Pork Neckbones & Sauerkraut

“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” ~ Dorothy Day

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After a hellacious week, we finally made it back home. Back to work. Back to school. Back to our regularly scheduled lives. The angst is still there — wondering about the outcome of the van repairs, whether the rental car will be reimbursed, and on and on and on.

So what makes a stressful situation better? Comfort Food!!!

Neckbones are readily available (if you know where to look) depending on your geographical location. Down here in Alabama, they are available smoked or non-smoked at almost every grocery store or Walmart. In other locations you may have to look under the “flavoring meats” or “soul food” and failing that . . . ask the butcher in the meat department.

Pork Neckbones & Sauerkraut

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2.5 – 3# pork neckbones (non-smoked)

1 large jar of sauerkraut

1 small yellow onion, sliced

4-5 potatoes, diced

1 c. vegetable or chicken broth

1 T. minced garlic

Salt, Pepper, Creole Seasoning

Directions

Rinse and clean the neckbones. In a 5-quart crockpot, layer the potatoes and onions, seasoning each layer lightly with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning to taste. Place the neckbones on top of the vegetables. Cover with sauerkraut and season lightly with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning. Sprinkle with the minced garlic. Cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours.

Serve with warm cornbread.

It’s warm . . . it’s filling . . .it makes everything feel right with the world.

Budget friendly — this is a meal that will feed many at a low cost. Here’s the breakdown:

Neckbones – $1.25/lb – I paid $2.52

Sauerkraut @ Aldi’s – 1.69

Minced Garlic @ Aldi – 0.89 for the jar, you need 1 Tablespoon (about .08)

4-5 potatoes – $1.29 for 10# bag at Aldi (about 0.25)

yellow onion @ .69/lb – it weighed about 1/2 lb. – so 0.35

Chicken broth @ Aldi – $1.89 for 32 oz, so 0.27 for this recipe.

Total cost = $5.16 divided by 8 servings comes to 0.65 per serving.

You cannot feed 8 people at any fast food restaurant for that price. Nor is the food as nutritious (or delicious).

My next post will cover some of the most common complaints I hear about why people don’t have “time” to cook at home. I can usually combat those excuses (and that’s what they are) with some simple planning tips.

What foods bring you comfort?

Be Still . . .and Know

“He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” ~ Psalm 46:10, ESV

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Ever have one of those days where anything that could go wrong, does? What if it extends into a week? Longer?

You fight to remain calm and upbeat, confident that God will provide for the need at hand. However, situations continue to build and mount and pile until you reach your limit and your frustrations spill over in tears and anger.

It’s been one of those weeks for me. Last night it all came to a head, I was overwhelmed with circumstances beyond my control. I was wracking my brain as to how I could afford the needs. Now . . .the anger is resolved because I chose to jot down those things for which I’m thankful. I can at least express my thoughts. Earlier, it would have been impossible.

First, I had taken the car to the shop – it was “wubbling” badly when it got up to high speeds — shuddering, shaking and making the distinct “wubble” noise. Worried that it might be a CV joint after hitting a racoon or a bent wheel, I was told that it needed all new tires. Breathe . . .

Second, we headed to Missouri to see the new grandbaby — leaving in a van that had over 200,000 miles and a newly repaired transmission. The first attempt to do so did not go well a few weeks back. We got 36 miles from home and had to nurse it along back roads and return it to the shop, under warranty for an auxiliary cooling unit to be added. This time, with a gut feeling of wary nerves, we made it 93 miles from home before it started shifting in fits and starts. We googled the nearest dealership and made it another 17 miles where we traded it in on a newer minivan with less miles – safer and more reliable. Or so we thought.

Throw in two phone calls from the mortgage company on two different days. One assured me that the process is being reviewed and the title came back clear so there was no need for additional documentation. (yay!) Two days later, a call from the same mortgage company stated that they needed additional documentation including quit claim deeds, etc to determine that the title was clear. (yada!) I figure, I’ll call back on Monday (because the third time’s a charm) and get a completely different answer on what they require.

