Cactus Garden (and St. Paddy leftovers casserole)

We live not too far from a beautiful cactus garden that is attached to a famous candy makers factory.  When I need time to myself I occasionally drive over there and walk around enjoying the peace and beauty and ending my excursion with a piece of candy.  When the girls were young we spent a lot of time there – it was a great place to bird watch and we always saw lizards or rabbits or squirrels, and of course we always ended our visit with a piece of candy.  One spring day when she was about 4 years old I took Thing 1, it was so long ago I can’t remember why I didn’t have her sister, and we spent quite a while walking around and talking.  At that time of year there are quite a few insects that fly around from flower to flower, bloom to bloom and that day there seemed to be more than usual.  Anyone that knows my girls knows they are terrified of bugs, and beyond terrified of two kinds in particular – ladybugs and butterflies.  Crazy stuff – the two bugs I can totally guarantee are not creepy looking and will not bite or sting.  So, Thing 1 had wandered a little ahead of me and was bending over looking at some flowers in her favorite shades of pink.  I notice a butterfly had begun to flutter around her head and shoulders, I think it was drawn by the bright colors of her floral dress and her sweet little girl smell.  I began to hurry toward her, knowing what would happen if she saw the butterfly but before I got to her it had decided to land – on her leg.  I took her hand just as she reached down with the other because something was tickling her leg.  She smiled up at me then turned her head to see what tickled and then she screamed.  Not just a little girl shriek, it was loud and continuous so I scooped her up and rubbed the backs of both legs with my open palm to show her the butterfly was gone.  It didn’t help, she continued to scream and now people were looking at us wondering, I’m sure, what I had done to her.  The screaming didn’t stop and I began to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.  I looked into her face and she continued to scream and I wondered for just a second what I was going to have to do to stop her hysterics.  I know they show people in movies being slapped but I couldn’t even imagine doing that; I don’t spank because I know I wouldn’t like the way it would make me feel, I couldn’t even imagine how I would feel if I were to slap her.  Finally I could see that she recognized me and her screaming settled into sobs so I pulled her face against my neck to shield her from the people who were still watching her.  She wrapped her little legs around my waist and I carried her as I slowly walked around the paths, her skin was damp from perspiration and soon my neck was wet from her tears.

I have learned there are magic moments with my children that can’t be anticipated and when they happen I have learned not to question the circumstances that make them up.  My strongest memory from that day is how tender I felt toward her due to her fear of the butterfly but also how protective I felt of us, shielding her from the prying eyes, laying my cheek against hers, and remembering the strange feeling of helplessness that made me laugh at her mindless screaming unable to do anything to stop her.  I also remember how close I felt to her, how tiny and dependent on me she was, and how I knew I would do anything in my power to protect her

St. Paddy’s Casserole

(substitute the ingredients with any leftovers you have)

1 large onion, chopped into large dice

1/2 large head of cabbage, chopped

4 large carrots, chopped into large dice

4 potatoes, chopped into large dice

1 pound lean corned beef, chopped into large dice

2 Tablespoons yellow mustard

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 splash hot sauce (recommend Irish Scream)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Steam cabbage, onion, carrots, and potatoes until  soft (or cook in covered microwave dish).  Cool.  Add corned beef, mixing well.

Stir together mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, pepper, and caraway seeds.  Mix into vegetable mixture.  Turn into greased covered casserole or 9×13 baking dish, covered with foil.  Bake 375 degrees for 45 minutes (350 degrees if using glass or dark colored pan).

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