Thursday, December 25, 2014

It Begins as a Whisper


It begins as a whisper–
light shines
within,
breath 
slows,
then
becomes
steady.
Weightlessness
joining with the
stars, sun, moon, sky
rising to the top
of the mountain to
look out at the
landscape within.




Photo taken at Butterlies & Blooms, SF Botanical Gardens 2013

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Little Messages from the Universe



It was just another laundry day. I had forgotten to pack a book, so when I stopped to get detergent, waiting in line, I peeked at the magazines. Prevention caught my eye. The January issue promising: "Your Healthiest Year Ever."

In between loads, I read through the bite size tips that would lead me on the right path for now and the coming New Year. What pulled me in and gave me the kick-start that I needed was a woman sharing how she didn't like exercising (I can relate), but that she goes through the full Sun Salutation six times each morning. 

Since reading that last week, I've been doing the same. I've always found my way back to good habits only to let them go. But I'm determined to gently set down new healthy roots. I have no choice. I have to listen to my body. December has been one of the worst months for my migraines. I've popped more pills than I'd like to avert the headaches from completely taking hold, but have not always been successful. I have so many triggers that it's not always easy to balance them all: Food, stress, hormones, the weather, muscle tension. I have no more excuses. I need to start eating better and on time, make sure I'm getting good sleep, and work on stress reduction and how I deal with it. 

I've started small by going through the full Sun Salutation one time, then two. For me, it's important that I show up and incorporate a routine that feels manageable. 

And then I remembered that on Thanksgiving day while I was working in the kitchen, I heard a loud noise like something fell. I thought it was the step ladder that I had placed around the corner out of my way. Later that day, when I walked into the bedroom, I was greeted by a pile of disheveled books scattered on the floor. My makeshift book stack on the desk had lost its balance and finally tumbled down. I looked at the books on the floor, some crumpled up and thought, are you trying to tell me something? I didn't put them back the way they were, but tried to set them right again. I got a box from the garage and there they still sit.

Then something else happened. Since the past week I've been doing a little bit of Yoga each morning, and possibly seeing a part of Deepak Chopra's talk on his new book, The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for our Times, brought me back to a meditation book with a CD called Opening to Meditation: A Gentle, Guided Approach by Diana Lang. It seems as though this book has been waiting for me. It had been bumped around from the pile vying for my attention. It called out to me. I set it on my side of the bed on Friday morning as a reminder. It wasn't until this morning after Yoga that I got my CD player, my headphones, laid a towel down on the living room floor, turned the lights off, and got into Corpse pose (Savasana), and pressed play, ready to listen.

I've meditated off and on over the years and have also had many meditative moments–mindful moments–walking and being. But, I felt–feel ready to bring a more intentional meditation practice back into my life, where I set aside time to go into that beautiful state for longer than a moment will allow. I've always enjoyed guided meditations. The sound of the right voice soothes me, along with calming music.

This morning, when I was done meditating, I got my notebook out, then my sketch pad. I drew a simple drawing that tried to convey how I felt during meditation.

It's nighttime now. Since drafting this out this morning with pencil and paper, the box and pile of books have been re-organized, and I can now use my desk again! I also sorted through more books in search of more to sell and donate the books they didn't want. 

Putting things back into some sense of order always makes me feel better, and now that I'm also trying to get my spiritual self back into order, that feels great too. I'm getting a head start on the New Year!

I'm glad I forgot to bring a book on that particular laundry day; otherwise, I may have missed the message that the Universe was sending me.
 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Driving in the Rain

Driving in the rain–
black pavement
is a canvas fit
for bright 
lights.

Street lights and
car lights make
the roads glow with color. 

I drive
through rain, following in a
steady stream, feeling
secure in the bright
night.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Journal ~ An Intimate Thanksgiving & Pre-thinking for my First Turkey

I've been writing the list in my head, part of it has gone on paper. What do I still need for the stuffing? I have the fresh Willie Bird in the refrigerator, one box of stuffing, garlic. I think I need another box of stuffing.

I volunteered to prepare the turkey and the stuffing this year. My mother-in-law said to give her the giblets and she'll do the gravy. In my mind, the pan drippings are essential for the gravy, but she seems determined. I will still make a basic pan gravy, partially because I rarely make gravies, and partially because I can't let those drippings go to waste.

This will be my first time ever cooking a turkey, at least I'm pretty sure. I have a vague memory that's off very far in the distance, but I truly can't recall if that was a turkey or a large chicken. I think that's also why I roasted two small chickens a couple weeks back–to get some practice in. The part that makes me the most nervous is reading and trusting the thermometer. 

I feel ready and confident. I've watched a video on chow.com, the woman at Macy's gave me some tips when I was looking for roasting pans, and I've looked at a few other online recipes for ideas on the direction I'm going to go. To stuff or not to stuff? To brine or not to brine? I'm leaning toward stuffing, but no to brining. 

I had lunch with a friend this past week. and she said she didn't remember ever cooking a full turkey either. She's in her 60's, so I didn't feel so bad not having done it myself.

This will be my first time making stuffing too. For that I have a partial recipe in my head from my grandmother. As it turns out, my mother-in-law's mother made a similar stuffing, so it will be a melding of the two–in spirit and in love.

The grocery stores will probably be busy today. I was going to go late at night yesterday, but I thought one more day won't hurt.

It will be an intimate Thanksgiving at hubby's parents. There will be six of us plus Petunia and Lucas, the doggies. 

Petunia has been the greatest gift. She puts a smile on all of our faces with her spunkiness. It's hard to believe she's only 6 months old. She loves rocks. She brings big ones into the house, and when you see the size of the rock, you wonder how she lugged such a thing inside. Lucas loves her too. They are dear hearts together. Such a happy union all the way around. I look forward to seeing her each time we visit.

Petunia and my mother-in-law have bonded perfectly. It seems that her moods have lightened, which is a blessing.

I will be visiting with my uncle and brother today. My uncle will be happy to see my brother. 

There's a lot I'm grateful for–the small things and the big. I'm happy to be here visiting on this wonderful earthly plane. 

When I watch the news, it makes me wish there was more peace where there is violence and greed. I try to stay positive. I breathe. I think. I reflect. I wonder. It never entirely makes sense to me, and yet it has a sense of its own.

From my little corner, I send positive energy to the world...and I hope that those that need a warm meal, shelter, or a genuine smile, receive it today, tomorrow, and always. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I drive by the pool


I drive by the pool
under the night sky;
steam rises, lights are bright;
aqua blue waters illuminate–
swimming in the rain.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Lone Leaf

The boss in on vacation,
enveloped by the warm humidity of Vietnam.
 
We receive the call from the buyer's assistant.
The deal has been closed.
Texts back and forth to confirm. 

Not much will change, or at least at the outset.

I look out through the window of his empty office, 
in darkness, the only light coming from the outside. 
I stand and look at the city covered in gray and white, 
rain patterning down,
trees scattered along bare sidewalks,
 
As I look, I see there a bare tree with one lone leaf not its own, 
caught in its branches, 
holding it there until it blows away. 

Chicken Tostadas & Berry Crumble Crisp



Tuesday night we had tostadas from the leftover chickens that I roasted on Sunday. 

I've tried to be better about planning dinners for the week and doing all of the shopping on Sundays, whereas before I had been planning day by day.

I had seen cookbook in the new section at the library: Eat & Make: Charming Recipes and Kitchen Crafts You will Love by Paul Lowe aka Sweet Paul. I flipped through it and my eyes landed on the picture of a Nutty Berry Crumble. It was done. I would check the book out and a berry crumble or crisp of some sort was added to the week's meal plan.

I love taking pictures, and I've really enjoyed taking pictures of the food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are heaven to my eyes.

The tostadas were very simple as you can see. I was trying to work with what I had left because I hadn't intentionally worked them into my plan. I chopped up the remaining chicken, added one potato, a small can of olives, a can of El Pato brand tomato sauce with spices, and enough water to cover the potatoes. I let everything simmer down, stirring occasionally until the potatoes were tender. We topped our tostadas with Monterey Jack cheese, had a half avocado on the side and called it dinner. 

