Friday, September 30, 2016

Sepember Balanced Life Goals Review

-  Continue with daily prayers and gratitude; attend the September monthly prayer meeting (first weekend in September); visit the temple - I continued with daily prayers and gratitude and attended the monthly prayer meeting; I spoke with the monks at the temple but didn't visit the temple. 

- Continue to declutter; deep clean and organize the 3rd bedroom and family room; call and schedule a pick up of donations; really try to establish and maintain a cleaning routine! - I called and scheduled the pick up of donations (not till October, though);  since all the bags of donations are piled in the 3rd bedroom, organizing that room has come to a halt!  I started on the family room but haven't quite finished.  Will continue with both rooms in October, as well.

I did work out a cleaning schedule, but, as always, I'm struggling to keep to it!  As I've mentioned before, implementing the schedule is where I fail!  I have plenty of reasons (or are they merely excuses?) for not keeping up with the schedule - I'm tired, it's too hot, etc.  All quite valid excuses, too, of course.  I am still dealing with a fair amount of fatigue; not like before when I slept the whole day, but not exactly back to normal, yet.  And it has been hot.  But, I am keeping to the schedule after a fashion.  I will tweak it a bit more in October and maybe make it a bi-weekly (i.e. fortnightly) schedule.        
- There are no plans for her to come down for a visit in September.  We will continue to keep in touch by phone and on-line - Daughter and I spoke on the phone, texted, and video chatted every day.   

- Keep in contact with family members by phone and on-line; ride with one cousin to the monthly prayer meeting; another cousin has offered to accompany me to my medical appointments this month -  There were several phone calls and on-line messages; I rode with one cousin to the prayer gathering; the other cousin accompanied me to my medical appointments; and I attended the baby shower for another cousin's daughter.  Met several other family members at the prayer gathering and the baby shower.        

-  Keep in contact with friends by phone and on-line; meet some friends at the prayer meeting; visit one friend with a belated birthday gift for her daughter -  I kept in contact with friends by phone and on-line; met some friends at the prayer gathering and at the baby shower.  But, I've been unable to connect with the one friend whose daughter's birthday I missed; I've left several phone messages, but she hasn't returned my calls.  :(
-  Continue to work from home for the first half of the month; make plans to go back to the office later in the month.  -  I worked the whole month from home, partly because, when I spoke with my supervisor about returning to the office, she told me to take my time and recover completely before I do. 

- Review monthly budget and continue to spend mindfully because that's how I am.  - Doing well on the finances.

-  Continue to focus on health:  I've an appointment with the radiation oncologist on September 9 and an appointment with the medical oncologist later, that same morning.  I will be starting my hormone therapy after that.  I also have an appointment to have my eyes checked, later in the month.  I need to focus on a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting sufficient sleep. - I went to my medical appointments and started on the anti-hormone drug.  So far, I have not had any major adverse side effects - just a little fatigue and aches at times, but that could be for a number of reasons.  I seem to be having some sinus problems, however.  I will discuss it all with my doctor at my next appointment (in one week's time).  Still working on healthy eating, drinking enough water, exercising regularly, getting my sleep patterns under control, etc.  

Time Management:
- Always a struggle!  Focus on establishing a work schedule and routines.  But, at the same time, be mindful that I am still recovering and the new medications might have side effects which might have an impact on my energy levels.  -  Doing as well as can be expected, I think, given the heat and everything else!  Work assignments were completed on time; I've kept my medical and social appointments.  :)  Other things are fitted in between as energy and inclination permits! 

- Read at least one fiction and one non-fiction book; resume sewing the two quilts I have in progress; resume crocheting the rag rug.  - I did some reading but didn't finish two books, didn't resume sewing and didn't resume crocheting the rag rug.  :(  I did finish crocheting a baby blanket, made a card, listened to music, watched some TV programs, and played a lot of Solitaire! 

