Posts tagged ‘renewal’

April 3, 2018

Spring is for Renewal – Even in the Kitchen!

Spring is for renewal – even in the kitchen! The winter season is hanging on here and there, but the spring growing season will soon arrive with wild contributions of poke salat, dandelion greens, and lamb’s quarters.
lettuce
Of course you’re not required to eat from your yard. Farmers markets, food co-ops and select grocery stores will fill vegetable bins with leaf lettuce, spinach, chard and kale. Fresh vegetables deserve a fresh presentation now and then and spring feels like the proper time for renewed inventiveness in the kitchen.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to pick leaf lettuce from the garden my grandmother planted at our farm. It was so tender and flavorful, nothing like an iceberg lettuce wedge which I only really appreciate when drenched in bleu cheese dressing topped with bacon pieces. For years, it was the only lettuce I knew. (How lucky was I?)

The vegetables we grew were what we ate. My mom wasn’t going to drive into town to buy different vegetables from the store when we had perfectly good ones peeking through the dirt across the driveway. Of course, we didn’t want to eat the same thing every day, so necessity became the mother of invention. New combinations or cooking methods developed on the fly.

A few years ago when I first purchased a share in an organic farm, I noticed that a similar thing happened in my kitchen. Rather than plan meals and make a shopping list, I was suddenly planning dishes based on the surprise ingredients I received each Friday when I picked up my share from the farm. Not knowing in advance what I would get made the experience feel like a cooking adventure. It renewed my sense of creativity in the kitchen.

Now, when the weather warms, I can’t help but feel an excited anticipation for the arrival of fresh tender greens, small green onions, beets, peas, asparagus, and broccoli. I love the bright colors! I love the flavors! And I love having a chance to think of new combinations!

I was thinking about giving you some recipes next, but that might keep you from the fun of creating your own. I would never want to rob you of fun! Instead, here are the top 8 ingredients I like to have available to pair with fresh veggies:

Avocados
While they’re great for soooo many things, it’s not always practical to keep an avocado in the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many I’ve thrown away because I wasn’t paying enough attention to the changing level of ripeness.

Now I keep Wholly Guacamole avocado minis on hand. I can use them in anything requiring mashed avocado without worrying whether they’ve gone bad.

Goat Cheese
The light creaminess of goat cheese won’t overpower even delicate garden flavors.

Boiled Eggs
Keeping a few boiled eggs in the refrigerator comes in handy for salads and casseroles as well as pasta dishes.

Fresh Ginger
Grated fresh ginger is delicious with beets or green beans and can give salad dressing a kick.

Mint
Any fresh herb could make this list on a given day, but today I like mint. Tomorrow, who knows, I may like cilantro.

Mirin or Rice Vinegar
Mirin is a rice wine with a light sweet flavor. Both mirin and rice vinegar add light acidity to a dish or dressing.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
I buy hulled pumpkin seeds and toast them in the oven with a little olive oil spray and salt. They bring a satisfying crunch and earthy flavor to salads. They’re great by the handful too.

quinoaQuinoa
I like the texture of quinoa. It works great as a base for a Buddha bowl or a salad and it has a higher protein-to-carb ratio than rice.

With these ingredients, or your own favorites, you’ll be well equipped for a variety of spring culinary creations. Inspiration for combinations can come from anywhere — accidentally tasting two things together on your plate, a dish you’re served in a restaurant, something you remember from childhood, a recipe you want to vary, a cooking show, a painting — literally anything!

This is the kind of post that makes my sister crazy! She would be much happier with an actual recipe. I want her to learn to play with flavors. Mostly, I want her to have the pleasure of discovering something new, delicious, and totally unexpected that she created. I want that experience for all of us! It feels so great on so many levels!
I feel so grateful that spring offers the bounty for such opportunities over and over and over again! It truly is a time of renewal.

https://www.eatwholly.com/products/chunky-avocado/wholly-chunky-avocado-minis/

February 26, 2018

Forget Mindfulness!

Mindfulness pshaw. Forget Mindfulness! What I need is a little MindLESSness!

Don’t get me wrong, my life is filled with mindful practices and I believe they’re important. I practice yoga 3 or 4 times a week. I may squeeze in a guided meditation. And, I’m immersed in a Daring Way class where I’m learning to practice empathy that includes mindfulness. There’s nothing WRONG with mindfulness. In fact, sitting in the moment and being present has led me to recognize that I am worn out!

I need to turn my mind off temporarily. I don’t want to consider anything. I don’t want to answer a text, send an email, or read any research. I don’t want to cook a meal, test a recipe, or review any video. I don’t want to pay a bill, wash a dish, or plan anything! And I know I don’t have the emotional energy to listen with empathy to someone who is making my life more difficult. I just don’t have it in me.
mug
I want to lie in the sun, feel it’s warmth and ENJOY it rather than feeling like I need to dig up tulip bulbs from my yard while the soil is soft. I want to float in the pool and feel nothing but the softness of the water as it supports me. I want to savor my coffee in the morning and eat chocolate at leisure with some wine at night. I want to laugh at everything silly, jump in a pile of warm laundry, take a nap at 10am, find a new show to binge watch, or read a page turner.

