Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NOLA Locavore Challenge, Take 2

Back in 2011, during the height of my dietary challenges, I decided I would add to the list of the foods I couldn't eat by taking part in the first annual NOLA Locavore challenge, pledging to eat only foods grown within 200 miles of New Orleans for the month of June.  It was a challenge, but I was used to food challenges by that time, so I guess I was up for it.  Still, it was stressful, and for the next several years I eschewed that particular challenge.

This year, after hemming and hawing for several weeks (because I still get the emails about it every year), I decided on the spur of the moment to sign up yesterday.  I pick up my "starter packet" with all the goodies--local salt, red beans, rice, coupons and discounts all over town--tomorrow because I missed the big kick-off party.  So I started the day yesterday with pretty much nothing local in the house.  But that didn't mean I couldn't start getting in the spirit of the thing.

I chose to do the "Lenient" challenge, which means I can pick six foods and six meals that don't count.  Pretty sure I'll be over the limit every week, but here's how I am starting out.

First, I will eat the stuff that is still in my fridge.  I'm not wasting food simply because I didn't prepare soon enough.  I have leftovers and produce that I've bought over the last few weeks that I will incorporate into my meals as needed.  I'll try not to use the things that will last (condiments, etc.).  Also, I don't eat dairy or soy, so I'm going to have to substitute almond milk or coconut milk when needed.  Can't get those around here.  But I'm thinking of making a pecan milk.  I make a mean cashew cream that might work with pecans too.  We shall see.

I made myself a lunch of things I had in my fridge that maybe weren't local, but could have been.  A salad with bacon, peppers, and apples.  I thought I saw apples on the Good Eggs website, but maybe they weren't local.  Still, sub strawberries or blueberries or peaches...  And I topped it off with a vinaigrette I bought from Vintage Garden a while back.  Yum.  And surprisingly filling.  If I had had pecans, I would have added them.

Then I hit my main grocery store.  As much as I love this challenge, my family has not signed up for it, so I had to get them their staples.  The shift in focus was looking for locally produced food as much as possible.  Spaghetti sauce for the night--II Tony's, made by the restaurant about half a mile from my house.  Goodness knows where they get their ingredients, but at least I'm supporting a local outfit.  Crawfish tails.  I picked up one pack, looked on the back, and it said "Product of China."  Whaaa???  The one next to it was from LA, so I bought that one.

Anyway, I came home and made "spaghetti" with local ground beef and a spiralized squash that may or may not have come from a farmers market.  All in all, not a bad first day.  The main difference between now and 4 years ago is that I refuse to stress about it.  I know I'm doing what I can (balancing all relevant factors) and it's a step up from what I was doing before.

Today, after a breakfast of French Press iced coffee and a GF bagel I still had in the fridge, I hit the farmer's markets hard.  CCFM had peaches!!!  And fish and shrimp and lots of veggies of course, and herb plants!  But the peaches...  Hollygrove has the meat and "the box" with lots of different veggies the other market didn't have.  I do like the box because the portions keep me from buying too much.  Especially something like Asian eggplant.  I don't do eggplant, but this challenge makes me want to experiment.

So my plan for the next few meals--fish tonight with corn on the cob and a lovely salad.  Tomorrow for breakfast, gotta finish up my leftover oatmeal with blueberries and PEACHES!!!!  Lunch with my mom at some participating restaurant uptown.  Dinner...I would like to experiment with my crawfish tails.  Spiralized something (sweet potato? Yellow squash? butternut squash?), some kind of nut/coconut milk sauce (oh, you beautiful butters and creams at the market, how you taunt me), some savory herbs and spices.  I'm liking it.  By that time, I will have picked up my starter pack and maybe checked out Cleaver and Co. for some charcuterie and lard...

My creative juices are flowing.  I think the logo "let's have lunch and talk about dinner" is pretty right on.  It's fun to think about.  I'll keep you posted, but in the meantime, definitely open to any suggestions!  Happy eating!

Thursday, October 30, 2014


I cleaned out the hall closet.  I feel awesome.  Behold my progress:

I know I say progress, not perfection, but...this is awfully close.  Yep.  All board games.  Happiness is a closet full of board games.  That you can walk in.