Arriving in Missouri, there was the requisite dealing with the ex- whose inability to be reasonable as to sharing driving distance and time goes beyond the absurd. His insistence that I drive an additional 1.5 hours one way to spend time with a child that I was able to spend less than 24 hours with just sticks in my craw. But we chose to put on a happy face, enjoy the time we had together and hope it goes better next time. (Karma . . .baby. Karma)

It was on the way home from the drop-off that I reached my limit of exasperation and patience. The new van, with less than 70,000 miles, started revving and shifting down, revving and speeding up. We ended up pulling over several times, shutting the engine off and then re-starting it to roll a few hundred feet farther down a 2-lane highway until we could get to a populated parking lot. From there we called the warranty issuer and finagled with them to get a wrecker to come tow it to the nearest dealership. Of course, having only owned the car for four days, they didn’t have a record of my purchase and argued that they didn’t have to cover the expense. It then took an additional hour for the tow truck to arrive, and my older daughter graciously came to pick us up and drive us to the Oak Grove home (along with her newborn daughter).

By the time we arrived at the Oak Grove home at nearly 1 am, I was nauseous from motion sickness (sitting in the back seat), had a horrendous headache, was worried about how I am going to get back to the Alabama home, needing to contact my supervisor, trying to reserve a rental car online, and on and on and on. I ended up going for a long walk along the side of the road to cool off before I said some things I might regret later. It all felt so unfair.

This morning we got up to get a rental car and before leaving the house, the rental agency called to let us know they had no cars available. *sigh*

I messaged my supervisor to explain the situation and was told to just relax and do what I needed to do.

I contacted the dealership from which I purchased the car via email so they will be aware of the situation in the morning when they open.

So now I am left with nothing to do but sit, rest and enjoy my present company (which is a complete pleasure). In all things, God’s hand is present. While I do not know the reasoning, or the plan, I simply must trust that there is a greater plan at work.

Have you ever been in a situation or situations where you could not act but could only be still and rely on God to provide?

What Are Your Dreams

” . . .we have the power to make our greatest dreams come true. We just have to be purposeful, every day, in seeking them . . . ” ~ Big Spoon, Mile 445: Hitched in Her Hiking Boots

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There’s a scene from the beginning of the movie “Pretty Woman” — a man is crossing the street and asking everyone passing him, “What’s your dream? What’s YOUR dream?” Everyone has dreams — hopes and ideas of things they’d like to do, goals to accomplish, or travel destinations. Dreams are different for different people.

We get so tied down with life sometimes, that we forget to dream. Disenfranchised with the sameness of everyday occurrences, we push our dreams to the side, or pack them away, deciding they will never happen. It may be finances. Perhaps it’s illness (either physical or mental). We may have taken the chance to share our dreams with someone only to be told we are silly or illogical or fanciful but not realistic.

I like things that push me to my limits. To have tried and failed (in my book) is much better than never having tried at all. I watched my mother work, work, work with the oft-repeated phrase, “when I retire I’m going to . . . ” Sadly, by the time my mother was able to retire, it was not by choice, it was because she was dying of metastatic breast cancer. All the plans she had to do this and that, and go here and there, never materialized. She sparked my first endurance event – a 3-day 60-mile walk to raise funding for breast cancer research. That was 2000.

In 2010, while at the fire academy, I started my bucket list. First and foremost was to finish the fire academy . . . which I did. When I was packing up things to move to Alabama, I came across the notebook I had used in my fire academy classes and sure enough, there was my bucket list in the back where I had first written it. As I glanced over that initial list, I realized I had completed everything on it.

Every.

Single.

Thing.

I also realized that since writing my first bucket list, it was not finite. While I may not have always written down my dreams and goals, I had a pretty good grasp of them in my head and had accomplished so much more than what was on that list. Not only had I done the “things” but I had also gained wisdom, a deeper appreciation for life and hard work and my faith had grown as well.

Chasing your dreams can be downright scary. People close to you may not understand your passion or motivation. Your family, friends, and co-workers may laugh, thinking it’s a passing fancy. You have to do a lot of research to see how to make it happen on your budget. There are options galore for travel – hotels, hostels, campgrounds, Airbnb, domestic help options (working for a family while living abroad) — some may require a work visa if international travel is your thing. If it is a sports related dream – training options, equipment costs, locations, fees. Doing the research can keep the dream alive and feed the passion.

Here are a few of my dreams – some of which have had to change:

  • A full triathlon – 120 mile combination of swim, bike and run. I was on track to accomplish this when my knee had to be replaced. Now with a shoulder injury, this may have to be whittled down to smaller distances or changed to duathlons or single events.
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) or Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). While I would love to hike one of them as a thru-hiker, done entirely in one 5-month stint . . . the reality at this point is that I would have to do some day or weekend hikes and pick up where I left off or just hit sections.
  • Midwifery – while I started studying and getting my prerequisites out of the way to become a certified midwife, I got sidetracked and ended up at the fire academy. I still have a deep interest in women’s care and childbirth, but I’m not sure I have the passion to go back to school and find clinical locations and hours. An alternative would be to become a certified Doula to help with births.

