Thanksgiving Mussels Monday, Nov 23 2020 

The aroma of turkey roasting in the oven along with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie lures us to the kitchen every Thanksgiving. However, this traditional meal has evolved since the first historic dinner. According to the pilgrim writer, Edward Winslow, crustaceans and mollusks were an important part of that first feast.

Europeans ventured through North America and established settlements since the 1500s. Friendly and hostile interaction with indigenous people occurred from the beginning. The holiday we celebrate today goes back to an event between the English setters who landed in Plymouth in 1620 and wanted to give thanks sometime in the fall of 1621 for their first abundant harvest and the assistance of their neighbors.

The little documentation we have tells of a three-day celebration between 90 Wampanoag indigenous people and about 50 English settlers. The food was prepared by the only four women (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White) who survived the Mayflower voyage and first year in the New World. Young daughters and male and female servants likely assisted the women.

In addition to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish, one account states that the settlers hunted for fowl for the celebration. They returned with turkeys, venison, ducks, geese, and swans. Herbs, onions, and nuts were added to the meat before roasting.

Local vegetables likely included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. Corn was ground, boiled, and pounded into a thick porridge that may have been sweetened with molasses. Neither white nor sweet potatoes were yet available in the area.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. The pilgrim’s sugar supply was depleted by then, so no sugared cranberry sauce reached their table that year.

The settlers also lacked butter and wheat flour to make pie crust. That prevented pie or bread stuffing from being on the menu. Nor did they have ovens for baking. Some accounts do say that early English settlers in North America roasted pumpkins by filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices and baked the pumpkins in hot ashes.

Although the holiday did, and continues to center on food, the occasion was to show gratitude. This year has been a tough one for so many, but we likely have things to be thankful for, none-the-less. It’s a good idea to take a few moments this week to recognize our gifts and give thanks.

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Looking for gift ideas for caregivers? How about the uplifting book, Inspired Caregiving, or The Alzheimer’s Spouse, or Navigating Alzheimer’s?

Do you know there’s a New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Exploding Squash Friday, Nov 20 2020 

It was a quick dinner—spaghetti squash with oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. And I wanted to make it quicker by baking the squash in the microwave. After washing and pricking the small squash, I placed it in the microwave for about 7 minutes. It inflated and sizzled, so I pricked it again with a fork. The squash exploded in my face.

Small burns covered my forehead, eyelids, cheeks, and chin. I ran cold water on my face and placed a cool compress on it. Even minor burns keep burning for some time, so it took about an hour before I could apply fresh aloe vera from a plant I keep in the house. I continued to dab aloe on the burns for several days. Vaseline also helped, especially on my eyelids.

Aloe vera has incredible healing properties. By the following morning, the burns were significantly better, and at day two there are only a few pink spots on my face. One area on my forehead blistered and opened, so that one may take a little longer to completely heal. Also, the impact of the explosion on my forehead and right eye caused throbbing for a couple of days.

To avoid risk of serious burns and squash seeds and pulp imbedded in your hair, skin, and clothes, follow the standard rule—carefully cut open the hard squash before baking. The problem with cooking since I was a young girl is that I know all the shortcuts and am not as careful as I should be. This incident is a good reminder that the few extra minutes to do things correctly can save a lifetime of needless suffering. I was very fortunate not to have more serious burns or damaged my vision.

Mayo Clinic recommends treating minor burns (no larger than three inches in size) by holding the burned area under cool (not cold) running water and applying a cool, wet compress on the area until the pain subsides. Absolutely do not break blisters. Should blisters break on their own, clean the area with water and apply an antibiotic ointment. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment. Once the burn is completely cooled, apply a lotion containing aloe vera to prevent drying. Cover the burn with a loosely wrapped sterile gauze. If needed, take an over-the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.

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Have you read my last posts on my other blog: “New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease” or “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret?”

Faith-Driven Election Wednesday, Nov 11 2020 

The chaos, division, and anger may not show it, but in my opinion, the 2020 Presidential Election has been one of the most faith-driven elections in U.S. history. Voters examined issues such as immigration, racism, abortion, domestic production, environmental health, and the economy in relation to their interpretation of biblical and religious teachings.

