Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ginger chicken and asian greens!

There is nothing like fresh greens in the cooler months to remind us that spring exists.  Tonight I made the most lovely dish inspired by whatever was in "the box" at Hollygrove market http://hollygrovemarket.com/.  I don't usually get the whole box, but this week it was filled with a variety of citrus and greens, not to mention sweet potatoes and shiitake mushrooms.  Grapefruit, Meyer lemons, Clementines, naval oranges, bok choy, totsoi, and rapini.  And local broccoli too!  Also available but not in the  box was ginger, but I had already picked up some of that at the Thursday market.  The wheels began to turn.

Totsoi, you may ask?  I have no idea.  But I googled it.  An Asian green.  So I googled "chicken and Asian greens" and came up with so many options!  Here is the one I based my version on:
http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=343699.  But lately I'm finding it impossible to stick to a recipe.  I looked in my fridge.  There were those shiitakes and part of a red pepper.  And a brand new bag of celery--ooh that would be good, too.

I diced a couple of chicken breasts I found in the freezer, marinated them for what turned into about an hour in the lemon juice, grated ginger, salt and pepper.  Meanwhile, I cooked some brown rice, and started chopping up the veggies:  Bok choy, totsoi, broccoli, and celery went into the steamer basket for a few minutes to soften them up.  I saved the red pepper and shiitakes for the saute.  The recipe called for steaming the chicken, but I just cooked it in a pan in some sesame oil.  Sauteed the veggies, adding the greens, garlic and soy sauce at the end, and served it all up to my family.  At least what was left of it after I kept picking at the greens while cooking them.

Isabella is the picky one, but she said it was the best chicken she ever tasted, eating every last bite plus what was left in the pan.  She tasted the greens but was not impressed.  Michael picked out the broccoli and ate it, but wasn't sure about all that other green and red stuff.  Victor and I polished off everything else.

I wish I had taken a picture of it while I was sauteing it.  It was so beautiful and fresh looking.  What should I do with the rapini?  Maybe some of those beans I froze in the summer would complement it.  Sausage?  I'll see what inspires me tonight!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Loss

This Thanksgiving week has not been what I expected.  I had a beautiful vacation with my little family planned...Atlanta for a few nights, Asheville for a few nights, and back home next weekend.  God had other things planned for me.

My Aunt Crin Del died on Saturday.  She was riding a brand new candy apple red scooter that she had posted pictures of on facebook and was so excited about.  She even said on facebook that her sons assured her it would change her life.  After a wonderful day of riding with her twin sons, Nick and Nate, she made a right turn, lost control, and was hit by a car, ending her life.

I am okay.  I am in West Monroe with my dad's family.  The love in this family transcends all.  We have lost so many wonderful people way too early in the last few years.  My uncle and godfather, Mike (who my son is named after) died of HIV related illness when I was in high school.  He was probably in his 40s.  And of course, my grandmother died when I was pregnant with Isabella, 2002.  Not tragic, but sad still.  Then my father died of leukemia in 2006 at 65.  My cousins Alex and Kelly both died in the past 4 years, at both in their 30s, one of leukemia and one of a rare genetic disease.  And now my beautiful, fun loving Aunt, my godmother, who left behind a legacy of wisdom and two beautiful boys.  I feel like I need to adopt them.  

And all this on top of the loss of Edmund, my late son-in-law, who died in September, tragically and so young, who I'm still mourning, and haven't even been able to blog about yet.  It seems destined to be a difficult year.  

I wish my dad was here to be with us all.  I wish I could have known Mike better. I wish I had gone to my cousin's wedding last weekend so I could have seen Crin Del one more time.  I wish I could share with her the books that I'm writing.  I think she would have really enjoyed hearing about it.  She would have understood giving a voice to someone who had none.  She was one of my people.  

But I still have many wonderful family members left, and I am vowing to cherish every minute I can spend with them.  Difficult, maybe at times, but worth every minute of personal connection.  I love them.  Crin Del, I will miss you.  Rest in peace.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Letters and such?

I know, I know.  I haven't been posting every day.  Did you miss me?  The good thing is, I have been writing.  Just not blogging so much.  I have a big list of topics to blog about, but am having trouble making myself do it.  The first topic on my list is "What does it mean to be a writer?"

One of my favorite movie moments is in Unforgiven, when someone in the company of a dangerous criminal identifies himself as a writer.  Gene Hackman's character, puzzled, asks, "Letters and such?"  The writer shows him the book he's writing about said bad guy, and Hackman reads, "The Duck o' Death."  "That's Duke," the writer corrects.  I love that scene.  It reminds me that once your words are put on paper, they take on a life of their own, and you never know what someone will make of them.

I've been calling myself a writer lately, when someone asks me what I do.  Otherwise, I am a household engineer, chauffer, Lego piece retriever, laundress, etc...  I like "writer" better.  But what does that mean?  Do you have to be published to call yourself a writer?