After dinner, I set to work on the mixed berry crumble. I also had my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook propped open to the berry crisp recipe. I decided to use the measurements in the Sweet Paul recipe which called for 3 cups of mixed berries, about one small container each and a 1/2 cup of mixed nuts. For the berries I used raspberry, blackberry, and blueberries just as he did. For the nuts I used walnuts and pecans. I also added oats to the crumble because I like the added texture and taste.

We served the crumble with a small dab of vanilla ice cream. It was divine. I'm not a fruit person, but I love berry and apple crisps and crumbles.



Delish! 

Black Bean Casserole



Two of my favorite recipes to prepare are from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook: Black Bean Chilaquile and Blender Hot Sauce. I love the colorful freshness of the casserole, and it's nice to eat a vegetarian meal and not get any complaints or questions about where the meat is–It's so delicious that hubby doesn't even notice that it's meatless. 

The recipe for the Black Bean Chilaquile calls for layering the salsa into the casserole before going into the oven. I prefer to layer it without the salsa and spoon the salsa over the individual servings. We always have leftovers and it prevents the dish from becoming too soggy. I use regular cheese rather than low-fat. I also blanch the spinach first, set that aside, then after a quick rinse and dry, use the same pan for sautéing the onions and warming the other ingredients.

For the Blender Hot Sauce, depending on my mood, I will either include all three spices or only a little bit of oregano. I like the freshness of the salsa and I tend to not want to overpower that with too much spice. Since I use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, I add a bit of water to get the blender in motion. It's fun to watch the blended vegetables transform into what will become a nice salsa. The salsa does become smooth, but slightly thick. In between stirrings, I also skim off the excess foam until it eventually disappears allowing the sauce to shine through. The light tomato red that will simmer for 30 minutes becomes a burnished red that brightens up the casserole. 

As the salsa is simmering, I begin working on the casserole. 

I tend to forget, and think that this will be a quick meal to prepare, thinking I can have the whole meal done in 30 minutes flat, but it takes a little time with making the fresh salsa. 

40 minutes later, dinner is served. Delicious!



Two recipes that I found on the web, so that I could share:

Recipe for Black Bean Chilaquile
http://www.recipesource.com/fgv/beans-grains/02/rec0269.html

Recipe for Black Bean Chilaquile and Blender Hot Sauce
http://www.eatmedelicious.com/2008/11/black-bean-chilaquile.html

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hair Day

It’s time for a change. In this case: A hair change. It’s a good start.

Having grown my hair out for a couple of years now, it’s down to the middle of my back.

I’ve had my hair in a variety of lengths and styles over the years, from short pixie hair to hair down past my butt in my childhood. My hair is taking much too long to blow dry these crisp mornings, and I’m getting tangled up in it at night. I’m experiencing more static cling which leads to fine long hairs start sticking out and itching my face.

I’m not my hair, but hair has a way of making you feel like it’s all of you—like it defines who you are—at least on a superficial level. I love the convenience of the pixie cut, but it’s really not the most flattering cut on me, unless I spend too much time with product and not feeling much like myself, which is an au natural, no fuss, sort of a person.

The search has narrowed. What I want is a long bob. I’ve searched the internet for pictures, and the one that I like the most is a bob cut worn by Sandra Bullock when she had shorter hair. I find that a picture is a good place to start when speaking to a hair stylist. I could tell them, describe what I want, even sketch a picture, but an actual photo, whether it will work or not, is often the best start. And I can’t always rely on their style books to have the right picture.


Hair isn’t’ everything, but whenever I sit down in the chair, I get nervous. I know my hair will grow back, but it’s such a pain when you get a bad haircut, and possibly have to go back to another person to fix what the first person did.

Journal ~ Technological Frustrations & Crow


This weekend has been filled with technological frustrations. We've been having problems with our internet connection intermittently for the past few weeks. We called Comcast to troubleshoot the issue, and finally swapped out our rented modem/router from them for a replacement. It worked beautifully for a whole night and morning, then the connection completely stopped. No signal, which was confirmed after another phone call, where I lost my cool a little bit. 

Hubby had just gotten back from returning the bad device when I told him our internet and wifi were not working. He said he could go back and get a new modem/router, the Comcast store was open for another 40 minutes. I was so frustrated that I couldn't think straight, plus I was starving, in the middle of cooking dinner, making quite the mess with lots of dirty dishes and pans in the sink. The Comcast technician on the phone had mentioned sending a tech out and I said, but why would this be working one day and the next it stops. Help me understand! I said. I told the technician on the phone that I'd like to try getting another modem/router first and if that doesn't work, then I guess we have no choice.

Hubby and I decided that, yes, he would go get another box that night, and we'd go through the whole process yet again. 

Success! It worked and is still working this morning, so far.

When I went shopping at Safeway yesterday, I was about to enter the store when a friendly shopper warned me that all but one computer was working. I said thanks and peeked inside to see how bad it looked. I saw that the express lane was the only lane open with a line going all the way back to the end of the aisle. I decided not to take my chances and I turned around and went to another Safeway. It was not a good technology day for them either.

For dinner I decided that I would roast two small chickens. I was following a simple recipe in an old Sunset magazine that would provide a moist and flavorful outcome. I have to remind myself next time to just get a prepared Safeway chicken. The chicken I made didn't taste all that much better and it felt like a lot more work than it was worth. 

A few weeks ago I decided to stop torturing myself with the federal income tax class that I was taking. I dropped it. I have come to accept the realization that tax and accounting make me numb; they inspire no passion whatsoever. I thoroughly enjoy the bookkeeping aspect, but that's where it stops. The irony, of course, is that I work for a tax accountant as an administrative assistant. I enjoy my job; I just wish there was more of it. I enjoy learning through osmosis and hands-on, but the theory classes are too much for, me, a person who has no aspirations in actual tax and accounting. 

My dream job would be working as an administrative assistant in an educational setting, a school of some sort, either profit or non-profit. My dream, dream job would be a community college counselor–at least the idea sounds nice. I've also thought that it would be nice to work in an elder-folks community in the accounting department, as an assistant. I've decided that it would be nearly impossible to find the perfect job at the postal service, working the counters. When I've looked at the jobs online, they are not in job areas or cities I'd want to work. 

For now, I'm happy and thankful that I have a job. Despite, my moments of frustration and uncertainty, I am grateful that I have a job to go to.

If I won the lottery, I really feel that I'd still want to work. If I won the lottery, I still don't know for certain what my actual dream job would be and how I would make that happen.

As I stop to pause this morning, I soak in the silence. I smile when I hear work trucks beeping and cars starting. I know the birds are out there too, but in this moment, I don't hear them singing their songs. I hear the click of the thermostat, as the heater gets ready to blow out more warm air–and there he is, I hear a crow off in the distance. 

These two photos were taken on Tuesday: Crow and Mountain on a Cloudy Day.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Journal ~ The Scent that Fills my Space

"Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep."
–Carl Sandburg


I woke up to the rain, and just as the clouds broke, I felt a certain release within my soul, as though the debris within was being washed away with the rain. When I sat at the kitchen table to begin my morning ritual, the scent of eucalyptus brightened my mental space. The pale yellow carnations from last Sunday, that remind me so much of the ruffles on a child's dress, share the vase with fresh eucalyptus stems–those fragrant stems take me to my grandparent's home, to the backyard with the tall eucalyptus trees, that familiar scent of one of my favorite trees, the scent of comfort and childhood–the scent that fills my space this morning.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Journal ~ The Dotted Line

Two weeks ago the boss was the most forthcoming he's been about the sale of his business. He's finally decided to retire. We knew that, but he was vague about just how long it would be. At first he made it sound as though he was testing the buying waters, and then it became clear, he was moving forward with the intent to close sooner rather than later. I thought he'd be working until he was old and gray. I read him wrong. The signs were there; I just failed to see reality for what it was. 

