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“B” for Ben, Birthday, & Beef

It’s always difficult to shop for my dad and when his birthday is right around the corner, I find myself in trouble. Fifteen years ago I may have gotten away with a bowl of cheerios as a “breakfast in bed” or a stick-figure drawing for his work desk but those days are over. Ben is a simple man and doesn’t expect luxury, but on an occasion such as this I want to do something that not only shows how much I care, but how well I know him. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I came across the perfect gift: A personalized, iron steak brand! Ah, yes. With this bad boy he’ll be able to see his initials as he digs his teeth into that juicy peice of meat. If this gift doesn’t scream “dad”, I don’t know what will. He doesn’t need to know that it was purchased in the Pheonix airport gift shop.

I assigned myself the task (or should I say, pleasure) of cooking the birthday dinner for my family so I thought, why not steak? That way I could test out the brand. I wanted to do something special and ultimately decided on filet mignon with fingerling poatoes and green beans. I presented myself with a bit of a challenge, for I don’t cook beef, let alone eat it. I searched and compared until I settled on the right recipe, coutesy of Danny Boome:

Flaming Filet Mignon with Chive Butter

For the butter:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch chives, left whole

For the steaks:

  • 4 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces brandy (I replaced the alcohol with steak sauce)

The directions are as follows:

“Place butter into a mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir until blended and soft. Take a 12-inch piece of plastic wrap and lay it on the counter. Spoon the butter out onto the center of the plastic wrap and place the chives in the center on top of the butter. Pull the edge over the butter mixture, and tightly pinch the ends, then holding the plastic wrap tightly at each end, pull the mixture towards you. This should create a tight sausage shape. (or imagine rolling a sushi roll) Chives will be in the center surrounded by butter. Tie a knot on both ends of the butter roll and place into the freezer until you are ready to place it on top of your cooked filet.

Season the filets with a little salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high until the pan is hot then drizzle with olive oil.. Place the filets into the pan and cook to medium-rare, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove the pan from the heat and pour brandy into the skillet. Carefully tilt skillet towards the flame to flambe. When the flames burn off, remove the filets from the pan. Remove butter from freezer and cut 4 thin coins and place one on each filet. Serve steaks while hot.”

 I have to say that it was in fact a success and I reccomend this recipe to anyone! Don’t be afraid to try something new. Steak may seem tough, but did you know “mignon” really means “dainty” in French? So be fearless and burn that dainty, little filet.

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Bed Bound January

They say “you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.” It’s so true! Almost three weeks ago I underwent a back-related surgery that has since  left me bed-bound.

Until now, the business of my life has been constant. I’m the kind of person that plans in advance. For years, life hasn’t worked without my day planner, cell phone, or car. I knew this time was coming, I made a choice to go through this surgery-more specifiacally, to grow through it’s recovery process. Yet in no way was I mentally prepared for what was ahead…the sound of the hustle and bustle of my everyday routine coming to a screetching halt: silence.

My mind is floating out of it’s body that’s stuck here, unable to move. Outside there’s a world that’s happening and I’m not a part of it. Helpless, I stare out my window. There’s a tree blocking my view, as if it’s trying to hide everything I’m missing. It isn’t fair! Yesterday I could do what I wanted when and how I wanted to do it. Today I’m incapable of doing anything for myself, but I’m too proud to ask for help. Tomorrow I’ll regret this. Tomorrow I’ll be hungry, but nobody will be here to feed me. Tomorrow I’ll be bored, but nobody will be here to entertain me. Tomorrow I’ll finally have a story, but nobody will be here to listen.

And then it hit me. “How do other people live this way? I am here by choice, but what about those that don’t have one?”

I decided it was time to get “unstuck” out of this rut. As I began to change my perspective and let go a little, the light came trickling back into my room, filling it with warmth and feeling. I accepted my situation, I did what I could with the resouces I had. I now embrace Instant Netflix movies, “Friends” re-runs, the neglected list of books I’ve been meaning to read, Mad Libs, and years-old magazines Oprah magazines I never had the heart to toss. This truth will remain: we can’t be in control of every situation, but we can always be in control of how we choose to percieve them.

The lessons I’ve learned during this time have been irreplaceable. When I get back on my two feet again, I hope I don’t forget them.

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It is Always “Today”

It’s a hot Sunday morning downtown when I exchange a couple bucks for a big bag of champagne grapes from the old man behind the fruit stand. “It’s a beautiful day! It’s a beautiful day” he sings. After he tosses a free nectarine and plum into my bag, I thank him and continue down the busy street, eyeing the booths that are abundant with organic fruit, honey and baked goods. A block away there’s a street fair going on, selling all kinds of artwork by all kinds of people. I love being a spectator. I pretend for a moment that I am strolling down some small, foreign town without an agenda…until I approach La Scala, my usual “hang-out” spot in Walnut Creek, California.

I meet a few of my friends to go over details for our upcoming art show. I take a seat at one of the rustic, copper tables and pour an Orangina over a glass of ice. There’s nothing particularly unique about today, so why do I feel so content? I’ll spend the next several hours pondering this question…

My “Aha!” moment didn’t bite me in the butt until I left and began my walk home to my car. Clenching a bouquet of pink flowers from the market in one arm, and my canvas bag in the other, I realized something: I am truly happy. It wasn’t something somebody said, it wasn’t a raise at work or the pick-me-up feeling of a new killer outfit. I was standing back (well not really…I was walking), putting my life into perspective; remembering life’s everyday blessings and taking in the sweetness that is today. Today. TODAY! Own it. Live it. Love it.

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9/11 Devotional

Tonight I will be hosting an interfaith devotional in honor of the 9/11 tragedy. Friends of all backgrounds and beliefs with gather to pray, meditate and reflect in their own ways, for humanity. One poem that I’ve decided to throw into the pot is by my favorite poet and author, Maya Angelou. I find it appropriate for the occasion. It’s called…

AMAZING PEACE by Maya Angelou

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.   Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.   But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, and comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace.  We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

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What a funny word…blog

As you should know by now, I’ve decided to start a blog. I will let you know what I’ll be blogging about as soon as I figure it out, myself. All I know is that I will have something to share with you, and I hope you feel free to share with me too.

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