The dark of the year

Monday, December 31, 2012

I am still feeling quite down.  Christmas isn't Christmas without Dad.  I feel like an orphan.

Inside, in the dark of my heart...   I don't understand the point of life.  I'm trying to work my way out of it, but it's not easy.  One breath at a time.

It's not something you talk about in polite company.  I shield it from everyone, because, really, what could they possibly do?  Shower me with platitudes?  Try, pointlessly, to cheer me up?  If I am helpless and powerless, how would everyone else feel?

I don't want to share these depths.  I don't want the reactions - the requisite pity, the worry.  What else would come of it?  I have no use for that attention.  I have no use for the inevitable added pressure, to fix it in order to make everyone else feel better.  I have enough on my plate.

It's funny the things that make me think of Dad.  Today, it was slicing a banana. 

He used to eat these giant bowls of cereal for breakfast.  He would always cut up a whole banana and put it on top, his bowl almost overflowing.  In recent years he switched to blueberries.  I swear he'd put a pint of blueberries on top and then smile and say (realizing that you might have observed how many he was eating) how good they were for you - antioxidants and all.

A stark contrast against Dad this past year, battling cancer.  My heart hurts thinking of the single crab rangoon he could barely choke down at the Chinese buffet.

I miss him.

There is no end to it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

“Let me tell you a few things about regret...There is no end to it. You cannot find the beginning of the chain that brought us from there to here. Should you regret the whole chain, and the air in between, or each link separately as if you could uncouple them? Do you regret the beginning which ended so badly, or just the ending itself?”

― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

Old writing, and ghosts in my head.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I just rediscovered some content which I'll post below.  It was written back on 12-31-2010 and tucked away in my Evernote files.  Before my Dad was diagnosed with cancer.  It represents what I knew to be real, at that time.

I've been feeling down lately.  I was looking for some content I'd written earlier today, about how every day is a new loss, losing my father.  About how our instinct is to grasp at the material things, at the familiar things... Only to realize much later (if at all) that these things are just that - separate and not 'of' the person.

Dad's 2nd wife, Han, decided to cancel the main phone line.  The number that I've known for 32 years is no more.  The recording of my Dad's voice, saying (and yes, he enunciated just this clearly) "You have reached # # # - # # # #; leave a message if you wish." is no more.

I called the number on the day I found out - wishing, hoping... just wanting to hear his voice.  Wanting to grasp.

Would the familiar voice on the machine answer?

Two rings.  Three.  Four.  Finally, it picked up.  One last time.

And so, I heard it for the last time.  Last.  Gone.

Every day.

I've been a bit down.  


I needed this.  I hope it may bring a ray of sunshine, to me and to others.

Every day.


Gorgeous Moments:
  • A tired dog curled up in your lap
  • Beautiful birds on the bird feeder in winter
  • The first snow of the season and the change of the seasons
  • Excited dogs chasing birds, squirrels, etc. out of the yard
  • Cool beer on a hot summer day on the front porch
  • The feeling you get just after completing a good workout
  • The love of good friends, great hugs, and laughter
  • Realizing how much you have in common with someone
  • The excitement of doing something new or learning how to do something
  • Sharing something that is exciting and new with someone you love
  • The light shining through the windows and glimmering off of things
  • The smell of good incense
  • Wind chimes
  • Resonating singing bowls
  • A bright blue sky and glowing sun
  • Comfort food on a cold day
  • A good nap
There is something about all of these moments that is the same - thinking of them puts you in a very specific time and place - it makes you aware of the moment.  This is when Buddhism comes forward as "true" for me, because the emphasis is on being aware, and on being "in" the moment that you are living.  It is so easy to float through life in a dream (this theme is referenced often in the spiritual books I've read, including things like The Four Agreements, etc.).  We sleepwalk through our lives and rarely just stop, observe, and appreciate exactly what is happening in the moment we are in.  We live our lives in the past ("I wish I would have done XX differently"), or in the future (I can't wait for XX"), constantly reliving and pre-living, rather than bothering to stop and live in the present.  I suppose that our ancestors were wired this way, learn from the past, plan for the future.  Living in the moment is a bit of a luxury, but I think it could also be a great survival mechanism - be where you are, be aware of your surroundings, exist in the moment, don't dwell on the past or fear for the future.  Something I come back to, from one of the books I read, is "chop wood, carry water" - what this means to me is just that... For that moment, chopping the wood or carrying the water is what matters.  All the rest is just the noise - the ghosts in your head.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Some days I just feel defeated.

Dale R. Schissler, 12/04/1937 - 11/21/2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Moments of denial and hope still find me,
and then the truth - that my father is gone - envelops me.

A brightness has been lost.
The world is muted and muffled.
I am inside a heavy blanket of grief.

My skin stings as if it has been cut a thousand times.
My heart is crushed.
The threads of my life have been cut.

The light he brought to my life has been taken from me.

Words are too small to convey the depth of my sadness.

Peace, my heart...

"Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way."

~Rabindranath Tagore

What's for dinner - Whole Life Challenge VEGETABLE edition

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I wanted to try to highlight some of the veggies we are enjoying during the Vegetable challenge week of the Whole Life Challenge.  The challenge is to eat a different vegetable every day this week.  No problem!