 And that is the review of my September monthly goals for a balanced life.  Definitely some wonky segments that need attention, but, for the most part, things are as balanced as they can be, under the circumstances.  I am not complaining.  I am grateful to be alive. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Headache on Thursday

I woke up with a headache, this morning.  I think it was a sinus pressure headache.  My sinuses have been bothering me, recently.  I shall bring it up when I meet with the doctor, next week.  It also felt like an eye ache, as well, and I wondered if I had an eye strain, due to staring at the computer screen most of the day.  All the office work I do is on the computer and, in between, I read blogs, etc.  I took a Tylenol, but the headache/eye ache lingered; I probably should have taken two Tylenols.

Still, I pushed through and completed my work assignment for today.  Then, I called my supervisor and discussed things with her and arranged to take a couple of days off.  In the afternoon, I retreated to the bedroom, put the air conditioner on, and rested with my eyes closed for an hour.  I didn't fall asleep, but the rest helped.  I also thought that I might be dehydrated and made it a point to drink water throughout the day.  Eventually, my headache went away.

My cousin called this evening and thanked me for helping out at the baby shower.  Later in the evening, one of my friends called to ask how I was and to offer her help with the preparations for the October prayer gathering I will be hosting.  Still later, I video chatted with daughter.

I watered the back garden this evening, since it has been so hot and dry.  But I didn't do any cleaning.  On the schedule for today was my daughter's room and the hallway.  Well, my daughter's room hasn't been used since she was home last, so it doesn't really need cleaning as such.  I wanted to tidy up the linen closet, which is in the hallway, but it can wait.  It is supposed to be cooler this weekend and I will get some cleaning done then.

I wasn't hungry for lunch, so I had a meal replacement drink, instead.  I had the leftover rice and stir-fry from yesterday for my dinner, with a battered frozen fish fillet which I baked in the toaster oven.  I had an apple with peanut butter for dessert.

Today, I am grateful for:

- The headache going away by evening
- Air conditioning!
- Call from cousin
- Call from friend and her offer of help
- Video chatting with daughter

How was your Thursday?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Still Hot on Wednesday

Yet another hot day, but the morning wasn't too bad.  The afternoon and early part of the evening was hot.

I had a productive day.  I did office work, put away the washed dishes, watered the front garden, and cleaned my bathroom.  I am still trying to follow the cleaning schedule I made for myself, but I need to adjust it a bit more.

I boiled two eggs and made egg salad for lunch.  For dinner, I made honey sesame chicken:

I cooked rice and stir-fried some broccoli and carrots to go with the chicken. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to work from home, still
- A productive day
- Listening to music while I work
- Cool mornings and nights
- Phone call from aunt

How was your Wednesday? 

Another Hot Day

It was another hot day, today, but with a high of 96F, it was almost 10 degrees cooler than it was yesterday.   I kept the windows closed and the drapes drawn for the most part, to keep the house cool.  But there is one member of the household who still enjoys catching a few rays:


I open the drapes at this one window for the plant; it is Dancer's favorite spot in the morning:

"Do you mind?  I was sleeping"
I spent the better part of the day doing office work.  But I took a break from work to wash all the dishes that had piled up and to wipe the kitchen counters and stove top.  The counters have stayed clear for the most part, I am happy to say.  I also called my doctor's office and left a message for my doctor regarding one of my medications.  And I spoke with my daughter's doctor's office.

Later in the evening, I took a short nap and then, took the car for a drive.  After I came home, I watched Dancing with the Stars and video chatted with my daughter.  I also listened to some music.  :)

My monthly gas bill came in:  $19.78; I like the summertime gas bills.

The water and power bill (bi-monthly; for the period 7/19/16 to 9/16/16) came in, too:  $246.36; broken down as follows:
electric = $94.09 for 597 kWh (out of 1,000 kWh at Tier 1 rates of $.14/kWh + 10% city tax + State energy surcharge)
water = $55.33 for 12 hundred cubic feet (out of 16 HCF at Tier 1 rates of $4.61/HCF)
sewer = $24.10
solid waste (trash collection) = $72.84 

In comparison, the previous water and power bill (for the period 5/18/16 to 7/19/16)  was $277.39 ( electric = $89.57; water = $63.17; sewer = $50.62; solid waste = $74.03).  I used less electricity last billing period (584 kWh) and the charge per kWh was less at $.13/kWh (plus city tax and State energy surcharges).  I used the same amount of water (12 HCF), but the charge was higher at $5.26/HCF.

