Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Becoming Aware of Food

Bless us oh Lord and these, thine gifts, which we are about to receive….

And so went the daily prayer my family would say each night before digging into dinner. A prayer over our food.

For the most part these were just rote words I learned as a child. Words that were to remind me to thank God (or the Universe, or Buddha, or Allah, or whatever deity you might believe in) for the food on my plate.

I was reminded of these very words because this week’s mindfulness practice asks us to look deeply into food. That is, to consider where our food or drink came from; the people who harvested the food, the driver who transported the food, the farmer who grew the food, and so on.

When I was a child, my family grew some of our food in a small urban garden. Mainly tomatoes and corn which were the easiest to grow. As an adult, I carried this trait with me and have had a vegetable garden for many years.

But for many in society, there is no opportunity to grow food. And the further away we are from the source of our food, the easier it is to forget all that is involved in bringing food to our table. This lack of awareness was the basis for some localvore movements.

Yet beyond the understanding of where our food comes from and all the people (and animals) involved in bringing it to us, when we become aware of food, we awaken to our complete dependence upon the life energy of many other people. This awareness gives new meaning to the idea of having communion with others. That is, each time we eat or drink, we come into union with countless beings.

This week as you eat or drink, look more deeply into your food. Become aware of the source of your food and all those countless beings who contributed to bringing these items to you.

Reflection: The life energy of many beings flows into us as we eat. -Dr. Jan Chozen Bays

Bean seedling - Version 2


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A Year of Mindfulness: Just Eat

Each week I am sharing a mindfulness practice based on the book How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays. To learn more about mindfulness, please read the introductory post here.

Last week we practiced mindfulness by appreciating our hands. Are you appreciating your hands more?

I found this practice difficult. I found it hard to observe my hands while doing another task. My focus was on the task at hand (ha, ha) not on how my hands moved in unison, in partnership or individually.

Wait, I must have noticed something if I knew they were working in unison, in partnership, or individually. Okay, so maybe my subconscious was paying attention on some level. I think the point here is that, once again, we often move so quickly through our day that we don’t notice what we’re doing. What we’re REALLY doing.

I will continue with this particular practice but focus on a smaller task, such as putting lotion on my hands.

This Week’s Practice: When you eat, just eat

Oh this is a good one. This week we are asked to remove all distractions when we eat. That means no watching TV when eating. No reading a book or newpaper or magazine while eating. No iPad, No computer, No nothing when eating.

Why? Because when we eat we often multi-task. We sit at our desk at work, eat lunch, and surf the Internet or catch up on email. We eat and talk on the phone. We go through a drive-through, pick up a meal, and scarf it down in the car.

Not the best way to enjoy our food is it?

So this week when you eat. Just eat. Remove all distractions. Start with one meal, slow down, and enjoy your food.

Reflection: When eating, just eat. When drinking, just drink. Mindfulness is the very best seasoning. -Jan Chozen Bays


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Sketching: Making It A Practice

Well, it didn’t take too long before I faced potential boredom with my sketching. In the days after returning from France, I looked around my house and thought “what is so interesting here that I’d want to sketch it?”

There-in lies the rub. It isn’t so much a matter of what looks interesting to sketch, it is a matter of making it a practice no matter what the subject matter. If the only reason I sketch is because the subject is interesting, I would’ve quit long ago. (And, in fact, I did quit sketching, several times in the past.)

This is when I had the bright idea to use themes or topics as my basis for sketching. Deciding on a theme or topic is a challenge in itself, however, it seems to be working for now.

The “What Do I Want To Sketch?” Phase

Glass Vases

Pear

Remote

Meals

Sunday breakfast

Salad

Breakfast bowl

Place setting

Cloth Napkin

Flowers

Sunflower

Globe Thistle

Did you know that Globe Thistle are made up of multiple tiny five petal flowers, like tiny stars? One of my favorite flowers and I never looked so closely at them until I tried to draw one.

Bee Balm

Another favorite flower whose petals sparked an idea in my head for an art doll.

Until my next post,

A bientot.


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Summer’s Bounty

With the heat of the past few weeks, our veggie garden is producing lots of yummy goodies.