See, dreams do come true.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year

Is it time for resolutions again?  Somewhere I read that we should have resolutions for various parts of our lives: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  So here goes:

Well, there's always exercise.  My friend recently devised an exercise program for me that I have woefully ignored.  So I resolve not to ignore it this year.  Should I get more specific?  An hour a day four times a week seems reasonable.  A big step up from nothing...

And then there's my house.  Let's just say I have a clutter problem.  It spills onto every surface, clogs up every storage drawer, cabinet, and closet, and I don't even want to talk about my garage.  I'm not so sure this is a physical problem as much as one that affects every aspect of my life.  I'm emotionally cluttered, mentally impaired and spiritually drained every time I look around my house.  It's overwhelming.  A couple of years ago I found this great calendar that gives you a task a day--like tackling one drawer, or one shelf of your medicine cabinet.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but like most resolutions, was ignored after about a month.  So I'm going to make it simple.  I resolve to clean out my hall closet.  Sometime this year.  And make room for some of the stuff that's spilling out onto the rest of the surfaces of my house.  If I conquer that one, I'll take on the catch-all cabinet under my kitchen counter.

I'm working on it.  My goal in this area is to remember to hang on to the good times and good memories.  On blacker days, I must remember that they will come again, and they are real and meaningful.

Write more.  Read more.  Learn all that I can.  Don't really need a resolution in this area because I would rather do this than almost anything.  Maybe my resolution should be to write less, read less, learn less, and pay more attention to the things that are right in front of me, like my family, friends, house, and community.

This may come as a surprise if you read my last post, but my spiritual resolution for now is to start a dialogue with my church.  I was raised a Catholic.  Ever since high school, I've looked for a way to escape the church.  I have been angry and disappointed and have missed the underlying teachings because of all the resentments I have held.  All the things I have tried to use as substitutions have similar failings.  No institution is perfect because each is led by human beings and we are all hopelessly flawed.  So I am willing to go back and admit that I don't know everything.  I am certain my home church still has things to teach me.  A little humility is required here, because I fear that when I surrender, the church won't reciprocate.  They won't see me and say, maybe she has something to offer us.  My pride is an obstacle.  But with Pope Francis opening doors that have been closed for most of my life, I feel the need for an opening as well.

On the flip side, another spiritual resolution may have to be to stop dwelling on things that I cannot prove or disprove, and start living in the here and now.  What does it matter if I have my spirituality all in orderly boxes when the rest of my life is in shambles?  Which leads me back to the physical realm.  Now I must pay attention to my daughter while she still wants me too.

A Happy New Year to all.  I hope it brings you hope and peace.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Wheel Keeps on Turning

The Fool
One day in 1991, walking home from my job at a sandwich shop to my apartment near Loyola, I passed a tiny shop on Maple Street called Crystal Accents.  Once I walked through the door, I knew my life would never be the same.  I was surrounded by books and crystals and incense, and most importantly an energy I had never felt before—one of openness to things we don’t see but feel.  At the time, I suppose the life of a college sorority girl wasn't providing much meaning for me, and I was searching for more.  A sign on the wall advertised classes in reading tarot cards and astrology, and I jumped at the opportunity, never expecting it to take me anywhere in particular.  I just wanted to see what it was all about.  But after this training under NOLA Psychic Judith Faye, I began reading tarot cards for my friends, for myself, and with Judith for parties and conventions.  

X - The Wheel of FortuneMany people put tarot cards in a box of dark, occult fantasy, removed from everyday life.  I believe everything happens for a reason, and that some force guides us to the cards we choose.  Whether you call that force your own subconscious mind, a guiding force outside of you, or a collaboration of the Spirit within and without, the result is the same.  These cards represent what is happening in our real lives every day.  While they always have the same central energy, each card’s meaning will change depending on the cards around them and the energy of the person who is seeking guidance.  Each represents a single moment on our own personal wheel of fortune, and every person is somewhere on that wheel.  After learning to read tarot cards, I understood the world in a different way, based on the Jungian ideas of the collective unconscious and synchronicity, and the global symbolism and mythology of the cards I was reading. 

Since that time, I have also lived the life of a lawyer, an English teacher, a writer, a wife, a mother of two and a stepmom of three.  I have not forgotten my Catholic upbringing; my kids attend Catholic school as I did.  I live in the “real world,” and my life is pretty mainstream.  But I have always been searching, especially the last few years.  