Feeling carefree may not be achievable, but it’s a good goal.

It takes a lot for me to feel overloaded, but if there’s never any relief — no full day off, no carefree moments, not enough laughter, no one to depend on to pick up the ball when I drop it, I can get to a point where I’m constantly poised for the straw that may break me. It’s easy to say, set better boundaries so you don’t get overtaxed, but difficult to practice if you’re a caregiver, sole provider and parent, sole proprietor, or just financially strapped.

For me, it’s better to recognize and accept that I may not be up to any greater challenge than lying on the couch than to numb my feelings with food or alcohol, to lash out in anger, or to turn in a half-assed performance at work.

Is it difficult for me to admit this? YES!!!! I am driven to achieve, solve problems, and fix things.
It’s really hard to admit I may not be up to the task. While I know this is temporary, it feels huge and frightening!

It’s worth remembering that down time often provides powerful insight. It’s easy to think of doing nothing as time wasted, but that’s selling it short. Putting my mind in neutral allows it to travel paths it would otherwise miss.

I just talked to a friend on the phone who asked what I was writing. When I told him, he said, obviously taken aback, “That’s what you’re writing!?” I could tell he thought the decision was risky. But I know I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who feels this way, and maybe, just maybe, you need to know that because you need some mindlessness too.

So, if you’re in my boat, let’s just let it float with the current. We’ll be able to get back to shore when we need to. I’m certain of it.

http://thedaringway.com/

February 20, 2017

Travel Tip #17 – Stay Home

Most staycations involve bag packing, hotels, and room service, or ventures out to local attractions, but what if you just stay home? Now before you start asking how that’s a vacation or staycation of any sort, let’s explore the idea.
house
For many of us who have young children, supervise or provide care for a parent or spouse, or have health issues that make travel difficult, the simplest of simple breaks may be what we need. My aunt Sally used to tell a story that seems fitting. When her 3 kids were 1, 6, and 7, she went back to college. Now, you probably need to know that Aunt Sally always cooked homemade meals. When we lived in the same town, I often showed up right around dinner time knowing that there would automatically be homemade bread and a delicious meal. Anyway, after endless months of very long days caring for the kids, going to school, doing homework, cleaning the house, and cooking meals, my uncle had a day off. He said he’d watch the kids while she took a bath.

Aunt Sally filled the bathtub, she put in her favorite bubbles, got in the tub and just relaxed. After what seemed like an eternity, she pulled herself out of the tub, got dressed, and put on her watch to realize that only 10 minutes had passed. She thought it had been at least an hour. She had to laugh. She was still laughing about it 20 years later.

The advantages to taking a break at home are numerous. You get to sleep in your own bed. You don’t have to worry about doing laundry in advance so that you will have the outfit you need. In fact, you don’t have to think about packing anything at all — no special food, no meds, no toothpaste, extra shoes, socks or phone charger.

The question is how to make staying home feel like a vacation. This can be done with planning over time or no planning at all. What will work best depends on your personality and circumstances.

My caregiving duties are two days per week keeping my 7-month-old grandson at my home and supervising the care of my 96-year-old cousin. That means I can carve out a long weekend at home without having to get a sitter, but if you can’t, then by all means GET A SITTER. This can be a family member, friend, professional caregiver, or a service. Sometimes insurance will cover the cost.

Hire someone to clean your house. The day before your vacation, use the money you’re saving by not going to a hotel to have your house cleaned.

Do not work. If that means turning off the phone, putting away the computer, or just refocusing your attention, then do it.

Do not use the time to catch up on chores. You can get a sitter another time to catch up on chores, but that’s not a vacation. Each time you think of your To Do list, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, envision something beautiful, and breathe until your breathing slows and you’re no longer thinking about anything besides your breath or that beautiful vision.

Sit still. If you rarely take a break, you’ll need some transition time to slow down your body and mind. Without stillness, you cannot reconnect with yourself in order to know what you need.
food
Feed yourself. Once you’re still, listen to yourself. If you’re hungry, feed yourself food. If you’re feeling uninspired, feed your mind and your soul. If you’re hungry for rest, sleep. Whatever you choose, do it with as little effort as possible.

My city has a food delivery service that picks up from the local restaurants I frequent. I can take time off without planning anything — even gluten-free food. All I have to do is place an online order, pay my bill & tip through the site, then crack open my door enough to pull the food inside when it’s delivered. If I were traveling, I would be eating out more so I don’t mind having food delivered for a few days.

If your town doesn’t have such a service, you may be able to order from individual restaurants that deliver or pay a teenager to pick up food for you. Another option is to plan in advance by freezing a few entrees, making a pot of chili, cooking a roast, or making a trip to the store and stocking up on salad components, deli items or frozen favorites. The idea is to have already prepared food ready to grab so that you don’t spend your rest time planning menus, preparing food, or cleaning the kitchen.