I write almost every day.  I've been lazy with the morning pages.  Artists Way, Week 11 has lasted about 12 weeks.  But if I'm not writing morning pages, I'm writing the book I've been working on this fall.  And if I'm not writing that, maybe I am writing letters and such.  Emails, facebook posts, thank you notes (on a good day) or actual handwritten letters, which happen once in a blue moon.

Have you ever received a letter that touched your heart in a way that no phone call or email ever has?  Some people have that gift, and I aspire to it.  I believe there is an art to the personal note.  I began learning it at camp, writing letters during rest hour.  I also learned that skill from my mother, who writes wonderful letters.  They meant a lot those six weeks of camp every summer, and still do on very special occasions.

A writer writes.  That's what they say.  So I guess I am allowed to call myself one.  Have I published?  Depends on who you ask.  I wrote a few things for my high school and college newspapers.  Does that count?

Well, good news.  It is the eve of the publication of my very first magazine article!  So there.  Amelie G magazine, http://ameliegmag.com, a nationally distributed New Orleans fashion and lifestyle magazine, is publishing an article I wrote dealing with food sensitivities and allergies.  I have had enough practice with that, as you know if you've read any one of my early posts.  After you've all (all 4 of you) had a chance to run out to your nearest Barnes and Noble or Whole Foods and buy the magazine, maybe I'll post it here!

I'm having fun writing.   This weekend, I will celebrate.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about words.  Enjoy!

A word is dead when it is said. Some say. I say it just, begins to live that day.
Emily Dickinson


Our words have wings, but fly not where we would.
George Eliot


The closer the look one takes at a word, the greater distance from which it looks back.
Karl Kraus


Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.
Ludwig Wittgenstein


But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
Lord Byron


Saturday, November 3, 2012

An uneventful weekend

This is a weekend so rare, it only comes along once every few months.  I stayed at home with my husband and kids both Friday and Saturday nights.  We had no fairs to be at, no campouts to go to, no sleepovers with friends, no birthday parties, no galas, no fish fries or spaghetti dinners or bingo nights.  Just us.  Hanging out at the house.  I hardly knew what to do.

During the day I attended a writing workshop, and Michael invited a friend over.  Victor and Isabella went on a father-daughter date to the Wax Museum, Camellia Grill, and Cafe du Monde. All lovely ways to spend an afternoon, but also very unusual because we were not together.  Plus, usually if we separate, we end up drawing the line by gender.  Michael and Victor might play frisbee golf, while Isabella and I go shopping.  Not today.

I sense a turning point in our lives that may have something to do with Isabella growing into double digits and Michael about to become a teenager.  They are becoming little adults.  We've always treated them that way because they are both old souls, but now they are responding in interesting ways.  It's always surprising to realize that these little people I helped create are not just mini versions of me or Victor but completely separate souls that have separate thoughts and dreams and a purpose on this earth all their own.  Sometimes I just have to step back and watch in amazement.

Did I use my time productively on these evenings?  It depends on who you ask.  We watched a lot of TV (together), and I played too much Settlers of Catan on my phone.  It was so tempting--no obligations, taking a little breather in front of screen after screen.  For me, the writing workshops take a lot of mental energy.  I was a bit brain dead by 5:00.

But around dinnertime, Isabella literally got in my face, in between me and my phone, and started singing and gyrating wildly.  It actually took me a second to focus on her, so out of tune was I.  She's not shy.  She tells me when she wants attention.  So finally, I put the phone down (why does it seem so magnetic?) and got up and danced with her to her made up tune.  We jumped around and mirrored each others movements until I put my arms tight around her and we jumped around and danced crazy steps as a single unit.  I held her tight until she felt contained, and still, until she felt uncomfortable, and I let her go.  And we danced some more.

Moments like that make life worth living.  So, an uneventful weekend?  Thank goodness we have time for them once in a while.  I hope I remember it forever.

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls

Pinky and Pacman get ready to haunt Lakeview...wide eyed...

Happy All Souls Day.  As a tribute to the Halloween season in general, here are some great pics of the family in costume.  We especially remember Edmund, who always outdid us all in costuming and all sartorial pursuits.  Rest in peace, dear soul.


Dizzy Lizzy with wig 

Dizzy Izzy and the Dark Lord/Hooded Figure thing


Dizzy Izzy and Pinky ready for the night!
Halloween 2011--Rufi and the Faeries!
Our first Halloween with Edmund, October 2010
All smiles

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy National Blog Posting Month!