Those two weeks past, he asks me to come outside. I don't think anyone else was even in the office. And he says, "I need you to tidy up the office, get things cleaned up, organized. I'm having a buyer come in tomorrow and this one wants to keep you and T."

Usually I would reply with a dozen questions, since he has been somewhat evasive about questions regarding the sale. It's been the great big elephant in the room that we don't talk about because he's not ready yet–because there is no deal yet. So I say, okay.

The office isn't a mess. It's just that there are certain spots that may appear cluttery and well, I suppose if you're trying to impress a potential buyer, best to start off on the right foot; and it gave us a good excuse to get things in better order.

I took it a step further and started going to town tossing out old papers that I mostly likely would not need any longer–papers you hold onto "just in case." Just in case your boss asks you about this or that several months down the line. Papers that you're not ready to let go of yet. 

I went into a different mindset. I acted as though my last day was near, even though this supposedly wasn't the case. I decided to take any personal items home: books used for ice breakers, old daily calendars, empty cookie tins. I unstuck all of my post-it notes from my desk, I tossed out old single daily calendar pages that I had accumulated. At the end of the day, I have to admit it felt odd going home with a bag of stuff and a desk area that was so neat and tidy, that it looked foreign to me. It felt as though it really was my last day.

I did leave three things there until there really is a last day. Two glass hearts, one blue like crystal blue waters, the other a pearly white; and One heart made of a grey rock stone, polished smooth. These three hearts fit into the palm of my hand. They sit on the base of my monitor, a source of positive, loving energy. For now, they stay.

There were more closed-door phone calls and meetings. I was briefly introduced to the potential buyer as the boss showed him around our office. There was the beginning of due diligence, and now that brings us to this week, the week that T. and I will interview with these folks. I don't know exactly how the interviews will go, what will be asked, how things will change, if we'll be retained. I imagine, as the boss said, they'll at least keep us for the transition if the deal does indeed go forward. But because things can change just like the snap of a finger, nothing is done until the signatures are planted on the dotted line. 

I want to be excited, and at first when the boss told us what he was up to, the idea of it sounded exciting–something new to shake up the stagnation that has seemed to settle over the office. But it's hard to be excited for the unknown, and yet I do feel a certain restrained excitement at a new chapter, whether it continue here or elsewhere.

Van Gogh, a Deer, and a Flowering Flute




It was an ordinary Monday. I was on my way to work, grooving to the radio, stopped at a main intersection; Embassy suites on one corner, gas station and car dealerships on the other three corners, fast food in sight, along with other stores and intersections, then as my eyes are set in front of me, a large deer, maybe even a buck, galloped through, trying to find his way back to the hills, which are a ways out. He took quite a departure. My gazed followed him until my view was cut off. When the light turned green, I looked to the right; there was no sign of the deer. He must have kept galloping, hoping to find his way. It was a beautiful sight. I only hope he found safety.

Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite artist. I loved his work from the first moment that I saw it and I don't remember exactly when that was, but it was a long time ago. Besides his use of color, texture, and movement, there's something special about his paintings that is indescribable–

And so because Van Gogh has been on my mind. I pulled a couple of books with his artwork from a box in the garage and made a place for them on a shelf. Over the weekend I yearned to continue reading Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh. But the book that I have is small, the print is small and it's uncomfortable to read. I set out to find it for my Kindle, but no they did not have it. Instead I found The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, which I sampled, then downloaded for the bargain price of $2.99. 

Art has been on my mind. I even thought of taking another drawing course and actually trying to finish it this time. It's patience I need. The irony is I have a lot of patience, just not with certain things. I know that I can teach myself to draw better. It just takes time. It takes practice. It takes self-motivation. I've always thought of myself as self-motivated–and I am to a degree, but then I fizzle away. Right now, I'm looking at a glass of pink and white carnations that I salvaged for another week from the large stems that had gone bad. They remind me of an ice cream sunday. They just need a red carnation on top. I can visualize myself making a sketch of these lovely flowers. Maybe later. I even took a painting class didn't finish that either. At the community college level, the classes are long or they seem long. Two night per week for five months. I've attempted the drawing class twice. The truth is I got bored with it. I made it past the egg study and then I stopped. I don't remember if I've ever made it past that damn egg! Over the years, I've continued to doodle here and there. 

I realize that time is escaping me and that's a good thing because I'm journaling my thoughts, I'm enjoying myself, yet I know that I have to cut myself off, so that I can get the day started and be on time to work.

But I'm not done quite yet. 

Last week I took a walk around the reservoir and it there is always something new to notice or become aware of...and the beauty of this is that life is like this. Every day we wake up, it seems the same, our routines, our rituals, yet there is always something new that we can find to appreciate in each day, in each drive to work, in each walk around the reservoir. This last time I walked around the reservoir, I heard a flute in a Japanese style. My senses were delighted and I had and image of a flute with flowers and musical  notes coming out of the holes. The flute immediately transported me somewhere and to have nature as my backdrop–I was in  heaven. There was a bench as I came around the corner and I don't' usually stop, but I wanted to listen to the flute some more and I still didn't see who was playing it. No one was around. As soon as I sat down, the music stopped. I took out my notebook and began writing and then I drew a rough sketch of this flowering flute. 

The image here is a very rough sketch I did using the Doodle Buddy App. It reminds me of a drawing I might have done in Kindergarten. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Afternoon Clouds

This afternoon the clouds were like a 
collection of angels singing and dancing; their shapes were
like God's whispers spread across the pale blue sky,
lighted with the sweet glow of grace.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Remember ~ A Quote and Crow



"Sometimes you have to step outside of the person you've been, and remember the person you were meant to be, the person you wanted to be, the person you are."

–H.G. Wells, British author


Yesterday this quote was at the bottom of the free accounting related newsletter that I subscribe to. There's a quote each day, some resonate with me more than others. This one was just what I needed at this particular time. Those words reaffirmed a few unanswered questions that I had within myself. It was like a quick snap of the fingers to get my attention and to get my thoughts flowing in the right direction.

**

Crow

I was lucky to get a picture of this crow. By the time I usually get my iPhone out, my subject is gone, flown away or scurried for cover, but not this day. I was in the grocery store parking lot. I heard him first, and I always turn when I hear Crow...he looked so beautiful there with the bright sun in the background.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Journal ~ Oven Barbecued Chicken, School thoughts, and Banana Muffins


Yesterday I prepared one of my favorite chicken recipes that I found on the internet some time ago. I also prepared it for my mother-in-law on her birthday. And she didn't make a comment about it needing salt, which was a relief. The flavor was there in this simple and delicious oven barbecued chicken recipe. 

I paired the chicken with oven baked yams and a macaroni salad that I through together with leftover pasta that I I had used to make oven macaroni and cheese on Sunday night...yum! I knew that I didn't need the full pound, so I set some aside with the intention of making the mac salad. I added red bell pepper, black olives, green onions, celery, dijon mustard, olive oil, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, garlic salt with parsley, and dinner was served.  

I had an appointment later that evening with a school counselor to ask some questions about the certificates in accounting and to see where I'm at. In a way, the appointment was a waste of time. I think I already knew where I was at. But, it's part of the process. I think next time I have a visit, it will be more helpful because I may be closer to my goal, unless I begin to waver again. Time is not on my side. Many of the classes that I took so long ago, no longer count because in order to obtain the certificate, in my case, in accounting, the courses need to be completed within 7 years of the date of the certificate; 10 years for a business certificate. I don't know that this little piece of paper will help me down the road, but I thought if I had the classes already, I might as well. I waited too long, mainly because I've had a love/hate relationship with accounting for as long as I remember. And that's why I'm asking myself, do I really want to petition to retake accounting principles because I got a C in the class I took way back when. I know there's something inside of me that feels the need to go through a semester length course and to possibly pick up the certificate along the way. I also figure I may as well still aim for obtaining my A.A. except that for the area of emphasis, the time rules still apply. 

