Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What My Mommy Taught Me

My mother is still full of vim and vigor at 70-odd years of age.  I won't tell you how old she is because I can't remember and perhaps she doesn't want the world to know...

Whatever the case, my mommy is still full of piss and vinegar and wakes up ready to take on the world every single day.  The only difference is that these days she gets to indulge in sleeping-in, something she always yearned for when I was a child, but was rarely able to avail herself of given her high maintenance children, keeping up with the farm tasks, making oatmeal for the household and all the stray barn cats, etc.

What my mother possesses more than pretty much anyone I have ever met in my life (and this includes high flying CEO types and stressed-out, overworked teachers and postal delivery people) is work ethic. She ran the household, managed a farm with my dad, had a garden the size of an airport runway, baked everyday, made every meal from scratch (and usually from our animals and our produce) and kept our house ship shape.

 The difference between my mother's work ethic and those of countless others, however, is she did (and still does) it all with a smile and a cheerful attitude.

My mother is a born optimist.  She was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth nor has she led a life of great privilege or perfect circumstances.  She's been through World War II, immigrated to Canada lost a sister during the war, started a whole new life as a German teenage girl with no English, and fell in love with the handsome (and still haired) father of mine after he wooed her persistently and she finally gave in.  They've been happily married for 50 years this year.

She's a survivor of cancer and of many of the other slings and arrows that life throws at us all eventually.  She's a lover, though, not a fighter.  My mom has always been one to accept her circumstances and to "go with the flow."  It's like she's taken that song, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream; merrily, merrily, merrily merrily; life is but a dream" as the theme song for her life.

Flowing down that river of life and not swimming against the current has not always been my strong suit, but I'm starting to catch on.  I'm trying to hitch myself onto that boat she rows and floats down with because, by golly, she's moving faster with the less effort than just about anyone I've ever known.

Unlike my mother, I am a born pessimist, but a learned optimist, in large part thanks to her.  The deepest, darkest parts of me seep out of me much less often than they used to.

Unfortunately, another dissimilarity between my mother and me is that I have not inherited her work ethic, especially in terms of domesticity.  The genetic pool for working hard thinned out in the next generation, at least it did with me.  (My sister and brother, I think, have it in spades.)  I prefer to gaze at the beauty of other people's gardens and enjoy beautiful cooking not prepared by me.  That's not to say that I don't work hard occasionally, but it doesn't come with the energy and pleasure that it appears to accompany my mother with.

I know it's not quite mother's day yet, but this is a salute to my Mommy who has taught me the greatest lesson in life: to look on the bright side (even when there isn't one), and carry on with a smile.

Every day I think of my mother and resolve to look for the best in all people and all circumstances, just as she does. She is always in my heart.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Popcorn - The Champagne of Snack Foods!

Other than celebrity gossip magazines in bubble baths, popcorn is at the top of my guilty pleasures list.  Apparently it needn't be on that list any longer.

"When it comes to antioxidants, popcorn may have  fruits and vegetables beat.
A new study suggests that one serving of popcorn has more antioxidants than a day’s worth of fruits or vegetables, based on the average American diet.
“Popcorn may be the perfect snack food,” study author Joe Vinson, a chemist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “It’s the only snack that is 100 percent whole grain.”
Foods labeled  ”whole grain” only have to be 51 percent whole grain. And more whole grains mean more health benefits.
Whole grains have “antioxidants and a lot more fiber than most other vegetables and fruits,” Vinson said."
So says Alethea Turner at abcnews.go
For a lifetime popcorn addict who has a heaping bowl of the stuff most every single night, this is the news I have been waiting for to release me from my guilt. Popcorn is the world's healthiest food, and not just snack food, either!  

I'm lucky to be a lover of fruits and vegetables as well, but I've often been amazed that I am not morbidly obese considering the amount of food I consume and the huge amount of snacking that I partake of most nights.  The new news about popcorn may go some way in helping to explain this.