Ironically, most of us fell into one of two camps. We took the very same ideals and saw them from completely opposite view-points. “Fake News” was suspect on both sides. Neither trusted, or continues to trust, information from the other. Each side believes they know God’s truth. Many feared the outcome if one or the other candidate won, and some believe that the end-times is now quickly approaching.

With the rise of COVID-19, severely diminished employment opportunities, vast economic disparity, and friends and neighbors divided on hot issues, toxic slander, and ill perceptions of the candidates, as well as each other, boils and spews across everything from social media to neighborhoods and homes.

Perhaps our best reference for what to do at this time is Jesus’ teaching about the greatest commandments. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He continued by saying the second is to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:34-40).

Following this guide, we should pray and listen to the Lord all day every day and treat each other with compassion and kindness. We also can strive to live each moment as if it is our last, which, for any number of reasons, may truly be. That would mean to avoid causing pain, injustice, or insult to anyone or anything at all times.

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Have you seen the posts on my other blog, “New Blood Test For Alzheimer’s Disease,” “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret,” or “Through the Church Doors?

Check out my recently updated website with information on all of my books.

Nature Escape Monday, Oct 12 2020 

The Midwest is popping with color. One of my favorite escapes is a walk through nature. With the change of seasons in this area of the U.S., the scenery is never stagnant. A surprise awaits at every time of year, and this autumn is not letting us down.

This past weekend, my boyfriend, Paul, and I walked along the Batavia Riverwalk along the Fox River in Batavia, Illinois. The path is gorgeous at any time of year but autumn offers a feast for the senses. The meandering river, active wildlife, vibrant plant growth, and rustling, falling leaves participate in a well-orchestrated dance that can be seen, heard, and smelled.

An American Goldfinch, in its winter coat, calmly posed for us in a bed of wildflowers.

Geese lazily glided down the river.

A gull feasted on fresh fish.

And ducks basked in the October sun.

The river leapt over the little dam.

But the greatest surprise of the day was what I believe to be jasmine. It’s delightful fragrance announced its presence before we spotted the lush growth attracting hungry bees.

The Wildflower Sanctuary on the Batavia Riverwalk is a joint project of the Batavia Plain Gardeners Organization and the Batavia Park District in cooperation with the City of Batavia and the Riverain Apartment complex. Volunteers initiated the project in 1991 and continue to maintain it.

A short retreat to this sanctuary, or your closest park, forest, or prairie can offer well-needed respite. Join the volunteers or simply escape into nature for a boost of peace and happiness.

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Do you know that October is the month of the rosary?

Our 1950-Early 1960s Moms Wednesday, Sep 16 2020 

One of my many blessings is a group of women who I’ve known since high school. Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, and I have supported one another through the ups and downs of life for almost 50 years. As an added bonus, we gained the wisdom of each other’s parents. All of our parents acted as our bumpers in the bowling alley of life. My friends and I could go to any parent, any time.

With the recent passing of Susie’s mother, our last living parent, I was reminded of the responsibilities of women in our early childhood. Homemaking was an exhausting full-time job back then. Mothers had little, if any, time of their own. Their life was about service to family.

When I was a child, visions of my mother included seeing her standing at the washing machine, ironing board, or wearing an apron at the stove. Mom was always working. She didn’t have the conveniences of a microwave, dishwasher, permanent press clothes, or even the ability to drive a car. She walked to the grocery store dragging her folding shopping cart and kids in toe.

Women’s work was labor intensive. Food was cooked from scratch, dishes were washed by hand, clothes needed knuckle-bleeding scrubbing on washboards before tossing into the washing machine, socks were darned, everything had to be ironed, and shoes were polished weekly. The work was never-ending.

Some vendors went directly to the homemaker. Vacuum cleaner, encyclopedia, magazines, and cleaning supply salesmen knocked on the door and gave their sales pitches. Milkmen dropped off the heavy glass containers of milk. Some vendors strolled the streets with push carts or small trucks while ringing bells or calling out their goods such as rags, fresh vegetables, and even bleach for sale, as well as knife sharpening.

During the school year, children came home for lunch. Mothers had only a couple of hours for their morning chores before they needed to prepare our lunches, clean up, and send us back to school for the afternoon. No doubt, it seemed that they barely got us out the door when we returned looking for snacks, needing help with homework, and asking the all-important question, “What’s for Dinner?”