I think I need to do this, so that I know that I at least followed through and completed something...but part of me, thinks is it really necessary. It's an inner battle that I've been going back and forth with forever. And even though community college is a lot less expensive, it still puts a dent in the budget. The good thing is that there is no time limit on general education requirements. Back to the drawing board to see what I really want to do and if getting the piece of paper that is of little value in the real world is worth it, and to make sure I'm not fooling myself into completing something that I really have no interest in completing.

All that I could think about on the way home was the two ripe bananas that I've been waiting to be just right, so that I could make banana muffins. I found a recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites recipe book. I didn't need the recipe to be that low-fat, so I added two full eggs instead of one egg and one egg white. The recipe also called for 1 cup of rolled oats blended just until they were the consistency of corn meal–a nice healthy touch in addition to one cup of white flour. There was 1/4 of brown sugar, 1/2 t. of baking soda, 1 t. of baking powered, cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, 2 T. of vegetable oil, 2 ripe bananas mashed, 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, and instead of the 1/2 cup raisins, I added 3/4 cup of milk chocolate chips because I had some leftover and I thought it would be a nice addition. 400 degrees for 25 minutes and the house was smelling of banana and chocolate goodness!

I've never really been a muffin person, and I've had this cookbook for years and have only made a handful of recipes out of it, which were all good. And I have to be honest, I usually steer clear from a muffin with chocolate in it, but I think what did me in was when we stayed at a place in Carmel that brought muffins and juice to our door in the morning and I bit into a muffin with chocolate in it and I thought, this is actually pretty good. I guess that stuck in my head; ironically, hubby didn't like the muffins and he loves chocolate. 

I do know that the ripe bananas were my inspiration. I saw two sitting there on the counter, as I've seen before, only this time, I wanted to make them into something, rather than send them away. That's when I looked in this particular cookbook hoping for a recipe because that other low-fat recipe book with the blueberry scones, it's going back to the library!



http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/oven-barbecued-chicken



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Empanada



One of the cookbooks that I took home from the library was Aaron Sanchez's Simple Food, Big Flavor: Unforgettable Mexican-Inspired Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours. This is a beautiful cookbook with heart. I love the photographs of the ingredients and the finished meals. My mouth waters when I flip through the pages and makes me want to put the book down, get to the grocery store and get cooking! The conversational tone of the book makes me feel like I've Aaron there by my side as I read and set out to try his recipes.

I've been on the lookout for an empanada recipe ever since I had them at the food trucks and I have a regular turnover recipe, but I knew I was looking for something different; I just wasn't sure what until I found Aaron's recipe. It's simple, delicious, and the addition of masa harina (corn masa flour) makes all the difference. Subtle, but noticeable.


For the filling, I made a modified version of Aaron's recipe. 

The fillings are endless, from savory to sweet. It's all up to the cooks moods and imagination.

**

Pocket-filled delight,
a mixture of ground beef,
potatoes, onions, salt, pepper,
oregano, and El Pato brand Salsa de Tomate con Jalapeno.
Sizzling, spicy goodness.

Baked, not fried. 
Aaron Sanchez's
empanada dough recipe–
my first and my favorite, 
made wtih masa harina (corn masa flour)
and regular flour.

I take my first bite– 
deliciousness and 
comfort wrapped
inside
out.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Journal ~ Blueberry Scones, the Library, and My Hawaiian Shirt



Yesterday I had an excuse to go the library. When I was searching the library database for a book, I discovered that I had two books that were overdue by a week. I usually watch for those email reminders, but I must have overlooked these. I happily pulled the books from the pile, snapping a photo of them because I wasn't done with them yet! I was happy because I would return the books, then browse the shelves after collecting a book that I was in search of and knew was on the shelves. 

After I self-checked in my overdue books, I pulled out my iPhone, and opened the email that I had sent to myself with the call number: 808.02 NAMING. I wound my way toward the back of the library, walking past tables of chattering teenagers. As I walked further and further down the narrow passages of books, I found myself at the end. I looked up and scanned the call numbers and there it was: Naming the World and other Exercises for the Creative Writer Edited by Bret Anthony Johnston. I took the book from the shelf, admired the red cover with a small image of a piece of art titled "Cockatoo and Corks," a piece of art that is interestingly strange. I love surreal art.

Instead of going back down to the front of the main library the way I came, I decided to go over one isle and I found myself in the cookbooks. I turned left and right and saw that baking was on my left, so I started there. There was one cookbook that was displayed: Krystine's Healthy Gourmet Cookbook by Krystine Crowell. I flipped through, and in the first several pages, I saw a nonfat whole-wheat blueberry scone recipe that caught my attention. I decided that I would take the book and I would make the recipe that night. All I needed was the yogurt and blueberries.

I turned to the right and eased my way down until I saw some Mexican cookbooks. I took two. I wanted to wander a bit, but as always, time slips right by me when I'm in the library. I knew that I couldn't browse for too much longer because I had to get home and wash dishes and start on dinner. But I did make a last stop to scan the new books and that's where I found The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson. I flipped through and knowing that I wouldn't have time to read it now, I would have time to skim and I wanted to take my time looking at the different libraries that he included in his book. One sculpture in the book took my breath away. Titled "Psyche" it touched something deep within my own: A huge sculpture in the shape of a head, made up of roughly fifteen hundred small sculptures of books and butterflies, suspended in air.

That was my last book, I went to the self-check machine to check out the handful of books that should have only been the one that I came for. The machine beeped at me and said my card was about to expire and that I needed to go to the circulation desk. I took my books and walked up to the standing desk. The librarian asked how she could help me and I explained. She just needed my identification and my library card would be renewed for another three years. She looked up, as she was typing into her computer and said, "Your shirt is making me want to be in Hawaii." I looked down at my deep blue Hawaiian shirt with large white flower blossoms. I looked up and smiled.

"Oh, your a Cancer she said," looking down at my identification. "I'm a Cancer too. My birthday is on the 20th. I see your on the cusp.

"Yes, I'm right on the very end, but I am a Cancer."

It was refreshing to have someone actually bring up their own astrological sign, someone who was older, and relate to me. So many times, I've done the same.

"Have you been to Hawaii before?"

I thought about this because I knew I had, but it was so long ago I had to remember one island or two. "Yes."

"Which islands?"

And so, we continued our brief conversation, two friendly Cancers, as she processed my library card renewal. She told me how she was married in Kauai and what a beautiful island it is. I mentioned how I had heard many good things about it, but that's one of the islands I had not been to.

We finished up and instead of going to the self-check machine, I had the librarian check my books out. She was such a kindred spirit, a nice change from dealing with machines and others that are too busy or who aren't' as friendly.

And this friendly exchange was all thanks to my expiring library card and my Hawaiian shirt.

After dinner, I told hubby that my plan was to bake, then study. He looked at me and said you should study first. I said, "I need to bake first because it relaxes me! Then I'll study." 

I did make the blueberry scones first and they were different. They looked pleasing. They lacked a little flavor, especially after coming after oatmeal chocolate chip cookie bars. With a little dab of butter, I think they'll be perfect. 





"Untitled (Cockatoo and Corks)"
http://www.wikiart.org/en/joseph-cornell/untitled-cockatoo-and-corks-1948

"Psyche" - Sculpture at the Main Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
http://culturenow.org/entry&permalink=19914&seo=Psyche_Ralph-Helmick-and-Stuart-Schechter

Blueberry Scone Recipe
http://recipecircus.com/recipes/Buny/Scones/Nonfat_Whole_Wheat_Blueberry_Scones.html

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (Low-Fat)



Chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar–
These are the aromas that filled
our home last night and followed me 
as I went to sleep.

**

This recipe is so delicious. The added chocolate chips on the top were an after thought before it went into the oven...I added more than the recipe called for because hubby insisted. I also added a small packet of chopped hazelnuts.

**

A home filled with the scent of baking–
there's nothing quite like it,
and where it
takes you.







