Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy New Year - A Belated Greeting

Happy New Year
A Belated Greeting

I'm 71 days late in saying this, but... Happy New Year. This blog has lay dormant and I have a very valid excuse, which I shall share here and also sneak in some friendly advice. A new year is a time for new beginnings and that's exactly what interrupted my work. So, here's an update.

The House of Tystad moved locations in the month of January. For almost ten years, it resided on an east-sloping residential street in a suburban neighborhood. It took me quite a while to realize that, due to the way the sun set beyond the crest of the hill at the top of our street, we lived in a pre-dusk shadow that robbed us of a fair amount of daylight and thousands of sunsets. I can remember thinking many times as I looked at the sunlight still touching the tops of the trees on our block that if we lived at the top of the hill, the day wouldn't be over yet.

We're now situated in a terrific location that provides an unobstructed view of the entire western sky. Most of our windows face the west and we've been fortunate to see some of the most amazing sunsets you can imagine. I'm now lamenting how much beauty and how many daylight hours we missed in the past ten years.

What I've learned is that I should have taken action the moment I realized what I was missing. I could have started a tradition of spending as many late afternoon pre-sunset hours as possible at the local coffee house at the top of the hill. It seems obvious now, but it never occurred to me that just because our location wasn't ideal I still could have managed to enjoy the natural beauty that I value so much. If only I had just thought creatively.

The lesson here is to take charge and find a way to enjoy what you love. None of us are getting any younger and we absolutely must enjoy what we love before it's gone. The angel in the photo on this blog post is gone and so is the garden shed behind it. The soil where I planted flowers and vegetables is gone. And the rooms where my family grew and changed over the course of ten years are gone too.

The House of Tystad has moved and it's still changing. But now we have a whole new outlook and a whole new point of view every evening at sunset. I don't have any regrets, but I know that I can never accept less than a full day of what we've been given ever again. And that makes this a very happy new year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in
one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not
enchantment then where is it to be found?"

J. B. Priestley

Happy Holidays to you and yours from the House of Tystad.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Countdown to Thanksgiving

I was invited to be one of author Terri Giuliano Long's guests during her "For the Love of Love" event and, fortunately for me, the topic I was asked to write about was food. Followers of this blog know how I feel about food and my contribution to Terri's event allowed me to get a little more specific. In anticipation of one of my favorite holidays, here it is again. Bon appetit.

For the Love of Food
by Todd R. Tystad

Most people agree that it was Socrates who first said, “One should eat to live, not live to eat.” Far be it from me to disagree with one of the world’s greatest thinkers, but I just have to wonder if we really can have it both ways. I propose, “Live to eat and share food with those you love.”

Love of food for me isn’t simply about the food itself. It’s about enjoying a multi-sensory experience with the people you share it with. We all need nourishment to survive, but sharing food with the people we love allows us to thrive.

When I think back to all of the food I’ve enjoyed with family and friends over a lifetime, it takes me back to the moments and experiences that make up the very fabric of who I am. I remember corn on the cob in my grandmother’s kitchen, scallops wrapped in bacon at a friend’s wedding, roasted red bell pepper soup with friends in the mountains, PB&J, Thanksgiving turkey… the list goes on.

I come from a family where love is expressed through the food that is served and, sometimes unfortunately, through the quantity of food on the plate. The events that are anticipated and planned most meticulously are the shared meals that give us a moment away from the world outside and allow us to break bread with the people we will hold in our hearts forever.

For me, the effort put into creating a meal and serving it to the people I care about is the best way to say, “I love you.”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jalapeno Peppers Wrapped in Bacon

Football season means food on the grill, whether you're tailgating or watching the game at home. Here's one of the all-time favorites at the House of Tystad.

Jalapeno Peppers Wrapped in Bacon

small Jalapeno peppers
softened cream cheese
brown sugar

Clean, cut, and hollow out the peppers. Some prefer to cut them in half lengthwise to make the stuffing process easier, but I like them whole. Also, tenderfoots like to blanch the peppers before stuffing them (which will aid in bringing down the heat of the peppers, as does the cooking process), but I prefer them au naturale.