The sewer charge is based on the amount of water used during the winter, when we are least likely to use water for irrigation (since winter is supposed to be our rainy season) plus a "dry winter" surcharge added.  But the previous billing period's sewer charge was based on 12 HCF of water usage, using two different rate (one rate for the first 43 days; a second, higher rate for the last 19 days) while the current bill seems to be based on 5 HCF of water use.  I am very confused, but I took a quick look at prior bills to compare and it seems that sewer charges fluctuate from one bill to another.  I seem to stay at or around the same amount of electricity usage from billing period to billing period; water usage fluctuate depending on season and how often I water the garden, and the trash fees remain more or less the same.

I generally budget $150/month towards the water and electric bill, so as long as the bill stays under $300, I am fine. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- a slightly cooler day
- keeping the kitchen counters clear
- my neighbor bringing in my trash cans for me
- an afternoon nap
- video chatting with my daughter; she shared a new recipe (for honey sesame chicken) with me  :)

Wednesday's To Do List:
- office work
- put away washed dishes
- try the new recipe daughter shared
- water the front garden
- clean my bathroom
- water the indoor plants

How was your Tuesday?  What have you planned for Wednesday?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Too Hot!

Today's high was 105F.  It was already hot when I woke up, so I made the wise decision to take it easy, today.  There is housework that needs to be done, but it will have to wait until it is cooler.  It is past 10:30 p.m. as I type this and it is still 85F.

I spent a quiet morning, reading and posting comments on blogs, responding to comments on mine, etc.  In the afternoon, I retreated to my bedroom, where I put on the a/c, read and listened to music.

Later in the evening, I watched the presidential debate, cleaned out the fridge, took the trash cans to the curb for pick up tomorrow, and watered the back garden.  Then, video chatted with my daughter.  
The forecast for tomorrow says it'll be hot again, but the high will be only 98F, not in the triple digits.  They call it a "cool down"!  :D

Today, I am grateful for:

- a room with air conditioning
- music to listen to
- water for the garden
- the cooler night winds
- chatting with my daughter

How was your Monday?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Baby Shower Gifts and Card

Today, there was a baby shower for the daughter of one of my cousins.  I had started crocheting the gift shortly after my cousin told me the good news and had it completed in good time:

Baby Blanket
I used yarn I had in my stash and colors which were gender neutral, since my cousin didn't know if it was a boy or a girl, at the time.  Both yarns have a silky thread woven in, which adds a bit of a sheen, although it is difficult to tell from the pictures.

Close Up of Blanket
Later, my cousin told me the gender of the baby, but I decided to stay with the neutral colors for the blanket.  Yesterday evening, I made the card:

Baby Shower Card
Card stock, scrapbooking paper, a bit of lace that had a light blue ribbon down the middle, a teddy bear button from my button box, and cutouts using stencils I had bought earlier, when I was scrapbooking my daughter's baby pictures.  All items I had on hand.

The envelope looked too plain, so I decorated it a bit, too:

There's a gingham heart at the back, to seal the envelope closed.

I had debated getting the mother-to-be a gift card from the store she's registered at, but I decided to give a cash gift, instead, so she can buy whatever is needed from any store.  She lives in New York and flew in for the shower, so she can't carry a lot of stuff back with her, but I am hoping she'll find room for the blanket in her bag. 