The Recipe:
http://simple-nourished-living.com/2011/10/moist-chewy-low-fat-oatmeal-chocolate-chip-cookie-bars-recipe/

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Journal ~ Chicken Florentine Lasagna



The night before last, hubby and I were looking through the cooking sites that he has on his Flipboard App. We watched several short YouTube clips demonstrating how to make delicious meals that looked simple enough. One in particular caught his eye, so I asked him to send me the link. I didn't say whether I was going to make it soon or keep it for later. And I have to admit, that I was feeling a bit guilty about the fact that two cans of cream of soup of our choice were part of the recipe. Was this healthy? Were we being bad? I wasn't sure if I could go through with it. 

Later yesterday morning, I had to make a pit stop at Target. I walked by the tea isle and saw canned soups calling out to me. I saw the ones that deem they are the healthier choice. I looked at the sodium content. Not too bad. I grabbed a cream of mushroom and cream of chicken and tossed them into the basket. The decision had been made.

I knew that I would still need to pick up the remaining ingredients when the work day was done. I've always loved eating pasta dishes with Ricotta cheese, but I've never actually prepared any with it, so I had to figure out which section to find it in. I thought it would be near the deli cheeses, but no, of course not. It was with the cottage cheese and such.

It also dawned on me after the meal was cooked that this was the first lasagna that I've ever prepared. I had always been nervous to even think of taking on lasagna myself, thinking that it seemed too complicated. 

It also became apparent to me that being back in the kitchen wholeheartedly is good medicine for me. It teaches me that I don't need to be afraid any longer, that I can do this. And one of the beauties is that it doesn't matter how simple it may seem, if it's new to me and I have these feelings of insecurity–what matters is I work through it, that I go through the process–and I love process! 

Cooking has always been a part of my life and has been a stop-and-go adventure. And lately, I feel that with each meal that I prepare, with each new cooking adventure, I become that much more confident in other areas of my life.



Chicken Florentine Lasagna - with yoyomax12 
http://flip.it/lyggj

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Today ~ Remembrance



Today is a day
that marks endings,
and beginnings–
of life pulsing its way through
and of life exiting with a swift burst.

Today is a quiet day,
and also a day to be grateful.

Today will always have a quiet sadness,
and a quiet happiness.

Today will always be a mystery for the
significance of the endings and beginnings
that it marks.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Journal ~ Writing Practice

I feel that I've been doing a good job so far when it comes to showing up to the page. Last week was a great week of colorful dreams. One in particular that I jotted down and drew as best I could. That got me inspired to bring my art box out of the garage, but it's still in the living room, waiting to have the contents taken out. I want to re-draw a portion of my dream–luckily it's not complicated–and add color and bring it to life. Even while I was dreaming, I told myself not to forget the image.

Without putting pressure or deadlines on myself, I told myself that I would like to show up to my blog journal during the week, and possibly the weekend if time allows. For me, this is also part of showing up. But most important, is if I show up at all, whether on my personal journal or my blog journal.

I feel that I started turning my back on writing, allowing it to slip away because I was switching the emphasis to work, to my class–but then I realized I was missing one of my passions–I wasn't being true to myself, and I was feeling that void. Maybe these were excuses, self-sabotage...that's why I always go back to my writing books, the ones that remind me to keep going. Even though I can tell myself the same thing, it's always nice to have someone who has lived through the stop-and-go for much longer and offer their personal stories and wisdom. 

Reading certain writing books is like meditation for me. 

One of the other things I like about writing is that in some ways, just as I face a blank page every day, it can really feel like that–like a new beginning every single day, every single moment. A blank page can be humbling. Even if we've been writing in our journals for years and years, tinkering with poems, haikus, short stories, what have you; for me there is always the opportunity for learning something new and growing, whether it's evident on the page or only within.

And there will always 
be something new to learn 
about writing, 
about life, 
about myself.

A long time ago, when I received low marks on an English paper in my early days of community college some 20 years ago, I told myself then that despite the bad marks and condescending tone of the teacher, I would make it my goal to master writing. And I've been at it ever since.

Writing is a life-long process; that is the beauty. 

I love that as long as I keep my pen moving, 
in writing and in doodling, 
I will write and write and write–
until death do we part.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Child's Gaze

Child's gaze–
Stopped 
by the merry go round music. 
When the music stops. 
He is back.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Box of Ideas & A Quote to Live By

A few months back, I watched a two-part documentary on Woody Allen. I feel like watching it again because I know there are bits that I missed–what can I say, I like Woody, he's a highly talented and prolific writer, and he makes me laugh. The part in the movie that plays over and over in my head, though, is when he's sitting on his bed, going through a box of his writing snippets, just pieces of paper, maybe a napkin or two, and as he goes through his box of collected ideas, he remembers and tells us about them and which one's eventually grew from those snippets into something bigger. What also stuck out is that everyone loved working with him. And he seemed to have an instinct for how to bring out the best in the actors working for him, which translated onto camera.

Woody's box of ideas reminded me of how important it is for creative's, no matter what medium they work in, to write their ideas down. But not just to write them down, to go back, to flip through, thumb through–to sift out the ideas that can be worked on and brought to life.

I have snippets, collected ideas scribbled in many notebooks, half-thoughts jotted on several devices in the notes App, full drafts that need attention before bringing to the page. 

Now, the sifting must begin. 

**

My second-favorite quote of the year speaks to that feeling inside of us that stops us from being who we are or doing what we love:

"It's never too late, in fiction or in life, to revise."
–Nancy Thayer

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Writing and Books: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner



On Sunday I had a patch of time to myself, about an hour and a half before hubby returned from his errand, and we went out and about together. I could have studied, could have read, cleaned. Instead, I felt a pull to the garage to organize boxes of books. There were many empty boxes that were scattered, that made it look as though there was more clutter than there actually was. 

I started breaking down the empty boxes, then I began looking through the boxes of books, tying again to find more books to let go of. I was able to find two small boxes full of books that I felt it was time to part with, books that I knew I wasn't going to read, that had a time and place in my life, and I would only keep transporting them from home to home, possibly not giving them a proper home for themselves, confining my dear books to these lifeless boxes. It was time for these books to find new homes. 

I was also able to consolidate some books to other boxes, marking them so that I would easily be able to find what I was looking for if the urge arose. Also, to hubby's dismay, because I would only be brining more clutter into the house, I brought two boxes of books inside. I put them in the living room and waiting for him to scold me. I told him I would find a place for them. The living room was off limits. I know how I can be, so the next morning I unpacked the boxes, stacked the books on my side of the bed to deal with later that day. I don't have any more shelf space, so I added to the stack in the corner on top of the small desk that I don't' actually use, and the rest are stacked in front of that stack. I really didn't bring all that many books back into the house. I don't like packing the boxes too heavy. In fact, I've let go of a lot of books. It's bitter sweet; at the same time it feels good to let go of these books that have been there for me, that have brought me joy–even the books that I never got around to reading all the way through. Now, they can bring someone else happiness when they're browsing the shelves of the local thrift store.  

Each time I'm ready, I will continue looking through my boxes of books, tying to let go of more. Eventually, I will be left with only a few that I cannot part with–at least, not until I'm ready.

Yesterday before work, I went to the top section of a long shelf that shares books with clothes. It's where I keep some of my inspirational writing books. I pulled from the shelf: One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers by Gail Sher. Then I went to the bottom section of the shelf where I keep the few books I have on poetry. I pulled Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems: Volume One. With these in hand, I read a few pages from each to start my day. I love how Gail Sher describes writing. She says, "Writing is infinite, ever elusive, and ungraspable. We can never know what writing is. We can only know our experience minute to minute, as we write" (pg. 6). I nodded my head with a big smile as I read over her words again. She sums it up perfectly, and that's one of the many reasons I love writing for the constant discovery that writing offers, as long as we keep our pens moving and our minds free.

