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

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!


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!