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The written word has always been a joy for me.  I can not remember a time in my life when I did not have books. Before I was able to read them, my mother read books to me. As soon as I could read independently I was never without a book in my hands or very nearby.  As years passed, writing developed into a passion for me as well. I tried novel writing while home with my two children during their early years and was challenged to focus on the craft.  I never gave up the love even when I had to give up the pursuit.  Now, with grown children and the fact I am sitting on the other side of fifty I can pursue my dream of writing.  I have continued the reading quest but now the writing is attainable as well.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook

     It is diet season, and as fate would have it, the most beautiful cookbook arrived on my doorstep to entice me. The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, written by Jessamyn Walman Rodriguez and the bakers of Hot Bread Kitchen with Julia Turshen  is a culinary and literary gem.
     Many would agree that the concept of hot bread is tempting all by itself, the comfort of hot bread and melting butter speaks to all the senses. What makes this book such a treasure is the artistry that the authors have used to marry the multicultural staple of hot bread with the people and countries that the products come from.
     Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem, New York, may seem similar to many bakeries around the world.  The part that makes this one unique is that the bakery offers education and opportunity to low-income minority women.  The women become trainees and learn skills and the English language. Through this education and training the women are then able to begin their own businesses or obtain management positions in other food production businesses. The sale of the breads that are made at the bakery support the training of the women.  The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, highlights the breads and the people that make both the bakery and the book a wonderful thing.
    Aside from the stories of this incredible enterprise that is helping minority women achieve sustainability in our economy, the book is a wealth of information in the art of baking breads from many cultural venues.  From unleavened flatbreads to tortillas and crusty baguettes to challahs the recipes and instructions in the book are well illustrated and easy to follow. The book even includes many recipes for dishes that compliment the cultural breads.
    I love a good cookbook, but honestly, most cookbooks that I peruse I simply flip the pages until something captures my eye and then I read the recipe and ingredients.  In The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, I was  hooked from the introduction page to the final page.  The layout, the stories, the pictures the instructions and of course the recipes  were all wonderfully done.
     I tried my hand at one of the recipes.  I made the "Rustic Batard," a crusty hearty bread.  I followed all the directions which included making "Pâte Fermentée" the day before which had to set overnight in the refrigerator.  My dough shaping leaves a bit to be desired, as my loaf did not have the exact shape as the one in the illustration, but the taste and texture of the bread was perfect. This means the recipe works, which makes me anxious to try all the others in the book.
     Bread is  a universal sustenance and a true joy to make and eat.  Whether one is a bread baking master or novice, The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook is an enchanting addition to any cookbook library.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review

Friday, January 22, 2016

In My Mind's Eye...

     The old adage, "you are as old as you think you are," is more true than false.  I remember hearing my mother tell me about a time this saying came into play with my grandmother, her mother.   As my grandmother aged, memory became a challenge for her.  At one time, following my grandfather's death, grandma came to live with my parents.   I can't remember exactly how old my grandmother was at the time, but I believe she was about 90 years old.
      One time she asked my mom the question, "How old am I now?"  When my mother told her that she was 90 years old, grandma replied, "Oh no, that can't be! I can't be that old!"  Obviously, in grandma's mind and feelings, she was still much younger.   This memory came strongly back to me when I recently realized that I don't feel my age either.
      Here I am, 51 years old, but I actually mentally feel about 30.  I catch myself at the gym, looking around at the other women working out and judging my own appearance.  It's strange how we do not always compare ourself with someone our own age. I for example,  seem to compare myself with certain body types instead.
     Because I feel young inside, I look at younger people and think, wow...I am so not toned, or I have bulges here and bumps there, and they don't have any! How do they stay so fit?  I get so frustrated with myself that I can not get to that level of appearance.
     After a personal destructive criticism session that I  recently gave myself, I realized that the people I am comparing myself to are  much younger than I am.  That would account for some of the body differences.  When I was their age, I too was thin, toned, and had a flat stomach.  So why do I torture myself?  I think it goes back to not realizing that I am the age that I am.
     If a person "feels" that they are 20 or 30 years younger than they actually are, then it is logical (though unhealthy) that  the person would compare to those that age.   So what's wrong with that?  It's not apples to apples, and it's just a bad idea.
      It's okay to feel like a young soul in mind, and feel young in body, but remember that there has been much memory making happening in the body that takes a toll on the appearance.
      For example,  the flat stomach that is no longer there, was sacrificed to the birthing of two beautiful human beings whom I cherish. Yes, it can be thinned and toned again, but it will never be the same as it was nor should it be because it is a badge of honor.
     So, feel young, but keep your eyes open to who you are.  Remember to try not to compare yourself with others, but if you find yourself doing so, at least look at those who are truly in your peer group.  Chances are, you will see that for your age you are just where you should be and the end result is that accepting who you are and how you got to where you are now will be heartening to your body and mind.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Diamond Is Forever, And So Is A Diet