What seemed like most of my childhood, my mother was pregnant. Mom was accomplishing her duties in hot summer kitchens and chilly winters with a growing belly. She had five live births and one stillborn, a total of 54 months of pregnancy in 13 years, which wasn’t unusual at that time. Reliable birth control was not available and any attempt at preventing pregnancy in our Catholic families was frowned upon.

One of my favorite memories of my mother is of her ironing in the living room and watching soap operas, with me at her side while I “ironed” doll clothes on my little ironing board. I was raised to be a wife and mother, just like Mom. However, I had no idea how exhausting her days were. Some women worked outside of the home in limited positions, such as nursing, secretarial, and teaching. However, once married, most “retired.” Wife and mother was their job.

Through all of this, women of the 50s/60s were required to look their best at all times. Most wore (circle or sheath/wiggle) dresses, pencil skirts, stockings, and pumps or stiletto shoes year-round, although pants were becoming popular on occasion. Waists were cinched with a belt or sash. Undergarments included girdles, bullet bras, garter belts, slips, and scratchy petticoats to make their circle dresses stand out.

When out of the house, women were certain every hair was in place and makeup was applied, especially lipstick. Accessories included pearls, clip-on earrings, broaches, gloves, a clutch purse, and often, a hat. Little boots could be worn in winter snow storms, but their outfits were designed for beauty, not comfort or warmth.

On behalf of all the “children” my age, we are most grateful to all the loving and hardworking moms. Their attention to providing us with nurturing homes is gratefully appreciated.

***

Photos: Mary, Susie, Sally, Mary Ellen, 2020. Shopping cart and washboard. My parents, John and Pat Doyle, 1956. My grandmother (Florence McCarthy), mother, and Aunt Marlene, 1963.

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Have you read, Love from a Distance,” my blog post on COVID restrictions on families visiting loved ones in memory care homes, on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books?

Jalapeno Popper Pizza Wednesday, Sep 9 2020 

Spicy, salty, smoky, creamy, and chewy. If you like jalapeno poppers, those yummy jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, I have a twist that you might enjoy at least as much. Jalapeno Popper Pizza was one more tasty use of my crop of jalapeno peppers that I discovered this summer.

Homemade pizza is easy and delicious. It only requires a handful of ingredients, especially if you use prepared dough.

I baked two variations of this recipe. The first one contained healthier ingredients, including low-fat cream cheese and turkey bacon, and was baked on the outdoor grill.

The second one was the real deal with full-fat cream cheese and pork bacon. However, I baked this pizza in a pan in the oven.

I used raw, crunchy jalapenos on the first pizza. The second time around, I sautéed them slightly before adding them to the crust which I preferred.

The healthier pizza was tasty but there’s no argument the fattier ingredients were more satisfying. However, the grill produced the best crust. Had I baked the second pizza directly on the pizza stone instead of in the pan, or on the grill, it would have been perfect.

Temperatures rise up to 700˚ Fahrenheit in my little, inexpensive outdoor grill. That is close in temperature to commercial pizza ovens which range from 700 to 800˚. Both options result in an excellent textured crust.

Traditional indoor home ovens can come close to this if a pizza stone is used. The stone should be placed on the lowest rack in a 475 to 500˚ oven preheated for up to an hour before placing the dough on it.

I baked the second pizza in a pan because it was easier to manage in and out of the oven but have since ordered a pizza paddle, also called a peel. This will enable me to move breads and pastries on and off the pizza stone or grill much more efficiently.

I chose the Weber 6691 pizza paddle because of positive reviews and the rotating handle which allows for easier storage. I bake bread and pizzas often, so I don’t know why I waited this long to purchase such a handy tool.

I tried to be conscious of measurements for you with this recipe but typically I do not measure when cooking for myself and loved ones. Cooking to taste is so very personal. When making this recipe, adjust for the size of the pizza and the preferred amount of cream cheese, bacon, and jalapeno.

Homemade dough or store-bought frozen bread or pizza dough works well for the crust. Some pizzerias sell their dough for home use, as well.

I made my Italian bread dough recipe for the crust. Two thirds of the dough was patted into a 16″ pie pan and the remainder was formed into a few small rolls. I allowed the rolls to rise before baking, but not the pizza crust.

