Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Meat-Free Feast

My church has what is called, "Dinner for Eight." Four couples get together for dinner once a month for 6 months to get to know one another. The couples are selected at random and after months, they are shuffled again and new groups are formed. Well I hosted our small gathering this past weekend for a superb Greek dinner. I selected a Greek theme because it could be vegetarian without the absence of meat being obvious. I made spanikopita (spinach pastries) from a recipe I learned when I worked at a Greek restaurant in my early 20s. I also made falafel (garbonzo bean patties) which my kids love. Finally I made a farina custard wrapped in phyllo dough for dessert. I also selected a red and a white wine, and sparkling mineral water. One of my guests made homemade pita bread (which was wonderful), Greek olives, and sliced vegetables to go in the pita (with the falafel). Another brought pita chips and hummus (along with a lovely tray of baklava). The final couple brought a delicious lentil rice salad and a yummy homemade tabouli. It was quite a spread. Beautiful to look at, delicious, filling and complete. We had a lovely time. Usually a game is played after the meal, so during the week, I made 100 'conversation cards' with interesting and fun questions on them. I went to a bookstore to purchase some, but I didn't find what I wanted so I decided to make my own. I love good conversation and this turned out the be really fun. A truly lovely evening, one that should be repeated again and again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Daily Routines

My daily quiet times have been fabulous. I've been working on a two hour regimen to start each day off productively. I start each morning with quiet meditation. During this meditative time, I light a candle and incense and breath deeply. I read from my Bible a bit, and then move on to journaling, which has been a long time practice of mine (since I was about 18). I read from my affirmation cards, then a chapter from an inspirational or self help book. Right now I'm reading Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now." When my quiet time is complete, I write 1-2 pages on the book I'm working on. This is followed by my exercise regimen. I do yoga one day, aerobics with weights the next. I hope to keep up this simple regimen into the new year. I enjoy my mornings so much more now. It starts my day on a positive path.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

...And Reverie

I got into my little rented car today and drove in a circuitous route on a road tour that took me along the coast and through coastal forest. It was absolutely beautiful. Hoping to post pictures of my sites when I return. YoYo Ma and Bethoven played on the radio as as I looped up and down narrow roads. I saw birds I had never seen before, and seals lying fat and placid on rocks sunning themselves. Trees as twisted contortionists made so by ocean salt breezes. All too lovely to adequately describe. The land reached out and embraced me and kissed my cheek.


Here in lovely Monterey Bay California for a conference. I get to walk white sand beaches and enjoy wonderful vegetarian meals. What a nice reprieve after a month too busy to allow myself the kindness of a morning cup of tea. I'll soak it all in, and take my rental care on a drive along the coast, stopping to take pictures and feel the sand beneath my feet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Our 17 year old cat, Indigo passed away quietly at home yesterday. We found her late in the afternoon on our bed where she had snuggled up to nap. She never woke up. When our son Greg was 14 (now 31), his friend found Indigo as a kitten abandoned in a box in an alley en route to our house. He heard her meowing and picked her up and brought her to us. She's been ours ever since.
She was a very wild kitten, earning herself the nickname "Crazyhead" She had 2 litters of kittens early in life, and then settled down to become the mellow stranger-shy cat we grew to love. Her secret to longevity? She was an indoor cat, who didn't like to over exert herself. Many years ago, she had to have surgery that cost us $1,000 and I told her she had to live at least until we paid off the bill. She happily complied. She was always good for a snuggle, loved a good head scratch and enjoyed a high quality of life up until the end. The day she died, I saw her last in the kitchen eating her morning meal of catfood and water, while the dog and our other cat, Carl, patiently waited their turns until she was finished. She was very arthritic and slow moving, but the other animals aways gave way for her. She was always the matriarch of our animal family and beloved by our human family. She will be missed.

Indigo "Crazyhead" Payne
date of birth: unknown
deceased: October 9, 2009

PS: People have asked where we got the name Indigo. At the time she came to us, I was reading Ntzoke Shange's novel, "Sassafras, Cypress, and Indigo" a story of 3 sisters. Indigo was a midwife. It seemed to fit. I think the name Crazyhead came from the baby of the family at that time, Evan.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weighty Matters

I started a new workout with weights and love it. It's a workout on video called "Turbo Jam" and it's a very do-able 40 minute workout that uses hand-held weights. I use my 5 pounders, but you could also start with 3 pounds. The workout includes some mat work stretching at the end. I've also been using the Tai Chi CD I purchased with my birthday gift certificate. I've been really happy with my home workouts, so much so, I may not renew that gym membership- not just yet anyway. I do try to fit in some yoga about 3 times a week as well. I have a huge challenge for the month of October. Ordering my mornings carefully so that I have adequate times in the morning for workouts during this my heavy teaching month. It's too easy to get bogged down in class prep and grading papers and skip my exercise. My goal is to be better prepped and organized so that I have those all important mornings for me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Books that want me to write them

When I grow up I want to be a writer. These are the books I want to write- so far:
  • a how to guide for homebirth
  • a book that encourages African-American women to breastfeed
  • a book that tells healthcare professionals how to encourage African-American women to breastfeed
  • a book that chronicles my families recipes and matriarchs over three or four generations
  • a book for healthcare providers on giving appropriate care to African-Americans
  • a book of ideas on how to teach OB nursing
  • a book of my poetry (or two or three or four...)
  • an interracial romance (or two or three or four...)
  • many more as yet unknown to me, but soon to be revealed
Like a pot simmering on a stove, these books bubble up inside of me and threaten to spill out onto the written page, so everyday, I write just a little bit.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Journal Journey

