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12 Jul

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My grandfather died last week at the age of 91. I count among my greatest gifts my relationships with each of my grandparents. Grandpa Joe was the last living grandparent I had, and it’s difficult to imagine my life without him.

Most summers, my siblings and I would happily ship off to Grandma Ann and Papa Joe’s house, where we would spend the first leg of our summer vacation. I hold the memories of these trips so closely that their physicality remains with me–the sharpness of just-cut grass on my skin as I rolled down the front hill, the smooth pine of the wooden swingset he built for us by hand, and the cold sensation of rainbow sherbert against my teeth after church on a hot Saturday night.

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I have often said of my grandfather that they “just don’t make them like they used to.” He was a member of the first graduating class of King’s College, and would go on to work there for the next 70 years. He was a man who did the right thing without so much as a thought toward cutting corners for convenience or popularity. His contributions to the community where he spent his entire life are too many to count, but among them is a long history of service to his church, alma mater, and country.

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His was an absolutely unconditional love of and loyalty to his wife, so much so that he often joked he would list the slides of he and my grandmother’s “trip of a lifetime” to Ireland among his assets in his will. In 51 years of marriage they never spent more than 3 consecutive nights apart; when my grandmother was helping to take care of a sick family member, he would drive 45 minutes to visit her through a screen window and then drive back home, as he had a cold and couldn’t risk passing it to my cousin. I once joked that my grandmother’s only downfall had been that she didn’t like beets. He looked at me over his glasses and said simply, “Your grandmother had no flaws.”  I knew that, in his eyes, she truly hadn’t.

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Even as the world’s most upstanding citizen, he had a wry sense of humor and a wonderful capacity for sentimentality.  When I mailed him an absurd glamour shot of my brother and I snorkeling in Sharm El Sheikh, he emailed me in response, “Thanks for the great snapshot, Chrissy. That’ll make the wall.”  He loved all sports (except the NBA), often bragged that he had been diagnosed with a “football fetish,” and had one word for Philadelphia sports fans: “crude.” He loved sweets unabashedly, and was known to meet a dessert menu with a joyful “Oh, boy!” The first Christmas after my grandmother died, I gave him a box engraved with her name for his keepsakes, and he called me later to tell me that it was the best gift he had ever been given.

EK_0015DSC00675_edited_1There are a million stories I could tell– that he taught me how to bowl, listened to me read Charlotte’s Web in its entirety over the phone for my 2nd grade read-a-thon, and once brought my husband to “a little place with great chicken noodle soup” called Bob Evans. I have the lucky distinction of getting him to pose for his first selfie, taken during the visit we revived our root beer float tradition after a two-decade hiatus.IMG-20130908-WA0000And, hilariously, he was wearing the same shirt 4 years later when I introduced him to Facetime. He was less impressed by technology served without a side of ice cream.IMG_7972But his life spoke for itself — the longer I go on here, the more I realize I’ll never capture how extraordinary he was. A friend shared the idea that we only die when our work is done, and my grandfather left this world complete with i’s dotted, t’s crossed, and ledger balanced. I’ll think of him often– in small moments like when I see a beautiful cardinal or blue jay, and in large moments when I hear his voice in my head as my moral compass. It’s terribly sad to know I’ll never visit him on Cherry Lane again, but I take some solace in knowing that the lessons I learned from my grandparents in the past will serve me well into my future and that, one of these days, I’ll get to make memories with my own grandkids as happy as the ones I have with my grandparents.

If, like me, you just can’t get enough Grandpa Joe, you can read his obituary here.

 

 

 

5 For Friday: A Day in the Life

13 Mar

Alrighty, Keftanis– this Friday finds us in a MUCH better position than last week, when DC was still a snowy mess. BEST OF LUCK to everyone running one of the RnR DC races this weekend–I truly hope the weather gods are with you!

So it’s Friday and I’m linking up with the DC Trifecta- Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney– for a fun “day in the life” post.

photo(1)1- The Alarm – My day usually starts pretty early– I’m either hurrying to not be late for the 7:00 start of a 12-hour shift (wooo nurses!), heading over to spend a fun day with the most wonderful baby in Arlington, or getting ready for an early work out. As you can see, sometimes I get up on the first try, and sometimes I need a couple extra Zzzs. I like to leave myself little reminders of things I have to do that day– and if you don’t know yet, November Project is an awesome group of people who provide, a tough, FREE workout (plus free hug high fives) every Mon/Wed/Fri in DC. #TheTribeIsStrong Not pictured: the 5 times in between my alarms that MrKef’s buzzer goes off, which wakes me up and not him.

2- The Breakfast– I have eaten a Cherry Pie Larabar for breakfast everyday for the past 2 years or so (…seriously, I even bring them to FERRAGOSTO). I do not even want to think about doing the math to know how much that cost me–but I love that something with only three ingredients can be so filling. Not pictured: the 2 cups of coffee I drink before considering myself fit for human interaction.