Well, it's November 1st and all I can say is, it's been a busy few months.  My last post was in April.  Sad, sad, sad.  But I've been inspired by the arrival of National Blog Posting Month, which, I learned today, is November.  Who knew?  The goal is to post every day on your blog.  Yup, whether you want me to or not.  Teehee. :P
 
Blogging is a strange phenomenon.  I started keeping a diary when I was old enough to write.  When Katrina hit New Orleans, I had about 8 or 9 journals collected over the years, all lost, unfortunately.  These were not something I would ever, EVER want anyone to see, and when blogging became a trend, I scoffed.  Who would ever want to read the musings of little old me?  And who would be so presumptuous to think anyone would want to read theirs?

Ummmmm.......me.

I started this blog because I was going through something that I couldn't find anything about online--food sensitivities, allergies, leaky gut (which is not as gross as it sounds), and a rotation diet.  But I found I had more to say.  In fact, I found I had hopes of making writing a career--so much so that I had no time for blogging.  I was writing important stuff, in writing workshops, doing the morning pages for the Artist's Way.  Since March I have another 4 or 5 journals written, and have started writing two books.  Blogging, and then writing, has been a reawakening for me.

I don't know who thought of devoting a month to blogging every day.  I think it's a pretty funny concept.  But for someone who expresses herself best in writing, so much better than in conversation, this is a jump start.  It doesn't have to be so hard.  Having to do it every day takes the pressure off.  It doesn't have to be (and won't be) perfect.  Kind of an issue for me.  For more info, see the post entitled "Perfection." :)

So thank you, whoever you are.  I needed a jump start, a reason to get back to it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In defense of magic

I am a Harry Potter fan.  Those closest to me know that.  The eternal sadness of the series for me was always that it was fiction.  That there is no magic in the "real world."  But I'm starting to feel differently about that.

For the last few weeks, I have immersed myself in the creative process.  Writing everyday, imagining possibilities, visualizing my life as I want it to be, and becoming unblocked.  I can't believe how the universe has responded.  Julia Cameron quotes "The Work of the Chariot" in The Artist's Way:  "When a man takes one step toward God, God takes more steps toward that man than there are sands in the worlds of time."  You reach out just a bit, and the universe engulfs you with its wonder.  All it takes is faith.  Call it answered prayers, call it magic, but my life has changed because of the creative process.  Cynical?  Yes, Cameron also points out that "possibility is far more frightening than impossibility."

Synchronicity is everywhere.  Have you experienced it?  Prime example.  This week, Monday morning rolls around.  It is the week after Easter and I am tired, looking forward to a full week of school, back to routine, some time to myself.  I am mostly looking forward to getting back to writing.  Between the Girl Scout zoo campout, the Girl Scout Annual Meeting, and the French Quarter Fest, I had no time to do any more writing than the requisite 3 pages in the morning.

Part of this process is not just to create and write but to listen, and media deprivation is part of that.  I spent a little over a week not reading or consuming media--that challenge deserves a post in itself.  I had gotten out of the habit of reading the newspaper, but on Monday morning, media deprivation being over, something drew me to the Living section.  I was mildly interested in its front page, but kept turning the pages as if my hand knew something my conscious mind didn't.  Finally I arrived at the Monday calendar and see a write-up for "The Well", a weekly women's poetry group that meets Mondays from 2-4 in the afternoon.  God looked down on me, heard me beckoning, and said, "Oh, you want to write?  Here you go..."  So I grabbed it.  And thank you Holly for being there and leading me.

I do believe that my hand knew something my mind didn't know yet.  I believe I am receiving the gifts of the Creator faster than I can process them, and to me, this is magic.  Lying in bed the other night, I thought of the singer/songwriter that brought me to tears at the French Quarter Fest, wondering if I could ever do that.  Half asleep, the first line of a song just appeared in my head.  I heard it, I saw it, I even heard the music.  Where did that come from?  All I could do was receive it, go write it down.  Then more images came.  I wrote for half an hour, then went back to bed.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg of synchronicity at work in my life since I took the first step.  It is solid.  It is moving.  You can't always see it, but it runs deep.

Yes, I'll say it again, I love my life and I love my husband for supporting me in a myriad of ways.  But he didn't do this for me.  I chose this life.  I chose him.  I chose to stay home with my children and basically lie fallow for a few years, recharging, paying attention, wondering what God has in store for me.  Then I was ready, all of a sudden.  The fallow period is over.  Now I choose to believe I am an artist, that we all are.  I choose to create.  And I believe in magic.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shadow Artist No Longer

For anyone who is blocked, this is for you.  If you feel the need for increased creativity in ANY arena of your life, this is for you.  The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, is saving my life, little by little.

For years I have been a shadow artist.  I adored music, writing, drama, and dance...just not my own.

I loved to collect music.  I sang all the time.  And I would listen all the time.  I made mix tapes for myself and others.  I became known for that in high school.  (Everyone remembers that person, right?)  I took voice lessons, but little by little lost confidence in my talent.  I never believed that my voice was beautiful because God made it that way, just because it was mine.  I majored in music for two years in college, wanting to be a singer, a music therapist, a composer, then a teacher.  Then I changed majors.  I let my own creative energy be compromised and neglected, preferring to focus on other people's achievements and never believing I was capable of anything comparable.

