Lenten Fridays

I wasn’t always a vegetarian.

My dietary reinvention developed over many years of making choices – chicken over red meat, then fish instead of chicken or red meat, then choosing veggies first.  I like vegetables! You put any vegetable on top of a bed of lettuce or a plate of pasta or in a bowl with quinoa — I am happy!  I chose salads, any kind of salads.  There weren’t many vegetarian options early in my culinary transition, so sometimes I would just pick out the meat from whatever I ordered or selected several items from the “sides” – vegetables, of course.

In a previous job, one of my responsibilities was to solicit lunch sponsors for our volunteers.  They volunteered all day on a project, and we provided the group with a lunch.  Aware that some had dietary choices or that they would be scheduled to work on a Friday during the Lenten season, a vegetarian option was requested of our donors.  It was during those busy activities that I, usually the last one to the serving table, ended up with the lone alternative lunch.  It was, also, during those days that I learned a few things:

  • that I should get to the table sooner,
  • that I should be thankful for the break and the donors who provided the food, and
  • that a portabella mushroom really does taste like meat — and makes a great “burger”!

My meatless journey began.

Meal planning and grocery shopping for a household that included a meat-and-potatoes, what-are-vegetables, I’m-too-old-to-change husband . . . well, I was up for the challenge.  I was determined to create meatless meals and get more veggies in our diet.  I tried meat “substitutes” and frozen products of “chick’n” and veggie sausage or hot dogs when preparing familiar dishes he requested.  Some worked; some did not.  So, I just made his favorites and extra sides of veggies for me.  Did you know that brownies and other sweets can be made with spinach or avocado or zucchini or . . . even . . . yes, K.A.L.E.?  Shhh!  He still thinks they are the old-fashion chocolate favorite treats.

So, why the “Lenten Fridays” title?

The 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is a time of moderation, fasting, and “giving up” something – like, meat on Fridays – as an action of sacrifice and repentance.  Being the curious vegetarian that I am, I posed this question to my social media followers, my Catholic friends, and the chaplain at my office:  If Fridays are to be “meatless,”  why is FISH offered everywhere?  Churches, restaurants, fire stations – Lenten Fridays become Fish Fridays for everyone.  But . . . FISH IS MEAT!

According to the dictionary, meat is the flesh of animals.* 

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, abstinence laws say meat is considered something that comes only from animals that live on land, like chicken, cows, sheep or pigs. Fish are considered a different category of animal.  The often-told story about a long-ago pope promoting fish to prop up the fishing industry is just urban legend. Eating fish on Fridays isn’t required, but has rather become somewhat of a tradition in many Catholic households. In fact, so many people eat fish on Lenten Fridays that in 1959, a Cincinnati McDonald’s owner decided to introduce the Filet-o-Fish after suffering big losses on Fridays.*

Well, I wasn’t trying to be argumentative or to be disrespectful of the Catholic tradition or other religion cultures.  This developing vegetarian was just curious.  Please feel free to comment below and share with me your favorite “Lenten Fridays” meals.

Meatless Recipes – Want to try some alternatives for Fish Fridays?

Here are a few I have tried and plan to add to my regular rotation of favorite recipes:

“Beef” Stew:  They never missed the beef.  Remember the portabella mushroom discovery?  I used smoked paprika, too.  I am addicted to smoked paprika!

“Beef” Stew Recipe from straightupfood.com

Creamy Lemon Tagliatelle by Hello Fresh: Hubby wanted “regular” pasta. I compromised with rigatoni for both of us. I fell in love with the tarragon!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls –  Another recipe using smoked paprika – that flavor!!

Photo Credit: Alissa Convegblog.com

Lenten Fridays may be traditionally Fish Fridays, but I encourage you to try these and other meatless meals.  Lenten season is a time for change, too.  Maybe add a new vegetarian dish each week? And, after the 40-day period, a regular meatless recipe in your weekly meal rotation?  Check out my Pinterest page for more ideas.  Hiding veggies in brownies is not required!


Good Question: Why Isn’t Seafood Considered Meat?

Quinoa & Lentil Stuffed Vegan Cabbage Rolls


What’s in a Word?