Yoga and weight lifting remain part of my day during a home vacation. It’s not that I feel as though I have to work out. I do these workouts because I like the way they make me feel. They do not deplete my energy. They renew me. Anything that makes you feel renewed is a great vacation activity even if it looks like work to other people.

I love to have time to read and binge watch without guilt. I like not having to put on clothes or even take a bath unless I want to. If I want to answer my phone, I do. If I don’t want to answer, I don’t. When I’m homecationing, I make choices as I go just like I would if I were deciding whether to sit on the beach or go snorkeling.

Of course you’re not locked into staying at home. If after sitting still you feel that going to a museum would inspire you in the moment, go ahead. The point is not to feel obligated to do anything or go anywhere. Another point is to stop filling time in a manner that keeps you from knowing how you feel.

A third point is to let it be okay NOT to do. If you miss a concert, there will probably be another one you want to see just as much. If you miss a movie, it will soon be available online. If you miss a family dinner, the world will not end. A little planning can most often prevent missing scheduled events like weddings, anniversaries, and holiday celebrations, but if you need a break from those as well, then take one.
slip
The whole family can have a vacation at home. It’s a great way to make time to reconnect. Put a moratorium on social media. Work on a scrapbook. Look at old photos & videos. Learn a new board game together. Work crossword puzzles. Have a video game tournament. Play chase. Do karaoke. Take lots of naps and laugh, laugh, laugh.

There has to be some balance to a life well lived. Too much hedonistic or selfish behavior will damage relationships and possibly the hedonist. Too much selfless behavior and the servant may burn out, leave without explanation, or become resentful.

A well executed home vacation can provide much needed relief with a minimum amount of effort and expense. I recommend taking them often!

June 1, 2016

Remembering and Renewal Can Go Hand-in-Hand

DaisyRemembering and renewal can go hand-in-hand. Where I grew up, Memorial Day coincided with larger traditions of Decoration Day. While the official holiday is to remember our veterans who died, my mom spent the day visiting every cemetery in which our relatives are buried. She’d remove last year’s old, faded, plastic arrangement from each grave and replace it with a new one.

This morning I am at my mother’s house, the one that now belongs to me and my sister. I walked down the road to the farm homesteaded by my great, great, great grandmother looking for wild strawberries. When I was here a few weeks ago they were in full bloom, so I was excited by the possibility of picking the small, juicy berries. I remember when I was 5 or 6 picking berries off these stems and popping them in my mouth right there on the spot. They were delicious.

Today, there are no berries, just a few stems chewed flat at the top most likely by the rabbit I saw bounding across the yard. While I feel disappointed about the berries, I had an enjoyable walk past an incredible display of verdant fields and a roadside of hearty weeds topped with delicate flowers. All around me I saw growth, change, renewal.

It’s common to become attached to things that feel familiar – not just furniture, paintings, dishes or clothes, but attitudes, beliefs, and emotions. Sometimes loss or change will cause us to grasp onto the familiar with a death grip and hold on for dear life. Stay in an emotional spot too long and soon enough you’re in a rut. Ruts can be deep tracks that we subconsciously follow. While they give us a defined path which can look like a way forward, they also limit us to that path which can sometimes mean we’re stuck.
rut
When we’re stuck, there is no renewal. There’s no room for new growth because our physical, spiritual, and emotional space is full of the familiar. Remembering how things used to be can be a method of hanging onto the past and keeping us stuck, but it doesn’t have to be and nature is a great reminder of that.

I know what it feels like to move into the familiar groove of feeling alone, not really lonely, just alone as though I must carry any burden by myself. The only reason this is a reality for me now is that I easily slide into that familiar groove. I do it in spite of many layers of healing. It was my reality for so long at so young an age that I have many layers left to heal.

The good news is that not only do I have a healing process I trust, I see examples all around me of the renewal that happens naturally when we stop interfering.
sticker
I see it in the sticker bush that in two weeks has grown from two feet tall to 5 feet tall.
blossomberry
I see it in the blackberry bushes that in the same two weeks have shed lively flowers and begun to create fruit.
yellowdlion
I see renewal in the dandelions that spread their seeds on the wind. And I’m seeing all of this renewal on the farm where I grew up, the same farm where I spent most of my days walking through the fields and sitting in the woods…alone. It is a place of many memories. It is a place of renewal and growth.

Sometimes we remember how great things were because those are the things that left the biggest impression. This can either keep us stuck in the past or encouraged for the future. Sometimes we remember only the bad things. This can keep us stuck in our pain or give us a starting point for healing and renewal. Staying stuck in our memories or connecting with our memories to heal and move forward begin in the same place. It is the place of choice.

When I interviewed Life Coach Mack Arrington for our Cooking2Thrive interview series, he pointed out a moment at which I was “at choice”. It’s an expression I’ve heard from other life coaches and it’s exactly the time/place where memory and renewal intersect. Memorial Day is the perfect time for renewal to begin.