I am a serial journaler. I written journals since about the age of 18. I have boxes and boxes of old journals hidden away in the basement. I can't seem to stop detailing my life in journals. All this has spiritual and therapeutic value I suppose. Mainly it just keeps me writing, and write I must. I suspect I was born to be a writer but just keep getting distracted by other things. Yesterday, I started a new prayer journal. The previous one lasted 4 years. I took a trip down memory lane as I read old passages in it. It shows how far I've come in the last 4 years in meeting my goals and developing as a person. I love seeing that progress in print- in my own handwriting. As I begin my new journal, I'm assured of the growth in my life that it will chronicle. New challenges to overcome, new goals to set, adventures to manifest- I embrace whatever comes to me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Bliss

For my birthday, some friends got me a gift certificate to Barnes and Nobles (a bookstore). I carved out a leisurely two hours to spend it last week. The only thing on my agenda was perhaps some poetry, and a tai chi CD. For a bibliofile like myself, this was pure bliss. My husband and I go to bookstores for our datenights. Having two hours alone in a bookstore is like lovemaking for my mind. Every time I'm in a bookstore, that phrase reverberates in my head, 'write the books you want to read.' I compose many a book in my head, when I'm in a bookstore it's a reminder that many people write books- even ordinary people like me- it can be done. I'm reminded of this especially when I peruse the romance section and don't find the genre of romance that I like. I have better luck in the poetry section and pick up a slim volume of Charles Bukowski. I find several vegetarian cookbooks, but choose instead a couple of cooking magazines. One is full of Italian recipes, and I feel another cultural cooking binge coming on. With my French and Mexican binges behind me, it may be time to go Italian. I stop to look at the language books. Learning Spanish has been on my to do list for years. I pass them by to look at the self help books- another favorite of mine. I also peruse the classics (novels) and healthy lifestyle shelves. I dabble in the music section- I'm not really buying music, just books, that I can see and hold and smell. Finally with my mind made up, I take the escalators back upstairs to pick up four blank books. I tell myself I'll get started on the books I'm supposed to write. I have so little time at the computer for writing, the blank books I can slip into my purse and write anytime I feel the urge. There's a writer in me trying to emerge, one of my many voices trying to be heard.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Japanofile Family Adventure

Yesterday, my family and I participated in an annual ritual. We attended the Japan Festival at a local college. We are long time Japanofiles and love it. Our three daughters penpal (or now facebook) with two Japanese/American sisters whose parents are missionaries to Japan. Our sons have been involved in martial arts and enjoy the demonstrations, one is really into Manga and Anime. And I am an absolute freak for the Taiko drums. What you've never heard of Taiko drums? This Japanese style of drum music is amazing. The drummers in bright colorful costumes use their entire bodies in intricate, but deliberate and physical style to beat these massive drums that are elevated on stands and beat with sticks. I love Taiko drumming and would love to take lessons some day. I don't know of a group in my city except at the high school level. For now, I'm content with learning the jimbe (hand drum). Anyway, I enjoy the drum performances and dance performances, along with tea ceremonies and kimono demonstrations. And of course there is the food. Most of my kids enjoy sushi. I'm still getting used to the fishy taste of seaweed, but I enjoy a little sushi every now and then too. What I most like is the rice. It's slightly sweet and sticky and with a little teryaki sauce dribbled over it, I could eat it by the bowlfuls. As usual, I didn't get to do, see, or hear nearly as much as I wanted too, but I had a great time. It's so good for the soul, to get to do the things we enjoy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gonna Party Like it's my Birthday

I had the lovliest day yesterday. I started at 5am. Up to complete a homework assignment for my online class. It felt liberating to get it done. Then to the office for an hour or so, then on the road to check on students at a clinical site. A quick stop at the Wyandotte County health department. The students were eager to share their experiences. Next stop: Truman Hospital. My niece was having surgery. She was already in surgery when I arrived but I visited with my sister, aunt and another niece in the waiting room. A second aunt works at the hospital, so I stopped by her office to visit her as well. It was a treat to see two aunts in one day! After leaving the hospital, I joined my son for lunch at Mildred's, downtown coffeeshop. We shared a fabulous baked brie with brown sugar and almonds served with grapes and toast points, along with our spinach and feta salads. He caught me up on his work on the school board and I told him about my work with my nursing students. Speaking of nursing students- it was time to head to Olathe Head Start to check on the second group. From downtown to Olathe is 30 minutes of straight highway driving, blaring my radio the whole way! After checking on students and doing some pre-planning with the Head Start nurses for next month, I headed back to the office to finish up some work. My male torso anatomical model had arrived (new toy!). I'll use it during my male anatomy lecture- already have the female one. I sat them side by side to admire them. Left quickly for the day to do some shopping at the Oak Park Mall a couple of blocks away. I stocked up on make up and found the perfect dress for my birthday celebration. Also brought fish net stockings to go with the dress. Spent more than I planned but was pleased with my findings. Headed home to get ready. I looked fabulous (I forgot to take pictures so you'll have to take my word for it). Hubby and I headed off to the museum to meet our friends. We had a lovely knowledgeable docent give us a wonderful tour of the American Gallery. Afterwards we had a fantastic dinner in Rozelle Court, the museum restaurant (one of my absolute favorites). I had roasted garlic shrimp salad, and trout stuffed with crab meat. For dessert, the restaurant prepared a delicious chocolate cake for us. We had a fantastic time. It was lovely to reconnect with friends and family (my mom was with us). After the museum closed, my husband and I drove over to see friends who had been invited, but couldn't come. We took our leftover cake to their house, where we found them playing scrabble with some of their adult kids. We fed them all cake and visited, and their lovely youngest daughter played songs for me on her harp. Then we headed home and shared the last of the cake with our kids, who of course were still up. It was a wonderful birthday. I look forward to what another year will hold...