The classic version of this recipe calls for the peppers to be breaded and fried. But at the House of Tystad, we believe that bacon makes anything better. And so it goes a little something like this...

Stuff each pepper with cream cheese, wrap it in bacon, roll it in brown sugar, and secure the bacon with a toothpick. Then, bake or grill the peppers until the bacon is fully cooked. I always use foil underneath because you never know how much the cream cheese will leak.

The beauty of this recipe is the brown sugar. If you get it right, the brown sugar will caramelize and create a sweet balance to the salt of the bacon and the spiciness of the peppers. I'd advise you to make a lot more than you think you'll need because they're going to be popular.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Football Season 2013

The annual calendar at the House of Tystad always begins with football season. Summer is over, a new school year has begun, and our attention is now focused on a sport that is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.

Our shared American culture is diverse enough that a person could conceivably grow up not knowing the meaning of the word huddle or the responsibilities of a quarterback. But cultural literacy requires at the very minimum a proficiency in the basic terms that are associated with the game of football. The language of the game is a part of our shared language, whether the speakers have played the game or not. Football is a part of who we are.

So, as we begin another football season, I want to wish the very best to the players, the coaches, and the fans who make the game what it is. Let's not forget that before it's a broadcast program, it's a game played in grassy parks and empty lots in every community. Before it's a high dollar ticketed event, it's a sport that teaches players the meaning of teamwork and character and dedication. Before anything else, it's an endeavor that has taught life lessons to countless athletes who may have not otherwise had opportunities that football provided.

I'm a football fan. This is the time of year that I wait for. It's a brand new season and anything is possible. See you at the game.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Growing Up on the Front Lawn

I was out walking Pablo around the neighborhood a while back when I came across a moment in time that's stayed with me. I could see a boy, about 12 years old or so, mowing a lawn and being directed by a man who looked like he was probably the boy's father. Nearby, two other men stood watching. As I passed by, I figured that this was the boy's first time mowing the lawn. The smile on his face and his careful attention to the task told me it was a moment that he would remember for a long time.

As I came near one of the two men watching, I said hello and commented that it was a great moment when a young man can take over the job of mowing the lawn. The man smiled and agreed, adding that the boy had been looking forward to it for a long time. There was pride in his voice and it made me happy to have come across something so simple and yet so profound.

In America, we don't have a singular rite of passage that formally marks a young person's transition into adulthood. We've got church confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, and Sweet Sixteen celebrations. Getting a driver's license or registering to vote might be as universal an experience as you can find. But I think the real coming of age happens in moments like the one I witnessed.

Families live together and care for each other and deal with the good and the bad, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. Washing the dishes, changing the baby, and mowing the lawn are the things that families do together. You can help take care of the people around you whether you're young or old. But when you can take over a family responsibility and make it your own, you're really growing up. And that's what I had the privilege of seeing as I was just passing by.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Finding Peace in the Dog Moments

I was looking for peace. Pablo the Chihuahua and I were out for a walk around the neighborhood and, between the exercise and the near-death experience brought on by an angry Irish Setter on the loose, I think we both got a lot out of it. Pablo got some serious cardio and a newfound realization that he isn't nearly as intimidating as he thinks he is (a hard life lesson for a Chihuahua). I got to breathe in some fresh air and feel an important connection to nature and the value of life... my own and my dog's.

One of the most peaceful people I've ever known was a religious man, a man of the cloth. He was the leader of his congregation when I knew him and I count him among the most influential people I've ever known. He used to say that his most spiritual moments came not in a house of worship and not among other people, but late at night when he took his dog outside for a walk. He said that having that time alone with his dog, walking in the darkness, he was able to reach a point of having an honest and satisfying spiritual experience. Those moments gave him peace.

I'll never forget that lesson, that we can sometimes be surprised where we can find our own peace. My friend clued me in to the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look deep within ourselves and realize who we are in the world. And that these moments can bring us true peace.