First up, the ever popular grape tomatoes:

This is a rather standard variety. It isn’t too bad. Our favorites are an heirloom orange-skinned grape tomato. I don’t remember the name but I recognize it when I see it. Unfortunately, because it is an heirloom plant, it can be hard to find at the local nurseries. It is sweet and delish!

In the spring we had another favorite: asparagus! The last couple seasons we’ve had to deal with asparagus beetles. Nasty little buggers that like to nibble the tips and stalk of asparagus. I know, they don’t eat much. But when there are multiples of them…yuck. By now, the asparagus is past its prime. Which means we have an asparagus forest in our garden now.

Asparagus Forest

Love the ferns. We’ll cut these down later this summer. For now they’re pretty to watch as they sway in the breeze.

I also tried some new items in the garden this year: Swiss Chard and eggplant.

Swiss Chard is great. You can steam it, saute it. It makes a great substitute for spinach. And it lasts much longer in the garden than spinach (a cool weather green.)

This is the rainbow variety. I bought it in a six-cell pack, popped it in the garden, and have been enjoying it for several weeks. We also had red leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce. Those are cool weather plants which have since been consumed (and/or shared with friends.)

The eggplants are my experiment. I’m not sure when I started eating eggplant. Its only been the last year or two. When I saw the starter plant at the farm stand, I decided to give it a try. Eggplant is a warm weather plant. Some varieties can take up to 90 days to mature!

The recent heatwave has caused a profusion of eggplant to burst forth from our garden.

Young eggplant

Hiding eggplant

Because of the weight of the eggplants, I had to stake each plant, otherwise the entire plant was starting to face plant in the dirt. Sadly, one of the eggplant branches snapped and started peeling away from the main plant. That meant I had to remove a rather large eggplant and cut off the branch. The eggplant wasn’t ready for prime time. Its skin was quite soft; definitely underripe.

However, I was amused to see its ‘face’ when I turned it over. I dubbed it One-Eye before dumping it in the compost bin.

One Eye Eggplant

Though we have a fence around our veggie garden to keep out the deer, it hasn’t stopped a chipmunk or two from making themselves at home inside the garden. Along with the plants above, I also planted cauliflower and broccoli. The cauliflower never saw the light of summer as either Dale or Chip (or both) made short order of the cauliflower plant. One of the baby plants was literally ripped out of the veggie bed. The rest were chewed and stripped of their leaves.

Then D & C went after the broccoli, annihilating three of those plants too. They saved three others for us, except for several side leaves on the broccoli plants. And the other day, the little invaders were generous enough to only eat two large tomatoes and save two for us. Glad their mum told them about sharing the garden’s summer bounty.


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Dim Sum and Inspiration in Chinatown

Today we visited Chinatown for Dim Sum. We have never enjoyed the experience of authentic Dim Sum before this adventure. I try to eat a vegetarian diet, yet today, with an adventurous spirit, I knew sticking to that diet may not be possible.

If you’re not familiar with Dim Sum, it is the Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. The servers pass by your table with carts of food. They explain, as best as possible, each food item and then you choose if you want to give it a go. When you are served a dish, the server puts a small stamp on your sales slip. The stamp tells them what food item you purchased. Essentially, you run a tab that is tallied when you’ve finally had your fill of Dim Sum and then you pay your bill.

Dim Sum is very popular on Sunday. We arrived around 10am and were seated promptly. If you arrive closer to noon time, you may find yourself waiting in line for a table.

Busy Dim Sum Dining

We started with two varieties of shu mai, red bean buns (my all time favorite), and a couple more shrimp dishes.

Shrimp Shu Mai

Then things got interesting. We saw the ever popular chicken feet, were offered ribs, beef items, meatballs, sausage, and a watermelon drink with tofu and honey (if I understood the explanation correctly.) We passed on the beef and other meaty items and stuck with veggie, shrimp, and tofu options. Boring to some, perhaps. It was also fun to look at other diner’s tables and see what they were ordering.