Fast forward to 2013.  I was driving down Lake Avenue in Bucktown in September, on my way home from my "mom errands" to my house in Lakeview, and drove by a place called the Metaphysical Resource Center.  Major deja vu.  Not having time to stop in right then, I looked them up online as soon as I got home.  It was like a virtual homecoming.  Something in me wanted to reach out.  I called, told them I was in the neighborhood, and asked if they needed a tarot reader.  The man I spoke to responded positively and told me to stop by when I could so we could talk more about it. 

A few days later I walked into the shop in between trips to the grocery store and the drug store.  When I got there, I realized I had met Sid Patrick (the owner) and his friends on a chance encounter in Cassadaga, Florida, earlier this summer.  We had met while taking an orb tour at the Spiritualist camp there.  I was there on the pretense of researching Alice Flagler, the subject of my book.  She was very involved in the Spritualism movement in Florida.  I thought she may have come to the camp around its opening in 1893.  But truly, I was still searching for myself just as much as for Alice.

Powerful Spirit on the Orb Tour?

Magne and Denise were in Cassadaga with Sid, and they were both in the shop when I walked in.  They recognized me and gave me a very warm welcome.  It was Magne I spoke to on the phone.  We worked out the details, and I will be a part time reader at the Center starting this week.

I said I lived in the real world, but I believe that the real world needs a large dose of real magic.  I believe we are still in our infancy in how we understand our own brains, the world around us, and especially spirituality.  When I started The Artist's Way, one of the visions I had for myself was to start reading tarot cards again.  Over the years I have realized that instead of feeling alone and isolated in my deep sensitivity and empathy for the feelings of others, I can help raise the vibrations of others so that they too can understand things on a deeper level. I didn’t know how it would happen, or where, or whether I would be able to find work during the day while the kids were in school.  All the work I had done in the past had been at night.  

It seems I have manifested my vision.  Coming to the Center felt like coming home, much like I felt in 1991.  I am living proof that synchronicity is real and ever present in our lives.  The universe gives us what we ask for—not always in the way we expect it, and not always in our own time.  But in divine time.   

Down here on earth, we are all human beings first, none better than any other, all connected, all gifted in different areas.  My gifts are compassion, intuition, empathy and imagination—vision for how our lives can be different in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.  I hope I can help a few people feel as connected as I do right now.
Thoth Sun  Thoth Art  Thoth Empress  Thoth Lovers  Thoth Adjustment

Saturday, September 14, 2013

More loss.

There are no words I can come up with to express what W. H. Auden has already written about grief in what is popularly known as "Funeral Blues."  To the little life that we conceived and lost, so unexpectedly, so quickly, gone before we knew it, leaving us changed forever.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I think I understand why people don't talk about miscarriages.  God seems to give you a gift, and then rips it away from you for no apparent reason.  It is the most bewildering, confounding experience, and one is left with nothing to show for it except a shattered heart.  It is hard to imagine a divine plan here.  

Then again...it's like this now.  It will have to do.  Here's hoping for understanding one day.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Ahhhhhh, vacation... Destination: Slow.

This has got to be the best time of life.  First day of a two week vacation, relaxing in the hotel room, waiting for the hotel water park to open because we gained two hours arriving at Phoenix at 7 pm last night.  Watching the British Open (which started at 3:30 am here).  And everybody is happy.

It's supposed to be 97 degrees in Phoenix today, a rare cool front having moved in.  Yesterday I believe the high was 104.  What a perfect day for a wave pool!  Michael and Victor will get a chance to tour the Arizona Cardinal stadium, which would be their 13th or 14th stadium on their quest to see them all. Will they make it?  Or will the Oasis Water Park at the Arizona Grand Resort win out?  Isn't it lovely to know that it's all good?

The anticipation combined with the relaxation is what makes this the perfect moment.  We have so many great times to look forward to.  Sedona, the new age capital of the southwest and the most beautiful city in the country, according to some, is home to natural red rock canyons and Slide Rock State Park in the Oak Creek valley.  Monday night when we get there we will take a full moon Moonlight Hike at Red Rock State Park.  Maybe the next day I will get a past life, aura, or dosha reading.  Or just take a jeep tour exploring the beautiful off-road scenery.  Maybe we'll see one of their famous vortexes, areas that amplify the energy within you.  It's all there.

