While I’ve Been Away

IMG_20180604_201822237It’s been several weeks since I’ve written anything.  In fact, a friend sent me a note asking me if I still had the blog going. So, yes…and no…The whole point of my writings here are to share my experiences trying new and different things–whether that’s a new recipe, alternative medicine, writing, painting or my newest fascination, jewelry design.  I want people to find whatever those things are that put them in a place of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual rest.  Then, spend time doing those things–love on yourself.  You can’t pass on what ya a’int got.

IMG_20180610_184815085Take your shoes off.  Walk in the sand, in the mud, in the grass…just let yourself become grounded and let all that negative energy that builds up in all our lives out.  And, let all that good energy from the loving earth travel back through your “roots,” and envelope your body, mind and spirit in plain relaxation.

In one way I totally get why the jewelry design thing has me so hooked: it’s creativity to the max; my OCD has a field day making sure all the tiniest of details are as perfect as I can get them; and it’s instant gratification.  Well–instant as in a particular piece may take an hour, or two days.

IMG_20180608_200049764I can hardly sit down to have a meal much less sit in one spot for an hour.  A year or so ago I participated in some Landmark Education courses which usually begin around 7 or 8 a.m. and end anywhere from 10 p.m. to midnight–for three days.  Somehow, I make it through those as well, but the idea of doing that is torture.

So how is it I can sit for three or four hours working on a design, think nothing of that length of time passing by, and I’m actually relaxed when I finish??  Usually, I am relaxed but there are times when I’m nearly finished with a piece and it just won’t quite fit together or hold the stone as tightly as I want it to.

IMG_20180616_201154483In those times,  I can get a little frustrated and find myself saying “you WILL fit, and you WILL work this way, and you WILL be beautiful damn it…and you’re going to like it…” and everyone will see the love that’s gone into you…Most of the time, however, I am relaxed when I finish because I have to focus so intently on what I’m doing that I block everything else out.  No thoughts about work enter in and everything except the 80’s techno-dance music I play while I’m working goes completely away.

IMG_20180610_134832495_HDRI’ve created about 30 pieces in the past 6 weeks.  It’s kind of like light zipping out through the solar system–they just keep growing and evolving with each piece. Find whatever it is that takes you to that place.  Spend time there.  Give yourself a healing gift of peace in your body, mind and spirit.  If there is one lesson I will probably be working on the rest of my life it is to let myself rest.  Take a shot of that Aahsum Sauce and let go.  Namaste. b



Staying Busy is My Therapy

IMG_20180505_221722959The list of things I do to keep myself busy is fairly long.  I am a Pastry Chef, Executive Chef, writer, builder, wood worker, stone mason, gardener, painter.  I am a Reiki Master and I study holistic medicine so I can learn to help people heal themselves without pills and chemicals–and now you can add jewelry designer to the list.  It isn’t that I don’t ever sit down and do nothing…on occasion, I do…just not very often.  Truth be told, when I’m alone, I often eat standing up–almost like I don’t finish one thought before moving on to the next.  Some people say I’m crazy, I say I multi-task…a lot.

IMG_20180508_165328283I have an instant gratification fixation.  I love mowing my lawn because I can see where I’ve been and how much better it looks.  I don’t care that I still have an acre to mow–I look at the lane I’ve just mowed.  And it looks good!  I also like mowing because I can talk to myself and no one can hear me.  They don’t know whether I’m singing or what–and all the while, I’m solving the earth’s problems.

My new venture–wire weaving to create jewelry from gemstones combines a lot of those things.  I like sparkly things–I love crystals–they make me feel good, and they’re awesome–and humbling.  You want to argue if there’s a God–take a look at a snowflake amethyst with purple, blue, orange and pink crystals and think that a zillion years ago that was a handful of sand.  The perfect recipe of creation–time, heat and pressure transformed that dust into a dazzling thing of beauty.  Miracle?  I say it is.  My designs may not be miracles, but it’s so cool to take five strands of wire and an incredibly thin wire and begin to loop, loop, loop and watch this “thing” grow and come alive in your hands.  Pretty awesome–and gratifying.

I used to use a lot of those busy things as distractions–so I didn’t have to think about things that hurt.  When I would stop and do nothing, the thoughts of “there’s nothing good about me…I’ll never be good enough,” would creep in.  So I did use activity kind of like a drug–escape.  I did those too, and they created their own trap and I had to escape the things I used to escape things.