Day 1 was a beautiful simple meal of Tilapia with sauteed onion & garlic, avocado and broccoli:

Day 2 the featured vegetable was Butternut Squash, via a variation of this chili that I'd made on Sunday (hey, no rules against cooking it in advance!).  I left out the chopped chipotle in adobo because the can said the ingredients included corn oil, wheat flour and a couple of other disallowed ingredients.   I added diced fresh jalapeno, cayenne, chipotle chili pepper powder and some red pepper flakes, and still went back for some Tabasco to splash at the time of serving.  It was OK, but I think the chipotle in adobo would have rounded it out more.  I also added a dash of cocoa powder to the mix toward the end to give it a little more depth of flavor, which I think was good.

Day 3 (today) we kept it simple and just nuked sweet potatoes for our meal.  Sweet potato + butter & salt = perfect.

I guess I need to get my game plan together to use up all the other veggies we have around here!  We got another CSA share today which included a turnip (greens attached) and some spinach, so I suspect there may be some cooked greens in our future - that's one that John's been on a kick with for a few weeks now.

Here's some photos of other recent meals:

I got John to make this recipe of the egg inside an avocado.  It was REALLY hard to tell when the egg was cooked, was the one observation.

I like to take random leftover vegetables and cook them together, which is what you see below, made a few weeks back after that Saturday tailgate.  Leftover celery and peppers mixed with some squash and broccoli, some beans and I think a can of tomatoes, some spices...  It was pretty good!

This is a recipe John made, I don't know what was in it (other than garlic and butter, which I remember particularly because they were so delicious), but damn it was good:

Another random vegetable mash-up of mine, this was dinner one Wednesday when John was off at dart league.  Peppers, radishes, turnips, beets, cooked in butter with some salt.  A touch bitter (I blame the radishes), but overall pretty tasty.

WLC Vegetable Challenge!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I'm not gonna lie, I was super excited to see that the coming week's challenge was all about VEGETABLES.  Since I eat mostly veggies anyway, I hope I've got an edge on this one :).   It gives me a great reason to prepare them in a variety of ways.  I also love that I get some new stuff from our CSA from Glade Road Growing.  I've never tried Celeriac (which we got with our share last week), and am looking forward to trying it!

Here are some of the vegetables I've got in the house at the moment (a few of which I picked up for the challenge):

The standard "side" vegetables -

Bell Pepper

And these -

Brussels Sprouts
Butternut Squash

Yellow crookneck Squash
Pak Choy
Curry Squash*
Peas (frozen)**

* I'd never seen one before and had to buy it when I spotted it in the Glade Road Growing tent at the Farmer's Market.
** I bought these for the challenge.  In the spring we just eat the whole pod fresh off the vine and the rest of the time I forget that vegetables can come out of the freezer.

I'll try to get some shots of what I wind up making with the veggies throughout the week.

Whole Life Challenge observations

Saturday, October 20, 2012

During the course of the Whole Life Challenge, I've observed some interesting behaviors on the discussion forums.  Part of the challenge is that every single rule can't possibly be made 100% crystal clear.  One such area of discussion relates to receiving communion, and whether the wine and cracker count as lost points for alcohol and grain ingestion.  This is ONE of many, many examples where certain competitors come out to play, saying "OF COURSE" it is a point, you're obviously NOT COMPLIANT.

I am not a Catholic, and I do not receive communion, so this is NOT a personal issue for me.  It is a really good representation of something that I want to talk about. Here's my response to this example and the numerous others I have witnessed.

There are two types of competitor:

  1. People who believe that the competition is for (and against) everyone else.
  2. People who believe that the competition is for (and against) ourselves.
I call Type 1 "zealots."  Excess competitive juice juice sends Type 1 into holier than thou debates (or statements) about "the "right" way to do each thing, interspersed with posts and responses that are designed to highlight how lame and weak other people are.

Type 1 competitors:  If the competition takes you to a place where you find yourself putting down other people to show off how great you are by comparison, then you have lost sight of the purpose of the challenge.  One of the challenge's greatest opportunities is to share this journey with others and support each other toward individual progress and achievements.  Look in the mirror.  You are an asshole.  Stop it.

I "get" the rules, and I respect them.  Beyond that, I have been trying to be sure that I respect other people and their choices, whatever they may be.

For type 2 competitors:  If the rules aren't 100% clear*:
  • If YOU think it is cheating, it is cheating.
  • If you don't think it is cheating, then it is not cheating. 
In the end, you have to be accountable to yourself.  The person I am in the competition to "win" for (and, yes -- often, against) is me.

* You know what they are; don't cheat yourself and stretch the boundaries.  If you know that it's a stretch, then it's probably cheating.

Whole Life Challenge: What's for Dinner updates!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's been a while since I posted any updates on food for the Whole Life Challenge, and how everything is going.  We are about 1/2 way through and I've lost about 1 pound a week, which is OK I guess.  I didn't go into it to lose the most weight (but I was sort of hoping I would!).  I went into it to get fit and healthy, and push myself to "eat clean", and I've been totally winning at that.

Here are a couple of catch-up pics on meals past - First, a lovely salad with the last tomatoes from our garden, and black bean soup from this recipe (which was OK but pretty bland, a hearty dose of Tabasco, which is totally compliant, helped):

Then I made these Mahi fillets and some greens with the spinach from our CSA and some chard from the garden:

Experimented with some crackers:

Finally figured out how to make mayo (using the LOWEST blender setting, only ONE type of oil / I'd run out and mixed on the prior attempt, and letting the egg and lemon juice come fully to room temperature):

And tonight I made up TWO soups, since the coming week's challenge is all about providing for yourself for every meal (which I do 99% of the time anyway).   The first one was Sweet Potato-Cauliflower soup, which we had for dinner tonight.  Quite good!

