gifts from heaven.

It's that time of year again. I told you this would happen. My Christmas cheer has been packed up with the ornaments and Christmas tree and has been replaced with the following:

1) Daydreaming about the garden
2) Daydreaming about food
3) Daydreaming about the ocean

It's like clockwork, really. It's how I monitor the comings and goings of Winter. The good news is, we're halfway there. The bad news is, well, we're halfway not there.
The problem is, this winter so far is pretty much a rip-off. We've been sorely lacking in inclement weather. No blowing and drifting. No trees cloaked in ice. Nothing but bitter cold interspersed with general wimpery.

I have been making some mental notes about my annual To-Do List. I'm sure it seems like such a list is not necessary, but it really helps me to stay on task. In its absence, I end up wandering aimlessly around JoAnn, intoxicated by the scents of plastic flowers and lead based paint. I start to forget that I need a storage container of specific dimensions and instead buy a few more yards of vintagey looking fabric (for when I learn how to sew) or something I don't need for scrap booking. 

Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

But I've found that it's easier to rationalize adding to the pile of unnecessary objects when you also throw something into the "To Buy" category. 

 I spotted a dime while I was there and I stopped to pick it up because a.) I felt bendy enough to do so, b.) I was in a waste not/want not frame of mind and c.) I thought it might be a message from my dad.  Or David, or for that matter, Lily.

I've read that those who once lived and once loved us can learn, once they get to the other side, to manipulate matter.  It's not easy, though, so mostly they leave small things in our paths to help us find them and to let us know they are watching over us.  Things like pennies and dimes and the odd ring or plastic beads.

This makes total sense when you think about all the little things out there lying around, all the pennies and dimes and tiny rocks.  They didn't just get there by themselves.  They are gifts from heaven.  So when I see one, I pick it up and say thanks.  It usually sounds something like this:
Thanks Dad.  Or Lily, if that was you.  Or Oma or Uncle Martin or Emma....?  Anyway, thanks everyone. Sure do miss you. 

It's just a dime, but that dime, it raises a lot of questions, assuming someone from the other side did just leave it there for me to find.  Questions like, is it really here for me?  I mean, I found it, but is that the way it's supposed to work?  Was this really meant for someone else? Am I stealing someone else's dime?  And how am I supposed to know who it's from?   Do  dimes always mean it's from Dad?  I would  think he'd leave quarters because he was always collecting those new state quarters, but maybe he can only push around dimes right now.  Dad, if you are listening, can you send me quarters?  

After my mother-in-law died I kept finding these little feathers everywhere.  Those things were worse than the lego infestation that I suffered when my boys were little.  That sounds ungrateful, I know.  It's not that I'm ungrateful, but dimes are a lot more useful so I was happy when the tiny feather supply was exhausted.

After my dad died, I spotted a black and white cat in my backyard.  She would just sit there and stare at the house for hours. all the live long day. The cat kept showing up, so I named it Butter (after my father).  I started feeding Butter because I thought she was a stray.  Naturally, Butter started hanging out at my house a lot more often.  Then one day, while gardening, my neighbor Cindy and her cat Lucy came over and started chatting with me.  Cindy and her cat, Lucy.  Lucy looked a lot like Butter.  As it turns out, my father apparently inhabits the body of a cat named Lucy.  Now I call her Lucy Butter.

Side note* I wrote the draft for this blog early Wednesday morning then went about my day. Dad must have read my blog because I found a state quarter when I took mom to dialysis, and another one when I picked up her prescription at the pharmacy. Hand to heart this is the first time I have ever found stray quarters, and both times were when I was doing something for mom. You are welcome dad, I miss you.  It was a good day and I'm inclined to give at least partial credit to finding gifts from heaven. I walked around feeling sunny and grateful and more than a little sorry to see it end.

just sayin'. 

Orange Glazed Meatballs with Baby Bok Choy and Brown Rice
serves 4

1⅛ Pounds Ground Beef
1½ Cups Long Grain Brown Rice
4 Cloves Garlic
3 Scallions
1 Navel Orange
1 Pound Baby Bok Choy
1 1-Inch Piece Ginger
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
⅓ Cup Sweet Chili Sauce
¼ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
¼ Cup Ponzu Sauce

In a small pot, combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 3 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the cooked rice with a fork.

While the rice cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Cut off and discard the root ends of the scallions; thinly slice the white bottoms and cut the green tops into ½-inch pieces. Cut off and discard the root ends of the bok choy; roughly chop the leaves and stems. Halve the orange and squeeze the juice into a medium bowl, straining out the seeds; discard the orange halves. To make the orange glaze, add the ponzu sauce, sweet chili sauce and cornstarch to the bowl of orange juice; whisk until thoroughly combined.

While the rice continues to cook, in a large pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 2 teaspoons of oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, ginger and white bottoms of the scallions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Wipe out the pan.

While the rice continues to cook, add the ground beef and breadcrumbs to the bowl of cooked aromatics; season with salt and pepper. Mix until just combined. Using your hands, form the mixture into 18 to 20 equal-sized meatballs.

In the pan used to cook the aromatics, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium until hot. Add the meatballs; season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Add the bok choy and ¼ cup of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the bok choy leaves have wilted.

Add the orange glaze (stirring just before adding) to the pan of meatballs and bok choy; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened and the meatballs are thoroughly coated. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the cooked rice and finished meatballs and bok choy between 4 plates. Garnish with the green tops of the scallions. Enjoy!


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