Things changed when I joined Mercy Ships and for the first time my life was about helping people who weren’t in a position to help themselves.  I had dabbled in it fairly often, but this became my life’s mission.  During that time I learned that as I reached out to someone else in the midst of my own pain, my pain was healed.  Layer by layer the onion was peeled away and I began to be able to look at myself as being whole–not splintered, not broken, not not good enough.  I was a train wreck, but I could still help someone else out.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m still just as busy.  I still work 12 hour days and when I get home, the “other” work begins.  The difference is this work–all this busy-ness is therapy.  It makes me feel good to see a broken stick of a plant take root and grow.  It makes me happy to see the plants in my garden so laden with produce that I have enough to last me and entire winter and have enough to give to my neighbors, my employees and friends.

I’ve often joked that I am a life long student.  I get excited when I find something new to learn.  I can’t just half way do something.  I’m all or nothing.  If something isn’t worth giving 100 percent, it’s not worth taking the time to do it at all.  And, I’m the same way about things I do for fun–because actually, most of what I do I do for fun.  It keeps me sane.  It’s my therapy.  Staying busy is my therapy.  I get up before the sun, and I don’t stop until it’s dark.  Man it feels good to be alive.

Coconut-Avocado Love Affair

IMG_20180422_135604249This weekend, I used two of my favorite food items on the planet–coconut and avocado.  My love for coconut goes way back into the memory banks.  As a kid, it certainly wasn’t something we would have on a regular basis.  My grandfather, Pa Bill, LOOOVED my Momma’s Fresh Coconut Cake. (That’s probably where my love affair started…if Pa Bill loved it, I did too!)  I vaguely remember my dad putting a coconut on the table and using a screwdriver to poke out the “eyes” to get the water out.  Then he’d use a hammer to work all the way around the shell until it broke into two pieces.  That beautiful white meat smelled amazing.  Then Daddy would break it into smaller chunks so my Momma could get the meat out of the shell and grate it for that cake.

For years, basically all I knew to do with an Avocado was make Guacamole–or eat it fresh out of the shell with a little salt.  I have used it in a few ways, like a cold soup, but usually it was relegated to guac, or cut into chunks to put on top of a salad…very basic stuff like that.  My transition into eating nearly 100 percent Paleo has had me searching for ways to use both coconut and avocado in more and different ways.

I found a recipe for Paleo pancakes, but I never could get the batter right.  It was always too gummy and wouldn’t spread like a regular batter does.  The flavor was good, but the texture was wrong.  I finally figured out what I was doing wrong…I was using coconut flour, and it was soaking up so much liquid, it was more spreadable than pourable.  So, this time I used Arrowroot Flour, a Paleo Blend, and Almond Flour.  Voila!!  The right texture.  I was glad it worked, but I was a little bummed it wouldn’t have the coconut flavor I love.  But, it was a good swap, and I did use an organic Coconut Oil to oil the pan with.  I got my coconut flavor!!  The flavor was right, the texture was right…I was a happy camper.

One of my favorite coconut memories comes from the time I spent in Guatemala.  We were working on revitalizing a playground for an orphanage, making it safer for the kids to play without cutting their feet on the sharp rocks that were everywhere.  I took a break in the afternoon and as I usually did, took a walk around the neighborhood.  A group of young boys were playing in the street and I went and talked to them.  They asked if I was thirsty, which I was, so one of them climed a tree and brought down some coconuts.  They asked if I wanted one and I said, “sure!”  They cut the top off, stuck in a straw and handed it to me…it was amazing.  The next day a little old man came rolling up to our house on a bicycle that had no tires…only the rims…and he was carrying an entire stalk of coconuts.  A few days later, I surprised him when I went back with two new tires for his bike…

Now for the Avocado.  I stumbled across a Paleo magazine and although it was a little pricey for a magazine ($10),  I got one.  Inside was a recipe for an Avocado-Lime (not quite) Cheesecake.  Since going Paleo, my sweet tooth is usually held at bay by eating fruit, etc.  Occasionally, though, it won’t be denied.  I am a Pastry Chef, so I usually have no problems in coming up with outrageous dessert recipes, but I’m really trying to stay away from processed sugar, flour, dairy, etc.  So I gave the recipe a try.  All I can say is Wow!!

In India, Avocados are called Butterfruit.  Makes sense to me.  The flavor is neutral enough you wouldn’t have to “cover” it up, and Lime and Avocado are a natural combination.  It is sweetened with raw honey.  I found a local source for raw, unfiltered honey, and my, my, my, I’ll never go back to any other kind.