One of my other cousins and her daughter and I went to the shower together.  My cousin who is the grandmother-to-be had asked us to come an hour and a half before the shower started, to help her with setting out the food, etc.  Afterwards, we stayed to help clean up, so I didn't get home till later in the evening.  But it was a lovely afternoon and evening, spent in the company of family and friends. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to attend the baby shower
- Being able to help my cousin with her party
- Seeing family and friends again
- My daughter lending me a blouse to wear to the party
- Getting some of the leftovers to bring home for my lunch tomorrow

How was your Saturday?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Friday's Productivity

Friday was a productive day.  I spent a good part of the day doing office work.  I was able to complete this week's assignment and send it in by the end of the day.  I am now ready to relax over the weekend and take Monday off, without worrying about work.

I listened to some music for part of the day and even sang along, albeit a bit off key!  

Later in the evening, I spent a pleasant hour or so making a card for my cousin's daughter's baby shower, tomorrow.  I had some help with making the card, of course:

Selecting the Paper

He helped to select the paper by plopping down on it, tried to eat some of the trimming, swatted my hand when I took it away from him, and generally supervised me.

 Ah, but card making is tiring:

Sleeping on the Job!

I will show the gift and the card I made, tomorrow.

One of my aunts called and we had a long chat, which was nice.  I also video chatted with my daughter.  She was tired after a long week.

Friday's gratitude:
- Completing my week's works assignments
- Listening to music
- Video chatting with my daughter
- Having fun making a card
- Having help with the card making

How was your Friday?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pondering Joy Lists as Autumn Begins

The Daily Cup of Joy

Today is the first day of Autumn or Fall, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.  Here, in Southern California, the first days of autumn still feel like summer, with temperatures in the 90s and even 100+.  Today is the coolest day this week, with a high of only 80F; the forecast says highs in the upper 90s by the weekend.   

Laura has posted an autumn joy list in her blog, here.  It's a list of things to do that will bring joy to her.  When I read it, I thought, what a great idea!  We can all do with a little more joy in our lives!  I should make a joy list, too.  There are so many things that bring joy to me that I don't take the time to do.  But, on the other hand, I don't want it to be yet another "To Do" list, either!  I have enough of those, as well!  Still, I would like to make a list of things to do that is intended to bring me joy.  I will incorporate it into my goals for a more balanced life.

I already do a few things that bring joy to me on a daily basis.  One of them is drink my morning and afternoon cups of tea using a proper cup and saucer, as opposed to a mug, and using my good china to do so.    This particular china is special to me.  I had always admired the pattern and coveted it.  But it was pricey and I didn't feel right about spending so much on myself on something I didn't really need, especially when I had other china, already.  But my daughter observed how I'd stop by the china section of the store to admire this particular set, almost every time we went to the store.  So, she bought me the set for my 50th birthday!  It was a very special birthday, she told me, and deserved a very special gift.  The downside to using the good china on a daily basis is...accidents happen.  I dropped the sugar canister on the counter, one morning, and it knocked against the cup and broke off the handle.  I felt so bad about it, but my lovely daughter bought me a replacement cup and saucer, which is what I use now.  The rest of the set is in the china cabinet, to be used very occasionally and very carefully!

Another thing that brings me joy, which I do daily, is video chat with my daughter.  And I begin and end each day with prayer, which brings me more than joy.  I don't know if I should list these daily occurring joy-bringing activities on my list, but I guess I will.

For my initial list of joys, I shall follow Laura's example and make it a seasonal list, from now until Thanksgiving.

List of Autumn Joys:

1.  Continue to begin and end each day with prayer
2.  Continue to drink my tea using my special cup and saucer
3.  Continue to chat daily with my daughter
4.  Decorate my house for fall (in October) and for Thanksgiving (in November)
5.  My daughter's visits home  (1 planned for in October; 2 in November)
6.  Attend up-coming family gathering for cousin's daughter's baby shower
7.  Make some cards using items I have on hand
8.  Host the October prayer gathering
9.  Visit my mother's grave on her birthday (October) - both joyful and sad at the same time
10. Celebrate my birthday (November)
11. Celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family
12. Go to the Sri Lankan grocery store and indulge!
13. Go out to dinner with a friend
14. Go out to lunch with sister
15. Invite cousin and aunt to dinner
16. Spend more time gardening
17. Continue to work on on-going craft projects
18. Visit the library
19. Read a book (or two, or more)
20. Listen to music 
21. Play the piano
22. Sing
23. Bake something when it is cooler
24. Visit my neighbors
25. Go out to dinner with an aunt (and maybe a cousin)

So that is my Autumn joy list!    Yes, it includes several things to do, but, they are things that will bring joy. 

