On top of the Mount

On top of the Mount
Mount Maunganui, NZ

Search This Blog

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Make Up Meatballs

     Make Up Meatballs

There are times in your life (or in your month) when make up relations - I mean, talking, isn't practical. Or your partner won't go there. To the couch, I mean, to talk. That's when you must pull out Make Up Meatballs, especially if watching “The Godfather” on TV has inspired you to cook spaghetti. I won't bore you with reasons behind the need for making up. But lately, it feels like someone's swapped my Pinot Gris for pickle juice. The husband's been equally joyous at my even-temperedness and grace. Rather, he’s less-than- thrilled by my lack of both. As Forrest Gump said, "That's all I have to say about that."

I will, however, give you the recipe for Make Up Meatballs (which Pete cooked and I named). They work a treat when served with a steaming tangle of spaghetti, buttery garlic bread and a green salad and broccoli (the last two cleanse the palate between the second round of bread and sauce). 


Saute garlic in a teaspoon of olive oil. Add a couple tablespoons of canned tomato and garlic pasta sauce (I used a 420-gram can of Pam's tomato and garlic).
Scrape garlic and sauce mixture into a slow cooker with a can of chopped tomatoes and the remainder of the pasta sauce.
Add mixed Italian herbs and a splash of red wine.
Simmer, covered, on low for at least 4 hours along with meatballs (recipe follows).

Meatballs:
One-half kilo (1 pound) of ground beef (called mince in NZ)
1/4 cup milk 
½ cup bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
teaspoon minced garlic
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup  mozzarella cheese
Italian herbs

Mix mince with all ingredients at once (Pete says, "I threw it in together and mixed it up like Playdough").

Fry meatballs in a "tiny bit of oil" (for Pete, that equates to 3 tablespoons) on  medium heat for 5 - 10 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes, then add meatballs to the slow cooker sauce.

Serve over steaming spaghetti and use to sop up garlic bread. Serve red wine to the adults.

Take your time eating this meal and see what develops. After 15 minutes, the meatballs take effect and your significant other will start talking about how everyone at the table can do nice things for each other. He may even nod as you recite one of the Mom Commandments: "If Mama's not happy, nobody's happy." 
 
Fiona likes sauce on the side
Mama's happy. Kiss and Make Up the Meatballs, Hon.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thanks for the Memories - The Wedding Video

                       Thanks for the Memories
                           The Wedding Video


No gift is received in a vacuum (and men, no vacuum is a gift). We get presents while spinning grown-up plates: parent plates, work plates, household plates, spouse-got-laid-off plates. Imagine you’re juggling that kind of crockery, wondering how long before the job comes (or doesn’t); how long before the kids comply (or don’t); how long before you and your spouse climb back aboard the ship-in-the-old harbor… How long before you stop acting, well, um, bitchy.

You’re juggling while doing the breakfast, lunch and dinner dance…the dance you didn’t used to do because at least one of you was out slaying dragons each day and the other pretended she was Queen of the House when she wasn't at work while the kids were in school. In the middle of the pas de deux (step of two), you get the gift that reminds you why you’re here…

My sister, Heather, just sent me a picture montage of our July Spokane wedding. Heather drove more than four hours from a town in the Cascade mountains outside Seattle to attend the event. Since she’s also a talented photographer, I asked if she’d shoot the wedding. 

I don’t yet have the pictures, but now I have the montage, set to Pete and my song – “Easy,” by Lionel Richie. Heather’s photos and the way she edited the slide show capture the mood of the day – I watched the video with teary eyes, nodding my head to say, ‘Yes, that’s how it was.’ The man I so freely expressed love for on our wedding day(s) is the same guy who needs my affection more than ever.

Thanks, Sis. I needed that.

See the video here: Wedding Video


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Parting Gifts


Parting Gifts




I ate toast with Deb’s almond butter this morning. And another piece of toast with her pesto.  The top shelf of our fridge is filled with Deb’s condiments, which I requested just before she left. The idea occurred to me because my Air Force friend, Shelby, years ago presented me with a box of bottles before she and her family moved from Spokane to Colorado. Shelby said it was military tradition – the parting gift of mustards, sauces, chutneys and jams. We used the stuff to flavor, season and disguise food for months. With every splash of soy or dash of Tabasco, we thought of the Baslers.

Condiments are a sweet-and-sour inheritance from moving mates, a pragmatic solution to the question, ‘Do-I-throw-out-this-half-full-jam?’ Don’t pitch it, pass it on…

The night before she and her family left New Zealand to return to Spokane, Deb came by with two boxes of food. Not just ketchup and mustard, but a whole bag of frozen peas, a kilogram of ground beef, unopened bottles of cider and wine... “I hope it’s okay,” she said.

Ask Deb for a cup of milk and you’ll get a dairy farm. During our last girls’ night on the town (a raucous affair that had us sipping a single glass of wine for two hours at a restaurant whose menu is organized into chapters, plus an introduction, notes and epilogue), Deb picked up the tab.

“No, you got it last time,” I said. “It’s my turn.”

“Oh, I don’t keep track of that stuff,” she said.

She also bought our dinner at a Mexican restaurant two nights before she left. Don't tell her I told you.


The best people I know don’t keep score. They’ll give you a spare bed, bicycle, computer, a place to stay, then forget about it. That’s so Deb. So Shelby. So Lee, Leanne, Jennifer, Donna, Paula, Louise, Cheryl… 

We’re rich not because of stuff (never the stuff!) but for what friends teach us – long after we leave our parents' homes, friends instruct us how to be nicer. When they’re gone, we miss their presence – and their subliminal coaching. Any act of kindness I've performed the past two decades is largely the result of what my friends have shown me to do.

I didn’t know Deb before she moved to Mount Maunganui. Mutual friends from Spokane connected us after she got a job doctoring for a practice across the bridge in Tauranga. Deb had decided to fulfill a decades-old desire to live in New Zealand. Because she has a fiancĂ© and an ex-husband in the States, she’d have just one year to live the dream. Over several emails, I suggested places she might consider renting and steered her from neighborhoods I deemed dodgy. I circled the perimeter of a house she found online and told her it looked great.

We developed the immediate kinship two expats form with someone from their old town. We could talk about Spokane’s lake culture, harsh winters, favorite vacation spots and about more important issues – family and relationships.

Deb dove into New Zealand like a Kiwi, just back from overseas, tucks into steak and cheese pie – unreservedly, with gusto. She’d climb the Mount and cycle the Karangahake Gorge before noon, then spend the afternoon paddle boarding in the ocean. She said her adopted home was the first place she felt deep in her bones she belonged. 

Colleagues and patients embraced Doctor Deb, showering her with freshly-baked pies, mountain bike trips and that most precious commodity – time.  

The day she left, with tears in her eyes and a box of tissues tucked into her elbow, she said, “I feel like a baby being ripped from its mother’s arms.”

She paused while hanging a wide-brimmed straw hat in the hallway of her rental house. “You want this? It’s ours, but we're not bringing it.”

I’ll take the hat, but I’d rather you stay.

I write this not just as a see-you-later for my friend, but as a reminder we can all be the spark for someone else. We can revel in our corner of the world rather than lament what we lack. Our sunsets are numbered. Deb’s year abroad has flown for us both – another signal of time eluding our grasp, slipping like sand through a sieve.

A journalism mentor once told our class, “There are two kinds of stories – ‘Going on a journey,’ and ‘The stranger comes to town.’” 

Sometimes, when the stranger comes to town, she takes us on a journey – a trip to rediscover wonder and the possibilities of place.

And when wonder makes me hungry, I smile as I open yet another parting gift - the jar of almond butter in the fridge.