Literature was my next major.  As a child, I wrote in my diary religiously.  I read voraciously, collecting others' stories just as I did music.  I eventually taught high school literature, gravitating specifically to the theme of the power of words, the power of the story.  Also, I discovered a love of poetry for the first time in my life.  Reading gives me chills, makes me believe there is more to life than meets the eye.  It is the connection between all people.  But I never believed I could be good enough to write anything serious myself.  Other than a few love poems here and there, and a creative writing elective, I never wrote to express my own artist within.

As for drama, I always wanted to act.  There were not a lot of acting opportunities for children in my smallish town, but I craved the stage and as I grew up, took every opportunity to be in plays:  summer camp operettas, high school musicals, Shakespeare, whatever I could get, even if I had to be a cross-dresser at my all girl high school!  In college, I considered majoring in drama-communications, but my first acting class was so terrifying I dropped it halfway through the semester.  I couldn't bring myself to act unselfconsciously.  In fact, I turned away from it so completely that to this day I find it difficult to go to a play.  Oh, but I dated the hottest actor in my year.  At least I could shadow him.

And I have always danced.  At one time I was good.  Nothing else feels so good.  Nothing else embodies joy and passion like dance.  Now I watch So You Think You Can Dance, feeling envy and regret.

People always said, "Oh, you're so artistic," and I would just shrug and say, "Not really.  I love the arts, but I'm not really creative."  They knew something I didn't.  There is an artist within me dying to get out.  And I mean that literally.

After beginning this process, The Artist's Way, I feel alive for the first time in years.  There have been decades of depression, but feelings of despair have virtually disappeared.  I look forward to nearly every minute of every day now.  Even challenges are feeling like opportunities now.  I write my morning pages--3 pages of longhand every morning, clearing and purging my mind, heart and soul of the chaos that fills it.  I look forward to the weekly artist date, a few hours to myself to observe, receive, replenish, renew, feeding my artist's soul.  I don't always look forward to the soul searching tasks prescribed, but I know it is the most loving thing I can do for myself.  And for the world.

I choose to open myself up to be a vessel of the universal creative life force.  We are all radiant beings, all created with certain gifts and talents, whether they be traditionally "artistic" or not.  It is up to us to find them, believe in them, and use them.  We matter.  The world can be a better place because we are in it, if only we believe in ourselves.

Find your gifts, and pump them into the world like water.

Favorite quote for today: "Great Creator, I'll supply the quantity; you supply the quality."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dairy Free Coffee Ice Cream

Coffee Ice Cream
Over the last six months, I've continued to experiment with my diet.  My sensitivities seem to have calmed down a bit.  Always interesting, because I always take it too far.  I go to a few social events in a row, a brownie can't hurt here, a few bites of a sandwich or some pasta there, a cream based soup I just can't resist, a little cheese on a salad...  Mardi Gras is going to kill me with all this king cake! 


Dairy still makes my ears and all the tubes surrounding them fill up with who knows what.  Gluten still has its own delightful effects that I needn't go into here.  Let's just say they are most noticeable in the bathroom.  I don't even experiment with soy really, because I don't miss it too much, but after a meal at a Chinese restaurant, a little soy is inevitable.  


And that's okay!  Luckily, none of this food is going to kill me, as long as I watch it.  I try to eat as healthily as possible, but I can't spend much time worrying about it and avoiding every social situation.  A year ago, the stress of trying to eat on a rotation diet threatened my health more than any of the food issues.  I did need a detox period, and it had to be done, but it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I'm not doing it again.  


There's a middle ground here, and it involves finding goodness in what's available to you. I'm not going to cook with dairy, gluten, or soy.  However, coconut milk and almond milk are available.  I'm not going to have a cup of coffee every day, but decaf here and there will work.  I can't have wheat, but rice, corn, and potatoes (not to mention the plethora of gluten-free flours) are plentiful and wonderful.  Yesterday, I made a spoonbread souffle that called for egg whites (didn't turn out well so I won't bore you with the details), and I ended up with 4 egg yolks leftover.  What to do...?  Ice cream!


So here is a little treat I have adapted from simply recipes' coffee ice cream.  Take a look at this recipe:  http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/coffee_ice_cream/.  In this dairy free version, I do everything the same, but use coconut milk (canned or boxed, I used a combo of both) instead of milk and cream.  I found it too sweet as written (maybe it was the coconut milk), so before I put it in the ice cream maker, I blended in another cup of coconut milk and an avocado! It's still really sweet, but such great consistency. YUMMY!





Have a wonderful day enjoying what is available to you!