And the other is Curried Pumpkin Soup, which I had a little sample taste of, and is AMAZING.

The finished product yielded 10 very orange and similar-looking servings (pumpkin on the left, and sweet potato-cauliflower on the right).  Frankly these are pretty hearty servings, so they may even go further than that.  Not bad for a couple of hours' work!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Posted this on my Facebook, but want to keep it more 'handy' to refer back to...  Something I need to remember and work on.

I tend to get impatient with people for not seeing something that seems 'obvious'. I really need to work on my compassion and remember that every person sees things differently, and things that seem 'obvious' to me aren't necessarily even visible to others, and vice-versa...

I think it is very rarely the case that people make a conscious choice to make things more difficult for someone else*, it is just that they are seeing through their own world lenses and don't see through mine.

*ok, so sometimes they are, but certainly much less often than it feels like!

Whole Life Challenge: What's for Dinner? Sunday 09/23

Sunday, September 23, 2012

For Sunday's dinner I decided to do another round of "use it up".  I'd bought a few portobello mushroom caps for our tailgate, which we didn't use, and I'd gotten (another!) bag of spinach from our CSA on Wednesday that needed to be used.  Thus was borne a dinner that was cheeseless portobello "pizzas" and Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon.

I added some turmeric to the chickpea recipe, and I didn't have a lemon so I used lemon juice from the bottle instead.  I followed the serving suggestion of putting it over a sweet potato, which was quite tasty.

 For the portobello "pizzas," I marinated the caps in some balsamic vinegar & olive oil, sprinkled with garlic powder.  I sauteed some onions in butter and added the last of some sliced baby bellas that I'd chopped up (needed to use those up also).  A bit of diced fresh garlic finalized the main filling ingredient.  John took over while I was in the heat of finishing the chickpea mix, and told him the basic concept and gave him creative license.  He finished them with tomato paste, basil leaves and slices of tomato from our garden.  All in all, pretty cheap, tasty, and not too hard to make!

Catchin up on 'What's for Dinner?' Whole Life Challenge Edition(s)

On Tuesday I got home pretty late from work , and John and I were both pretty grouchy and hungry.  I thought he was probably missing carbs and I was just plain starving, so I offered to make sweet potatoes for us.  They were a quick meal in the microwave, served with butter and salt, and perfect.  We had some carrot and turnip slaw with them, which wound up being a very orange meal...

On Wednesdays John has darts, so I was fending for myself.  On either Monday or Tuesday I'd made quinoa to take along with my lunches (cooked red quinoa, avocado, tomato, olive oil & lime juice = amazing cold salad with great protein), and had a bit of quinoa left over.  I also had a big bag of spinach from my CSA share with Glade Road Growing that needed to be used. 

I sauteed up the spinach along with some baby bellas (grocery store), red pepper (CSA), green banana pepper (my garden) and garlic (my garden), and threw in the already-cooked quinoa at the end just to heat it up.  Awesome, quick, fresh and easy meal.

Thursday night we took the easy route and ate the soup that was left over from earlier in the week.

Friday was a fun one.  I got home a bit late from work, after having stopped off at Eats to pick up a few things (I went looking for, and found, coconut aminos, but also picked up some WLC compliant olives and vegetable juices). 

I knew that on Saturday morning we'd be tailgating.  There is a saying - "when you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  I wanted to plan ahead for the tailgate to be sure we would have the "approved" foods to take.  It's also a good "dry run" for the big Duke game where we'll have a bunch of guests visiting, and will be tailgating all day long with people who may not care so much what our diet is!

I'd tried earlier in the week to make homemade mayo.... A massive failure.  I really wanted to make slaw (which, as it turns out, the slaw recipe I chose didn't need the mayo), and also deviled eggs (which did).   We were out of eggs, so I ran out to the store and picked up two 18-packs (we've been going through eggs like crazy on this diet!).

While I made dinner, John tried his hand at mayo-making and had great success using grapeseed oil.  He whisked the whole time by hand, and it looked so beautiful and perfect in texture...   And then it had a horrible stale taste.  Which, we figured out, was probably because our grapeseed oil expired in 2005 (!).   Whoops.  And... Eww.

We threw that out, and he tried again with some (non-EV) olive oil and the KitchenAid.  That seemed to work...

Except, a 1/2 hour later when I pulled it out of the fridge to make the deviled eggs, it had separated into a not-very-good-eats looking oil slick on top of the thicker mayo-like layer.  :(  I spooned some out to use in the deviled eggs anyway.

On Friday night we needed another quick go-to meal, after all the grocery store running and late start.  While John worked on the mayo, I worked on making our meal.  I defrosted some tilapia filets and marinated them in sesame oil, diced garlic and dried Italian spice mix (oregano, rosemary, basil, marjoram, thyme) while the oven preheated.

I topped them with red bell pepper and banana pepper, and cooked them 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Meanwhile I steamed some broccoli with a pat of butter and a couple of teaspoons of water and some diced garlic.  Done!