Have you seen the New Year’s resolution idea of picking a word, just one word, to focus on in 2018? Maybe mine should be “procrastinate” since I’m two weeks into the New Year and just writing this blog? At this time in January, many who make resolutions have already cheated on the diet plan, skipped the gym a few times, or drank far short the daily ounces of water.  Well, I intentionally held off for a couple weeks before even thinking about a resolution so that I wouldn’t be a January statistic. That’s the story I’m sticking with, if anyone asks, and because I really don’t want the word “procrastinate” to be my one word for 2018!

Picking one word is tough! It makes me think of church around Thanksgiving when everyone is encouraged to stand and say, “I’m thankful for _________.”  I never have the courage to stand, first of all.  As I contemplate my answer, I have difficulty picking just one thing to say.  I feel like if I do choose one, I’m ranking my thankfulness or prioritizing my blessings.  I don’t like doing that! I have so MANY blessings and so much for which to be thankful.  They’re all equal in my heart.  So, “I’m thankful for the choice not to stand.

I have so MANY words I focus on regularly, each with its own meaning, dear to my heart, and “unrankable” in my mind.  A few from around the house:


I like words! I read them. I sing them (not publicly).  I speak them.  I type them.  I also unscramble them daily with Jumble in my local newspaper.  Have you ever done the Quote Cryptogram or Cryptoquip – letters are substituted for others to complete quotes or text?  These are some of my favorite newspaper word puzzles.

I’m interested in seeing what one word you would choose.  Why did you choose it?  Does it motivate you or inspire you? Does it remind you to do something each day? Is it a word that requires action or expresses emotion?  Does it make you smile or remember someone special? Is it something you need to focus on in the upcoming year?

While I was finding word pictures from around the house for this blog, I came across a stone in my jewelry box.  I’m sure it was presented to me as a reminder, a souvenir from a lecture or an inspirational speech. Unfortunately, I don’t recall from where I got it or who gave it to me.  My memory challenges me at times.  Engraved upon the stone is a word, one I need in my life right now.  I’m thankful for the recent procrastination that afforded me the opportunity to find it.  I choose this word for my one word in 2018:


It’s all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.  – Philip Green


The big W.H.Y. question.  You hear it over and over when the kids are small.  Their curious minds or their way of annoyance?  Come on, y’all think this at times, too.  Parents, be honest.  How many times can a child ask “why?” before you get tired and say things like: “because that’s the way it is,” or “just because,” or the default, all-time-go-to, favorite . . .”because I said so.”

Well, the kids are grown and have children of their own now.  Not all of the grandchildren are old enough yet to ask the endless “why” questions.  Their time will come, and I will continue to answer them all without tiring.  Why?!?  Because that’s what grandparents do!

I am thinking about the childhood “why?” colloquies because I’ve been asked that little, but powerful, one-word question numerous times since we made the move back to Pennsylvania this past summer.

When we run into people we haven’t seen in a while (or share our story with new acquaintances), the brief greeting usually goes something like this:

“Hi! How have you been?  Are you visiting?”
“Not visiting. We just recently moved back to the area.”
“Oh, from where?”
“We lived in Myrtle Beach.”
(blank stare) And guess what the next question is . . . Why?!?

I know, many people dream of retiring and moving to someplace warm, preferably near a beach, somewhere they’ve vacationed each summer and vow to move to as soon as they can, or become “snow birds” during the cold wintry months up north and go south to wear flip-flops every day,  etc., etc.  I get it!

We did it.  We sent the last son off to college, emptied the next, and moved to the beach. It was fun.  It was an adventure. It was warm (actually hot in the summer). And, it had no snow (well, there were a few inches that one February, and a dusting another January) and winters were rarely COLD, at least not for very long.  We enjoyed living at the beach.

I was missing something, however.  It took me a decade of gradually longer bouts of sadness after visits back home with family to figure out that, though it was warm, life was void of the fuzzy.  Please don’t misunderstand.  We made new friends. Some still very close to my heart and I truly miss.  We were blessed with opportunities to enjoy the beach almost daily, to be weekend tourists, to engage in our community, to run and play softball all year round, to wear open-toed shoes and shorts when our Pennsylvania family was bundled up in boots and coats, and to make the 5-minute drive to the airport to fly north for visits several times a year.  I miss those things and the people who were part of our life at the beach.  So again, you ask…. WHY?!?

This is W – welcome   H –  home    Y –  yinz 
(EDIT: I was advised to say “yinz” now that we’re back in the ‘burgh.)

We are finally all together!!