I've only dipped sparingly into Mary Oliver's poetry. I've had her book for several years, but as with certain books, I go at them at different paces. I'm ready to visit longer. What little of her poetry I have read, it is so incredibly beautiful and touches my soul.

During a break at work I wrote and posted "Small Slice of Solace." 

Writing and books are often on my mind throughout the day, sometimes they slip away, but yesterday, it seemed there was a constant stream.

After work, I was ready to visit Barnes & Noble and use my gift card that I've been hanging on to for the right moment. I was pretty confident that I would be walking out of there with a cookbook, but I didn't even feel pulled to that section. I almost purchased a small light that is supposed to create calm. Where I really wanted to go was to the writing section. There's just something about writing books that I adore. I love hearing inspirational stories and words of wisdom from writing books. I wasn't looking for any one book. I sat on the floor and started looking through the possibilities. I saw a book that I had checked out of the library that I never finished  before returning it: Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. I remember it being a fun book with a unique approach and it really is as the title suggests. Next I saw a book that I hadn't seen before or maybe I had and wasn't interested at the time: Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer's Resistance*

*Including Writer's Block, Procrastination, Paralysis, Perfectionism, Postponing, Distractions, Self-Sabotage, Excessive Criticism, Overscheduling, and Endlessly Delaying Your Writing

by Rosanne Bane.

Now how could I resist a title like that!

I think I'm really going to like this one. I've only just begun and I feel ignited.

And so, these were the two books that I chose.

Yesterday was a full course of reading, writing, books, and nature. I felt refreshed, inspired, rejuvenated.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Small Slice of Solace

Dew drops glisten on tufts of grass.
Tiny clear jewels, they sparkle and glisten. 
Birch trees canopy the surrounding grass, familiar ghosts upon this land. 
Water gurgles from the fountain. 
Cars whizz by. A blue bird rests upon a branch, he flies away. 
A small slice of solace to this noisy day. 

Journal ~ Work, Thinking, Change

3:33 a.m. Thats what time the clock said two separate mornings when I looked up, unable to sleep, wondering how early or late it was. I thought that was peculiar. I did finally go back to bed. 

I haven't been thinking too much about it, but thoughts of possible changes have been on my mind. My boss told us that he intended on selling his practice. He doesn't know when or if it will happen. He said it could be one year, two years, or maybe more. 

I've gotten so used to his ways and it wasn't always easy. He's mellowed with age, though he still has his moments. 

When the time comes, it could be interesting, new, fresh. I could stay or maybe I'll find another job. For now, we continue on.

One thing's for sure: We've reached a certain comfort in our working relationship and it makes me laugh. I know to stay away when he's in a bad mood or focused. Just yesterday he called me a weenie because I was hesitant about something, maybe even being a bit of a scardy cat. I think that's a first, though. I don't know if he's called me that before, but he said it in a playful way. 

It's been hammered into my psyche not to take things personally with him, and I think I've just about mastered this one; after 10 years, I sure hope so. Among other things, this job has been a good lesson in that; though, in general, I'm still working on that.

He's pretty laid back and most of the time, he does't take himself too seriously. But, he definitely seems ready to retire.  

I know that we won't know until we know. I look forward to change and of course there's the uncertainty. But, it's too easy to get stuck, and as much as I enjoy my job, assisting and keeping the office in order, I do sense that I've been stagnating for quite some time, which is probably why I continue taking classes (though that has slowed down too), both for personal enrichment and for job enrichment.

Though, yesterday when I was walking back to class from a break, I felt that I was ready to leave classes behind. It was a strange thought. I've always loved learning and I still do, but maybe I'm done with the institutional setting. I'm not sure. I just know that's but another small change. I just want to make sure I don't lose the parts of me that have fueled me and ignited my passion.

But come to think of it, I think the class has everything to do with it. Sure, it's interesting to learn about Federal taxation from a basic theoretical framework, but is it exciting? Does it get my juices flowing? Not exactly. I think that must be what I felt yesterday. 

I'll just have to keep reading for joy, keep writing, and following where the pen leads me.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Day in August ~ Dolphins

Ocean waters hug at my feet and legs, 
pull me into the ocean.
The waves tease–
as I edge away, I tease back, hair flowing wild with the wind. 
I stand there looking out at the vast ocean, 
lost in my thoughts that are blank and serene.
The waves crash upon the shore, run like white horses. 
I continue walking along, 
feeling my feet with each step, secured in the wet sand. 
And then, something catches my vision, out of the corner of my eye. 
A fin. Two fins. Then three!
Then I see clearly, not too far from the shore, 
a group of dolphins swimming along with the waves, 
being playful with each other. I can't take my eyes from them, 
and I think this is the first time they've been so close. 
All the other beach goers close in, cameras in hand. 
We all watch in awe as the dolphins swim on by. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn Festivals and A New Home for Petunia

Autumn brings with it many colorful festivals that I look forward to experiencing from year to year.

Over the weekend we went to an art and wine festival. Last year when we went it was rainy, but the clouds cleared by the afternoon and it was a perfect day. This year, there was no rain, and the suns rays were beaming down on my head. People spilled out of the streets filling every free space of concrete. At the section where people were buying their drink tickets, It seemed that with each step I took, I bumped into someone. Once we were out of that section, we were able to enjoy the different vender booths. I had my water in my bag, and I was munching on my "Silly Spud" potato on a stick sprinkled with parmesan and garlic, while hubby sipped on his beer. I had never had a Silly Spud before. It was a whole potato that was cut into a swirl, attached to a stick and lightly fried to a crisp, then sprinkled with a dozen choices of toppings, from sweet to savory. It was delicious and fun to eat!

As we made our way to the end of one side of the street, we saw that there was a pet adoption booth setup, so we stopped. We looked at one doggie, then as we walked around, we saw the cutest puppy, curled up, just about to take a nap. Hubby and I looked at each other at the same time and we knew–we we're thinking the same thing. 

My mother-in-law has been back and forth about wanting another dog after the passing of her dog, her long-time companion. They still have a dog, but he favors my father-in-law, so in a way it's really his dog. They have a special bond. Her birthday is coming up and I had thought that it would be nice to get her a dog as a gift, but the more thinking that goes into it, and not knowing, nothing happens...so many variables to consider. So, when we saw this precious little puppy that reminded us a little bit of her last dog and of the dog before that, whom I didn't get a chance to meet, we we're that close to adopting this rescue dog for her. We asked about the dog. They tried to rouse her awake so we could see that she was also playful. We could tell that she would be a cuddler and that was one of the things on the top of the list for my mother-in-law. 

The process was pretty straight forward. We had to fill out a form, have an interview, go over a few things, sign a contract, pay the fee, and we could take her home. We filled out the form, and said that we had just gotten to the festival, that we were going to walk around for a bit, then come back to finish the process and take the cutie home. 

I felt excited. I knew that when my mother-in-law saw this puppy, she would fall in love. And somehow in our guts, we had a feeling it would work out, including the new puppy getting along with their dog, Lucas. We didn't even hesitate for a moment that this was the right thing to do. It felt good.

I'm glad we had time to continue browsing the different vender booths, but it didn't take us long before we returned to take puppy home. I carried her in my arms, speaking to her, and telling her we were going to her new home, and that she was alright. She was a little nervous, but she didn't squirm much until the loud music scared her. I held her close, and talked to her all the way until we got to my in-laws house. She did great in the car. She's a curious girl, looking everywhere, trying to see the world. She's four months old.

When we handed puppy to my mother-in-law her face lit up. She's yours we said. She was a little bit surprised, but so very happy. Puppy's new name is Petunia, and she's a happy, happy girl. She's made herself right at home with her new mama and she get's along splendidly with Lucas. 



Monday, September 22, 2014

Morning Page - Oatmeal Bars




"Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something."
-- Ralph Marston, American writer
 

The morning has run away from me. Beautiful orange carnations stare out at me, my cup of tea is empty. I hear a dog bark and bird tweets. Last night I knew I had more studying to do. It's never really done. Just as I finish one chapter, I have to begin on the next to prepare for the next week's class. My teacher is quite responsive. I've emailed her a few times with questions. She's also organized and passionate about her subject. She even begins the class with a tax joke. 