The crust for the (not) cheesecake is made from cashews and pecans soaked in coconut milk.  Dates are used for sweetness and as “glue” I drained the coconut milk and saved it for smoothies because now it has a great coconut AND cashew flavor.  Pulse it in the food processor, press it in the pan, refrigerate it and there you are…a perfect crust.

The filling was avocado (you can use frozen,) lime zest, lime juice, honey and a little vanilla.  Blend it til smooth and fill up the pan.  I was anxious to try it so I let it stay in the fridge for 2 or 3 hours and I thought it was incredibly sweet–too much so.  I thought, “it’s good…I certainly wouldn’t want to eat the whole thing, but it works…”  Let it sit overnight so the flavors can meld and it’s an entirely different taste–much more balanced.  I did add a couple of teaspoons of unflavored gelatin because the filling looked a little soft, and I wanted it to be able to slice cleanly.  Oh yeah…it worked!!

In Paleo, coconut and avocado are used extensively.  I hardly ever cook with anything other than coconut oil…well, that and good old bacon grease…I was raised in the South after all!!  All in all, this was a good and productive weekend–I finally nailed a recipe I’ve worked on several times, and found a new way to calm my sweet tooth without breaking the Paleo mantra.  My love affair with coconut and avocado just keeps getting deeper and deeper….namaste



Pushing the Plateau

wastelandSooner or later when we attempt anything new–adopting a new lifestyle, beginning a diet, trying to break out of old habits–whatever it may be, we all face one of the most frustrating, discouraging elements of that quest:  we encounter the dreaded plateau.

If we are dieting, we reach a point where the weight doesn’t come off anymore.  If we are changing the way we eat, as I have to Paleo, it gets boring.  When we try to break free of an old habit, we may forget why we’re doing it, or we get overwhelmed by a craving for whatever we’re trying to change.

Sometimes I set myself up for that frustration.  I’ve heard we should only get on the scales once a week…but I must check my “progress” daily.  If there is a change in the right direction–great!!  If everything stays the same…bummer.  If the change goes in the wrong direction–AARGH!

That is when keeping your word to yourself, persistence on the plateau, can be the most difficult.  (Remember declaring “I AM going to do this!!)?  It’s easy to stick to the plan when everything seems to be going your way.  When it’s not going according to plan–well that just sucks.  Pushing the plateau through that time is when new sides of the new you will begin to show up.

I had been on the scales for 10 days with no change–well, there was a change–I gained 2 pounds!  I hadn’t changed anything, hadn’t cheated, hadn’t eaten anything I wasn’t supposed to…that’s when you reach the point of saying “just forget it.”  “If I’m going to gain weight and I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, then why not grab that piece of cheese, or chocolate chip cookie!!  DON’T DO IT!!

I have no idea why, but one day I checked, and I lost 1.2 pounds.  Yesterday, I lost another pound.  Today when I checked, I lost 1.8 pounds!  What started the engine again?  I didn’t change anything I hadn’t changed…the only thing I can figure is that at some point, especially with diets, our bodies adjust to our new calorie count and our metabolism matches that new count…so there I am, and we level off.

I’ve done this long enough to know, also, the best way to jump start the engine again is to exercise.  To me, that word should be spelled exorcise.  I’m already on my feet all day.  I rarely sit.  When I do sit, it’s more like an up and down, up and down, up and down.  My sitting is like most people’s jumping jacks.  My butt rarely touches the chair because my feet always hit the ground.  Nevertheless…I know the best way to get things going again is to exercise more.  And that’s when I begin to convince myself the view from up here isn’t so bad…in fact, it’s kind of pretty…it wouldn’t be so bad to stay right where I am.  That’s when I will most likely drop a pen on the floor, or need to tie my shoe, or put on my socks, and I can’t do it and breathe at the same time…ok, ok, ok…I get it!!

For me, the best way to get going is to put on some fun music really loud and dance…I may be 60, but I still can dance.  That way, it’s fun, not exercise…as long as I don’t pull or tear something and look like Fred Sanford the next day.  One of my biggest fears is that I’ll fall and end up looking like a turtle on its back–arms flailing, neck stretched and getting nowhere.  Eventually most turtles do make it back over.  That’s when you get up and start all over again.

The point is…stick to your goal.  Keep your word to yourself…it doesn’t matter to anyone else…you have to do it for YOU.  Meditate, have a Reiki session whether it’s on yourself (if you’re a practitioner) or see someone who is trained to do it for you.   Whatever it takes, keep your word to yourself and eventually you’ll break through.  And then you’ll be really glad you did.

Namaste…love yourself.