Monday, November 30, 2009

The Best Raisin I Ever Had

Yesterday I participated in a day-long Insight (Vipassana) retreat at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.
We left at 7:30 am., crossed the Golden Gate Bridge with hardly any traffic in sight, and drove north on a beautifully clear and sunny fall day with nitid views of rolling golden hills and sleepy towns on fall-colored, tree lined streets.

The primary teacher for the retreat was Jack Kornfield and, since I am a bit guru-phobic, I was very relieved to discover that he is most decidedly un-guruish! A natural man with a great sense of humor who spoke eloquently but in a language that anyone could understand. It was difficult enough for a relatively uninitiated person like me to do five long (20 to 30 min) periods of sitting meditation, one short one, three 20 minute walking meditations and an eating meditation, without also having to listen to talk so abstract you might want to slit your wrists. Jack Kornfield is the opposite: so clear and to the point that I bought his book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.
Some of us had our lunches on the hillside, some in small groups, others alone, but all in silence. All you could hear were the occasional cawings of the crows and the wind blowing through the laurel trees. The smell was heavenly.

Now for the reason for the title of this post. Before lunch Jack had some volunteers distribute two raisins to each of us, which we were instructed to hold in our hands. When we all had our raisins we were told to carry them slowly to our mouth, to bite down on them and slowly chew with our eyes closed until every last bit of raisin disintegrated and slid down our throats. Let me tell you, that was one explosion of intense flavor and sweet juices. The most delicious raisin ever, like no other!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I had decided weeks ago that I was not going to plan anything for today, except maybe some volunteering at St. Anthony's Dining Room where they feed about 3,000 people a day. But they were all filled up with volunteers. So I could just take it easy.

I woke up thinking about making sweet potato pie, something I've never done before, but seeing as how I had lots of sweet potatoes around lately, and since Eden had obviously decided to sleep in, that was what I did. I looked around the internet at vegan and non vegan options and came up with a combo. I did not want to use any actual sugar sugar, so I made it with the following ingredients. All measurements are approximate.

About 2 cups of boiled, peeled, then smashed sweet potatoes/yams, whatever they are, mixed with a very large beaten egg, 1/4 cup of half and half, 2 Tbs. maple syrup, 1 Tbs. unsulphured blackstrap molasses, 1/2 tsp. Bourbon vanilla extract, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and the grated zest of half an orange. Poured it into a vegan whole wheat crust and baked at 360o for 60 min.

It was good. I had two slices.                                                                                    

I also wanted to use some of the radicchio I had in the refrigerator. It's so expensive, I certainly didn't want it to spoil. I also had more already cooked sweet potatoes, so while the pie was baking I concocted a Radicchio and Sweet Potato Risotto, which went like this.

Put some water in a kettle to boil. Cook about 1/3 of a thinly sliced medium yellow onion in a some (3 Tbs. ?) EVOO until soft and translucent. Add 3/4 c. of Arborio Rice Superfino (do not rinse first) and stir around to coat with oil. Add 1 and 1/2 packed cups of sliced, then chopped radicchio (the one in the pretty reddish-purple ball). Stir to mix for a couple of minutes. Start adding the hot water in increments. At first add enough to reach top of rice mixture. Stir. As the rice

absorbs the water add more. Stir. I don't stand there and stir non stop. I leave for a few minutes and come back, hoping it hasn't stuck. About midway add 1/2 cube of Vegetable Bouillon, or a whole one, and a tiny pinch of turmeric. Stir. As the rice starts to cook begin adding a lot less hot water each time, but keep stirring. When the rice is just about done add 1 tsp. orange zest and 1/2 of a chopped, cooked, peeled sweet potato. Stir some. Add 1 Tbs. half and half, salt and pepper to taste. I tasted it, I liked it, but later this evening I will also add some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. A little nutmeg might have been good in this too.

It's now 1:30 pm. I'm still in my pajamas and Eden has moved from the (her) sofa to the (her) armchair. She has awakened long enough to make a very quick trip to the backyard and to occasionally lift her head to bark at the sounds of strangers with children and dogs in tow, coming to visit the neighbors.
Maybe a little walk is next. Time to wake up. No, really. I'm serious.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Kind of Saturday

It's not even 4 pm yet and I'm already really satisfied with this day.

I went out with Eden for our usual Saturday walk in the park and on the way back had to take a photo of this colorful and orderly array of clothes hanging out to dry right by the sidewalk. A white picket fence is not a typical San Francisco sight, but clothes hanging out to dry are pretty common. I'm glad they're not banned here as they are in some states.  Eden and I both enjoyed our stroll on this sunny, cool day, through trees and fresh grass.
When I got back home I watched part of my new Yoga for Beginners DVD, and actually followed along. I've tried yoga in different studios, but always find that I feel like a total wreck afterwards, so I've decided to try it on my own. Maybe if I don't feel like I am getting lost, or need to keep up, it will be a better experience. Or maybe I need a personal yoga trainer!

Without really realizing the connection, after deciding yesterday to seriously embark (or re-embark) on a spiritual learning experience, I chose to cook a dish from a book I bought in 2005, 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist MonasteryIt has a lot of vegetables in it, interesting spices and will be mixed with leftover quinoa from yesterday's lunch. As soon as it cools down, I'm digging in. 