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's My Birthday!

In the true spirit of birthdays- I believe in acknowledgment and celebration. Today, after work, I will celebrate my birthday with a small gathering of friends at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. I have arranged for a small private tour in the American Painting Gallery. After our private tour, we'll have a lovely dinner in the splendor of Rozelle Court- also at the Nelson. I'm so looking forward to this year's celebration with a few other 'long married' couples. It's been a fabulous life, and the best is yet to come.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


So glad I got back in the habit of my DQT (daily quiet time). Right now my ritual is to listen to my hypnosis tape, then light a candle and do some meditation, read a snippet from Victoria Moran's "Living a Charmed Life" while having a cup of hot tea (right now I'm really into chocolate chai). I usually play some background music also. Right now I'm totally into Taylor Mesple's instrumental CD called "Autumn." Followed by my Rodney Yee morning yoga sequence. That's it. I'm loving my mornings. I love the way my quiet times evolve with the seasons. During summer I had my DQT outside and included watering all my gardens. Now its a little cool in the mornings and the plants don't need watering nearly as much (lots of rain also- for a midwest Aug/Sept) so I've moved more indoors. The activities always center around wellness, enrichment, and what I find pleasing. I love my DQT. It makes me more prepared to face the busyness of my days.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Something New

Okay, I can't claim to have tried every diet on the planet in my pursuit of weight loss, because I flat out just don't believe in diets. However I have tried a multitude of workouts, and no small assortment of diet pills (despite my aversion to medications). Last night I tried something completely different and a little out of my comfort zone: hypnosis. I gathered with about 100 others in a hotel room to get two hours of instruction in weight loss hypnosis. I am familiar with hypnosis from my birth work- it's used as a tool for pain relief in labor, so I am open to the idea. As I lay on the hotel floor surrounded by strangers also lying on the floor, I thought this would be worth a shot. No I did not re-live my 37 past lives or get possessed by bored and mischievous demons. It was actually pretty similar to something I do in my morning quiet times. I have a stack of affirmations that I read out loud to myself every morning. I took a workshop once on writing affirmations and found I had a real talent for creating them. So each morning when I read them to myself, I am affirming a positive suggestion to myself. Just yesterday I was marveling at how my life was slowly transforming to conform to the affirmations. The hypnosis was like that. The hypnotist was making suggestions to my subconscious to get fuller eating less and that sort of thing. I have to keep playing the tape I was given at the seminar for the next 21 days as my follow-up work. I'll update how it's going. Here are a few of my affirmations I state daily:

"I can accomplish what the day demands through organized effort and persistence."

"I choose to live in an orderly, chaos-free, clean, loving, creative and supportive environment."

"I treat my body with respect by tending to it's daily needs, which includes healthy food choices, and planned daily workouts. I am clean, well-groomed, ready to meet the demands of each day, and to embrace whatever opportunities come my way."

"I have taken away from myself every excuse for not being the kind of person or living the kind of life I know I have the potential to live."

"I am comfortable in the company of all kinds of people and can initiate interesting conversations that draw people out, my ease puts them at ease."

Try creating your own affirmations (you can use these if they apply, but it's better to handcraft your own). Just be sure to phrase them in the positive as if you are already doing it. Don't say "I'll try to do such and such" just do it. Of course they should reflect your desires for your life.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Silence is Golden

Lot's of body focus lately, but not much on the spirit or the mind. I feel the lack of quietness and stillness in my life. I need to return to my daily quiet time. I've spent my mornings exercising, cleaning and writing. I need to make time for meditation, silence, and prayer. I would love some alone time, but my life is filled with other beings, animal and human. I'll make a deal with myself to light a candle in the morning, watch it flicker and slow my breathing for just a little while...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mexican Fiesta

One of the things I want to do to improve my overall life, is to entertain more. I used to do it a lot, but for the past few years, I've stopped cooking, let alone entertaining and I want to bring that kind of positive energy (both cooking and entertaining) into my life. I want my home to hold memories of friends and family laughing, eating, enjoying life. So after spending a few months this spring and summer making things more presentable around here (we took up worn out carpet to discover spectacular wooden floors- since the carpet was here when we moved in we didn't know what we would find underneath it). I also spruced up my garden so our backyard patio is perfect for outdoor dining. Last night we invited out two best friend couples over for dinner. I wanted to make a Mexican meal, so I grilled fresh salmon with limes and tequila served with a black bean and grilled corn salsa. I wanted to try my hand at chile rellenos, so I stuffed pablano peppers with a potato and cheese mixture, dipped them in an egg white mixture and fried them (they were my favorite part of the meal- a little spicy but very tasty). I made a citrus and jicama salad, sticks of crunchy jicama with orange slices and lime juice squeezed over all. This was a very nice contrast to the spicy peppers. For appetizers I served tortilla chips with a trilogy of salsas, mango, pico de gallo, and guacamole for the kids. For the adult appetizer I made goat cheese with dates, fig, and cilantro served on toasted baguette. I was going to make flan for dessert, but one of my guests brought a cake instead. We had hibiscus tea with lime and orange slices to wash it all down. We had a lovely evening under the stars with good friends and good food and good conversation. How's that for spiritual rejuvenation?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Money Diet