Dim Sum Cart (egg rolls, BBQ buns)

Dim Sum Cart with steamers

After about an hour or so we all started to slow down on the grazing. A server came by with a cart of colorful looking buns. We thought she said the one bun had seaweed inside. Yum. I like seaweed. Sure, let’s try those.

Eric passed the plate over to me…with three large, round, green balls on it.

Mystery Balls

Hmm, okay. As we joked about the green balls, the manager came over and explained what we had in front of us. The balls contained a filling from the durian fruit. Durian is the “king of fruit” in Asia. However, it is also a rather stinky fruit even though it contains a creamy interior.

Well, if I wasn’t going to eat chicken feet, I guess this item would be my culinary adventure.

Inside the Green Balls

Yes, it was a bright nuclear green inside, which made us laugh even more. However, the taste was rather, uhm, tasteless. I could detect a faint scent; not exactly noxious but not overly pleasant either. (I’ve since read that the stinky smell tends to dissipate by the time the durian fruit arrives in the US.)

We each tried a piece and joked about glowing later on.

Inspiration in a Chinese Grocery Store

With full bellies, we left the restaurant still talking about our experience and ventured into the shopping area of Chinatown. Here were more restaurants, bakeries, shops, and grocers.

I’ve been into a couple local Chinese grocery stores in my neck of the woods but nothing like the one Ken took us to in Chinatown.

When we entered the store, we were greeted with the smell of fresh seafood. In tanks there were eels, carp, crabs, and other critters. In the meat case were cleaned, fresh chicken, chicken feet, duck, and other items. (I glanced at both of these cases and passed them quickly.)

And then we came to the produce area. Oh.My.Goodness. Here were vibrant eggplants, squash, and huge daikon radish. So much inspiration in the colors and textures of these food items. First, the durian fruit which filled the green bun that we had at Dim Sum.

Durian Fruit

The Durian fruit has a spiky exterior which was sharp to the touch. In this picture, the spikes look like a mass of tiny bird beaks, pencil tips…or a bunch of nipples.

Beautiful pink fruit

We didn’t get the name of the fruit shown above. It was shaped like a tear drop with these soft pink with green tipped petals. If you recognize this fruit and know its name, please let me know.

Chinese Spring Squash

Chinese Okra

I love this okra’s bent and twisted character. It has a slightly nubby texture with little ridges. It looked rather sensual laying there.

Mystery Veggie

I’m not sure of the name of the veggie pictured above. Perhaps a type of cucumber or squash? It also had a wonderful skin with ridges and bumps in the crevices. Any ideas what this might be called?

Green Onion Root

I loved the textural effect that happened with this stack of green onions. The root ends draped over the edge of the produce display like a little forest of whiskers.

Chinese Long Green Beans

Finally, I was quite taken with these Chinese long green beans. And they were long; a good 16″ at least. Laying in bundles they reminded me of long, luscious fingers longing to stroke your hand.

Thanks to Ken and Verjik for a great time in Chinatown.

Eric, Ken, Verjik

Eric and I

Capturing My Shadow

As I lowered my cell phone with the camera still turned on, I caught a glimpse of my shadow in front of me through the camera lens. This made me giddy like a little kid. There in front of me, my elusive shadow. I remembered how we’d try to catch our shadows as kids. And there it was. Unaware.

I snapped this picture.

Finally I gotcha!

Me and My Shadow


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Summer Salad Recipe

To me, preparing, cooking and serving food is another form of creativity. I think it starts when we are kids. How many times were you told to stop playing with your food as a child? Were you really playing with your food or being creative with it? Like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” when he starts building a mountain with his mashed potatoes. Wasn’t he just being creative?

Anyways, a while back I brought home a tasty salad from Debra’s Natural Gourmet. The ingredients were simple enough and using my creative skills, I gave a go at recreating the salad. It turned out pretty good and I thought you might enjoy it as well.

Marinated Artichokes, Chickpeas, and Cheddar Salad

NOTE: The ingredient measurements are guesstimates. I was not very exact in my re-creation of this salad and made it mostly to taste. Please adjust to your tastes accordingly.