For the game I made Asian Broccoli Slaw.  I was running low on broccoli (after using some for our meal above), so I supplemented it with some shredded green cabbage.  I'd cheated and bought pre-shredded red cabbage to use.

I think coconut aminos may be one of my new best friends...  John used them to marinate some steak that he brought for the tailgate, and declared himself a fan.

Other than the slaw noted above, I also made some deviled eggs. We've been eating hard boiled eggs all week, so I just grabbed a few of those.  The egg yolks and "mayo" were combined with compliant mustard, celery, paprika, salt, pepper and dried dill, and a dash of vinegar, to make the filling for the deviled eggs.  I missed the dill taste of the pickle relish I normally include, but that was just how it was going to be since I didn't have any compliant pickles.  I used celery (for the crunch), dried dill and vinegar (for the taste) in an attempt to close the gap.  They were close, but not *quite* as good as my normal version.  Sigh.  I knew I should've bought the Bubbies Dills at Eats.

Still... Overall?  Good eats.

It's Sunday - big cooking day again to get ready for the coming week!  I have to think carefully about what I'm going to do next week, since I head back out of town to TX on Saturday morning through October 5...!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I love the way
September sunlight stretches, creating

long shadows
twinkling blue skies
brisk days
cotton clouds
brightened colors

heralding a beginning
and an end

WLC - what's for dinner? Sunday & Monday

Monday, September 17, 2012

I wanted to do a catch-up post showing what we had for dinner for the last two nights. I have to say, I'm very lucky to be married to a man that likes to cook!

Here is the meal we enjoyed on Sunday evening.  John made a version of this on Friday night, and it was so good we both agreed that an encore was in order!

This meal is pretty simple and inexpensive, and helps solve a problem we had, which is using up the last of our harvested tomatoes (which we had a ton of).  Ingredients:

- 3 - 4 yellow & red tomatoes
- 1/2 onion
- 1 sweet red pepper
- 1 can Great Northern beans
- 1 can red beans
- Carrots
- Garlic
- Celery
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder

We combined the leftovers from Friday night, which he'd used black beans in (instead of red), so you see a few of those also.  YUM!

On Sunday I made some roasted chickpeas to have around for snacking.  John said he "wasn't crazy about them," but also noted that he "kept going back for more."  :)

And tonight, John had seen a recipe for poached eggs over asparagus that he wanted to try.  I had just picked up sliced baby portobello mushrooms at the store and suggested we add them as a side (it seemed like the meal needed something earthy with it), and it was a perfect match.  The only disappointment was the end of the meal, when a plate full of egg yolk went to waste...  :(

I suggested using it as salad dressing, which would probably have been good, but since we were at the end of the meal I guess it wouldn't have kept too well for another meal on another day.

The dogs were very happy to get their "lickins," though!  :)

John mentioned that while he still feels hungry all day long, he feels pretty good.  For me, I don't feel much different at all; this is sort of how I eat 80%+ of the time anyway, so it wasn't a huge shift.  It was tough going back in the office where there is a break room full of off-limits food, and a bunch of leftovers from the Startup Weekend we hosted, and half-and-half for coffee...  But I drank two cups of totally plain black coffee today, and it wasn't too bad.  And snuck a bag of salted almonds from the break room late in the day which meet "the rules" but still felt like an indulgence compared to the raw ones I normally nosh on!

We went to the box this morning, and did our stretching together this evening.  The dogs seem to think that when we are on the floor it is all about them, and much hilarity ensued, but we managed to get our stretches in, in between.

It's fun rallying together for the Challenge!

Slowcooker Mung Dhal Vegetable Soup

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I made Slowcooker Mung Dhal Vegetable Soup today, too, planning to take it for lunches in the coming week.  I added the spinach (which is optional in the recipe) to give it a bit more body.  Haven't tasted it yet, but it smells amazing.

Remind me to tell you about my utter homemade mayo FAIL sometime...

Whole Life Challenge Evening Meal # 1

I'm interested to see how creative everyone can get with the food guidelines on the Whole Life Challenge.  As John and I make our meals I will try to take & post pics, if for nothing else than my own future reference.

Today's meal was actually very similar to one of our "standard" meals.  I think the fact that I am a pescetarian lends itself nicely to the challenge; we've already been thinking creatively for many years, finding different ways to make vegetables and beans into new and fulfilling creations.

I only eat fish about 1-2 times a week and I don't plan to change that during the challenge. Since I am a "hybrid" vegetarian, I plan to follow a hybrid version of the rules.  I want to compete in a fair way, and not "take a pass" on anything, but I also think that as someone who is living on primarily vegetables, I may need additional nutrition items occasionally.  As such, on days that I am eating only vegetarian foods, I will follow the Challenge's vegetarian guidelines and allow the option of the "additional items for vegetarians" of quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and wild rice.  On days that I am eating fish, I will not.  I noticed that they recently added tempeh, miso, and natto as allowed items for vegetarians (note to self, what the hell is natto?  research later) but I almost never eat those normally, so probably won't on the challenge either.

Anyway, onward!  Here's "what's for dinner" on the Whole Life Challenge for night 1.  Sorry the pic of John's meal is a bit blurry - I was in a hurry to get the shot and get out of his way... He was hungry! :)

My meal - a tuna steak, grilled veggies and carrot and turnip slaw:

John's meal - a ribeye and the same sides:

Here's a pic of the carrot and turnip slaw - I'm posting it so that I can put the image in on the recipe in my Pinterest WLC board - right now it just has the very boring picture of a napkin and silverware from the recipe page.