Let’s Get Real

It’s that time of year. I try to focus on one holiday at a time, but the retail stores make it difficult when the “seasonal” aisle is mixed with the orange and black of Halloween, the browns, yellows and reds of “fall” – with a rare turkey or pilgrim for Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday, by the way!) – and the festive “everything Christmas!” decorations.

Let’s get real….do people really start buying decorations for Christmas in October?

We have an unspoken rule in our house:  no Christmas anything until the day after Thanksgiving! When you have a whole week in November because the fourth Thursday falls that way, I’m tempted to tune into the “Christmas Stream” on my favorite radio station (because I really LOVE Christmas music!), but . . . it’s still November.  I actually made up the rule for my own sanity, by the way, but I just don’t want to start too early.

Let’s get real….shouldn’t October be for Halloween, November for Thanksgiving, and December for Christmas?

I like change…yes, I said that. I know change can be tough on some, but change can be good, too.  I look at “change” as “opportunity”…you can redecorate!  See how I kept that not too deep and on focus here?  I do tend to change focus when I’m writing (or thinking, or talking), I know.  My point is: each season brings a reason for change.  The weather changes. Our clothes change. And our decorations should, too.

Let’s get real…do you really want to see ghosts and goblins or Frosty the Snowman in April?

It’s December. On one hand, I can’t believe it! Time goes by so quickly. On the other hand, it’s Christmas decorating time!  Let me remind you, who have not followed until recently:  We have spent the last 13 years away from our Pittsburgh roots.  Most years, we came back to PA for Christmas. I didn’t spend much time putting up decorations for the holiday when we weren’t going to be there to enjoy them.  I did put a wreath on the door, but stockings were not hung by the (electric) chimney with care, and we did not put up a tree (unless you count the few lights and ornaments I haphazardly hung on the artificial palm tree in the corner of the living room?)  So, here we are home again, and I want to decorate! We downsized (again) and the question was:  Where do we put a tree?  We just finally got settled after moving, unpacking, and arranging furniture several times.  Now I needed to rearrange to accommodate a Christmas tree?

Let’s get real….Yes!  I said, “I want a real tree!” And, not a pre-cut tree or an artificial tree (even though some look really real now – it’s amazing!)

In our Christmases past, we would go to the local tree farm to cut down our own tree. They have saws, twine, and people to help you, if you need them.  We would dress for the weather (mostly snowy and cold) and head out on this holiday adventure of finding the “perfect” tree.  I learned over those years that my vision of “perfect” was quite different from my husband’s.  I wanted soft needles, lots of branches for ornaments to hang (not lay), and just tall enough that putting the angel on top required some acrobatic effort or a lift of a child at a safe height.  I was willing to hike into the depths of the farm to find it.  My husband saw the first tree that looked about the right height and thought if you turned the bare side to the wall, no one will see it anyway.  Go big, cut short, turn, and adjust decorations – perfect!  I came to understand that it wasn’t the tree that he envisioned, it was the warmth of the inside; and the sooner, the better.

Let’s get real…who moves from a warm beach town back to snowy Pittsburgh?

We do. We did. And it’s Christmastime in the city – Pittsburgh!  Ring-a-ling!  Soon it will be Christmas day!  My husband understands the importance of being home (it’s where my heart is), and he understands the importance of traditions (tree cutting, even when it’s cold), and he understands the adventure of this life we do together (he cuts, and I decorate), and he does it all because…

Let’s get real…he LOVES me! We are “blended and happy” through all the seasons.

Merry Christmas!
And may all your wishes be REAL!


Our Story: Part 2

Well, actually Part 1 cont’d …

So, his three daughters and my three sons together for the first time happened the week of our beachfront wedding. We rented a house with plenty of rooms, planned the ceremony, arranged with a caterer for the special night’s dinner, and gathered our family for the week. Has anyone planned a destination wedding?  We really thought of this like a family vacation, and we would include a time to get married, to blend our families, and just relax and enjoy the beach.  Everyone had schedules to work out – a vacation from work, a fall semester break, a long weekend between shows, and an excuse to be out of school (with homework assignments, of course).  Just realizing the diversity of our children and where they were in their own lives presented a planning challenge.  However, all we asked was that they were there on that Friday of that week for our nuptials and dinner together.

Friday the 13th AND a full moon …

Some things you just can’t plan. The moon?  We really didn’t even give this any thought.  I mean, who checks the moon charts when coordinating an event? We picked the date for reasons special to us.  It just so happened to land on a Friday that week (which was also convenient for all those schedules).  The full moon?  Well, that was a lucky bonus!  Everyone confirmed their travel.  We anticipated each arrival.  Activities were suggested – fishing, golf, beach campfire, family game night, etc. – while we excitedly waited for Friday (the 13th AND a full moon) to officially blend our families.