After that, through Flagstaff to visit a dear friend of Victor's, and then onto the Grand Canyon.  Two days at the South Rim, two at the North Rim.  I have no intention of hiking all the way down into the canyon.  I'm not trained for that and neither are my two kids.  I'm sure Victor thinks he can do it, because he thinks he can do anything.  I won't naysay him because his optimism is a constant source of joy for me, and often a whack on the side of the head--just what I need in any given circumstance.  I will let the tension between his pushing and the kids resisting set the pace of the trip.

We will then move on to Utah, first to Bryce Canyon, then to Zion.  After a couple of days in each we move on to Las Vegas.  Three places I have never visited, so I'm interested, but not terribly invested in any particular outcome.  In Vegas we have tickets to see a couple of shows, but otherwise, we have no tours, no schedule, nowhere in particular to be.

My goal for this vacation is to enjoy each moment.  In the past, I have tried to overplan vacations, and everyone always seems to end up disappointed in some way.  That is because other human beings come into play besides me.  After having planned a vacation for months, these three other fellow travelers suddenly have opinions.  I try to involve them in the planning, but they are not immersed in it like I am, so they can only say so much.  Once we get to our destination, things often don't go as planned, to the delight of some, the disappointment of others.  More often than not, I will feel resentment and frustration over all that wasted time planning.

Not this time.  I am surrendering control, and the rest of this vacation is about connecting with my family in a beautiful setting.  It's about balance.  I found cheap plane tickets.  I arranged reasonable, interesting and varied lodging.  I scheduled three time sensitive activities.  I'm done.  From now on, I let the spirit move us.  The best times on past vacations have been at coffee shops and in the car.  I've finally realized that, although some geographical spots are really special, what makes a trip memorable is an intangible mix of the atmosphere, the experiences, the people experiencing them, and the random digressions put in their path.  I look forward to discovering the unique brew of the upcoming days.  And for now, I wonder...what's next?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Few Notes on Disney

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of travel.  Disneyworld, a happy blur of thrills, family time, and bodily pain; Cassadaga, a slowed down escape from life as I know it; and Washington D.C., a reminder of what history and freedom are all about.

About Disney...who hasn't been there?  Do I really need to tell you what it's about?  This was a 7th grade grad trip for my thirteen year old son and his friends.  Firsts for us:  staying at a non-budget hotel (the Contemporary) and getting the park-hopper pass.  Is it worth it?  Depends on how much you've got to spend and what your physical limits are.  

In the past, we've always done one park in one day.  Cheaper, and less pressure to do everything you possibly can till the parks close.  I think I prefer that way.  The park hopper was convenient in that we could take advantage of the extra magic hours at whatever park was offering them without having to have been there all day, and we could jump to whatever park had shorter lines.  But I have to say that we stayed at the parks longer and walked around more than I ever have before.  I could barely walk towards the end of the trip.  I don't think I can take any more luxury park-hopper tickets.  I did like the Contemporary, but any onsite hotel would have been about the same.  They all have nice pools and come with the extra magic hours.  

One great thing I discovered about Disney this time...gluten free bread throughout the park!  This made me happy.  

I know that people say Disney world is fake and under the surface is an evil empire just waiting to take your money, yeah, yeah, yeah....  But we buy it.  And we love it.  And we keep coming back.  And we are happy when we are there.  They have mastered customer service.  And that is a real place where we have real vacations and real quality family time, and really experience people trying to make other people happy.  We are all desperate for a taste of that now and then.  I don't care if it's just big business.  I like knowing a place like that is around.

Yes, I'd be happier if the prices were a little lower.  But I've adjusted my expectations somewhat as I've become more attuned to the process and value of creativity.  And now I pay my money and treat the entire place as a gigantic work of art.  I value art.  People pay big money for art.  And it is priceless.  

So thank you Walt Disney, for making all our wishes come true, just for a few days.  

Most beautiful fake castle in the world!  And most wonderful kids. 
It's grainy, but yes, that is the full flower moon hanging in the sky behind us.  What a night.