This weekend is probably going to involve a lot of cooking and kitchen time to get ready to handle our first week of the Whole Life Challenge.

John made Hummus today, using a recipe from Vegetarian Times Low-Fat & Fast.  It is soooo tasty!



Two 15-oz cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive or sesame oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.  If a thinner dip is desired, add more water.  Serve with raw vegetables.

Makes 2 1/2 cups; 10 servings

Per serving:
116 calories, 4g protein; 4g fat, 20g carbohydrates; 0 cholestorol; 252mg sodium, 4g fiber

Whole Life Challenge

The Whole Life Challenge started today - John and I are both participating.  We had our first trial workout this morning (we'll do another on November 11th to compare the results).  We had our measurements taken, and the competition begins!

I've spent a lot of time in the past week getting ready - selecting items that meet the "food rules" at the grocery store, thinking of recipes and getting our fridge and pantry ready to support the program.

Here are pics of the pantry, frige and counter:

I'm excited about the challenge.  I'm interested to see what kind of results are possible by devoting 2 months to "clean living," being active, and working on mobility/stretching. 

We took some "before" pictures this morning, but you won't get to see them unless there is a remarkable "after" to compare them to in November...!

Zucchini Fettuccine Puttanesca

Thursday, September 13, 2012

(image from Minnesota Locavore)

Here's another great recipe from Carb-Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson:

Zucchini Fettuccine Puttanesca

4-6 Zucchini, cut into long, thin strips
1 tbsp Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups finely diced fresh or canned Tomatoes
3/4 cup kalamata or gaeta olives, pitted and halved
2 tbsp capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil (or 1-2 tsp fresh)

1/4 tsp red-pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steam the zucchini strips until tender, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn it, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, capers, basil, red-pepper flakes (if using) parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the reserved zucchini and cook until heated though, tossing gently to coat the zucchini with the sauce.

Serves 4
Per serving:  68 calories, 5g fat, 1g protein, 5g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 0mg cholestorol, 282mg sodium

Out with the old, in with the new

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cleaned out the summer vegetables from the garden today.  Pulled out zucchini and tomato plants and put out a bunch of seeds - lettuces, carrots, radishes, leeks, turnips, spinach, brussels sprouts.

There are still a few things left to be harvested sometime soon - sweet potatoes, sweet banana peppers (which keep on giving and giving!), and a few potatoes which re-sprouted after we thought we'd pulled and harvested them all about a month or so ago.

WLC Recipe: Fennel and Artichoke Gratin with Three-Herb White Bean Pesto

This recipe is courtesy of the awesome book Carb-Conscious Vegetarian, by Robin Robertson.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 package (9 oz) frozen artichoke hearts, cooked and sliced
3/4 cup cooked white beans
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon or savory
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 tomato, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup finely chopped pine nuts
Grated soy Parmesan Cheese (optional)*

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the leek, bell pepper, garlic, fennel, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Lightly oil a 2-quart gratin dish or coat it with cooking spray.  Spread half of the fennel mixture in the bottom of the prepared dish.  Top with half of the artichoke slices and season with salt and pepper.  Top with the remaining fennel mixture, the remaining artichoke slices, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a blender or food processor, blend the beans, basil, parsley, and tarragon or savory until finely chopped.  Add the stock and blend until smooth.  Pour over the gratin.  Arrange the tomato slices around the outer edge of the gratin.  Sprinkle the gratin with the pine nuts and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake until the vegetables are tender, the top is golden brown, and the liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour.  Serve directly from the gratin dish, sprinkled with Parmesan.*

Serves 4
Per serving:  136 calories, 4g fat, 6g protein, 23g carbs, 9g fiber, 0mg cholestoral, 290 mg sodium.

* Leave out the Parmesan for the WLC.

Whole Life Challenge

John and I signed up to participate in the Whole Life Challenge at Crossfit Blacksburg.  We've been doing Crossfit for several months now and love it.  The challenge is to do 2 months of clean eating, exercise and stretching, and compare performance and other stats beginning and end.

As a pescetarian (I don't eat meat other than seafood), I've been wondering how this is going to go, and looking for creative recipes.  I have a ton of great cookbooks to help me out, and I'll be listing recipes here as I find them so that I can link to them and easily refer back to them as needed.

I also have a board on Pinterest for recipes (note that most have 1 or 2 ingredients that you'll need to alter to be strictly WFC compliant).

The challenge starts on September 15th; I'm pretty psyched to get started, but I also know that you have to plan for your "what-if" situations, so that you have the right foods on hand to deal with them.  What if I don't get home from work until 8pm (which happens quite a bit)?  What happens if I'm starving and I want to grab something to eat quickly?  What happens if John and I are too tired to cook?  What happens if I get a sudden sweet food craving?

I'm trying to think through all of these in advance; that's how you can best set yourself up for success.  Wish us luck!

Gardening sources

Thursday, September 6, 2012

As I was perusing my catalog from Wood Prairie Farm like a girl looking at a Christmas catalog, I realized that I should share my favorite places with everyone.  I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours!

