Thursday, December 29, 2011

Food For Thought

"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,"Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) The Psychology of Taste 1825

"If the divine creator has taken paines to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony." Fernand Point

These quotes sum up the attitude and approach to food in our home. I don't really know how it happened. Maybe it was David's passion for food. Maybe it was my obsession with unprocessed, whole foods. And as with most kids, they're just always hungry. Whatever the reason, food is a big deal in our home, even for those of us (me) who don't particularly enjoy cooking.

During the holidays with so many preferences, likes, and dislikes, creative orchestration best describes our attempt to make beautiful, tasty dishes that appeal to everybody. For David and Patrick there needs to be a strong element of creativity and uniqueness to the dish. For Olivia the menu must contain a dish of 'comfort food' usually in the form of potatoes. For Justyn and Dominic, dessert is a must, often in the form of chocolate. For Andrew, quantity is the key. For me, everything has to be made with fresh ingredients except for the phyllo dough which nobody knows how to make. Besides the stuff in the frozen section of the market looks too safe to pass up.

With all this activity in the kitchen and the slew of dishes that go with it, this year I did the unforgiveable. I used paper plates. We livened it up by using bright red chargers, holly berry glass tumblers, and a very 'happy' Scandinavian table cloth. Then we threw in a little Charlie Brown Christmas Music CD and, ta da, we have a wonderful Christmas dinner. The only thing we were missing were friends and family but we chalked that up to being new to Texas. We hope next year to add that to the symphony for a perfect composition!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy New Year - Moving on...or not

As the world crouches on the doorstep of another new year, I anticipate 2012 with a mix of excitement, apprehension, and uncertainty. Our world has undergone dramatic change since the new millennium but so has our life as a family. Andrew graduated high school in Canada this spring then an unanticipated move six weeks later had him scrambling for college applications, high school transcripts (four different high schools) and a new job.

AJ, I'm proud of you! You're doing great!

A number of years ago I travelled to Hong Kong on a two week pleasure trip. I had always thought I would travel to western Europe first, anticipating English being widely spoken there. When the opportunity came for me to go to Hong Kong and China, I jumped at the chance although I was naive as to the cultural shock I would experience. The intense smells of foreign food cooking on the streets, listening to various dialects of Chinese being spoken everywhere, and the noise and filth of a big city was overwhelming. This was my first international trip and the homesickness I experienced then was similar to what I am experiencing now as I attempt to settle into a new home. Homesickness carries with it a longing for the familiar, for what we consider to be home. For the past five years as we've moved from place to place I've experienced this same longing for which I'm still grappling. When one is more comfortable "en route" than "at home" it's a sure sign that some major adjustments are on the horizon. Combine this with the significant changes we've seen in American culture over the past ten years I often wake up with the disorientation I felt while travelling.

It is my hope that this wandering part of our life has come to an end.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Big Brown Bears Biking Backwards

In my last posting I introduced Hobbes, our recently adopted Black Lab. Every morning this lovable pooch follows me around the house until we have our morning walk. As I am excitedly ushered out the door, it occurrs to me that I am being ‘hounded’. Hounded by a hound, ah ha, I get it! At the risk of being repetitive about the dog, it’s really just an excuse to share with you my love for words.

Logophilia (logos: word and philia: love), a love of words. I discovered my love for words when I began reading to my young children, then in my study of Latin and again when I took Greek at the seminary my husband attended. In the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, the main character’s father said all English words can be traced to Greek. This tongue in cheek statement really hits at the heart of unlocking the English language.

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during WWII argued that all Englishmen should be taught English. Was he implying the British were not speaking English? Of course not. His statement cried out for true mastery of the English language. “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat” is a well known quote by Churchill. The three languages are interchangeable and are keys to mastering our native tongue.

Please take a leap with me from Greek and Latin to Dr. Seuss. Why? It all comes down to logophilia!

In addition to etymology words, like art, can be both poetic and humorous.