Today, I spent the day doing office work for the most part.  I did take a short break to stroll around the garden, to admire the hibiscus flowers and the few roses that are blooming.  Later in the evening, I took the car for a drive! 

Today, I am grateful for:

- Slightly cooler weather
- Inspiration from other bloggers
- Friends who keep in touch
- The garden continuing to limp along
- Video chatting with my daughter

How was your first day of autumn?  Have you made a joy list before?  Is it something you might like to do?  What are some of the things that bring you joy? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

International Day of Peace

Day on the Calendar

Today, September 21, is designated as International Day of Peace by the United Nations.  My calendar marked the day and Angela posted about it on her blog, here.  Surely peace, both within ourselves and among all nations and people, is something we would all like to have?  Would wish and pray for?  Yet it remains so elusive.

An Offering of Flowers
I would like to think that I do my part to facilitate peace.  Today, I picked some flowers (plumbago flowers, in this case) from my garden and made an offering of flowers at my altar.  In Buddhism, the offering of flowers is a meditation on the impermanence of all things.  It is a reminder that just as the flowers fade and die, so do we and we have only this brief time in which to do meritorious deeds.   And I lit a candle, which is a symbol of the light of wisdom:

An Offering of Light
And I said a prayer for there to be peace and well-being within ourselves and among us all. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- A day devoted to the ideal of peace throughout the world
- An opportunity to pray for peace
- Flowers from the garden and what they symbolize
- The light of the candle and what it symbolizes
- Those who strive for peace

It would be lovely if every day was Peace Day, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday: Eye Appointment

Today, I had an appointment to have my eyes checked by the ophthalmologist.  I had asked one of my cousins if she could accompany me and drive me back, afterwards, because my eyes would be dilated and it takes a little time for it to wear off.  My cousin was very willing to accompany me.  The doctor said everything was fine with my eyes, except I have the beginnings of cataracts; I am to return in one year's time.

I invited my cousin to stay to lunch, but she declined.  So, I packed up the last of the waffles I had made and sent them home with her, for her mother.  I also wanted to give her some chicken curry to take back with her, but she declined, saying she had a lot of food in her fridge.  Later, when my aunt called to thank me for the waffles, I got the impression that she would have liked some of my chicken curry, as well.  I shall be sure to send some home with my cousin the next time she accompanies me to one of my medical appointments.

After my cousin left, I had lunch (a roast beef sandwich) and did a load of laundry.  Then, I took a nap.  Later, I cooked a beef stew for my dinner:

Beef Stew

Beef, onions, carrots, potatoes, and green beans, some Worcestershire sauce, pepper and salt.  There's enough leftover for two more servings. 

The ground beef I bought on Sunday has been browned with onions, finely diced celery and grated carrots.  I had a little of it with some mashed potatoes, last night, for dinner.  The rest was divided into two portions and frozen.  

Today, I am grateful for:

- My eye exam went well; nothing was wrong except for the beginnings of cataracts
- My cousin accompanied me and drove me home, afterwards
- An afternoon nap
- Phone calls from aunt and another cousin; emails from friends; video chatting with my daughter
- Returning taste buds!

 According to the news, there were rain showers to the south of us.  But we didn't get any rain where I live. 

How was your day?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Documenting the Rain

It rained this afternoon! 

I had gone outside, a bit earlier, to take the kitchen trash to the big black trash bin, outside.  It was warm and unusually humid, and I noticed that there were some dark clouds moving in.

It was blue skies with puffy white clouds on one side:

To the North

But the clouds were moving in from the south:

To the South-West

The cloud cover is due to some weather activity over the Pacific Ocean, according to the weather report, which said to expect some scattered light showers.