Given that I have so much to feel guilty about in life already, it's a relief that I can cross at least one guilt inducer off the list!

Leah's Top Ten Tips On Getting a New Start On Eating Popcorn:

1. Stay away from microwave popcorn and invest in an airpopper or, better yet, a microwave container that is specifically made for popping corn.  You put half a cup in the container, pop the lid on, set for three minutes, and voila, heaven in a bowl.  It's my most used kitchen device.  I'm not proud of this, but it's true.

2. I use (and I'm not saying I am proud of this, either) I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray to spritz on my airpopped corn and then liberally douse with salt, since I have no tendency toward high blood pressure whatsoever.  (Can that stuff really be calorie free like it claims, though?  I'm going to say yes, and forgive myself for the chemicals and perhaps calories contained therein.  Most of my diet is pretty chemical-lite.)  I am thinking about getting one of those olive oil misters and giving that a go.

3. For a healthy but slightly higher calorie treat, try the olive-oil-in-the-wok method.  My sweetheart invented this when we were living in Taiwan and could buy popcorn, but didn't have any pots or pans big enough to pop the abundant amount I insist upon eating.  We hadn't shopped in a while and only had olive oil on hand so Don got his scientific-method groove on.  Knowing that olive oil burns at high heat, he kept the flame low, waited for one kernel to pop, then added the rest, shaking the wok vigorously throughout the remaining popping session.  We knew we had a winner at first crunch.  I have to admit, I have never made this version myself though I have eaten it hundreds of times because it is my sweetheart's special way of messing up the kitchen and showing me how much he loves me.

4. Popcorn does  NOT work with gossip magazines in a bathtub.  Believe me, I have tried.  Many times.  Keep it in the bed or on the sofa, folks.  (I, for one, prefer the bed even though it can have unwanted consequences during the night when an errant corn finds itself in your pajamas or shoved up your nostril.

5. Stay away from the movie theater popcorn.  Apparently it's the equivalent of eating three Big Macs and a biggie size order of fries.  Of course, I NEED to eat popcorn when I watch movies so I always pop ahead of time and each family member carries a large backpack full of the contraband into the theater.  (This works well for beer too.  Don't ask me why I know that except it involved a special birthday surprise for my sweetie one year.  Just pop the cans during a shoot 'em up scene and nobody will be the wiser.)  If you're ever challenged about bringing your own food into the theater, launch into an allergy-related rant and you will be fine.  Trust me.  Nobody wants to be sued over the death of young children.  I don't know that you could use the same defense for the beer, though.

6. Popcorn DOES burn and it can catch fire.  Mind it carefully.  Trust me on this one, too.  Also, the eau de burnt kernels aroma is nearly impossible to get rid of.

7. If you're a woman, you may find some bonus kernels at the end of the evening when you're taking your bra off.  This is always particularly titillating and delightful.

8. Popcorn lasts a LONG time so you don't need to chow it down by the fistful.  I can make a bountiful bowl last me two or three hours eating at a steady pace.  If you're trying to quit smoking, popcorn may be your antidote.  Who needs a nicotine patch or to gain weight on all that junk food when you now know that popcorn may be a snack, but it sure ain't junk food.  Yippee yahoo for that!

9. Stay away from the "old maids" (unpopped kernels) if you don't want to end up in the dentist chair with damaged teeth.  Trust me on this one, too.

10.   Renew your resolution to floss.  You'll need to.

And my parents always told me oatmeal was the perfect food!  (I know what I'll be having for breakfast tomorrow.)

PS: Poppycock or caramel popcorn does NOT count as popcorn.  It's with great regret that I must inform you that these are indeed junk foods that should be avoided except at holidays when they should be consumed with abandon.  If you want an excellent recipe for caramel corn, let me know.  Better yet, look it up yourself.  It's in the website  You can find some other heart-stoppers there as well.