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Archive for July, 2010

Retrieving Joy

I slept poorly and felt sorely from the spontaneous hacking away at the huge green bush that obscures my view of the ridge, the mesa, the lightening storms, the action!  Realized early today that if I were to retrieve some joy,  I must do things that were fun.  No forced or burdensome activities.   Took a hot shower that assuaged the soreness, went to the park with my doggie, did a crossword puzzle!  Then, I decided to cook and use all the veggies that were ripening too fast, to waste not, to give this food purpose!  Orange, yellow, and red tomatoes: cherry, Roma, and heirloom.  Calabasita, a pale green sweet zucchini-like squash from Mexico.  And the leaves of spinach that were still dark green and firm from a too-large box the rest of which was going bad. Six Baby Bella mushrooms.

I put out a large skillet and swirled it a couple of times with extra-virgen olive oil and put the fire on low.  Then, I chopped three cloves of garlic and, after the oil was gently heated, added them to the pan, cooking on low for two minutes to golden only. Having cut up the tomatoes, in half for the cherries, in quarters for the medium-sized; the mushrooms in quarters, I added them to the pan and sauteed them on low, stirring frequently.

At first, I thought I would add the calabasita and spinach to the tomato-mushroom mixture, but it all looked so beautiful: yellow, orange, red with a splash of the earthy mushrooms, that I decided not corrupt it!  So, I put out a medium sized skillet, oiled and gently heated as above and added three more cloves of chopped garlic, cooked on low for two minutes.  Then, I added the sliced in quarters calabasita and sauteed, stirring frequently.    Added the stemmed spinach leaves in the last two or three minutes and folded in until cooked.

The time for sauteeing will be determined by your preference, from a snappy al dente to a tender with a crunchy skin, to a well-blended and softer form of texture and taste.  I vacillate among these, but today I was definitely in the mood for well-blended and softer, so about 45 minutes for the tomatoes and mushrooms, 20-25 for the calabasita, then only a few for the spinach.  Besides, the perfume filling the house was so intoxicating that I wanted to savor it as long as possible.

When the veggies were cooked to my taste, I toasted a couple of slices of French bread that I had in the house, lay them on a plate and ladled the tomato mixture on one, the green mixture on the other.  A sprinkle of kosher salt on each to taste, a glass of  Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina, and lunch was moaning good!  I will get a fresh loaf of crusty and superb Rosemary Sea Salt bread from the Wildflower Bakery later today and have the veggies again for dinner (yes, it tasted THAT good!) with this best of all breads!

And, now I am energized, pain-free, well-fed with healthy food, and sharing it all with you!  Gotta love that.

So, when you need to eschew the forced and burdensome do something creative, be it cooking or something else, that is fun and nourishing to your body and soul.

Love,

Susan

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Summer used to be my favorite season: trips to the seaside or Lake Tahoe, sunshine, the beach, shorts and tank tops.  But these days, I dread summer.  In the desert, even the high-desert, it is oppressive: biting gnats swarming every time I go outside; fires blazing too close to my home, humidity in July and August that saps my energy.  I retreat into the cooling arms of my home’s blessed and much appreciated air conditioning.  The shades are drawn when the sun’s heat starts penetrating through the windows, and it becomes a cave-like existence.  I love my private time, my uninterrupted daily life, but this takes it to the extreme and, after a couple of months I feel isolated.

It is now monsoon season in Northern Arizona and lightning and thunder crack and roll around the heavens, frequently without forcing a drop of rain, but last night we had a tremendous storm!  Rain pummeled the roof, the windows, everything for hours!  It was thrilling.  And this morning I took a walk in 64 degrees of fresh, verdant, cloud-streaked valley, meeting several friends and neighbors.  “Susan, isn’t this weather beautiful?,” one neighbor says with a huge grin on his face.

“Oh, yes,” I say, “And only two more months until fall!”

“Yes, I’m with you there!” he says.

Another friend, her eyes sparkling, “Wow! How gorgeous it is this morning!  The rain was extraordinary last night!”

Another, dressed up and ready to go, “Did’ya hear that rain?  Maybe we’ll get another one today…” she says scanning the sky.

I arrived home feeling joyous and grateful about something as ordinary–yet impacting–as the weather.  Feeling re-united with friends, community, the outside world.  And excited to tell you about it!

Julia Cameron says that taking a walk can clear your mind, your heart, your attitude, your anything!  Can inspire you to begin a creative endeavor, to find solutions to creative blocks of any kind as complex as the ending to your novel, as simple as what to make for dinner.  I find it to be true.

Take a walk all for yourself as soon as you can!

Love,

Susan

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The Magic In The Making

I have been captivated by a song, a performance, and a legend.  The song: “As If We Never Said Good-Bye*.”  The performance: by Elaine Paige: Queen of The London Musical Theater.  The legend: Norma Desmond, the faded movie star in the film and stage versions of Sunset Boulevard*.

To summarize, Norma Desmond is past her prime and has been forgotten by Hollywood for years.  She somehow convinces herself that her former director, the great Cecil B. DeMille, has requested her for a part in a new film.  The song speaks of Norma’s trepidation, nostalgia, and excitement for the whole experience of making movies and being a star.

In a stunning performance, Elaine Paige sings from the heart of Norma Desmond: “I don’t know why I’m frightened; I know my way around here…  There’s a world to rediscover… The atmosphere is thrilling here, as always…  Feel the magic in the making.  Why, everything’s as if we never said good-bye.”