Marinated artichokes-1 jar (6.5oz), drained rinsed, chopped
Chickpeas-1 can (15 oz) drained and rinsed
Peas-1 10 oz pkg frozen, thawed in the refrigerator (suggestion-use 1 cup unless you really like peas)
Cheddar cheese (small cubes) 1/3-1/2 c
Parsley (curly or flat leaf, your choice) 1/4 c chopped
Fresh lemon juice 1/2 c or to taste
Olive oil 1/4-1/3 c
Garlic 1 large clove chopped fine or to taste
Herbs du Provence 1/2 t to 1 T to taste
Sea salt to taste

Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the lemon, garlic, herbs de Provence and sea salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies.

Pour the lemon and oil mixture over the artichoke, peas, cheese and parsley mix and gently stir.

Voila! Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Serve with whole grain crusty bread, your favorite bread, or pita.

Bon Appetite!

Marinated Artichoke, Chickpeas & Cheddar Salad


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Synergy2-The Banquet

In 2008 I missed the Synergy banquet due to illness. I vowed that would not happen this time around. This final post features pictures taken on the night of the closing banquet.

Before we sat down for the keynote, dinner and the auction, everyone gathered for drinks, a book signing, and conversation.

Socializing

Janice Abaranel and Sandra McCaw

Libby Mills and Karen Ottenbreit

Quassia, Diane, and Helen (CT Guild)

Libby, Janice, and Me

Dayle Doroshow and Carolyn Skei

Even the Food was Artsy

Around 6:30 the doors opened to the “Mirror Room” for the final event.

Lisa Pavelka introduced the IPCA’s secret handshake:

On one side of the banquet room:

All Eyes on the Head Table

And the other side of the banquet room:

Alison Lee of Craftcast was our keynote speaker. Alison shared one of her favorite books, Mike and His Steam Shovel as a reminder to take on a challenge, to think creatively, and develop alternate solutions. (This also brought back memories of watching Captain Kangaroo and listening as he read this story.)

The banquet ended with Tracy Holmes leading a rousing auction of wonderful polymer artwork.

Synergy2 attracted over 175 attendees representing several countries including:

  • The United States
  • Canada
  • The United Kingdom
  • The Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Israel
  • The Czech Republic
  • Germany

New friendships were formed and old friendships were reestablished. Synergy2 truly represented its theme of Exploring Connections.

For more thoughts on Synergy2, visit these blogs:

Iris Misly at Polymeri Online

Janice Abarbanel at Exploring the Art of Polymer Clay

Susan Lumoto at Daily Art Muse


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Sunshine on a Plate

As creative types we are usually open to trying new things and taking a risk here and there. And that tendency includes cooking and/or eating new and different foods.

One food that I’ve never been fond of is beets. My only experience with beets was limited to the kind you get in a can; all purpley -red and tasting, well, awful. And the smell…fuhgedahboutit. One tiny bite of that variety as a kid and I swore off beets for the rest of my life. Blech!

Then, a few years ago some friends served beets at a gathering. Yes, these were the red beets that make me flashback to the stuff in a can. However, the difference, the BIG difference, is that these were fresh beets from their garden. And they were prepared with a creamy dressing.

I was pleasantly surprised. Could beets really taste this good? Apparently so, if you use fresh beets.

On our last day in the workshop in France, Dayle bought a fresh beet salad to go with our lunch. This beet salad had vibrant red beets, cut into small cubes, and prepared with a light dressing. Again, I was amazed at how good beets tasted when prepared well. (Of course, just about anything you eat in France tastes good; even the not so great stuff still tastes pretty good.)

When the Boston Globe food section recently featured a recipe for beets, I knew I had to try it.

When I tweeted that I planned to make a new dish for dinner using yellow beets, the comments ranged from a quote from “The Office” suggesting I grow candy (“something that everybody likes”), to a fellow Tweeter sharing how she prepares beets (steamed with a light, oriental style vinaigrette), to another Tweeter referring to yellow beets as “sunshine on a plate.”

Hence the name of this post.