I also baked the crust about 5-10 minutes before adding the toppings. This prevents the toppings from soaking into the dough and making it soggy, which is especially important when using traditional tomato sauce and wetter ingredients such as olives, spinach, and sausage.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this recipe and how you improved it for yourself.

***

Jalapeno Popper Pizza

(Makes one 16″ pizza)

  • 4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 6 oz. of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large or 3 small jalapenos, seeded and sliced
  • pizza dough for a 16″ pizza

Preheat oven to 475˚for at least 45 minutes.

Cook the bacon until crisp. Reserve the bacon grease. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Sauté the jalapeno slices in a few tablespoons of the bacon grease. Cook until softened. Drain and pat with a paper towel.

Roll or stretch pizza dough into a circle or pat into a greased pizza pan. Bake 5-10 minutes.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven and immediately spread the cream cheese across the crust. Sprinkle on the bacon and jalapenos. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust begins to brown, about another 15 minutes.

Cool, slice, and enjoy.

*****

Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

Are You Sympathetic, Empathetic–or Neither? Thursday, Sep 3 2020 

“I know exactly how you feel?” We often say this, but is it really true?

Few situations are identical. However, it’s easier for us to sympathize with someone whose experience is similar to one we’ve been through.

I have great sympathy for pregnant women in the Midwest this summer. With the anxieties of COVID and the social unrest in addition to the challenges of pregnancies during the hottest summer on record, these women must be pillars of strength and endurance. I’m certainly not pregnant now! My pregnancies are long-passed. But I can relate to the discomfort of summer pregnancies while in the midst of frightening circumstances. I really do sympathize with them.

In contrast, I empathize with the struggles of people of color. I’m not Black or Brown, so I can’t know how it really is for them. I can only imagine how it might feel to be Black and entering a store with all white people or question why it appears to me that I’m treated differently.

Sympathy and empathy are similar yet distinctly different words. When sympathetic, we relate emotionally to someone from a point of experience. We share feelings with another person.

Empathy is emotionally distant. We may imagine being in a particular situation but have not experienced it personally. We can’t really know the emotional impact to things we have no reference to ourselves.

If we’ve never been without a meal, how can we know how it is to have little to no food to feed our family for weeks on end? If we haven’t fled our home town in fear of our safety, can we really envision the desperation of leaving all of our friends and family behind to trek hundreds of intensely hot and terrifying miles to seek asylum in a strange land? We don’t personally know the suffering that comes with such a decision.

Our world is currently crying for empathy. People are literally shouting to be heard, to be understood. Everyone benefits from good listening skills, imagining how it might feel to walk in our neighbor’s flip flops, and taking other people’s feelings to heart. Peace will come if we are still and quiet long enough to be even a little empathetic.

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Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

Who Knows the Truth? Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 

Throughout the world, and certainly in the United States of America, we are fiercely fighting for truth. However, our versions of truth, justice, and equality are polarized to a point that is exploding.

We hold on to our truths dearly, but how long has it been since we strove to understand rather than shout our perception of right? And when was the last time we reviewed the bases of our own truths?

Truth is defined as the actual state of a matter, a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, or principle. It’s a body of real things, events, and facts, a property of being in accord with fact or reality.  

We accept our truths based on research, unique experiences, and the wisdom of political, religious, and social leaders as well as our mentors. All of these factors bring us to a personal truth, one that may be quite different from our neighbors. In addition, we humans are flawed and perhaps all of us are biased to some level, which compromises our ability to be completely truthful.

It’s important to recognize how much we reflect the leaders we follow. These leaders influence our words and actions. We repeat and imitate what they preach.

A trustworthy leader exemplifies vital qualities and characteristics such as honesty, integrity, transparency, confidence, commitment, accountability, empowerment, empathy, compassion, and vision. Strong decision-making capabilities and communication skills are important. Trustworthy leaders promote unity and team-work. They substantiate their facts, express honest opinions as such, and do not exaggerate, distort, or take facts out of context.

America was born on radical ideas, cultural diversity, and a wide range of beliefs. The promise that we will be tolerant and accepting of these differences is what makes our country so beautiful, exciting, and fascinating and offers opportunities to learn and grow from one another.

If we want peace at home and throughout the world, we all must step back, breathe slowly, listen to all points of view, and respond with compassion toward our brothers and sisters. And we need to seriously consider the leaders we believe in, trust, and identify with.