      The older I am, the more I feel my life runs in a cyclical pattern.  Like the hands on a clock, I see the calendar year move in a similar motion. I feel this way most, as the holiday season approaches and moves into the new year.  The whirlwind begins at Halloween and continues through Thanksgiving,  Christmas, New Years and is then followed by "diet season". This precedes Valentines day of course where the diets are then broken for the worship of loved ones and chocolate.  Which brings me to the thought of the day in my random, rambling mind.
      It is diet season, and Valentines day is around the corner in a month and the thought that popped into my head today was, "Wow, diamonds are forever (just saw that commercial the other day,) and so are diets.
     In the true sense, the word diet just means food that you always eat.  So everyday we are on a diet, as one must eat to survive.  However, in our culture we think of diet as eating, or not eating, specific foods.  If the diet we choose in the "diet season" is so healthy and good for us, then why do we wear out on it and quit in a month or so, returning to our old habits?
     I polled my friends one night at a gathering as we were comparing our "diets" or the need to go on a diet, or even what diets we had tried in the past.  It was January after all, and "diet season".  Some said they had done fairly well during the holidays, but were frustrated that clothes were not fitting as well as they liked, so would be starting a diet again.  Others said they still had travel plans so, alas couldn't begin their "dieting" for a few weeks. You know it is impossible to "diet" when away from home on a vacation.
    When asked what I was doing, I said my husband and I were revisiting the "South Beach" diet.  We had done this one before and my husband liked it best.  I feel like it is one of the healthier ones. Maybe this time we will keep it for always....it could happen.
     A couple of my friends lamented that they had tried all the diets available and were just not going to do it anymore.  They liked food, they were in their 50's and for goodness sake, they were just going to enjoy themselves.  I admire them.
     I want to be healthy, but I confess, I lack discipline to always eat well. I jump on the bandwagon and shun sugar, white bread, and white potatoes the day after New Years, just to purge my system of all those yummy toxins it has ingested the last couple of months.  I embrace instead protein, green veggies and whole grains.  But come February, the chocolate cravings will begin to rage and then next October, I will once again be craving comfort food  as the weather begins to turn cold and winter dreariness approaches. Finally, the "eating season", um I mean holidays, will happen once again with its luxurious edibles and sharing of joy. I will struggle to not indulge in "eating season" but as so many times before, I know I will probably fail, knowing the light of "diet season" is just ahead.
     As I age, I am finding that somethings are forever, and some are not. Diamonds are beautiful gems that will last many lifetimes if cared for correctly. A moderate, wholesome diet can also last throughout a lifetime if a person has the discipline to make smart food choices and eat appropriate portion sizes.
      Personally, I reap what I sow and I eat what I will.  Although I do facetiously believe in the "diet season" of the year which follows the "eating season" (the traditional holidays),  I also feel that everyday is an opportunity to be healthy and make smart diet choices.