Not content with all the goodies in this vegetable stew, I made immune-boosting turmeric tea, by boiling chunks of fresh ginger root in water, adding turmeric and letting it boil a bit more. After straining it into a glass, I added a heaping teaspoon of honey and some lemon. I was surprised at how good it was. I did check my teeth every now and then while drinking it, to make sure they were not turning orange, since I know how potent turmeric is when it comes to staining your clothes and even woodwork, but I'm happy to report that the teeth are fine. 

I had first heard this tea mentioned in a post on Lucullian Delights, a blog where I have been feasting my eyes for 3 years. Ilva was going to give the recipe for the tea, after she and her entire family recovered from The Flu. Fortunately they all recovered, but I think she moved on to bigger and better recipes, because I could not find mention of the tea in subsequent posts. So I did a bit of an internet search and came up with my own version, and drank it down to the last delicious good-for-me drop! I do have a bit of a headache, though, but don't know if it was the turmeric or the Yoga...


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buried Treasure

Since discovering the Sounds True website and their podcasts less than two weeks ago I have felt like someone who has uncovered a buried treasure chest and doesn't quite know what to do with all the sparkling precious jewels inside it. I ended up on Sounds True because I had gone to the Contemplative Outreach website to find teachings on centering prayer by Fr. Thomas Keating, and it turned out that Contemplative Outreach is offering an online course in centering prayer through Sounds True. So there I was, with a treasure at my fingertips.

It's not my first time wandering down the road of spiritual self discovery, but it is the first time I have been on a path with so many doors, so many of which I want to open and peek through. It could be a bit overwhelming.

I've already listened to talks from eleven different teachers and I have learned from and been inspired by each one. Just this afternoon I noticed a link on Sounds True to four free online guides to help one explore meditation, energy healing, intuition and life purpose.

I am going to start listening and reading now, and I have a feeling this is what I will be doing for a good part of my weekend. There is no time to waste!

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Day Will Never Come Again

Yesterday I discovered the Sounds True Blog and Tami Simon's podcast interviews with authors and teachers.
Her posts as well as her interviews are excellent and thought provoking, and I just wish I had the time to listen to all the interviews non-stop, but fortunately I do not have that time, or my head would surely explode!
The episode I just finished listening to is the interview with Carolyn Myss in which Dr. Myss quotes Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and author, as saying "This day will never come again". I heard it and froze for a moment. Of course it is an obvious truth, but one of those truths that can change your life when you truly hear it and believe it.
I wonder what it would be like if it were my first thought in the morning, and if I were to remind myself of it throughout the day, like a mantra?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My life on a dresser

I'm taking an online class for which this week's assignment is a self portrait, and I was going to think about this project for a bit before doing anything with it, but as I was getting ready to go to bed last night I just started shooting into the mirror. When I looked at the images I was surprised to discover that the top of my dresser currently holds a flashback of my life: a photo of my father, one of me with my mother, another with a former boyfriend, a crucifix, items of my mother's, jewelry my father made, jewelry I made, jewelry of my mother's, wedding bands, broken bits of jewelry I keep saying I am going to repair, essential oils, a bracelet made by Alisa Burke, and on the wall a painting by another former boyfriend. The only things missing are photos of my dogs. It was a strange realization.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Before going to bed last night, and oh how I love setting those clocks back, I decided what I could do with the rest of the amaranth I made yesterday.

It gels, sort of like cold oatmeal, so I heated it up in the microwave with some rice milk, added defrosted mixed berries, walnut pieces and maple syrup and had it for breakfast.
Delicious and satisfying.

I'm still going to look up some recipes for it, just not today. I have a long list of things I would like to get done, but if I can't get to them I will remember the poem I read here on Judy Wise's blog.

It's another beautiful day in San Francisco, and one of the top items on my list is to clean up my messy plot at the Argonne Community Garden.

Have a great Sunday!

A Spectacular Day from Start to Finish

The day started out sort of gray, but as soon as the sun came out I took Eden and we went to Golden Gate Park.

Everything was absolutely shining, and I had decided to take my new iPod nano with me instead of my camera, because it weighs nothing and takes videos. I regretted this about 50 times because this tiny gadget does take videos, but I have an awful time using it for a couple of reasons. One of the problems is that I have Eden yanking my arm whenever she sees a squirrel - no off leash today because the street was not closed to cars - and the other is that this video-taking iPod Nano has the controls and the lens/microphone on the same end, but on opposite sides, so 1) it's very difficult to keep your fingers out of the image and 2) it's hell trying to stop the recording without making everything jerk around. After several attempts, this is the best one I got. Maybe I need to learn how to use iMovie to edit...
By the way, I don't know where the southern accent is coming from and that is NOT a burp! I am throwing my head back to look up into the Eucalyptus trees. Really.

I've taken a couple of online classes from Mary Ann Moss, who writes Dispatch from LA, and what she actually says is "I like it. I like it a lot". Love her and her blog.
Anyway, I went back home, but it was so beautiful out that I grabbed my camera and went back out, this time without Eden. It was sort of lonely without her, but it was also more carefree and easy. I got to photograph a squirrel, something Eden would never let me do.

I got close to the ground and enjoyed the view from down there.

I photographed someone else's black dog running with abandon.

Rugola gone wild.

The president of the garden and his wife went to a lot of trouble to decorate the garden for Halloween and greet the neighborhood children. They put up luminaria all the way from one end to the other, lit up the greenhouse and made it red, with scary sounds coming out of it.


When it got dark I walked home and tried not to be toooooo scared. What a day, and I'm not going to let Blogger ruin it!