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Check out, God’s Kingdom Here and Now and First Place Award for The Alzheimer’s Spouse on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Masked Since Antiquity Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

Mandated or recommended, masks are the talk of the day. Do we have the right to choose wearing them or not? Which ones are best? Why do we dislike them? And do we really need them?

Personally, I see mask wearing like cigarette smoking. I understand the desire and choice to smoke but I hate the smell, and I don’t believe anyone has the right to inflect their second-hand smoke on me and my health. In the same way, I understand the discomfort and inconvenience of mask wearing, but I don’t believe anyone has the right to spread their potentially deadly germs in my face. If they won’t wear a mask, they can remain in their home.

Since the Stone Age, masks have been worn by nearly all cultures. The oldest known mask is from 7000 BC. Traditional ones were used for protection, disguise, hunting, entertainment, punishment, membership in secret societies, celebration, healings, and rituals. They were made from any number of materials including leather, wood, and feathers. I have one from Hawaii made from volcanic ash and covered in carved symbols.


One of the few collections I have is a wall grouping of masks, carvings, and a painting I’ve acquired from my travels. In addition to the one made from ash, the collection includes a ritual mask from Papua, New Guinea purchased in Hawaii and one made by the Incas and purchased in Aruba, festival masks from Venice, Italy, face carvings from Alaska and Jamaica, a totem from Hawaii, a leather work from Portugal, and a painting of a turtle on tapas, a type of fabric carefully and arduously made from softened wood bark. My attraction to these items stemmed from their craftmanship, symbolism, and personal contact with the artist or vendor.

When I purchased the ritual masks, I was assured that they had been cleansed. The spirits of the dead or other beings were no longer attached, so I needn’t be concerned about carrying those spirits home with me. That statement opened up a greater fascination and appreciation of the artifacts. I had no knowledge of the historical or cultural meaning of them or that death masks were created in the likeness of the deceased.

Some ritual masks, such as those in West Africa, are used to communicate with ancestral or animal spirits. They can be quite symbolic. For example, closed eyes may show tranquility while bulging foreheads means wisdom.

Today we are familiar with masks of protection such as those for welders, gas masks, police shields, oxygen masks, and our all so familiar, medical and health masks. I don’t plan on adding any of these to my wall.

***

Have you read “Angels to Guard You Wherever You Go” and “Easy Test with Big Answers” on Mary K Doyle Books?

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Bird or Bug? Monday, Jun 15 2020 

They may be young but they are often smarter than the adults.

I have two seven-year-old grandsons, a five-year-old granddaughter and five-year-old grandson. Technology doesn’t intimidate any of them. The two oldest grandsons became ZOOM experts before I did. Their parents expose the children to nature, athletic classes, and travels that I didn’t experience until much later in life.

And their energy can be deceiving. As they literally run circles around us, the wee ones are taking in everything around them and remember what they saw and heard, especially if it is something we’d rather they hadn’t noticed.

This past weekend, my grandsons Daniel and Nathan helped me water my garden. We saw an unusual creature hovering over the petunias and sucking up nectar. I thought it was a bee or other type of insect because it had three body parts—a head, thorax, and abdomen, but it was larger in size than a normal bee or moth. Nathan insisted that it was a hummingbird.

Thanks to the “Bug Queen,” my friend, Carol Hendrix, we learned we both were somewhat correct. This beauty is a Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe, an insect that mimics a hummingbird. It belongs to the Family Sphingidea (a family of moths, commonly known as hawk moths, sphinx moths, and hornworms). These moths are moderate to large in size and are distinguished by their rapid, sustained flying ability. Their subfamily, is the Macroglossinae, moths in the order Lepidoptera.

Most of my plants are on a set of three shelving units against the back of my house. It allows me full use of my limited space and plenty of sunshine with southern exposure to promote hearty growth of flowers, herbs, and vegetables and less consumption by chipmunks and rabbits. The Hummingbird Clearwing Hemaris thysbe isn’t often seen in my area of the Midwest, so I appreciate that it visited my little boxes of plantings. The opportunity to have witnessed one in action up close and personal was a special gift of nature.

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Check out my posts, “Waling in Someone’s Painful Shoes” and “Why We Suffer.”

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