Least anyone get to thinking this is a food blog, I have to remind you (and myself) that it is actually a self-improvement via spiritual rejuvenation blog- so all my entries can't be about food. This one is about exercise. It's been about two weeks since I've been to the gym. When it came time to make the quarterly membership payment, I found that my revenues had been reassigned to take care of little things like replacing my totalled van (thanks 18 year old), replacing our dryer that had given up the ghost, and paying freshly arrived medical bills incurred last month by a sick child ( and I won't even mention the stack of greenbacks it took to get 5 kids 'back to school' - they should call it 'back to broke'- the sports physicals, the eye exams, the dental appointments, the haircuts, the school supplies, the book fees, oy vey- you get the picture). Oh well, such is life. So in place up early morning trips to the gym, I've had to come up with a home workout. Good thing I happen to own an entire collection of workout equipment and tapes purchased over the years. I just blew the dust off and away I go...
I start with 15 minutes of morning yoga with Rodney Yee. No one holds my yoga mat space sacrosanct, so it's interesting with cats walking across my belly as I lay in relaxation or toddlers grabbing my legs as I try to hold a downward dog position. The trick is to get up earlier than the cats and toddlers I suppose. After my yoga I do a 20 minute workout called Beach Body. I really like these energetic aerobic workouts and I really can work up a sweat. Some days I skip both of these and choose to walk to work instead, about 2.5 miles. I also own weights and bands, which I prefer to use in the evenings, but I rarely get a moment to myself in the evening, so the weight bearing stuff isn't done as regularly. So as long as my finances are on a diet, it's nice to have a back-up plan.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

River Market

Today I got to engage in my favorite passtime. I went to the local farmer's market. Though we have several small ones sprinkled around town, I prefer to go to the big one downtown in the River Market area. I especially like this one because in our notoriously segregated town, this is one of the few places where you can really see a microcosm of our city. The Vietnamese vegetable vendor in her cone shaped hat, selling her wares next to the Amish woman with her tidy little bonnet selling baked goods. The spice vendor bags up little scoops of spices as his wife shrouded head to toe in Muslim garb stands watch. I picked up dill, bay leaves, cinnamon, dried hisbiscus flowers (for tea) cumin seed and dried cilantro. I found some beautiful yellow tomatoes, some peach amarillo preserves, and fat little green cucumbers for making tatziki sauce. I also bought blueberries before the season escapes for another year, and fresh baked pita bread from the Mediterranean bakery. I shop with a wicker basket that I carry atop my head when it becomes to heavy to hold by the handle. I love the sensory experience of a natural basket full of fresh produce and flowers. I go early, buy my fresh produce, baked goods, and spices, then find a little nook to sit and watch humanity go by. I usually go to a funky little retro restaurant called Succotash that serves up a great breakfast, but this morning I selected the Habashi Market. I ordered grilled pita with hummus and rice, and a side a baba ghanoush. It turned out to be an excellent choice. I sat, ate the best darn baba ghanoush I've ever tasted and enjoyed the sights and sounds of humanity. A guy with long hair and mustache played country music and his violin (or should I say fiddle?) nearby while I noshed on pita bread and inhaled the smells of freshed brewed coffee from the coffee shop next door. I selected a nice bouquet of flowers to deliver to my favorite cousin (today is his birthday) along with a redvelvet cupcake from a shop called Babycakes for us to share. My Saturday morning trips to the River Market are one of the best thing about my so-called big life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Last weekend was on orgy of too much meat, too much wine, and too many rich sauces. I had to calm things down with more veggies and more fruit juices. I appear to have fallen into an illicit affair with cheese. I feel like I'm discovering it for the first time. After a life time of cheddar and Swiss (I won't even mention the non-food, non-cheeses like American and Velveeta) I am discovering a world of cheeses. Literally around the world with Italian Fontina, French Brie, Spanish Mantegna, Swiss Gruyere, and English Stilton. I can't get enough, goat milk, sheep milk, cow milk, doesn't matter. I've been eating cheeses baked into casseroles, smoothed on crackers, dipped into fondues, or just smooth, tasty little buttery tidbits popped into my mouth to really savor the true unadulterated flavors. I'd love to get some recommendations as well as recipes for all these cheeses I can't stop buying! (No kidding, at the checkout in the grocery store the other day, the cashier said, 'and here's your bag of cheese ma'am.")