In Dr. Seusses "ABC Book" we find:
“Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumblebee”.

Or Berenstain Bears “B Book” where we find:
“Big Black Bears Biking Backward”

Read this to a toddler and watch their face light up. A few levels up from Dr. Seuss we find:

“Not so long ago, they say,
A mother lived – just like today.
Mrs. Peters was her name;
Her little boy was named the same.
Now Peter was a perfect son
In every way - except for one...”

How could one not love this poetic playful paragraph. Mary Ann Hoberman’s 19 page illustrated children’s book, The Seven Silly Eaters was unintentionally memorized by each of my kids after it became a regular part of our read-aloud ritual. The fluidity of the words simply rolled from their tongues. Recently my eldest daughter, who is now 20, asked me if I enjoyed teaching her and her siblings to read. I told her it was the funnest thing I’ve ever done. Uh oh, funnest isn’t a word! The point is it was fun, fun, fun.

Working as an interior designer and having a passion for color, I have always felt that words, like color, add dimension, depth, and beauty to any creative endeavor. When we think of green, the next questions comes ‘what shade?’ Olive green, meadow green, celadon green, mint green, seafoam green…the choices are endless. A thesaurus is like an artists color palette where we get a glimpse of shades in word meanings

Some words, especially the Greek or Latin rooted kind find their way to my heart quickly. Some words feel like intruders, prying their way into my vocabulary. Am I the only one who is happy to see ‘cool’ beginning to lose favor with our teenagers? Then there are words, like new furniture, that just take time to get used to, words that need to be massaged within my own mind, the ones found on Ph.D. dissertations. If the truth be told I don’t have too many of those bouncing around in my head, much of my joy still comes from Theodor Seuss Geisel. Thanks Dr. Seuss!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"It's a Dog, it's a Fish, No it's a Laborador Retriever!"

Shortly after settling in Houston and desiring to make our house feel like home, my oldest son and I visited the local SPCA in search of a new member of the family. For those of you dog lovers out there, you know what an emotional experience this is. So many wagging tails, so many happy eyes asking to be taken home and, bottom line, way too many choices.

At heart I'm a true animal lover, however, I'm also a left brain thinker which is reflected in my methodical way of doing life. The dog only had to meet three requirements. First, it had to be completely housebroken. Second, it had to be fairly low maintenance in the grooming department. Lastly, it had to be big enough for me not to trip over in the kitchen which is where our canine friend and I spend most of our time, based on past experience.

Final drum roll please!!! Will it be the giant black Schnauzer or the black Laborador Retriever. Although I loved the 'happy' personality of the Schnauzer, adding another high energy entity to our already high energy house was a concern, as was his fairly long hair. The Lab won the day and my son's heart! We named him Hobbes after, you guessed it, Calvin & Hobbes. Only two months have passed since we brought him home but animals have a way of attaching themselves to us so quickly. It seems like he's always been a part of the family.

As you may know this year Texas experienced the most severe drought in history. We are just now feeling the relief from the heat as a few good storms have come our way. This is where Hobbes' nature really came out. During the first heavy rainstorm, he immediately ran out his dog door to play in the pouring rain. He darted back and forth in the yard like a little kid experiencing water for the first time. I truly never saw anything like it. Growing up in Southern California I always saw labs swimming in the ocean so I knew they liked water, but this was different. This was water falling from the sky, not a hole in the ground. He literally played in the rain for 30 minutes until the storm died down.

The following week while taking him on a walk I let him off the leash to see how he would do (He's an excellent walker which was, by the way, another criteria). He immediately dashed off for the nearby manmade lake in our neighborhood and dove in right next to the "No Swimming" sign. Was that meant for dogs too? I let him make two jumps in before I did the retrieving and put him back on the leash. Yup, Labs always find their way to water just like Hobbes found his way into our hearts!