What are your dreams? What’s holding you back from reaching your dreams?

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” ~ Sharon Saltzberg

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I’ve spoken in previous posts about stretching to relax. I combine these periods of stretching with the practice of mindfulness. At times, I use my own choice of soft music, other times I will use either a Fitbit app with a soothing speaker or a YouTube video. Some of my favorite YouTube channels are Daily Calm, The Mindful Movement or The Honest Guys.

Depending on the time I have available this may take as little as 2-3 minutes or up to 30 minutes. It seems to help with my ability to take on the day in addition to pain relief. Especially after I’ve worked a 12-hour nursing shift or driven for long periods of time – my body needs this time to relax and get the creaky old joints back into a natural (or should I say, neutral) position.

While I would prefer to get a massage each day, that is financially impossible and/or never going to happen. But when it does happen . . .what bliss!! When lying on the massage table, my therapist uses a heated mattress pad on low to help the body relax. Generally the lighting is low, there is soft music playing and depending on my mood we either talk or we don’t. I can sink into the sensation of her hands moving my body, kneading the muscles, feeling them at first tense and then relax under the repeated pressure. There are moments, generally when she gets to my IT bands that I don’t sink, it takes everything I have not to scream because they are so tight, but eventually they too, loosen up and I can again relax. The first moment that grabs me is right at the beginning when she places her hands under my shoulders and then runs her fingers and thumbs up my neck, flexing my head up and off the table and holding it.

Much like that massage, my combination of mindfulness and stretching works in the same manner. Usually done with low lighting, on a yoga mat on the floor with my choice of background sound, choice oils in the diffuser — it can be done in three easy steps:

  1. The “I” step – how am I feeling, how is my body feeling in connection to lying flat. What hurts? What feels tight? How do I need to move to relax it? Because of my scoliosis, I almost always start with my knees bent, feet flat on the floor and bring my arms up over my head, pressing my spine into the mat.
  2. The “Here” step – I begin this by taking three deep breaths, letting my abdomen rise with each one. As I continue my deep breathing, I notice that each breath gets slightly deeper as my body starts to relax even more. While I don’t consciously choose specific yoga poses, I do stretch and hold for a few seconds up to several minutes – breathing and holding the stretch until I feel my body relax and the stretch becomes less and less painful. It never fails, when I take my first few breaths with my arms up over my head, I slowly roll back and forth sideways on the mat until my back relaxes and my spine can make contact without tension – about three rocks both ways. I slowly move my arms down and out, flexing and releasing the scapula. At times, I may bend a knee and place the foot on the opposite knee for a greater stretch in the lower back. I may bend both knees and bring them to the same side while leaving my arms outstretched. Between stretches, I just breathe and notice how my body feels to determine which way to stretch next, never planning it but going with the way my body feels. No two days are ever the same.
  3. The “Now” step – what am I feeling right now. Not thinking about my plans for the day, or the discussion I had the night before, or even what I need at the grocery store. Part of mindfulness is being present in the here and now — right now. Distractions are blocked. In addition to the feel of my body, I also use my senses to feel the softness of the mat, the firmness of the hardwood floor, the smell of oils in the diffuser with it’s slight hum, the soft lighting in the room as the sunlight filters thru the room darkening shades, the background sounds in my chosen video or app, the soothing sound of the speaker’s voice.

Mindfulness doesn’t simply apply to meditation. It applies to the rest of my day as well. When in discussion with someone, I am able to determine how I am feeling during the discussion such as emotional reactions. The “here” helps me focus on the person(s) I am with and the situation at hand. The “now” helps me survey my surroundings and stay focused rather than being distracted by other thoughts such as “what will I fix for dinner” or “don’t forget to start the laundry” or “did I write the check for the utility bill.”

When choosing oils for the diffuser, I have several blends I prefer –

Rosemary, Lavender, Orange and Peppermint

Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint

or Copaiba, Lavender and Lime.

If you would like to purchase Young Living oils, feel free to use the link HERE.

How do you practice mindfulness? Has it changed your life? If so, how? Please feel free to share in the comments!

Quiet Times

“Touch the earth and let it touch you.” ~ Barefoot Mama

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I’ve been quiet because I haven’t felt well lately. And when I don’t feel well, I tend to turn inwards. I put my energy into healing and feeling better.