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Guess who's coming to dinner


Baked Brie with Mushrooms and Thyme

Mixed Greens with Caramelized Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Goat Cheese

Poulet Saute Aux Herbes de Provence


Baguette with Butter

Reine de Saba

Le Faux Frog Chardonnay

The French dinner was a great success. Despite the fact that one guest cancelled and the other rescheduled, two other guests (2 young men invited by my 18 year old) showed up and we all had a great time. I started around 4pm with the chicken, while my 11 year old put together the salad of mixed greens, sun dried cranberries (couldn't find the figs in the store) caramelized walnuts and goat cheese. I filled my cruet with extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, gave it a shake and that was that. I was skeptical about frying the chicken in butter as the recipe called for. Surely it would just burn and be a mess. But it actually worked. I think the fat from the butter clung to the chicken so that all that what was left in the pan was clarified. Anyway, I browned two batches of chicken wings and thighs with crushed fennel seed, fresh time and basil, and left the butter and spices in the pan to become the sauce later. I made the sauce about an hour later by mashing some roasted garlic gloves into the pan of butter and herbs, pouring in half a bottle of white wine, and letting it reduce until the volume of wine was cut in half. I beat 3 egg yolks with the juice of a lemon, and slowly started adding in the wine reduction, spoon full by spoon full. When the egg yolks were more wine sauce than egg yolks, I poured it all back into the pan, added more wine, and let it cook until thick. Next I made an appetizer of brie, smothered in mushrooms that had been sauteed with red onion, garlic, and reduced with red wine. I used an assortment of button, crimoni, shitake, and portabella mushrooms. Baked it in the oven until the brie was nice and melty and served it with sliced baguette. The 'boys' (17- 21 yrs old) really loved this dish. They tore into it as soon as it was out of the oven, even though the rest of dinner was about 2 hours away. I have to agree, for something so simple it was quite delicious, reminded me of fondue only simpler. The boys ate the appetizer and then left to go on a walk. My 11 yr old and I then made the chocolate cake, and last the ratatouille. For the cake we ground almonds, whipped egg whites, melted chocolate and coffee, sifted flour, stirred together sugar, egg yolks, and almond extract, and butter, then carefully put all the ingredients together, poured into a greased and floured pan and voila. I was supposed to make a chocolate coffee frosting for it, but we didn't have as many chocolate chips as I thought, so instead I made a sauce of apricot preserves, yogurt and cinnamon, all heated gently and placed in a pool on the plate before being topped with a slice of warm cake. The ratatouille I made last, as everyone was having their salad course. I had cut the eggplant and zucchini into sticks, salted them and left them in a bowl to drain off all the excess liquid. While everyone was eating their salad, I sauteed them in olive oil with sliced green peppers, garlic, and chopped up tomato. I tossed in a sprinkling of capers and a splash of white wine. This is a delicious dish and was a wonderful accompaniment to the savory chicken. I thought it might be kind of a heavy side, but it was perfect with the chicken. The salad was actually quite sweet with the cranberries and walnuts. The balsamic vinegar added the right amount of tang and the goat cheese helped to balance it all out. This meal had all the balance of flavors to it. Of course there was plenty of french baguette and butter for every course. The wine I selected was a French Chardonnay, very light and sweet, and quite lovely with the fennel of the chicken. I also purchased a Beaujolais (couldn't help myself), but as I was the only one drinking, I only had a few sips of it. All in all I had a great time cooking this meal over about 4 hours. We actually sat down for the main course at 8 pm. Dessert was served at 9. So this was my French meal, me and 8 kids ranging in age from 2-21 (my husband was working). There was lots of fun and lively discussion (none of them knew who Julia Child was- can you believe that?), and lots of appreciation for a nice meal. They even helped clean the dishes. Perhaps there is hope for the next generation after all.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Julia

In honor of Julie Child's birthday today, I am making a French meal from her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I am on my way to Whole Foods Market to get the ingredients for Poulet Aux Herbes de Provence, Ratatouille, Mixed Wild Greens with Figs and Goat Cheese with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil (my addition), and Reine de Saba (chocolate and almond cake). I have invited a missionary friend who is visiting from Japan, and another old friend who I find spiritually uplifting. I'll also head over to the Beer Cave and pick up a suggested Rose to go with the chicken, and a port or a sherry to go with dessert. I'm trying to allow my shopping to be a part of this whole spiritual experience (so yes, I'm leaving the kids at home!) of lovingly preparing a meal for friends- a spiritual discipline if you will. An entire body, mind, and spirit experience. I'm going for European style which is a slow meal consumed in courses over several hours (Americans never eat like this- but we probably should- we wouldn't be so fat). One of the very best meals of my entire life happened when I was in Europe- The Netherlands to be exact. The food was all prepped, but the hosts didn't even start cooking until about 2 hours after we arrived! We had the best conversation and went through 4 or 5 bottles of wine between 5 people. It was the most amazing experience. Another interesting tidbit, we arrived with wine and flowers, but they didn't open our wine. They insisted on aging it for at least 6 weeks, and served their own pre-selected bottles. Those Euros are so classy. We Americans are just as likely to take our unopened bottles of wine back home (ghetto!). So here goes my effort at being more spiritual and more classy all rolled into one. I think Julia would be proud.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Less is More

So what's all this French food got to do with weight loss? Plenty. I'm trying to incorporate more quality and less quantity into my life. That's Victoria Moran's take on it. She says plenty about this in several of her books- eat better food and less of it. I'm not a calorie counter- or a dieter. I just want to consume a better quality of food, in smaller portions. For me this will mean, more vegetarian, grain and vegetable-based meals- but I don't want to be legalistic about it. If I want to make a choice to consume some meat- I will. I want this choice to be reflected in my entire life- more quality, less quantity. Do fewer things, but do them well. Add more weights and do less repetitions. Have fewer friendships, but cherish them more. Take on fewer commitments, but persist until completion. Make the best choice possible, then be content with it.
Last night I was watching a movie with my beloved (he really wanted me to see "I Love You Man"- so much for adding quality to my life!) and I got to craving something savory. I was going to grab cookies, even though I wanted salty and not sweet just because they were handy. I was considering letting the craving pass and eat nothing. But I feel strongly that this whole thing is not about deprivation- it's about making better choices. So I said to myself, no, I don't want store bought cookies- I want something savory. So after perusing the fridge and cabinets, I made us cheese and crackers with slices of zucchini and cherry tomato (and this is the best part) with a leaf of fresh basil and a dollop of dill dip on top. Paired along side a small glass of red wine- it was really the nicest snack. I got to cuddle with my honey on the sofa, enjoy a (somewhat) healthy, tasty snack, and watch a really funny movie. That's time well spent.
(Now in case my life sounds too idyllic, allow me to pull back the periscope, for you to hear two teenagers yelling at one another in the background, observe the cup of milk the toddler spilled all over my Bon Appetit magazine- yes, the Julia Child issue, and notice two days worth of dirty dishes germinating in the kitchen sink.) But all in all, it's a pretty good life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Julia- It's Your Birthday