Clouds to the South

While I was taking pictures of the clouds, I noticed that there was another spike of flowers on another branch of the yucca plant:

Another Flower Spike on the Yucca

A few minutes later, I heard the sound of rain and ran outside to document it!  

Rain Drops on the Paved Walkway Taken at 1:44 p.m.

This is a picture of the back garden while it was raining!  Do you see the rain? 

Garden in the Rain

The rain lasted less than 5 minutes!  I took another picture of the paved area 5 minutes after I took the picture of the rain drops.  It had all dried up: 

Paved Area Photographed at 1:49 p.m.

But the soil still showed where the rain fell - see those dark spots?  I think we must have received about 50 drops of rain!  LOL.  Bright sunshine, now, although there's still a bit of cloud cover.  The weather forecasters are still saying to expect scattered light showers, tomorrow.  Well, this particular shower was definitely light!

Dark, Wet Spots Where the Rain Fell
The picture above is of the back "lawn", by the way.  If you look really closely, you can even make out a blade or two of grass. 

We are going to need a lot more rain that what we received this afternoon to erase the effects of the drought.

Have you had any rain, lately?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

September Grocery Shopping Week 3

Went grocery shopping, again, this afternoon.  I mostly wanted to buy bread and some roast beef cold cuts (have been having a craving for 2 weeks) and to take advantage of a sale on soda - 6 pack bottles for $1.99 (+ Calif. Redemption Value) with the purchase of 4 participating items (preparing for the October prayer gathering).  Also wanted to buy some non-grocery household cleaning products and items.  I had some coupons, so I was able to get some good deals on the groceries.

September 18 Groceries
I bought:
1 loaf bread = $1.99
1 pkg. roast beef cold cuts; reg. price $4.49; on sale this week for $2.99; minus $.75 off coupon = $2.24
1 lb. pkg. ground beef; reg. price $6.49; on sale today (sell by date: 9/19) = $1.99
2 pkg. smoked sausages, on sale for $2.50@; minus coupon for $1 off 2 = $4.00
3 6-pk bottles of soda (only 1 shown) @ $1.99 + $.30 CRV; minus 3 $1.00 off coupons = $3.87
1 6-pk bottles of soda (not shown) @$1.99 + $.30 CRV = $2.29
Total:  $16.38


The total receipt came to $29.48.  Of which, $13.10 was for non-grocery items ($1.99 for Pine-Sol cleaner, $5.69 for Lime-Away cleaner; $3.58 for 2 boxes of small trash bags @$1.79; plus $1.84 tax for non-food items).  Since my grocery budget doesn't include household items, I usually deduct them from my total.  My grocery (food items only) total came to: $29.48 - $13.10 = $16.38.

Total spent on groceries so far in September = $5.86 + $4.80 + $4.83 + $9.49 + $16.38 = $41.36

Balance left in budget = $77.95 - $41.36 = $36.59

I wasn't planning to buy ground beef as I have a packet of browned ground beef in the freezer.  But the reduced sticker caught my eye and seeing it was reduced to $1.99, I decided another package would be OK. There were two packets of the reduced ground beef and I was debating whether to get them both.  But another shopper was also looking at the ground beef, and so, I took one package and pointed out the other reduced priced one to her.  I will brown this package of ground beef, too, and freeze it. 

It was the same story with the smoked sausages.  I wasn't planning to buy them, but they were on sale for $2.50 each and I had a coupon for $1 off the purchase of 2, making the final price of each package $2.00, which is my price point for smoked sausages.  I put both packages in the freezer, for later. So much for eating from the freezer, this month!

How is your grocery shopping and budget coming along?  Would you buy an item if it was on sale, even if it wasn't on your shopping list? 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Flowers on Saturday

My gardener friend brought me flowers from his garden, this morning.  A gardenia and roses.  They look lovely on the living room mantel and perfume the whole room:

On the Living Room Mantel

He also brought me this lovely red rose; the other rose in the vase is from my garden:

More Roses

We found a plant growing in the middle of the back garden, which my gardener thinks is a mimosa plant.  I suppose the seed was dropped by a bird or maybe the wind blew it?  He dug it up and planted it in a pot for now.  We will plant it in a different area of the garden, later, when it is bigger.  Any plant that volunteers to grow in my garden under present conditions will be quite welcome! 