Somebody mentioned that I must be very in tune with my body.

Well . . . yes. I spend at least a few minutes, every day, stretching and breathing and relaxing my body bit by bit. I get massages when I can. I started lifting weights when I was in my late teens/early twenties so I learned to isolate muscle groups to be able to flex and release them at will.

I remember clearly with my first pregnancy: we were at our childbirth class and the instructor was having us lie on our sides and flex and release different muscle groups to be able to help labor progress more smoothly. We were to practice these exercises in the ensuing weeks. The instructor encouraged us to flex our calf muscle. One of the other expectant mama’s asked, “How do you flex your calf muscle.” I remember thinking to myself, “how do you not know HOW to do that?!?!?!?”

In December of 2018, I wrote a post The Sensual Life. In it I talked about using all the senses to fully adapt to the surroundings. It isn’t difficult – it does take practice. Society has become so dependent on electronic devices that we are losing the ability to connect on a natural level with our surroundings.

This evening as we walked the dog, I noticed several things:

  • The scent of rain on the air
  • The puddles on the road and sidewalk reflecting the street lights
  • the difference in textures between the sidewalk, the gravel and the mud
  • the sound of the dog’s nails as she walked
  • the lights coming from home windows we walked past
  • the sounds of the leaves skipping across the trail as the wind blew
  • the coolness of the wind against my skin with a hint of moisture
  • her excitement at getting closer to home and subtle pulling at the lead

I have to be in tune with my body. Systemic Lupus flares can come on suddenly, but they can also come on gradually and noticing the changes and catching them before they blossom from flares into fires can be tricky. Because I still have to do the things (after I drink the coffee), prioritizing my activities is absolute. Social media, blogging, renovation activities – anything that expends unnecessary energy is curtailed. The replacement activities are frequent naps, periods of rest and meditation. more stretching than usual, muscle rubs with liniment, warm baths and audible books (becomes sometimes just holding the book is tiring or looking at the screen makes my eyes hurt). I try to get out and walk each day, but then I lay down for a wee bit when we get home.

I do know being barefoot in the grass or having my hands in the dirt or on the plants, does have the effect of making me feel more connected. There’s something calming about being in contact with the earth — a soothing quality of well-being. And here . . . The Benefits of Earthing . . . is an article discussing the benefits of coming into contact with the earth either barefoot or with the use of our hands (such as in gardening).

So, perhaps I’m not crazy that I feel more rested when I spend some of my Quiet Times outside, barefoot, talking to the tomatoes.

Go.

Outside.

You Don’t Always Have to Finish

“Don’t get me wrong; I like reading. But some books should come with warning labels: Caution: contains characters and plots guaranteed to induce sleepiness.” ~ Laure Halse Anderson

woman leaning on table

It was quite disappointing, actually. I just wanted a bit of what I call “fluff” reading. Nothing too serious, but enjoyable. It was one of my favorite “fluffy” authors, even. When I say “fluff” I simply mean non-scholarly, non-journal, non-educational good reading.

The premise was a group of American emergency physicians who traveled to France to compare terrorism response techniques and then in turn hosted their French counterparts in America. While it was clearly fiction, it was also clearly not researched at all . . . AT ALL! What I thought would be an interesting listen (it was an audible book) turned out to be frustrating and maddening. I kept giving it more and more chances, but by Chapter Eight I had to give up. It was so far-fetched and ludicrous it was nauseating. Fortunately, I was able to return it and get my credit refunded to purchase another book.

I would describe a book as well-written if you KNOW it’s fiction, but you believe it could be non-fiction. When you believe it COULD happen, but it hasn’t. This requires some background research into the subject matter, not an assumption of what occurs. In this case, the perceived response in emergency medicine and terrorism response was so far from realistic it was laughable. It was as if the book was written by someone who watched NCIS and CSI truly believing that crimes are solved in an hour’s time with four 5-minute breaks included. Most definitely not what I expected from a well-established author with several best seller’s under her belt.

In the past, I would have persevered and finished the book regardless of how I felt about it. I am very proud that I stopped . . . returned it and refused to waste any more of my time listening. Instead, I selected a book by another favorite author of mine which has had me in it’s grips since before the ending of the first chapter. It was also nice to learn that Kindle Audible allows books to be returned before being finished if they aren’t enjoyed. I was prepared to be out the price of my credit, but it was a very pleasant surprise to find they stand behind their service and want the customer to be satisfied.

Life is too short to waste precious time on those things which are unnecessary and don’t bring joy.