I got a hold of the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine. It has a huge article about Julia Child in it and the movie that I just saw. It has several of her recipes and mentions that Aug. 15 is her birthday and that lots of people prepare her food as a tribute on her birthday. I decided right then and there, I would be one of those people. After perusing the recipes, I've decided I'm going to make Poulet saute aux herbe de Provence (chicken provence- for those who don't read French), served with Ratatouille (a tasty melange of eggplant, squashes and tomatoes) and a nice crusty baguette (which I plan to secure from the French Bakery in Westport- the grocery store versions just won't do). For dessert, Reine de Saba, a near flourless chocolate, almond cake. I'll return to the aforementioned Beer Cave to get some wine suggestions. Yum, can't wait to prepare my fully French dinner. Now, whom to invite???

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Not Quite French meal

Tonight I made a rare departure from my vegetarian ways. My husband purchased some beef spare ribs and left them in the fridge for me to prepare for dinner. I know he expected me to just suffocate them in bar-b-que sauce and grill or broil them- and ordinarily I might have done just that. But that was before I saw a movie about French cooking. I even got as far as throwing them in the pan and removing the cap from the bottled sauce. When I thought- I'll just brown them a little first- it will make the meat more tender. So I pulled out my cast iron skillet, glazed it with canola oil and lightly powered the chunks of meat with flour. Why not chop in an onion for flavor, I thought? While chopping the onion, I spied the fresh garlic. Just a few heads won't hurt I thought- it will enhance the bar-b-que flavor. By the time I pulled the mushrooms out of the fridge, I knew that bottled sauce would be history. After the meat was browned, I set it aside and filled the sizzling pan with the chopped onion, garlic, and mushrooms. I doused the whole melange with the last of my cooking sherry, and emptied the 1/2 carton of half and half into the fragrant mix. I quickly ran into the back yard to my potted herb garden and plucked a mix of rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley and hot asian basil. A quick chop and they were sprinkled over the bubbling sauce and vegetables. When it had simmered and thickened, I added the meat back in and placed the skillet in the oven. While the meat roasted, I made a batch of cornbread and threw it in the oven also. Then I looked around my kitchen thinking, what would Julia Child accompany that with? Potatoes of course! Now the French might cook their potatoes in sherry and cream, but since that concoction was taken, I remembered back to my cooking days (as a sous chef in my 20s). Aha! Roasted potatoes with olive oil and rosemary. I eyed my 20lb. sack of potatoes thinking how sophisticated this particular recipe is without a bunch of added fat (downfall of the American prepared potato). I peeled about 5 large potatoes, sliced them thinly and put them on to boil until they were just so. I didn't want them to get to soft or turn to mush. When they were just done, I strained them, laid them out in a baking dish (only 1 or 2 layers- they should all feel the kiss of the broiler), and laced them with a gentle swish of extra virgin olive oil, fresh plucked rosemary, salt and pepper, and for extra measure, a thinly sliced red onion sprinkled throughout. Into the oven they went. While the potatoes roasted, along with the spareribs in cream and sherry and the baking cornbread, I thought, wine would be perfect with this meal! I grabbed a twenty from my beloved (who agreed a glass of wine would be nice) and drove around the corner to the nearest wine shop (inaptly named 'the beer cave'). Not to be deterred by the name, I found the proprietor to be quite knowledgeable. When he inquired about the occasion, I said, oh, it's for dinner- and described the delectable feast roasting at home in the oven, he made some very nice suggestions. I love reds, and had thought to fall back on my same old favorites of a winsome Cabernet Sauvignon, or a spirited little Beaujolais. But the proprietor told me of a Argentinian wine made from 'lost grapes' and at $9.99 a bottle, I couldn't pass up a good adventure and a great story. I spent the other $9.99 on a nice looking Robert Mondavi Merlot. Back at home we eagerly opened the Argentinian Alamos Malbec wine first, and though I know I'm supposed to let it breathe first, I couldn't wait. At first whiff, it seemed heavy and vinegary. But the first taste was absolute divinity. The 'beer cave' guy said it was smooth, but the taste was the gustatory equivalent of a baby's bottom (that's smooth for those who haven't been near a baby's bottom lately!). After tasting our wine, dinner was ready! I took the spare ribs out of the pan and sliced them, and placed them back into their bed of sauce. The cornbread was golden and fragrant (okay I know it's not French, but neither am I!). The potatoes were crispy and golden brown with little ringlets of fragrant rosemary and red onion. This dinner was too pretty to simply sling on a plate, so I got out the 'good' dishes and plated it all up with sprigs of fresh verigated oregano to top things off. "Ooh, it looks like a restaurant," my 11 year old said, in awe. She was right. It looked and tasted superb. Not bad for an almost bar-b-que, impromptu not quite French meal, and an Argentinian lost grape wine. As Julia would say, Bon Appetit!