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3. The Afternoon– Starting at about 2:30 when BabyKef gets out of school, I usually spend a very large portion of the afternoon talking to my family. The call log here is pretty illustrative–I no sooner get off the phone with one before I’m calling the other. We’re either figuring out details for one of the three (3!) weddings we have this year, getting the high school gossip from our mom (who rules the place with an iron fist), or entertaining one another as somebody walks somewhere and is bored. Not pictured: the 12 calls to and from BabyKef and GrandmaKef in the mix.

4. The Evening Workout– I used to sneak in a  swim before work, but would get flustered because the pool 5831695848_d3036f8ba1_zdoesn’t open til 6 (and I have to be at work at 7), so I didn’t have time to be even a couple minutes late. Now I swim after work (unless it’s Wednesday when I go to the very best Yoga District class) and it’s amazing how much more I enjoy my swim workouts when they are not a mad dash to clock in on time! Not pictured: me with goggle rings around my eyes trying to convince people that they should let me take care of their newborn!

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5-Catching Up With MrKef– After the hustle and bustle of the day, it’s so reassuring to know I’m coming home to my two loves, pictured here: MrKef and Oliver Tambo. Sometimes MrKef and I cook something together, other times he just watches Oliver play around with the laser pointer while I cook us something (okay… most time that is what happens). We both work with the “general public,” as he likes to call it, so we almost always have some stories to tell about the crazy things people said or did during the day. Usually, he’s drinks a Hot Toddy and I eat blueberries until I am blue in the face (har har) as we catch each other up on what went down that day. Not pictured: the video I have of him giggling like a schoolboy as he plays with Oliver and the laser pointer–but trust and believe, it will make for excellent material at his retirement party one day.

Spicy Pumpkin Curry (that just-so-happens to be Paleo and vegan)

10 Jan

Welcome to 2014, Keftanis! How are we? What are we resolving? Who’s completely over this winter bologna and is ready to make Daytona Beach their full-time residence, crazy state Governor and all?

JetSetKef is back in the Unites States of America, and that’s great. BabyKef is becoming a little runner herself. MamaKef continues to worry that the arctic vortex means the end of humanity. In other words, 2014 is awesome.

My big resolution for for this year (… or month? … or week?) is to limit the number of meals I eat out, which is great news for you because it means a lot of cooking.  I felt like some spicy food last night and figured it was as good a time as any to put down the Thai menu and whip up a zingy pumpkin curry.

As per usual- pretty easy and just about everything is replaceable.  I used these veggies because that’s what was cheapest at the grocery store- but you can certainly replace them with a medley you’d prefer.

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Spicy Pumpkin Curry a la Kef

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 TBS ground coriander
  • 1 TBS garam masal
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 c carrots, chopped (thinner is better)
  • 1/2 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
  • about 30 greenbeans, ends cut off
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeño
  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can coconut milk (or regular milk- it will just take longer to thicken)
  • cilantro to taste (I used 3/4 bunch)

Assembly

1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add first round of spices and heat over medium heat until fragrant. Add onions and saute over med-high heat until soft (about 5 minutes).

2. Add carrots (or whatever vegetable will take the longest to cook if you used substitutions) and cook until nearly soft over med-high heat. Add remaining vegetables (not tomatoes) and mix thoroughly to distribute spices.  Saute until about 3/4 the way done (al dente for you pastavores out there).

3. Add canned tomatoes and heat for 2-3 minutes, or until tomatoes are starting to lose their juice. Stir thoroughly. Add pumpkin puree and mix thoroughly again.  Add remaining spices and allow to cook for another 3 minutes or so, until it smells more like curry and less like pumpkin.

4. Add coconut milk and mix well. Bring mixture to a boil and then leave to simmer until it has thickened and reduced, which took me about 20 minutes. Cilantro can be added at beginning of simmer stage for strong cilantro flavor or as a garnish.

Live Your Best Life

7 Jan
And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been." -Rainer Maria Rilke

“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Greek Yogurt Breakfast Tart

19 Mar
One of the great things about working with a gaggle of 20-something women: the magazines that clutter the break room, nurses’ station, and nursery. Some people use trashy television to decompress–for me, it’s the glossy page.  I never finish the love quizzes or follow any of the make up advice, but I usually find inspiration in the recipe section–and yes, I am that person who rips the recipe page out of the back and keeps you from finishing the article about some woman’s harrowing experience with credit card debt or a baby switched at birth. And that, my friends, is where we found this guy:


The good people at Better Homes & Gardens came up with this Greek yogurt tart with a cornflake crust.  It’s quick, painless, and you can do the whole thing in one bowl (which is a big plus for the queen of leaving dirty dishes around).  This crust is DELICIOUS and I will definitely use it again for no-bake fillings.  The filling itself ends up tasting like set vanilla yogurt, as the gelatin robs the Greek yogurt of its creaminess–so this is definitely tasty but not a gamechanger. Next time, I will probably add some cream cheese or goat’s cheese to keep the creaminess (maybe even use the filling from this pie), but this would be a great addition to any brunch gathering as is.