So last night, I don't know if I was procrastinating or if baking soothes me. I'm not a baker. But when I was a little girl I did bake often and I don't know when I stopped. Now, I tend to focus on suppertime meals. Or maybe it was spurred by a new 13 by 9 inch baking pan that I bought a few weeks back that I didn't end up needing and the fact that when I had oatmeal for breakfast yesterday morning, I noticed that the oats had reached their expiration date. I didn't want to waste them, so I thought I'll make the vanishing oatmeal cookies recipe on the lid. I didn't know if I would actually go through with it since we had a full day. I saw that I had the option to make the cookies into bars by using that handy pan that I already had still with it's sticker on it. 

I did make the oatmeal bars, slightly burnt on the bottom. Next time, I may need to pre-heat the oven for less time and bake 30 minutes instead of 35. The bars were quite delicious though, but I feel so bad making them when I see how much butter and sugar is involved. I need to find healthy alternatives to baked goods.

So that's my new mission: Healthy and tasty baked goods with less butter and sugar.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Smiles



Things that made me smile today:

Being in the shower and feeling the onset of a migraine begin to subside after taking a pill.

The raindrops on my truck.

Knowing there was rain on the way to help with the fires in Tahoe, Yosemite, Weed, and other places that need Mother Nature’s help.

The fluffy clouds and the grey clouds. I saw a Scott dog in the folds of the thick white mass.

Approaching a stop light and pausing to watch a little girl and her mother walk through the crosswalk; the little girl began skipping, then her mother joined as the skipped on by.

Getting to work and saying hello to Shorty the plant through the window as I always do.

The quote of the day: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller

Art of the day: Claude Monet’s Cabin of the Customs Watch, 1882 – Oil on canvas. A cabin nestled seaside overlooking the ocean, lovely tones of moss green, sea greens and blues, and sail boats a plenty.

At the end of my shower thinking about the old adage that laughter is the best medicine and thinking how lucky I am to get a dose every day from my husband. : )

Dropping the soap and laughing instead of cursing. 

Reading the first few pages of a miniature prayer book that I got at the Carmel Mission Inn…reminds me of my grandmother, my angel.

And the day has only begun.

More smiles to come. : )

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Visiting with Goldberg, Kindle Unlimited, and a Few Books

I'm being drawn back to Natalie Goldberg's books on writing. It's like visiting with an old friend. Uplifting and inspiring. 

Yesterday was a good day. I felt that I had a lot of energy and I was especially chatty at work and had so much spinning around in my mind. I kept going back to my co-worker's office to let him know just one more thing...usually it pertained to work in some roundabout way. From our last team meeting, we learned through a sharing that our boss used to eat up Ian Fleming's books when he was in fifth grade. He was devouring them so quickly and steadily that his mother became concerned and asked the teacher to see if she could get her son to add something else to his reading mix. I've only seen the movies, but now I'm curious to read something, anything by Ian Fleming, so through Kindle Unlimited, which I've given a try for 30 days, I'm going begin reading one of his books. The book I chose is Thrilling Cities, which is a travelogue covering 13 cities that he visited between 1959-1960. It began as a series or articles and then turned into a book.

Kindle Unlimited. $9.99 each month. 10 books at a time. First time users get a 30 day free trial to read or peek through 10 books at a time. The Kindle Unlimited library is supposed to have over 500,000 books to choose from. I like going page by page and I couldn't possibly keep clicking through that many pages, so I clicked as far as I could, noticing that many of the titles are parts of series and romance novels, neither of which I like reading. I also don't particularly enjoy mysteries, unless books are involved. 

The interesting thing is that most of the books that I would want to read are also available as e-books in the public library system. My problem is that I get impatient waiting for popular or new titles that have long waiting lists. What made me finally decide to give Kindle Unlimited a try was that they had The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry available. I had been waiting to check it out from the library for weeks. I had nothing to lose. 30 days for free and I would get to finally read this book. I downloaded it and finished it in a couple of days. It turned out to be such a satisfying read. I must admit that after a particular scene, I wasn't sure if I was believing it, but I kept going and went with it. I'm so glad I did. It was really a heartwarming book about love, life, second chances, and of course the power of story and books.

One great thing about Kindle Unlimited for me is that it has gotten me to read a couple of books that I might not have. I had been curious about Water for Elephants when it came out, but I didn't have it high on my radar. Scanning through the popular titles on KU, I saw it there and gave it a try, all the while in my head I'm thinking it's free. 30 days. See what you can find. I had vaguely recalled reading the first few pages some time ago and felt pulled in, but not ready to commit. When I started reading it this time, I was in for a great surprise. I had no idea that I would enjoy the book as much as I did. The storytelling, the characters, the tension. The circus completely came alive for me and the interesting historical background and tidbits rounded out the story. I felt that I wanted to be there, but I didn't need to go, because through this book, I was there. 

I also read Without Reservations by Anthony Bourdain. I didn't plan on ever reading his book because, although I enjoyed his culinary adventures on the travel channel, I didn't know if I could handle his cockiness on the page. I loved it. It was yet another glimpse into the the world of being a chef and he laid it all out there. I have begun reading his follow up that he wrote 10 years after this one: Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook.
And because of his book, it led me to George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. And it's available as part of Kindle Unlimited! 

I have several other Kindle Unlimited books that I'm dipping in and out of. Each time I find another title, if I already have 10, I have to return one. 

My 30-day free trial has expired and for now I've decided to pay the $9.99 because I have 10 books downloaded and I like the ease of being able to read them without worrying about a time limit, and also because I don't necessarily want to own the e-books. At some point, I'll cancel my subscription. For now, I'm enjoying the convenience, and hope to find a less cumbersome way of exploring the library.

And of course, a few of Natalie Goldberg's books are part of the Unlimited library, so instead of fishing my books out of the boxes in my garage, they are part of my 10.

Love this quote from an accounting e-newsletter:

"I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door, or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present."

--Rabindranath Tagore, Indian writer

**

One never knows where they will find gems. : )

Monday, September 15, 2014

Journal - Feeling Autumn



I have started to noticed the change in the season the past few weeks, nothing that stands out; subtle changes, mostly hot days that end with a softer light. No drastic sunsets. But the way the change feels is in this photo that is actually from late January of this year. It's from Treasure Island looking out at San Francisco.It has a loud quietness about it and that's how I feel these days–ready to settle into Autumn with its earthy jeweled tones and early dark skies. I imagine pulling my turtle necks out of their hiding places, readying myself for cooler days.

Second class meeting is tonight: Federal Income Taxes. I thought it would be a good class to take to make work more interesting, especially during the slow time, and to challenge my mind. I've actually wanted to take the class for some time, but it's only offered once each Fall and it fills up fast. I've been at my job so long now that I've reached a point where it doesn't make sense to give me any more raises, so last annual review, I suggested to the boss that he pay for my course and books in lieu of a raise. He agreed. I was glad. So far, it's more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I'm going to stay on top of it as best I can and see how it goes.  

My calendar quote from last week was from Rainer Maria Rilke: "Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers." I can relate to this. I feel like I've lived my life this way, knowing that one day I will stumble into something different or maybe the same, the questions always there, but with the hope that one day the answers would be more definitive.

I have had moments these past few days that have also made me feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be in my ordinary existence.

 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Walking Back

Walking back
through a short cut, as I
round a corner, past a bush,
a small bundle lies on the concrete walk,
feathers the color of sunshine…small
precious beauty—fly your little soul to the heavens!
I’ll meet you there one day.
 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

There's Still Quiet in the Air

The past two nights I've fallen asleep at 10:00 p.m., only to wake up at around midnight, still feeling groggy, but having the urge to continue the day's reading, so I read for two to three hours. Both nights I went back to sleep around 3:00 a.m. On the first night, laying In bed I became acutely aware of how quiet it was. The house wasn't gurgling and creaking. I didn't hear cars. I kept trying to imagine how one describes the sound of silence, of this perfectly quiet sound. 