Dinner with Julie and Julia

Last night I saw the movie Julie/Julia. What a sweet delight. I love food movies (remember Babette's Feast?) I guess I'm just a foodie at heart. Anyway I went with my girlfriend Rebecca and she thought it would be a good idea to have some French food beforehand. It turned out to be a great idea. We went to a great funky little French restaurant in the River Market called Le Fou Frog for Happy Hour. We spent a small fortune (for working girls and for Happy Hour) but it was well worth it. We started out with a huge plate of steaming muscles cooked in a wine and cream sauce (to die for). There was a french baguette on the table constantly with butter- we plowed through several of those and used it to soak up all the delicious sauce that the muscles were served swimming in. Rebecca had a nice glass of Merlot, but I was driving so I had mineral water, but I would have LOVED a glass of wine with this food. Our second course was soup. I had lobster bisque- a delightful pool of reddish creamed soup with little flecks of lobster floating in it- heavenly. Rebecca had potato and leek soup, also a creamy delight. Both soups were pureed so they were just bowls of unadulterated liquid bliss. We soaked up any still clinging to the bowls with our baguettes. The third course was salad. I ordered greens with a citrus vinaigrette and warm goat cheese on a crouton. Rebecca ordered a fabulous looking crab cake served atop greens and slathered in a delicious sauce that was not romoulade. We shared our salads between us. The crab cake was divine. The warm goat cheese generously dolloped atop a buttery crusty crouton, was a delectable accompaniment to the tangy citrus-y greens. I was in heaven. For dessert we split my favorite: creme brulee. Damn those skinny-assed French with all their fabulous sauces. The tab came to $60 including the tip, which we split down the middle. But who can put a price on time spent with a good friend over good food?


I walked to work yesterday. Just about two miles. In the heat. I really think an ipod will help me keep it up. I love to listen to my music and it distracts me as I walk. I don't have one yet so I just played music in my head the entire walk to work. I've been researching what type of music playing device to get. I thought I'd try a music subscription service, but I found out they were not ipod compatible. Any suggestions anyone??? I've been diligent about my circuit training at the gym three days a week. Now I need to add in my yoga. I've been chicken about taking a class and just doing it here at home with a video. Who knew it took such courage to be fit?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I've Got Class

When I came out of the gym this morning from my circuit workout, I found a flyer on my windshield for a class called "Eat Well, Be Well" to be held at the local Whole Foods Market. I shop there often as they are the only ones around who sell the Quorn brand of meat substitutes that I love. The class is a four part series that covers:
1. cooking with whole grains and dark leafy greens
2. shopping tour of the store
3. baking with gentle sweetners
4. a 'new view' of protein and dairy
I can't wait to sign up for this class. It sounds like just what I need to know. I'm very limited on cooking beans without meat, and I want new ways to incorporate my greens. I would love to incorporate more alternative sweeteners into baking but never knew how, and I can't wait to get the scoop on protein and dairy, as I've been reading about them in the news lately. These are just the kinds of topics I've been reading about in the Love Powered Diet.

Another serendipitous moment this morning: as I was leaving the gym, I drove past a farmer's market. I had $20 in my pocket but decided on a whim I would spend it all on fresh fruits and vegetables. I got fresh Missouri peaches, blueberries, home grown red ripe tomatoes, and corn on the cob, some beautiful peppers and squashes, and a nice cantaloupe that I look forward to having for breakfast. Since I've sworn off fast food, I've had to be creative in finding new food opportunities that really are all around me. Not only did I get a small feast of fresh food, I ran into a friend and had a nice chat. A lovely way to start the day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lush Life

I have discovered some skin care products I really like. Now normally I don't do product endorsements on my blogs, however I can't resist talking about these products, they are so wonderful. The store is called Lush. There are only 200 around the country so it may or may not be in your area, but they can always be found online at These are handmade, vegan skin and hair care products that are fabulous. My teen daughters talked me into visiting the store while on vacation in Boulder CO. The salesperson did a little demo where we got to sample four of the products on our hands. I was hooked. These products do wonders for my tough dry Midwestern skin. I've never been softer or smelled so delightful- and the softness and good smells last throughout the day. I've purchased shampoo and conditioners, soaps, facial masks, skin lotions, and moisturizers, fizzy "bath bombs" hard little cakes of bubble bath, and 'massage bars' that are to die for. I love these melty little bars of skin moisturizer that are to be applied in the shower. The products are unique, the company is unique, the names of products are definitely one of a kind. I wash my hair with BIG, and condition it with RETREAD. The next thing I'm going to try is the toner, other assorted moisturizers, and the solid shampoo bars. The best part is- there is a LUSH store less than 2 miles from my house- the only one in my state! How's that for serendipity?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Animal Free Feast

