, Recipes tagged , , , , , , , at 6:45 am by Liliana

Apricots in season

Apricot season

Early summer is apricot season.

I love to eat this fragrant fruit fresh or cook it in a variety of  ways.

Apricots are delicious when roasted with meat; blanched, pealed and eaten as desert with vanilla ice cream; or slowly simmered into jam.

I found this delicious sounding smoothie in the New York Times food section.

Doesn’t it sound like the perfect treat for a light breakfast or a refreshing summer afternoon delicacy?

The writer advises that “an apricot smoothie should be pure apricot, with no other fruits to dilute the intense flavor.”

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-size apricots (about 6 ounces), pitted
  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon mild honey, such as clover or acacia
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 or 2 ice cubes

1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until smooth. Serve right away.

Yield: One serving. Drink this right after you make it. Enjoy!

Source: New York Times Food Section

June 14, 2010

Dehumidifier Maintenance Parts and Advice

Posted in appliance parts, Health, Home, RepairClinic.com, Weather tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:58 am by Liliana

Dehumidifier

Dehumidifier

Even though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st, hot weather has already arrived in most of the country,  and with it high humidity levels in the atmosphere.

High humidity is not only unpleasant, but can cause mold and mildew to grow inside your home.  A number of health risks (allergies, infections, respiratory problems, etc.) are associated with mold in the air. Insects, including clothes moths, fleas and cockroaches flourish in areas of high humidity. For healthy air, relative humidity in most homes should be 30 to 50%.

Dehumidifier is a small appliance that extracts moisture out of the air. This is how it works: by using a fan to pull ventilation over two sets of refrigerant-filled coils (one cool and one warm,) saturation vapor pressure of water decreases, causing the water in the air to condense and drip into a collecting bucket. Different dehumidifiers have various levels of effectiveness in removing moisture during the same period of time. Dehumidifiers vary according to tank size, water removal, humidistat accuracy, energy efficiency, noise and frost control.

Maintenance advice for your dehumidifier from RepairClinic.com:

  • Get your dehumidifier ready for the cooling season. Check to see that the humidistat is set correctly. If it is set too high (low humidity), the unit may run continuously, which is unnecessary.  Hygrometer is a very useful tool that helps you determine the correct setting for your humidistat.
  • Clean your dehumidifier water container.
  • Replace your dehumidifier filter. RepairClinic.com has several to choose from in our dehumidifier accessories section.
  • If you need a part for a broken dehumidifier, RepairClinic.com has parts for any unit.

Have a cool and pleasant summer!

June 12, 2010

Ginger Papaya Salsa

Posted in Food, Health, Recipes tagged , , , , , , at 7:43 am by Liliana

Papaya tree

Papaya tree

This salsa is a flavorful and refreshing enhancer for any dish, especially shrimp, scallops, fish or chicken. It will add exotic energy to your summer meal.

Prep and Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium papaya, diced
  • 1 TBS cilantro, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 TBS lime

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Source: George Mateljan

June 1, 2010

Advice from RepairClinic – Summer Food Safety

Posted in appliance parts, Cleaning, Food, Health, Home, RepairClinic.com, Weather tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Liliana

Summer picnic

Summer picnic in Serbia

Every summer, people get sick with food poisoning.

By following a few simple food and hygiene safety rules, you can avoid any discomfort and enjoy the hot months of summer.

  • Keep cooked and raw food separate during preparation in order to prevent contamination of foods that will be eaten raw.
  • It is best to buy cold foods (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, etc.) right before checking out at your grocery store. Always separate raw meats  and poultry from other foods in your cart (to prevent leakage and cross-contamination.)
  • Cold foods should be placed into the coolest part of your car. If you live further than 30 minutes away, bring an ice cooler for storage.
  • Once home, place cold foods in the refrigerator right away. Meat and poultry that won’t be used in one or two days should be frozen.
  • Use your refrigerator for slow, safe defrosting of meat and poultry.
  • Cooked food should reach safe internal temperature. Whole poultry -180 degrees F; chicken breasts – 170 degrees F;  hamburgers – 160 degrees F;  Beef, veal and lamb steaks – 145 degrees F. All pork – 160 degrees F.
  • Meat thermometer should be cleaned carefully between temperature checks to prevent contamination.
  • During the summer months, food should not sit out at room temperature for more than one hour.
  • When preparing any food, but especially meats, keep all surfaces clean. Frequently wash your hands, cutting boards, counters and utensils. Make sure that the wash cloths and towels that you are using to dry your hands are clean.
  • Never reuse (or serve as relish) marinades that have come in contact with raw meats, chicken or fish.
  • Never place cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat.
  • When preparing meals or recipes that use mayonnaise, refrigerate them as soon as you can, and keep cold until serving.
  • While at the picnic or beach, keep coolers in the shade. Keep lids tightly closed and avoid frequent openings.
  • Use one cooler for drinks and another for food.  This way, the cooler containing perishable foods won’t be opened and closed constantly. Replenish the ice as it melts.
  • If you have spent a long day in the heat, it is best to throw away leftovers. Don’t take chances.

Your best policy is to use common sense. If you are in doubt, be extra careful!

May 29, 2010

A Good Day

Posted in Family, Home, Weather, Women, Work tagged , , at 7:45 am by Liliana

Summer evening

Summer evening

I had a good day yesterday.

I woke up rested and refreshed to a sunny, fragrant, summery morning. I had some berries and kefir and a cup of coffee for breakfast, and then I headed to work. The traffic was light.

It was quiet at my office, I had no meetings scheduled, and everything I touched, worked the first time. How often does that happen? I had to do a lot of writing and was happy with the results. My colleague Raina and I collaborated on solving a problem for a new project and we found a solution.

Everything moved at a relaxed pace, but I got a lot done. Everyone was kind to me. My computer didn’t break. My colleagues and I took a walk in late afternoon and not even the hot, humid weather could put a damper on my good mood.

I left work feeling happy with my accomplishments. The evening was going to be busy. Nena’s college roommate, Carolyn, was staying with us for the night and needed to be picked up from the train station. Sam had a class to go to. Everyone in the household had obligations that evening.

I tidied up the house, cleaned the bathrooms, changed the towels, and started a load of laundry. Then I went to pick up Carolyn from the station. Just as I was pulling into the parking lot she called to tell me that the train would be late. She wasn’t sure how long. Well, ok, I thought, perfect evening for ice cream. I stopped at my favorite place and had some delicious hazelnut gelato. I was grateful to the train for being late.

After we all assembled at home and had dinner, I took Kaya for a late walk. It’s good to have a dog to walk with again. It was dark and cooler by now, the fragrances of summer filling the air. There was a huge, full yellow moon gracing the night sky. The tired world, full of heavy shadows, was quieting down.  I ran into an old man walking his puppy and we exchanged pleasantries while our dogs played.

When I came home I found Branka and Carolyn sitting at the table chatting happily. Nicky was working on her French assignment, Sam studying for his Spanish test. Jeff was reading and Joe working on his computer.

I tried to read for a while, but it was hard to concentrate. I am not sure when I fell asleep.

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