Things are definitely starting to feel like home.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Parsley ~ Not Just a Garnish

When I was a kid and our family dined out, the meal was usually served with a garnish of parsley. “Mom, can I eat this?” as I eyed the beautiful, fresh green sprig. “No, honey, that’s just parsley. We don’t eat that!” You see, I grew up eating mostly processed food; Mac-N-Cheese, Hamburger Helper, casseroles with Campbell’s Creamed soups as a base, spam and cold cereal. I was thin and undernourished primarily because my body couldn’t process refined foods…and it still can’t.

Several visits to the family doctor resulted in being prescribed Donnatal, a medicine they still prescribe for irritable bowl syndrome. There had to be a better way than being medicated so when I was old enough and lived on my own, I became my own physician eliminating various foods until, eventually, I realized what my body was screaming for was real, whole food. You know the stuff you find on the perimeter of the grocery store. I find it amusing that now we actually have markets in the states named, of all things, WHOLE FOODS. Such a novel idea!

I can tolerate small amounts of certain processed foods such as wheat and sugar, but I keep that to a minimum. The 80/20 rule seems to work pretty well. 80% whole foods and 20% of other stuff, usually in the form of desserts. I LOVE desserts. Imagine that, my body was screaming 'no more garbage please' but the medical system couldn't hear. It has been many years since I've had stomach problems and since then I have been blessed with excellent health. I believe a major factor is my diet of healthy food. Junk food holds no temptation for me because I can eat rich creamy french foods and delicious desserts. Yummy things like coquille st. jaques, creme bruelee, chicken marsala, sweet potatoe and leek gratin, mascarpone cheesecake and tropical fruits to my heart's desire. I stay away from sodas, ALL artificial sweetners in any form, any oil that I can't recognize in its pure form (I'm not sure what a canola is), pizza, hot dogs, canned or prepared food and I drink coffee in moderation. Oh by the way, I weigh the same as I did when I was 18. Another bonus.

Along the way, I’ve come across a wonderful cooking magazine recommended to me by a friend when we lived in Maine who was a fabulous cook, originally from the south. She had stacks and stacks of cook books and cooking magazines throughout her house. Southern hospitality reigned supreme even in the northeast as she shared her gift of hospitality in the midst of raising and educating her 6 children and being a good wife to her husband. In fact, they were the main decorating item in her bedroom. She once shared with me, “If I were only able to subscribe to one magazine, it would be Fine Cooking. Why: Great recipes, fresh ingredients, practical tips, and few advertisements.” Thanks Emma!

The ‘fresh ingredients’ part has kept me a subscriber for almost seven years, although I’ve missed a few issues when we've relocated. I hope to share with you many of my favorite recipes and most of them will come from this magazine. Recently, I’ve enjoyed the following salad which contains both protein in the form of garbanzo beans (No, I'm not a vegetarian), vegetables and, not surprisingly, parsley and lots of it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Life's Resume

Another week has passed in our new home but a nagging feeling of not having a job hangs heavy over my head. Okay, I realize I haven't even been here two months but having money in my pocket really agrees with me so the quest for work continues to permeate my thoughts. Adjusting my resume after another move seems almost laughable because much of my "marketable" skills have been acquired in the daily grind of home and family life, not the work environment. But how does one incorporate that into a resume. A serious attempt at editing my resume digressed into one continual string of humorous thoughts.

A Real Life Chronological Resume
By: Linda McBee Martinez

August 2011 to present:

• Efficiently plan and execute a 2200 mile international move for the fourth time in eight years.
• Thoroughly organize the entire household of 7 so when movers pack, everything is where it should be when boxes are unpacked.
• Kindly assure Atlas Moving Company Canada that transporting a vehicle across the border is simpler than they think.
• Lovingly reassure the kids that they’re going to love their new schools and church and remind the college age kids that they’ll find their niche and make new friends.
• Willingly let my home be used as a ‘party house’ so five teenagers can say good bye to their dozens of Canuck friends.
• Cheerfully bid farewell to my husband and children as I stay behind and handle the move from Canada.
• Conscientiously close out accounts, return rented computer hardware, say good bye to dear friends and coworkers, show the house to potential renters, deal with a very “French” cleaning lady and landlady, confirm hotel stay and airline flights and don’t leave anything behind because you are never going back.
• Cleverly unpack 167 boxes and set up house within 10 days so we can relax when my sister and brother arrive to celebrate my 16 year old daughter’s birthday.
• Quickly have all cars in working order, inspected, and registered.
• Joyfully visit U.S. Customs to retain a release certificate for the Jetta.
• Hopefully get Texas drivers licenses.
• Patiently teach Andrew how to drive so that he can take himself to doctor appointments, job searches and school appointments (after we buy another car …ouch).
• Enthusiastically join the local church while trying not to look like a fish out of water.
• Diligently continue to clean house, cook meals, maintain laundry and assist in homework while looking for a good paying and rewarding job in my spare time.
• Lovingly say hello to my husband in passing and remember to revisit the date night idea.
• Finally and most importantly thank God for the measure of sanity I still have.

Okay, this is only a description of two months worth of life so now multiply this by about 20 years and you have all things for which I am qualified!

Anybody out there hiring a solutions oriented, out-of-the-box, creative thinker with a sense of humor?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


It's official. I've reconnected. After growing weary of so many long good byes...Fredericton, Long Beach, Utah...I cancelled my facebook. All those smiling faces didn't make me happy, but sad. Sad for the people I couldn't see any more. After chilling for a year in the great white north, the good Lord graciously returned us to the good 'ol US of A. Now that I've lived 3000 miles from friends and family, a few hundred miles doesn't seem so far.

In an attempt to stay connected I've started this blog which I've appropriately headed Planted For Good. Originally I called it Settled For Good but I didn't want to presume on God's grace too much so I've decided to bloom where I'm planted.

With one child in college, one headed for college in the spring and three in public school, it is decision time for me. After thoroughly enjoying teaching my own children for fourteen years, I may be headed back to school. I'll keep you posted!

On another note, before David left Fredericton on his 'short term' trip to Houston, He bought a giant jar of Cara Mia artichoke hearts. For those of you who have used a professional mover before you know they don't pack that kind of stuff. Delima...what to do with a gallon of marinated artichoke hearts? Aha! flashback to Orange County 1980s at Ruben's Plankhouse with my parents. When the family business was in its glory days we ate out a lot. All that is to say here is a great recipe. The only hitch is you need a deep-fryer. Make sure the artichokes are marinated

Deep Fried Marinated Artichoke Hearts

Peanut Oil (lots)
Marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
Panko bread crumbs
Cookie sheet
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

1. Drain arichoke hearts - depending on the size of your family, you may not need a gallon
2. In three seperate cereal-type bowls, place buttermilk, panko bread crumbs and regular flour.
3. One at a time, dip the artichoke into the buttermilk, flour, buttermilk (again) and panko breadcrumbs.

Lay them on the cookie to set for 60 minutes. This allows the coating to stick well when deep fried.

Finally, place artichokes in one layer in the fryer basket and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Place them on a snazzy presentation plate and serve them with ranch dressing.

In the meantime I'll let Costco know you'll be stopping by.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Settling In

Well, I have now been in Houston 7 weeks. Despite the fact that this is the 3rd time zone I've lived in within 12 months it hasn't taken long for this place to feel like home. With David at work and all the kids (but 1) in school I set out to unpack 167 boxes of stuff within 10 days. My sister and brother inlaw, who flew in from sunny California to help us celebrate Olivia's 16th birthday, unpacked the last 10 boxes after my right hand went into shock and refused to function. Thanks again guys!

Although boxes are unpacked and furniture is set up - no pictures on the walls yet - I'm now in the process of finding new doctors, navigating the insurance websites, getting new drivers licenses and the endless list of 'moving things' that always need to be done ASAP.

Just in case I didn't already mention it, I love this place and hope to stay for a very long time!

Welcome Home