The only way that I could do that in my thoughts was to think of all the sounds that I couldn't hear: birds chirping and cawing; the breeze rattling the window blinds and making the trees sing; the neighbors talking, listening to music, the children laughing and crying; cars humming by in the distance; and then I heard one lone bird let out a squawk or squeal. He broke the silence for that one millisecond and the silence resumed. 

The second night--last night, as I lay in bed at that early morning hour again, ready for sleep, this time I heard the crickets. I don't hear them often. I took in their music, then they stopped. It was another quiet night, but this time after the restless night continued, I could hear the light wind and feel it on my face. 

In the quiet, I could almost hear the beating of my own heart, feel the pulse beating in my hand. I imagined the great night sky overhead, stars twinkling their eyes opened and closed. 

Right now it's morning time. I woke at 8:00 a.m., trying to decide if I felt that I got enough sleep. I can hear the absence from the night before. The silence has been filled, but not completely. There's still quiet in the air. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

At the Post Office: Calm and Slow


Being in the post office affords me a certain stillness. There's usually a short line. At the main post office, however, the lines are long and you could wait a good 15 minutes before your turn. I always like to look around, observe the people, the notecard sets on the wall, the postal clerks. I have yet to see a speedy postal clerk. They all move at their own slow pace, like they have all day, chit chatting with each other. 

The good thing is I don't usually go to the post office in a rush; otherwise, I just might find myself annoyed. But the great thing about seeing people go so slow and calm is that it reminds you that life doesn't have to be a rush. If you go too fast you can miss out on many simple and beautiful moments; they'll slip by like sand streaming quickly through an hour glass and before you've had time to look up, times up–little kernels of sand are gone and where did they go?

Whenever I'm in the post office, I wonder what it would be like to work there. I think I'd like it. I'd like helping people figure out how to fill out the forms for shipping their goods, I'd like to smile and offer them a pleasant experience at my window. I don't know...maybe there are other reasons I can see myself there–or I sort-of want to see myself there. In part I think it goes back to my childhood, but that's a post for another day.

For now, I like the association that I have of the post office: A calmness and sense of slowing down. And the thing is I find myself at the post office a little more now, since I often need stamps–and the reason I need stamps is yet another post for another day, that I've been churning around in my head because I can't decide my angle, where my point of entry is. That's the fun thing about writing: There really are so many modes, so many containers, and ways to begin; and at the same time, sometimes there's so much that it can be hard to decide what to include. I'll jot down small bits as starting points in my Notes App to get something down, and when I have my mind set, I will come back to the notes and maybe use some parts or use them as a reminder or a starting point. It's like keeping these jottings on a writing back burner, simmering away.

**

About the photo: Recently we took a trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea and I took a photo of the P.O. Boxes on a Sunday when no one was around. Well, one gentleman was coming around the corner, as you can see. I couldn't believe how old these boxes were. It was great. I have a P.O. box locally and it has a key. These look like they unlock by combination. I should have taken more photos and close ups...next time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In the Kitchen ~ Feeling the Spark: Potatoes and Chile

Being in the kitchen doesn't always energize me, but yesterday it did. We had planned to go to the local food trucks and have dinner there in the park. It's a nice setup with music. You can bring a blanket, chairs; or just sit directly on the lawn, throw your shoes off and relax. The food trucks draw a good sized crowd crowd, and by looking at all the people and families, you can see their having a nice time and are willing to wait in long lines for their favorite food.

Since I knew I had some time before I left the house to meet hubby at the food trucks, I tried to get a little nap in. Just as I started to nod off, the sound of an incoming text roused me from my slumber. Change of plans: No food trucks, and it sounded like hubby would take care of himself for dinner because he was going to be late; and I would take care of myself. 

I wanted so much to just go back to my nap. It was a hot day and my body felt heavy. Instead, I felt inspired to prepare a Peruvian dish that we recently enjoyed at a barbecue. It's a simple, but satisfying dish that was served as an appetizer by my hubby's cousin's cousin's husband: Yukon gold potatoes boiled then cut into thick lengthwise slices that were spread with freshly made jalapeño chile on top. 

So I woke myself up and went to the grocery store. I decided I would get a frozen dinner (bad, I know) for myself and hubby could have leftover pasta if he didn't eat dinner out. He could also munch on potatoes and chile. 

When I was done grocery shopping, I went home feeling a spark in my step. First, I needed to get that frozen dinner into the microwave because I was very hungry. Next I needed to wash the dishes in the sink. Not my favorite activity, but I kind-of enjoyed the zen-ness of it yesterday. 

Everything was in order. I was ready to be happy in the kitchen, replicating this tasty dish. I got the potatoes peeled and into the pot with water. 

I love potatoes as it is. With the chile slathered on top, I love them that much more, and they've shown me a new aspect of their personality. I'm excited to look at a couple of books on Peruvian cooking that were available at the library. Something so simple was able to provide the needed spark that I needed and pique my curiosity to explore a new cuisine. 

**

To make the chile, place 10 jalapeño chiles, 2 Serrano chiles , salt to taste, and enough oil to get the ingredients to move in the blender. Puree until smooth, but not liquid. It will have some body. That's it. Simple, fresh, tasty. Serve with cold sliced potatoes or anything else you'd like to top it with. You can also heat the potatoes back up. Either way.

**

There is also another recipe that he told us about that involves cheese. He didn't prepare that one, so we didn't try it. Different variations can be found on the web.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Words Inside my Head

Having trouble describing the feeling, how it seems as though my cup has been inadvertently emptied and I am new again, a fresh piece of paper with a new pen trying to connect thoughts and feelings. The thoughts are there, they keep reeling by. I watch them. I want to record them, but pen and paper are not connecting with those thoughts. The process hasn't changed, perhaps something inside of me has, perhaps it's been changing--always changing--this time though the change seems to be causing a gravitation away from writing and that feels strange. A part of me wants to go with this change that has been slowly happening for longer than I realize. A part of me wants to start fresh and jump into the ocean and become lost in a new sea, begin again, and reacquaint myself with the words inside my head. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Playtime ~ Living in the Moment

Recently we visited with my hubby's cousin and her husband. Their 4 1/2 year old boy is hubby's Godson and my buddy. When I write about him, I refer to him as Little A. 

If I haven't seen him for a while, he takes a few seconds to come out of his shell and then he gets chatty, tells me what he's been up to and asks me to play. It usually doesn't take him long to want to play together, so I don't often visit with the "adults" for very long. I've always had a sense of this; I enjoy playing with Little A. But this last time when we were down in his play room, his daddy came in for a refreshment for himself and hubby. Hubby came along to see how Little A. and I were doing and to say hello. His daddy said to me that Little A. said that whenever I come over I only talk to him. Hubby turned to daddy and asked if he said that just to clarify; and daddy said no, Little A. said it. We looked at Little A. and he smiled and gave a small squirm of his body to confirm that he had indeed made this observation. 

I admit that hearing it said out loud made me feel a tad self-conscious. I do visit with the adults and when we sit down to eat, naturally there is conversation; but, yes, I suppose it's mostly true, and it seems that Little A. talks to me the most when I'm there too. He engages me, and together we go into his world of play.

So we played. I always follow his lead. We baked cakes, played store, tended to injured stuffed animals, rode on the sea, escaped pirates, went on a safari, and nearly missed putting all the animals away to avoid a big storm. 

As we were winding down, sitting across from each other, out of the blue Little A. says to me, "girls are bossy and make rules; boys don't. But your not bossy." I repeated his statement back to him just to make sure I heard him right. "But your not bossy, Auntie Rebbecca." I smiled inside. It was nice not being lumped in with bossy girls that make rules for the space of time I'm with him. We just play and have fun and giggle and let our imaginations run wild. 

Playing with Little A., there is no other choice but to live in the wonderful, present moment.