So, without further ado, here is a list of my favorite places to buy non-GMO no-Monsanto gardening goodies:

Wood Prairie Farm - I tried their King Harry potatoes and loved them.  A lot.  They sell all kinds of potatoes and a mix of other seeds.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - almost all of my seeds come from here.  With their seeds I've grown lettuce, chard, carrots, beans, tomatoes, oh my... The list is neverending.  And I can't even look at their site without being tempted to buy more.  And I do. not. need. any. more. seeds.  (squeezes eyes shut while copy/pasting the link)

Green Mountain Garlic - So, I ordered three or four varieties last year.  Each variety came with 3-5 bulbs that you then split into cloves, and plant individually.  I now have more home grown, delightful, amazing, bountiful, garlic than I will be able to consume in the next five or so years.  And I love garlic.

So, those are my "top 3" for now, I'll add more as I may think of them.  Enjoy!

Opening my heart

Thursday, August 30, 2012

'It is the mind that closes the heart. The love, all of it is in the heart, all along. It is up to me to notice whenever the mind starts closing the door of the heart. The same mind that closed the door can also open it. It is up to me to intervene and keep the door open, giving myself the sweetness of fully open heart. '

Great post.

It seems pretty simple to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

1.  What energy sources are expected to run out within a timeline that is conceivable to man?
     a. Solar
     b. Coal
     c. Fossil Fuel
     d. Wind

2.  What energy sources are dangerous to harvest?
     a. Solar
     b. Coal
     c. Fossil Fuel
     d. Wind

3.  What energy sources change the gas content ratios of the Earth's atmosphere when they are consumed?
     a. Solar
     b. Coal
     c. Fossil Fuel
     d. Wind

4.  What energy sources cannot quickly be replenished by nature?
     a. Solar
     b. Coal
     c. Fossil Fuel
     d. Wind

 5.  What energy sources produce carcinogens when they are used as fuel?
     a. Solar
     b. Coal
     c. Fossil Fuel
     d. Wind

I'm curious... Are there deniers out there for these as well?  I mean... "do the math"!

Why I am voting for Tim Kaine for Senate

Monday, August 27, 2012

I received an email today from the League of Conservation Voters, which referenced THIS email, from candidate for Virginia Senator George Allen.

Have you met Tim Kaine's friends?
Allow me to introduce you to the League of Conservation Voters.
They've come running to Tim Kaine's aid with an attack ad against George Allen. And here's why.
Tim Kaine and LCV have bonded over a radical agenda against affordable, reliable sources of American energy.
When the EPA announced proposed regulations to ban new coal-fired plants, LCV cheered the "nail in the coffin for new conventional coal plants." Tim Kaine has said "My advice is, don't try to weaken regulations."
Tim Kaine and the LCV stood shoulder to shoulder against the Keystone pipeline that would create thousands of jobs with energy from our ally Canada.
To lock up even more energy resources, the LCV wants to ban all offshore energy production. Tim Kaine has been on both side of that issue.
Even worse, Tim Kaine and LCV champion the Cap and Trade energy tax scheme that would result in skyrocketing electricity, fuel and food costs for hard-working, struggling families.
Virginians can't afford these Tim Kaine and LCV policies that will harm families and will cause massive job losses.
Will you give $25, $15 or $5 today to elect George Allen and stop Tim Kaine's radical environmentalist agenda?
LCV is pouring money into Tim Kaine's coffers - will spend millions on TV and have brought in over $100,000 to his campaign.
George Allen needs your help to get out his positive message of unleashing our American energy resources from our coalfields to off our coast.
He stands for clean coal, natural gas, offshore oil and gas, and more because he knows that these resources power our economy and create the jobs we need.
American energy means more affordable electricity bills. Less money spent at the filling station. And more freedom to invest and grow with our own resources.
Will you join George Allen today in standing with the hard-working men and women whose jobs are under attack from Tim Kaine and LCV's radical environmentalist agenda?
Please give $25, $15 or $5 today to make sure your voice - the voice of energy freedom - is heard in Washington.
Thank you for your continued support.
Mike Thomas
Campaign Manager
George Allen for U.S. Senate

I didn't want to make any brash decisions based on an email, to support a candidate I knew little about (Tim Kaine).  I mean, if he is asking to regulate coal-fired plants, position himself against the Keystone pipeline, ban offshore energy production and champion the Cap and Trade tax (in the words of his OPPONENT), I think I want to vote for the guy, but just to be sure I did a bit more research.

He has a great record of fiscal responsibility based on his personal track record during the time that he was Governor of Virginia.  Awesome.

He wants to expand markets for American goods and services.  Cool.

He stood with Planned Parenthood at the Women are Watching tour to support women's rights.  Great.

I know every politician is exactly that, and skews data in their own favor.  That being said, the arguments made FOR him by his OPPONENT speak the loudest to me and ring with the loudest possibility of truth.  Those are things I support.

I've donated to, I will volunteer for, and I will vote for TIM KAINE for Senate for Virginia.

I am a Climate Leader

Toward the end of the Climate Reality Project training with Vice President Al Gore, one of the participants approached a microphone and asked what we should call ourselves.  What title is assigned to the thousand new volunteers who have stepped into the breach to try, along with the 3,500 previously trained participants, to deliver a message of rapid and necessary change?

At one point during the 2.5 days we spent together, Vice President Gore had referred to us as the "calvary;" but that wouldn't provide the required level of specificity to those newly introduced to us.  We were told that we are "Climate Leaders."  I am a Climate Leader.  Now I guess I had better ramp up my game to act like one.