Came home from church today and wanted to make a nice vegetarian feast for my family. I had picked up some very nice handmade pita from the farmer's market yesterday- there's a lovely Middle Eastern bakery located there with the most wonderful breads. My son had made falafel yesterday and there were lots left over, so I built the meal around that and the pita. I grilled the pita in olive oil on our griddle that I now use for everything. While I reheated the falafel, I whipped up some tabbouleh (from a boxed mix) and some rice pilaf (also from a boxed mix). I had some left over cooked french lentils in the freezer, so I mixed them into the rice pilaf. While the tabbouleh was cooling in the fridge and the rice and lentils were simmering, I cut up veggies to go with the pita and falafel. I had fresh home grown tomatoes from the market, onion, broccoli sprouts, and cucumber slices. I filled a bowl with crumbled feta. I didn't have all the ingredients for tatziki sauce, but I did have a new can of tahini. I mixed some tahini with mayonnaise and a dab of spicy mustard and squeezed in the juice from half a lemon. It made a very tasty sauce for the falafel. It was all done just in time for the pita to be crisp and toasty hot. I cut the rounds into quarters and heaped them into a bread basket. For dessert I sat a fresh cluster of grapes on a plate and surrounded them with slices of sweet ripe mango. I put all the food in nice serving dishes and set them on the table. It was not only delicious, but beautiful. I was so proud of my impromptu feast. I am beginning the see the gift in the ability to prepare and serve a nice meal. I had begun to think of cooking as a drudgery, but now since I have the challenge of learning to prepare meatless meals, I can see it as more of an adventure.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Love Power

I just finished reading "The Love Powered Diet" by Victoria Moran. Now as a rule, I don't believe in diets, and this is not a diet book despite it's title. It is a treatise on excellence in living (like all her books) and I loved it. I actually plan to start re-reading it immediately. It is full of practical tips on how to introduce healthy eating into your existing lifestyle. Very practical. Since December, I've been slowly introducing a vegetarian diet into my life, and it has been going well (I still choose to east fish and seafood at this point). This book has wonderful information for someone looking to make changes. I love Victoria's approach to loving one's self healthier. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rozelle Court

Had a fancy lovely vegetarian lunch yesterday with friends at Rozelle Court, the fabulous restaurant at the Nelson Atkins Museum. There's nothing fabulous about the long lines at the cafeteria style service, but the setting is magnificent. It's the courtyard of the museum that has been roofed so it can be used year round. The menu is always topnotch- even if its served cafeteria style. I had black bean hummus with pita, and eggplant and tomatoes over rice and peas. I had my Indian entree accompanied by really nice cabernet. For dessert, a scrumtious chocolate bread pudding. I didn't feel the least bit deprived skipping the chicken. I'm finding that a vegetarian diet expands my options, rather than limiting them.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Walk on by...

New plan for exercise. Now that the worst winter weather is mostly behind us- I want to start walking again. My plan is to walk to and from work everyday, about 2.5 miles each way. Tomorrow I start. I'm very excited about this plan. I know I won't be able to do it every single day, because I'll need my car some days, but I'm hoping 3 days out of five to walk to and from work. I've been wanting to do this for months, and now I can finally start.

Mexican Veghead

Eating vegetarian in Mexico was much easier than I thought. After the big walk, we were taken back to the CASA compound by our hosts and fed lunch. I was amazed at how simple, yet delicious this meal was. They were referred to as tacos, yet this was not like any taco I had ever eaten. The tortillas had been dipped in a red sauce, filled with different fillings, folded in half, and served soft and warm. The fillings included: seasoned potatoes (this was my favorite), refried beans, chorizo and potatoes, or cheese. Shredded cabbage seasoned with cilantro and lime were served on the side along with salsa. We were each given a plate with 4 or 5 of the little tacos, to which we could add the cabbage, roll it up, and dip it in salsa. They were absolutely delicious, and so filling. Later that evening for dinner, I enjoyed chili relenos prepared with huge pablano peppers and stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg batter and fried. It was delicious, served in a light red sauce alongside brown rice. This delightful mean was prepared by my host's cook, who had a hot meal waiting for us when we returned at the end of the day- my hostess from her riding competition, and me from the fund raising walk. It was a nice end to a very busy day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Living La Vida Carne

I´m here in Mexico for the San Miguel Walk. I thought it would be difficult to eat meat-free in such a carnivorous culture, but I´ve done quite well. Last night my hostess made grilled salmon for dinner. The day before I had tortilla soup (it is prepared with no meat here, but enough other stuff floating around to make a meal), and today for lunch I had homemade cheese flautas. I´m enjoying the local cuisine. Avocodos are a steal here so I´ve had homemade guacamole and tomatoe sandwiches twice! Tonight more culinary adventures await. Still have to try the local sopas and flan! Homemade bread is in great abundance. Eating my way through San Miguel- I´ll have to roll instead of walk! For my veghead kiddo, I left her stocked up with vegetarian frozen meals for the duration of my trip- unlike me she´s extremely committed to not eating meat and I was afraid she´d live off milk and cereal till I got back!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Adventures in animal-free eating

No, I didn't have tofukey for the holidays. I consumed the usual Christmas ham and New Year's turkey- BUT- I did enjoy discovering a recipe for vegan enchiladas and vegan spaghetti sauce, and vegan meatballs. I also had vegan tacos and Italian 'sausage' pizza. My thirteen year old has come along with me on this flesh-eschewing journey and it has been fun to have someone to do this with. Next week, we are planning a trip to the health food store together to load up on our next batch of new flesh-free meats to try. I'm also experiementing with cooking with tofu- totally new to me. I added some to the spaghetti sauce and really like it. Even my family ate the vegan spaghetti without balking (too much).

I'm in training for the San Miguel Walk(, scheduled for Jan. 24th in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I've booked my flight and look forward to the one day mountainous walk. Hard to train for the mountains when you live on the plains, but I'm doing my best.