On the table during my bodywork session today, the song plays in my consciousness, the legend appears.  Norma’s world is the movies: she plays scenes, chooses which part of the character to expose, to express, to develop; which road to follow, which not.

A new level of understanding surfaces: I live scenes, the scenes in life that present themselves everyday.  Consciously or unconsciously, I choose which part of my own character to expose, to express, to develop.  I choose which paths to follow, which not; which people to include, which not.  I choose everything–inside and out.

And, I have trepidation: I don’t know why I’m frightened; I know my way around here.

And nostalgia, longing to reunite with lost loves: As if we never said good-bye.

And excitement: There is a world to rediscover; the atmosphere is thrilling here, as always.  And today I absolutely feel the magic in the making of my own life!

For all this, I give thanks to the power of a song, a performance, and a legend.

Love,

Susan

*Sunset Boulevard The Musical: Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book & Lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton

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There are many ways to nourish ourselves, but the one I speak to today is the literal one: eating good food.

I find that a delicious meal made from fresh and healthy ingredients that seem to be made for each other really boosts my happy quotient.  Moaning over a meal is one of my favorite modes of expression!

These days I take great joy in deciding what that meal will be and when: lunch or dinner?  Working at home affords me the opportunity to have the larger, or heavier, meal of the day at either time.   In the summer I often eat bigger at lunch; in the winter darkness comes early, and the call to dine elaborately comes mostly for the evening.  When I find myself home alone for days at a stretch, I really get into experimenting with food preparation.  The dish I want to share with you this week is one I put together for myself on a very hot desert evening with the ingredients I found waiting in my refrigerator.  It turned out to be a one-dish meal that I went gaga over.  Made it again two nights later!

To nourish myself fully I want to enjoy the preparation of the meal as well as the ingesting. Therefore, I begin by putting on some music to cook by.  Since I usually cook in the Italian or Mediterranean way, I choose Pavarotti: Neapolitan Love Songs; The Soundtrack to Big Night (one of the great cooking/eating movies of all time); or something jazzy like Diana Krall, All For You. The point is to have fun and move your body around so you don’t get tired or sore.

This dish is what I call Sassy Summer Pasta.

This amount  will serve one.  I do that to encourage you to take the time and care to nourish your self.  Then, if you want to serve it to friends at a later time, do it!  Double the recipe for two, triple it for three, etc.

4 ounces Barilla Thin Spaghetti

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium to large cloves of garlic finely chopped

1 calabasita (a pale green zucchini-like squash that comes from Mexico and is very sweet) sliced very thin (use a mandoline if you have one)

1/2 orange bell pepper sliced in the same way as the calabasita

a handful of cherry tomatoes sliced in half

a handful of fresh Italian parsley chopped

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to grate over pasta

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice and chop veggies, parsley, and garlic

Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil, add the kosher salt. Cook pasta according to package directions 6-7-8 minutes, depending on your taste.  Don’t overcook!

While the water is boiling, in a 12″ frying pan over a medium-low flame, heat the extra virgin oil a minute or two, add the garlic and cook alone no more than two minutes or until it is just golden.

Add the veggies and saute over medium heat, turning frequently, 5-8 minutes or until they are soft but not mushy.  A little snap of the skin is okay as long as the innards are tender.

Heat the bowl you in which you will put the pasta in the microwave a minute or so.

When the pasta is done, drain well and put into the pan with the veggies.  I usually drizzle a little oil on the noodles at this point, then mix with the veggies in the pan until well blended.

Pour into heated bowl, arranging the veggies in a colorful array, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; grate the fresh Parmigiano over the noodles; sprinkle the parsley on top.

Eccola!  You are ready to dine!  Pour yourself a glass of a good Italian red:  Bolla Bardolino or Valpolicella compliment this wonderfully.

Sit down, listen to music, watch a good mystery on TV, or gaze at the sunset while indulging in gustatory delight!

I tend to eat a layer, salt & pepper & cheese again; eat a layer, do it again.  But you can inaugurate your own nourishing ritual.

Buon Appetito!

Love,

Susan

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I am sitting on the table at Mountain Dove Chiropractic in Sedona, AZ.  Dr. Marc Viafora, my Network Chiropractor, asks me how I am today, and I say, “Struggling with the neck and shoulders, Doc.”  He checks my neck and spine, tells me to lie on my back and do ten deep breaths at the throat, heart, and navel, and goes on to treat another patient.  When he comes back to me a few minutes later he says, “Susan, the neck is origins,” meaning the neck is where in our bodies the origins of our stress have settled.  “Oh,” I say, “that’s good,” meaning good that after almost a year of treatment, I have cleared enough away to be getting to the source of things.

Physical pain has been a constant in my life since the age of 18, when a driver rear-ended my father’s car while I was at the wheel, certainly sending my neck on the journey that has led me to this table today, 45 years later.  I’ve spent time, money, and energy trying to get rid of the pain.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?  Not according to my healer and mentor Dr. Marc, who says,  “We need to listen to our bodies.  The pain is a communication.  It’s there when you need it.  You’re ready to change–physically, mentally, emotionally, or chemically.”

Something is going on at a level we are not even aware of, and our bodies are screaming to be heard.

Has your body been sending any communiques your way?  Have you been listening?

Wishing you love, laughter, and a wise and gifted bodyworker!

Susan

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