All for one …

Did I mention that this was the very first time we were ALL together, FOR more than a day, under ONE roof?  We had plenty of bedrooms, and the boys were given their own bathroom (y’all know how that goes down).  So we thought we had it all covered. Monday morning, when we went to town to finalize the paperwork and get our marriage license . . . reality kicked in.  No, neither of us got “cold feet”!  But we thought: “What if….they don’t like each other? What if….they don’t get along? What if….we don’t blend well?”  The “What if’s…” were really hitting us that day!

To our delight, what we experienced that week was true enjoyment….except for that one sibling issue, you know, because everyone knows the youngest (both of the girls and the boys) is “spoiled” and “always gets what they want.”  It still seems to hold true today when we get together (with smiles and just knowing your birth order, I guess).  But, when teams were formed for friendly Foosball  tournaments or when the seats were picked at the dinner table, day after day, we saw our families blend.

And, we got married on that Friday the 13th, with a full moon, on the beach, with our loved ones around us, and so it began: Our Story…Blended and Happy (and Lucky).



Home is Where Your Heart is . . .

Where is Your Heart?

I love the beach, the relaxed life it offers. It’s my go-to spot to pray, walk, talk to myself (I do that), pick up shells, appreciate God’s beautiful creations of sunrise, waves,  sand, and creatures. It’s been our home for the past 13 years, and I have enjoyed the opportunities of daily walks, pleasant weather (well, summers are hot), casual lifestyle, and playing “tourist” throughout the area.

The move was an “empty nest” decision.  We sent the last child to college and moved to the beach.  Over the past 13 years, they have married, made their homes in PA, particularly the Pittsburgh area (our hometown), and have blessed us with grandchildren.

It’s those precious children and their parents who have my heart! Spending time with them is magical, and I want to have more of it. Traveling is fun at times; it’s always an adventure. Having a birthday, a holiday, a special event to attend . . . we travel back “home.”

If home is where the heart is, my heart is in Pittsburgh, and I want to call it home once again!

Happy Adventures with Friends & Softball

I played softball as a kid, loooong ago. Do you remember your first Little League game? Summer pick-up games? Jr. and Sr. High tryouts? Who still has these mementos stashed away?

SHS letters

Softball is a team sport. You can’t play by yourself. You need fielders, a pitcher, a catcher, and umpires (for those competitive games, you know, when it really counts . . . and not the pick-ups who always unfairly call strikes on you!)

Even when you’re at bat, you are not alone. Someone pitches to you. There’s a roster, a player before and after you. There’s a team responsibility to get a hit, advance the runner(s), produce RBI’s, and score more runs than the other team.

My Top 5 Reasons to Play Softball:
5. Fun – We like playing! Every game and every opponent is different.
4. Exercise – Obvious! You run, bend, throw, twist, squat, and run some more.
3. Teamwork – It’s not an individual sport. Outs depend on someone in every position catching the ball. A 6-4-3 is a “double play” and all three players do their part to make it happen. (I really like putting that in the book!) Even bench time is for cheering on the others as they play.
2. Humility – Yes, there are times when you drop a ball, hit into a ground out or even that 6-4-3 double play, leave your teammates on bases without scoring that winning run because you couldn’t get that much-needed hit. It’s disappointing. And who’s your worse critic? You! Right? You feel bad that you let your team down. Humility is powerful, too, when you catch that long, over-your-head fly ball, or turn that double play like a pro, or get that hit that scores the winning run. That’s the real test – being a good winner is just as important as being a good loser.
1. Friends – We have the opportunity to play softball and have fun with some very talented, hard working, humble people who enjoy this game. As we played in our younger years and continue in our 40s, 50s – and, yes, even our 60s and 70s – each team, each year, brings us together. We welcome newcomers and tell stories of games past. We remember those no longer with us. We celebrate the friends returning.

As Senior Softball players, it takes longer to warm up the muscles. It definitely takes longer for the muscles to recover. Win or lose, our softball friends (family) are grateful for these opportunities to play and enjoy this sport that brings us together each season. The games may end not always in our favor, but friendships will always be a victory and the adventures will be cherished far beyond “the diamond” and dugouts.