Archive for December 15, 2013

My “Laura Ingalls Wilder” Christmas Dinner

When I was a young girl, I read the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder over and over and over again.  I have a complete set of her books atop a bookcase in my Huntsville home.  I can plop down on my couch anytime and re-read about the life of great integrity lived by Laura and her pioneer family.  Perhaps my affinity with Laura comes from the fact that we were both born in the Great State of Wisconsin.  “Little House in the Big Woods” is my favorite book authored by her, which chronicles her early life in the Wisconsin woods.

Last Thursday night Adam and I experienced what life was like in Laura Ingalls Wilders time.  The Burritt on the Mountain museum had a fundraising dinner where participants could have dinner served in the log cabins located on the property.  My group was escorted to by Mr. and Mrs. Beebe to the Eddins House log cabin, which is thought to be the oldest surviving log structure in Alabama.  It was a COLD late fall Alabama evening and an almost-full moon and big stars formed a beautiful canopy over us.  Mr. and Mrs. Beebe were dressed in 1800’s attire and carried lanterns to light our way in the dark night.  What a magical walk!

The cabin was heated only by the fire in the fireplace.  Mr. and Mrs. Beebe served us a Southern Christmas themed dinner of Brown Sugar Glazed Baked Ham, Brandied Peaches (an actual 18th century recipe was used), Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Mixed Bean and Corn Hopping John, Cornbread Muffins, and Cream Cheese Poundcake with Chocolate or Praline Sauce (Mouthwatering Good!)  Of course, there was no light in the cabin and the only light came from the firelight and candles on the table.  Great conversations were had with Peggy and Gus, Donna and David, and Joyce and John…couples we had just met and who came for the same reason we did.  They also wanted to get a feel for what it was like living in the 1800’s.

Well, what was it like for Adam and I to “spend and evening in the 1800’s?”  It was SO MUCH FUN, but COLD!  I have no idea how our forefathers survived the winters.  Adam and I wore thick winter jackets purchased in Wisconsin and hats, and we still got cold.  Our feet were numb when we returned to our home with indoor heating, which I appreciate so much more after that evening!

Here is a recipe I would like to share as a tribute to our pioneer ancestors:


2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups cooked edamame (shelled fresh or frozen soybeans)

1 1/2 cups cooked fresh corn kernels, or drained canned corn, or frozen

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/3 cup cilantro

Combine the balsamic and cider vinegars, brown sugar, cumin, onion powder, and garlic in a 1- to 1 1/2 quart saucepan.  Heat over medium heat about three minutes, or until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat.

Place the edamame, corn, and red bell pepper in a medium-size bowl.  Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables.  Stir to mix.  Cover and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours or until chilled, stirring once.

Stir in the cilantro just before serving.  Serve chilled.

Serves four.  Serving size:  3/4 cup

Did you know succotash derives from the Eastern Narragansett Indian word msickquatash, meaning “bolied whole kernels of corn?”

Recipe provided courtesy of John Wiley and Sons.  From the American Dietetic Association Cooking Healthy Across America by American Dietetic Association and Food and Culinary Professionals, a Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Copyright 2005.  John Wiley and Sons. p. 237




It’s Ok To Die

I am glad I braved the downpour of rain to attend the “It’s Ok To Die” lecture by Monica Williams-Murphy, MD at the Temple B’nai Sholom Synagogue tonight.  This blog post will share the great wisdom of Dr. Williams-Murphy, who is an Emergency Room physician at Huntsville Hospital, and co-author of the book “It’s Ok To Die.”



 Did you know 90 percent of Americans wish to die at home, yet 70 percent die in an institution, such as a hospital or nursing home? (Dr. Williams-Murphy calls this the 70-90 Dilemma.) Did you know only 20 to 30 percent of Americans have Advanced Health Care Directives?  Yet, if you fill out an Advanced Care Directive, it can help make dying in your home, versus an institution, more likely to happen.

Dr. Williams-Murphy’s experiences in the emergency room (ER) led her to crusade for more humane dying practices in America.  She shared the story of a 90 year old woman who was brought into the ER.  This woman was paralzyed and her arms and legs were contracted from years of disuse.  She had been lying in a nursing home for the past 10 years, unable to speak.  This woman was designated as a “Full Code”, which means all medical technology should be employed.  Dr. Williams-Murphy listened to fluid filling this woman’s dying lungs and went to talk to her three daughters about her mother’s imminent death.  To the daughters’ credit, they visited their mother every day in the nursing home.  When Dr. Williams-Murphy told them their mother was dying, they reiterated that they wanted everything medically possible done for their beloved mother.   Sadly, the mother died alone in the ICU the next day.

Dr. Williams-Murphy also witnessed good deaths in her ER.  One day a man was dying.  She went out to the waiting room and informed his daughter.  The daughter came back to the room where her dad was lying, told him she loved him dearly, and that it was okay for him to go, and that she would would see him one day again in Paradise.  He died with his daughter holding his hand and with a smile on his face.

In her career, Dr. Williams-Murphy has witnessed more “pitiful” deaths than “good” deaths.  She would come home and emote and vent to her husband about the happenings in the ER.  He replied, “Well, you ought to write a book.”  She took his words to heart and they both wrote, “It’s Ok To Die.”  They subsequently have lectured all over the United States advocating for “good deaths.”  Dr. Williams-Murphy emphasized that a “good death” does not mean physician-assisted suicide, which is a she practice abhors.  The American Medical Association does not support physician-assisted suicide also.

How do we stop the 90 -70 dilemma?  There are three things that must happen, according to Dr. Williams-Murphy. They are:

1.  We must begin to discuss death and dying in our culture.  I agree with Dr. Williams-Murphy when she suggested, “Hey, lets have a reality TV show on dying.  They have reality shows on every other area of life.  One scene could be a family building a pine coffin in their yard or the family holding Grandma’s hand’s when she is dying.”

2.  We need to learn the six things to be said to improve the quality of human relationships.  They are “Please forgive me”; “I forgive you”; “Thank You”, “I love you”; “It’s ok for you to go”; and “Good Bye.”

3.  While there is a place for high-tech medicine, we need decreased utilization of advanced scientific technology.

Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar contributed this thought, “In Judaism, you are to repent from your sins the day before you die.  Since you do not know when you are going to die, Jews are to repent daily for their sins.  This fits in with Dr. Williams-Muphy’s recommendation to forgive and ask for forgiveness.”

Dr. Williams-Murphy noted that all religious traditions have stories in their scriptures about people sharing their wisdom with others.  She said our own lives are no less sacred, and that we should write down our stories/wisdom for others.  This can be your great legacy.  She shared this quote from Eli Wiesel to illustrate this point, “Whoever survives the test must tell his story.” She urged us to start now because we do not know when we are going to die, and in the words of William Shakespeare, “Be still prepared for death – and death or life shall thereby be the sweeter.”

Both Dr. Williams-Murphy and her co-author husband, Kristian, encourage you to complete an Advance Directive for Health Care.  They can be obtained from your local hospital.  Of note, every state has different laws concerning Advanced Health Care Directives.  I encourage you to visit their website, for further information.  You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Steve Jobs counseled, “Live Every Day Like It Will Be Your Last, Because One Day You Will Be Right.”  Amen.

Below:  Co-author Kristian Murphy with his daughter


Birmingham – 50 Years Later

On the 58th Anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  Read how the Birmingham civil rights events in 1963 changed the world.