Later, I made waffles for brunch and I had them with chicken curry.  I took a picture of my brunch to post here.  Then, daughter sent me a picture of her lunch and I deleted my picture! 

Daughter's Lunch

Spaghetti squash, broccoli, chicken and bok choy stir-fry, bell pepper confetti.  I told daughter that she needs to come down and cook for me!

I felt a little tired, today, and took a nap in the afternoon.  As a result, I didn't do any housework, except doing the dishes and wiping down the kitchen counters.  The kitchen counters have stayed clear, I am happy to say.  Later in the evening, I watered the front garden.

Today, I am grateful for:

- The gift of lovely flowers
- A volunteer mimosa plant
- Phone call from my sister
- Phone call from aunt
- Video chatting with daughter

I hope I will feel more energetic tomorrow.

How was your Saturday?

Salad Day!

My daughter sent me a picture of her lunch, today:

Daughter's Lunch
Doesn't it look lovely?  Romaine lettuce, radish, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and almonds.  Inspired by her lunch, I, too, made a salad for my lunch!  Iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumber, strawberries, and toasted cashews, with Catalina salad dressing:

My Lunch
Her picture looks so much better than mine!  She said she used a filter and I have no idea how to do that.

My dinner wasn't quite as healthy as lunch, though:

Spaghetti pasta mixed with leftover cream of chicken soup, sliced sauted chicken breast, green peas, some bacon crumbled, and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Fresh guavas from my cousin's tree for dessert:

Besides preparing meals and eating, I did my office work, today, and submitted this week's assignments.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Another cooler day (today's high was only 82F; we'll be going up to 99F on Sunday)
- Healthy lunches
- Getting my work done
- Fresh guavas
- Chatting with daughter, cousin, and aunt

How was your Friday?   

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cooking with Bless: Lentil (Dhal) Curry and Sauted Okra

Lentil (dhal) curry, sauted okra, with beef curry and rice

Last week, I cooked a lentil curry and okra.  I don't have a recipe with specific amounts, as such, but here's how I prepared these two dishes.

Lentil (dhal) curry:  there are several different ways to prepare a lentil curry and many different varieties of lentils, but this is my preferred way.

Lentil Curry Ingredients

Red lentils, curry powder, turmeric powder, diced onions, a sprig of fresh curry leaves, a lemon.  Missing from my picture are green chilies (I was actually out of green chilies and substituted dried red chilies, instead), garlic, ginger, and cinnamon sticks.  I am not accustomed to setting out and assembling all my ingredients before I cook - I generally start cooking and then, add my ingredients as I go.  Sometimes, I will add mustard seeds; I chose not to, this time. 

Step 1 is to wash the lentils in several changes of water (at least 4) until the water is clear and not cloudy.  For this particular dish, which made enough for at least a couple of servings, I used about 1/2 cup of lentils.  I chose red lentils which do not need to be soaked first, before cooking.  I put the washed lentils in a pot and added enough water to cover the lentils with about 1/2 inch of water (I rest the very tip of my middle finger on the top of the lentils and the water should come up to the line of the first finger joint): 

Washed red lentils covered with water

Add a little salt and bring to a boil.  While it is coming to a boil, I add the other ingredients - the chopped onions, the curry leaves stripped off the stem, a half-teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of curry powder, etc.:

Coming to a boil after the ingredients have been added

It was around this time that I realized that I didn't have any green chilies in the freezer and substituted two dried red chilies; leave the chilies whole if you don't want the dish to be too spicy, cut them up if you want more heat:

With the dried red chilies added

I stirred everything and boiled the lentils until they were soft and cooked.  Add more water, if needed.   Once the lentils are soft, it is time to add some milk.  I added about half a can of coconut milk.  If you don't have coconut milk, regular milk can be added.  I have not tried using other types of milk, such as soy milk, almond milk, etc., but I suppose they may be used as well.