Greek Yogurt Tart with Cornflake Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 c crushed cornflakes, which took me about 3 c whole corn flakes (Arrowhead Mills makes a gf/sf version)
  • 1/3 c butter, melted
  • 3 TBS packed brown sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 1/4 c plain Greek yogurt (FIBBYDY)
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1/4 c orange marmalade (optional)

Assembly
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Combine crushed cornflakes, melted butter, and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Press into the bottom and up the sides of tart pan with removable sides (if you don’t have one, any tin pan will do, it just won’t look as pretty). Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

2. Put water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water, let stand for 5 minutes. Microwave on high for 20 seconds (stir at halfway point), or until gelatin is dissolved.  In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, honey, and vanilla. Whisk in gelatin/water until completely combined. Pour mixture into cooled crust. Chill for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferable.

3. When ready to serve, peel orange and heat marmalade until just melted. Cut orange however you’d like and decorate the top of tart. Drizzle or brush marmalade over oranges. Serve and enjoy!

Nurse Kefi Makes Salmon Cakes

16 Jul

Five years ago, I graduated from college.  Roughly two weeks after I graduated, I figured out that I wanted to be a nurse.  Which means that for the last four years and 50 weeks, I have been wanting to be a nurse, waiting to become a nurse, and going to be a nurse someday. Well my friends– someday is here, and I am, in fact, a real, live, Registered Nurse.

This is, for many reasons, no small miracle.  To my friends and family who supported me, cheered me on, bought me coffee, and prayed for me through all those tests and months of studying: there will never be enough thank yous. Please recharge your batteries for the next few years because becoming an Nurse Practitioner will require a very, very large miracle. To BFKef, the great love of my life, who was there through alllllll the breakdowns (and there were many)– I owe you another big, fat, juicy steak. And to my parents who were kind enough to give me a low-interest loan better than the deal Barack Obama leveraged from that wench Sallie Mae– I will make sure my nicest nurse friends take care of you in the nursing home when you are old. Haha.

Finally attaining a benchmark I had set years ago got me thinking about goals, and how we make progressively fewer of them as we age.  We used to have milestones every few months–first to tie our shoes, write our names, ride a bike, defeat King Koopa, and then to make the team, beat a PR, graduate from high school, maybe college, get a job, keep the job, and then…. what? Why is it that when we finally make it to this strange place called the Real World, our goals become fewer and farther between?  Why do we trade the clearly-stated (if sometimes trivial) goals of our younger selves to settle for a long list of “maybes”, “somedays,” and ‘if I have time I’ll…”?

I don’t know the answer to those questions.  I’m not even really sure where this is going, or what it has to do with the truly delicious mango salmon cakes whose recipe is below.  Perhaps I’ll make it a goal to finish this thought and figure it out.  But what I do know is that finally reaching this goal has me feeling more proud of myself now than when I graduated from college the first time, and I can’t wait to see where my life as a nurse takes me.

Chef Kefi, RN’s First Recipe: Mango Salmon Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 mango, peeled and diced pretty small
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz of salmon (I used canned- just make sure its skinned and peeled)
  • ~1/3c Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 c unseasoned breadcrumbs (I used gluten-free) 
  • Olive oil for frying, about 5 TBS
    —–
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 2 cobs of corn, with corn cut from the cob
  • juice of the other half of the lime

Assembly

1. Put 2 tsp olive oil and coriander in saute pan over medium heat. After about 90 seconds, add mangoes and stir around. Cook for about 5 minutes, until mangoes are soft and fragrant.
2. Set mangoes aside and cook diced onion in same pan without cleaning it.  Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, until onions are tender.
3. Combine all ingredients up to breadcrumbs, with breadcrumbs last.  Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes to absorb–this will make the frying easier.
4. Shape the batter into patties, about 1/3c at a time. Use your palms to make them flat. Do not place them on top of one another.
5. Heat 1-2 TBS of olive oil over medium heat in same pan.  After about 90 seconds, put first batch of salmon cakes in– I was able to make 3 at a time. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until patty is firm and easily flippable. Depending on your pan and stove, it may take longer. If you find patties burning but not flipping without breaking, turn down your heat.
6. Combine avocado, corn, and lime juice in bowl and serve on side, or just heap it all on top like I did:

Lady, Don’t You Know We Love You?

13 May
Happy Mother’s Day to MamaKef!
And now, a few words about the incredibly difficult task of mothering, from the incredible Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Shout out to moms everywhere, who work tirelessly, and often without thanks, compensation, or appreciation, to raise up some babies.
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