Throughout this process I have been thinking of our comforts - the reasons that we turn a blind eye to the drastic and horrifying changes that surround us.  Why is it that we cling to the cold comfort of denial?

I have a secret...  I, too, like this dirty power that we use.  I like my computer, my television, my car.  Until we are at the point that these things simply aren't available, I don't think we will be able to find a winning answer that includes asking us to step away, to step back, from any of the things we have today, whether they be cars, computers, or ubiquitous hot water.

The bigger issue is that there are no readily available alternatives. And why is that?  Why can't I get renewable (solar, wind, wave) power from my power company today?

Because the few that are at the top of this power struggle, the people who have amassed power and wealth (lobbyists for coal and oil interests) have skewed things in their favor.  This should not be news... but maybe it is.

Think about it. Throughout history this pattern has repeated itself - Whatever is scarce and highly in demand is "sold" as the most desirable and as a status symbol.  It is then tightly managed by a few powerful, wealthy people until something happens to either commoditize the item or make it irrelevant.  Salt, sugar, and spices have all been down this path.  In dangerous times, religions have been the item at hand.

We must first see the noose that binds us, and then speak out demanding change.  I firmly believe that if we, as a people, demand better options, they will magically appear - it is simply a matter of getting the demand to critical mass.

I have been taking very small personal steps, and feeling hopeless and helpless toward the bigger picture.  That has to change.  Personal action matters, but I am a Climate Leader, and personal action is a very indirect form of leadership.

The presentation that I am going to be sharing with anyone and everyone that I can has three requests.  Speak up.  Deepen your commitment.  Don't give up.

I am going to speak up.  Consistently, and loudly.
I have deepened my commitment.
I will not give up.


A l l   l i v i n g   b e i n g s   a r e   i n   j e o p a r d y.
...won't you join me?


"I am in a hurry"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

After almost being killed by a coworker speeding through the parking garage (who came right at me, on my side, coming around a corner at high speed - luckily I was able to slam my brakes and he to swerve), I was thinking...

How much bad behavior do we self-justify with that phrase - "I am in a hurry"?

What do we really gain from this mindset?

What price do we pay?

This is one of many indicators about how we are losing our connection to our humanity, to ourselves and to each other, in a quest for "more."  And the funny thing is that there is no satisfaction in this more - the faster, higher volume, greater noise level.

What are we afraid of?  What are we trying to tune out?  Or have our "fight or flight" instincts just redirected in an unhealthy way to a constant state of reaction as a result of our environment and ever-increasing volume of inputs (twitter, facebook, foursquare, linkedin, email, phone, text, radio, TV, movies, cable, radio, internet....)?

I have been musing a lot lately on the value of less.  Less hurry.  Less inputs.  Less physical things.  Less worry.  Less stress.  Less holding tightly.  Less illusion of control.

This Pema Chodron quote doesn't feel like a puzzle piece locking fit to my post, but it feels right and relevant.  (Addendum:  here it is; this is where my mind is trying to take me...  Substitute "hurry" for "blame" when you read the below.)

"There’s a slogan in the mahayana teachings that says, “Drive all blames into oneself.” The essence of this slogan is, “When it hurts so bad, it’s because I am hanging on so tight.” It’s not saying that we should beat ourselves up. It’s not advocating martyrdom. What it implies is that pain comes from holding so tightly to having it our own way and that one of the main exits we take when we find ourselves uncomfortable, when we find ourselves in an unwanted situation or an unwanted place, is to blame.

This slogan is a helpful and interesting suggestion that we could begin to shift that deep-seated, ancient, habitual tendency to hang on to having everything on our own terms. The way to start would be, first, when we feel the tendency to blame, to try to get in touch with what it feels like to be holding on to ourselves so tightly."

- Pema Chodron

The secret language of the dying

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I have a lot to say, and it can only come out with a lot of tears, and now is not the time and place for that...

But, I wanted to say that I get it now.

The sudden flashes of anger, the vast swings of mood...

He's experiencing them too.

Outside the lines

Monday, August 6, 2012

Our human tendency is to normalize everything.  We want to make it all fit within our expectations... to make it neat. 

We want to keep life "inside the lines."

Life refuses to conform.  We rationalize, explain away, continue to try to find a comfortable, familiar, acceptable path. 

Life stays messy.

Sometimes, finally, in the face of inescapable evidence, the sick feeling finally sinks into our belly (into our soul).  We resign ourselves to facing what is true, and painfully relinquish our grasping control. 

Never easily.  Never voluntarily.  Only when all the other choices are so far-fetched that the reality must be the one we have been trying to avoid.

I want my house to be secure.  I want it not to have been broken into.  But it was.
I want my housekeeper to be trustworthy.  I want her to not to have stolen from me.  But she did.

In the middle of the night, in the dark, holding my breath under the covers...

I want my father to be the same vibrant, alive man I've called "Daddy" for 42 years.  I want him not to be dying.  But he is.

It is easier to look away.  To deny.  To pretend that it is OK. 

But it's not.

Sit ready, my friends, sit ready.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I like to think of myself as someone who is a "believer" in climate change, and someone who makes the right choices and takes the right actions to support that belief.