After the coconut milk was added

After the milk is added, add some lemon juice.  In Sri Lanka, we would normally use lime juice.  I have 3 lemon trees in my garden and plenty of lemons, so I use lemon juice, rather than buy limes.  Continue to cook a bit longer, until the coconut milk is heated through and the lentil curry has a consistency you like.  Some people like it a thinner, more sauce like consistency.  I tend to prefer it a thicker consistency.  It will also thicken a bit more as it cools:

The completed dhal curry

Lentil curry used to be served almost daily, when I was growing up, as one of my half-brothers used to refuse to eat if there was no lentil curry.  It is served with bread or rice noodles for breakfast, with rice for lunch, with rice, or rice noodles, or bread for dinner.  Lentils and rice, like peanut butter and bread, is considered a complete protein.  Very often, spinach is added to the lentils and, sometimes, tomatoes. 

Sauted Okra:  Okra is known as "ladies' fingers" in Sri Lanka.  Again, there are different ways of preparing okra curries, but this is the way my mother used to cook it and my preferred way, because the final product is not very slimy.  This method of cooking is known as "thel dala" in Sinhalese (my native language), which translates as "put in oil".  I will refer to it as sauted, because, essentially, it is the same thing.


Sauted Okra Ingredients

Okra, dark roasted curry powder, diced onions, and the item I left out of the picture: Maldive fish chips.  I prefer what is known as dark roasted curry powder when I make sauted dishes, but one can use regular curry powder, as well.  Or, dry roast a couple of spoons of regular curry powder in a saute pan without any oil until a bit darker in color to make your own dark roasted curry powder.

Step 1:  Wash the whole okra, pat them dry, and slice diagonally.  According to my mother, leaving water on the okra makes them slimier.

Sliced Okra

Step 2:  Heat a table spoon or so of oil (I use canola oil for the most part, but you can use whatever oil you prefer), in a saute pan, add the sliced okra and onions, a couple of heaping teaspoons of curry powder and a teaspoon of Maldive fish chips (can be omitted; it is used in our cooking as a flavoring condiment), season with salt, and, I confess I added a bit of chili powder, as well:

All the ingredients in the saute pan

Stir and cook until the okra is cooked through and tender, but not over-cooked (probably 5 minutes or so).  I added a little bit of lemon juice at the very end, as well.

The cooked okra

This is about the only way I will eat okra and I have only made it with fresh okra.  I don't know how frozen okra will be.   

Do you think you might try making lentils and okra this way?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Garden in September

The garden isn't doing all that well, but there are still a few bright spots:


We used to call them "shoe flowers" when I was growing up.  I don't know why they were called that, but we never called them hibiscus.

Hibiscus Close Up

 The oranges are still growing:


 At the very far end of the you see what I see?  That spike of white flowers:

Yucca in Flower

I tried to do a close up, but not very successfully:


My poor little peach tree; hope it makes it through the winter and comes back in the spring:

Peach Tree

 The berries on the schefflera plant look very colorful and fall-like, don't they?
Colorful Berries

Matched by the pomegranates:


A bit of color from the gazanias:


They are drought tolerant and seem to be doing well:

Gazanias, Close Up

This plant is a species of Commelina, also known as "day flower".  It is considered a weed in some places.  But mine comes from a few cuttings I took from a plant a co-worker had in the office, way back in 1983!  I rooted it in water and grew it in a pot.  Many years later, it spread from the planter and has found some shady areas in which to grow:


It has the prettiest blue flowers:

Blurry Commelina Flower

My gardener and I have our work cut out for us, this fall.  Lots of cleaning up and consolidating. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- Having a garden at all
- The plants that are still surviving the drought and neglect
- The flowers are that still blooming and brightening up the garden
- The fruits that are still forming
- Knowing the garden will continue to grow with a little more TLC

How is your garden coming along?