The fact of the matter is, I'm a fake.  I'm bullshitting myself.  I'm letting myself off the hook.  I have been telling myself that I know that climate change exists, and it's a problem, and I've changed my light bulbs to CFLs and rode my bike to work some (last year), so I'm doing what I can.  This problem is just so much bigger than me, what can I do?  Nobody else gives a shit.  It's inevitable.  I'll just go look at Pinterest.  Maybe play a game.  Read a book.  Work late.  Eat too much.  Stare at reality television.  Distract myself.

I am the problem.

I have been passively sitting by, pretending my hands are tied, feeling hopeless. Powerless.

While I'm doing that, what haven't I been doing?  Making changes.  Speaking up.  Participating in the process, engaging with all levels of our government.  Holding them accountable.  The fact is, I do have power - the power of my voice.  The power of my actions.  The power of my life.

I am right - my power is not enough.  But maybe my power can get someone else to take action too.  And maybe if they can get someone... Maybe eventually there will be enough power.

I have been sleepwalking.  We are all sleepwalking together. 
Today I am stirring.  I am realizing that I can use my voice to try to wake people up... But...  It requires something hard.  It requires work.  It requires commitment.  It requires that I stop letting myself off the hook.  I have to take ownership of my power.  I have to take action.

I have to take (gasp!) personal responsibility.

It's easier to look away, to ignore the problem.  It's easier to be helpless.  John said "it's not going to change until people are uncomfortable."  

Is that it?  Is that what is needed? I have a question for you.

How uncomfortable are the people who lost everything in the wildfires that spread across the western half of America?

How uncomfortable are the farmers whose crops are withering on the vine because there is no rain (not uncomfortable enough, with government subsidies, maybe)?

How uncomfortable are the cattlemen, who are having to slaughter and sell their cows (beef is cheap right now, my friends!) because they can't provide them with food?

When is it enough?

Your house didn't burn.  You're not a farmer or a cattleman. When the produce shelves are empty and food prices are so high you can't afford to feed your kids, is that when you'll be uncomfortable?

Think about something for me.  What are you doing with your power?

...Oh, your reality show is coming on right now?

Maybe later?


I'm going to the Climate Leadership training in California next month and would love the opportunity to give the climate presentation to your group after I'm trained.  Leave a comment with your contact information if you are interested.

In the meantime, I recommend you read this piece, join & the Climate Reality Project and use your power.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Double Dare You
by Pavi Mehta

the edges of things are always deceptive.
because we are taught to believe
in endings and beginnings.

but the truth is:
There Are No Borders.

and all boundaries are lines
drawn in the imagination
(like the equator)

people like to put things
in their places.

(we believe in belonging

this is the problem with

(it does not understand

and it will not be put in place.

with crayons on paper maybe
but who can live life strictly

the color of countries that
cannot be contained
in cliches where-

the red of your heart spills
into the red of the rose spills
into the red of the sunset spills
into mehendi on the hands of a bride.

and who can explain these things?

but what i want to know is simple:

who settled the sky on top of the mountain
and who drew the restless margins of the sea?

everything flows into everything

like a picture drawn without once
lifting pencil from paper;
this world.

now tell me the story of your life
(whoever you are) go on
i Double Dare you!

tell me the story of your life
without once touching

There is no answer

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I read a lot of things that people might call "self-help."  I look constantly for answers, for solutions, for the fix that I know must exist, I just haven't found it yet.  I want to fix it.  I am a "fixer".  "Restorative." I want to fix myself.  I want to fix my Dad.  I want to fix the world.  If I just do more, do better, work faster, be smarter, be nicer, give more... I know it is right *there*.  If only I could be... enough.

My Dad is dying.  He was dying yesterday, last week, a year ago, ten years ago.  He was dying the day that I came into this world.  Today his death feels imminent.  Today, we learned that his multiple myeloma has evolved into a much rarer and much more aggressive form.  There is, and will be, no "prognosis;" just things for them to try.  More, newer, and different drugs.  The cancer is so unusual that statistics do not exist.  In the end "statistics" are nothing more than a fallacy; a straw to clutch.  A delusion of control. 

I am afraid of losing him.  I am losing him.

Since my company is in the same town that he is, I am torn with conflict.  I could live in San Antonio and continue to be employed by my current employer.  I have more choices than I wish I did.  Choice is both a blessing and a burden.

Do I move in with him to care for him, to encourage him?  He seems to feed off me, to try harder, be more pliable, give more with my encouragement.  The second I withdraw the push, he reclines to the point of seeming to concede to death.  Do I give all of my energy to him, to try to bring his energy up?  In the end, would it make a difference?  Would he be happier as a result, or would he gradually begrudge my efforts, as he does others who are more near at hand (Han, his wife, and Julie, my sister)?  Could I survive the drain of giving, without a price of slowly turning into something terrible and bitter?  I have given my energy for his for just a few short weeks, and felt my soul dying in the process.

I want him to be as healthy and happy as he can be.  Should I be giving my young, relatively unattached life to what remains of his?  Would it be for a month?  Three months?  A year?  Three years?  Would my family, home in Virginia, survive the strain?  Would they support me, or become another thing that falls apart in the process?

There is no answer.  There is no "right choice" that will let me sleep at night at the end of this journey.

Let me hold, and uphold, each fragile day in grace.  Let me bring peace and love to my father, to my sister, and to myself.  Let me become a place of calm amidst this fearful, deadly storm called life.  If only I can do this.  Please.

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