So, if you’re feeling creative and up to trying something new, here is the recipe for “Sunshine on a Plate,” otherwise known as

Beets in Creamy Horseradish Dressing

1 bunch red or yellow or orange beets (about 1 1/2lbs)
1 T prepared white horseradish
1 T mayonnaise
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t white vinegar
salt & pepper

Cut off the leaves, stems and ends of the beets. In a pan, cover the beets with water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer 30-45 minutes or until the beets are tender and easily pierced with a skewer.

While the beets cook, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the beets.

Drain beets in a colander under cold, running water. Let drain. When cool enough so you can handle the beets, remove the skins from the beets. Cut beets into 1/2″ to 1″ cubes and toss in bowl with the horseradish mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Served chilled or at room temperature.

This dish goes well with fish. I served the beets with red snapper and sliced baguette.

Beets in Creamy Horseradish Dressing

Beets in Creamy Horseradish Dressing

And thanks to wvclaylady on Twitter for the inspiration for this post.


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Day 27

number27-1

Today marks Day 27 of my 37 Day Challenge. I can’t believe there are only 10 more days left. They say it takes about 21 days for a new routine or task to become habit. While I’m not sure if my decreased intake of sugar, especially chocolate, can be called a habit yet, I do find myself making better choices and not denying myself something sweet if I want it.

The big difference is I’m not going for the cookies immediately after lunch. If I feel full after my meal, I stop there and may grab a small snack later in the afternoon. We still have cookies in the house. I don’t believe in a complete ban on them. I just bought two varieties: ginger snaps and chocolate striped. I loved those chocolate striped cookies as a kid.  They’re especially tasty if you keep them in the refrigerator.

I did have a piece of Dove dark chocolate the other day after lunch. It was the first piece of dark chocolate candy I’ve had since starting this challenge. The little voice in my head said, “oh go ahead, one piece will be okay; just make sure it is only one piece.” And it was okay. I didn’t turn into a pillar of sugar and fall apart. Probably the strongest craving I’ve in recent days was for a Dairy Queen ice cream cone. It was chilly and rainy the day this craving hit and certainly not conducive to eating ice cream.  Mother Nature was on my side that day!

With the emergence of spring and warmer weather, I look forward to eating more veggies and fruit. I spied some aspargus shoots in our veggie garden today. Our bodies seem to crave warmer, heavier foods in the winter which, while comforting, tend to reveal themselves on the scale in the morning. Have you ever tried to follow a diet based on foods of the season?

Patti recently posted links to several participants in the 37 Day Challenge. You’ll find the post here. People are challenging themselves to make a variety of small changes from decluttering to walking to engaging in some form of exercise each day to writing each day. It is intriguing to learn what a person chooses as their challenge, why, and how they are progressing and perhaps even changing along the way.

What small change will you make?


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Day 18

number18-11

Wow! Can it be that I’ve reached the almost half way point (18.5 days really) in the 37 Day challenge?

Would you believe I had to count on the calendar to find the half way point? Seriously; the first few days were hard and now it seems that the days are just moving along. I realized I needed to find the half way point and check in.

If you’re just joining us, I’ll briefly explain what this is all about. Patti Digh put forth a challenge to her blog readers to participate in a 37 Day challenge. A challenge to do one small thing for 37 days; something small, doable, actionable.  And the only person your responsible to is yourself.

My challenge is to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet, especially chocolate.

The first few days felt like deprivation because I love chocolate. At one point I even stuck my nose in the candy jar just to inhale the scent of chocolate. Ironically, the next day I read about a guy who has invented a “chocolate inhaler”called Le Whif.

I’ve faced a few challenges during this time: a friend’s birthday party, Easter, dessert indulgences when dining out (why must the French be so good at making desserts?)

I find that my challenge is all about making good decisions.  I know that chocolate and sugar are my Achilles heel. Challenging myself to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet is a way to eat even healthier and to make healthier choices.

During this time my friend Judy has embarked on her own challenge to be “fit by 50″ through diet and exercise. You can read her story here. Through her I found SparkPeople, a website that lets you track your food choices and exercise schedule. Though this challenge isn’t about doing multiple things at once, it has prompted me to engage in a little more exercise. This is not to say that exercise is my substitute for consuming sugar. It is to say that by becoming a little more conscious of my food choices, I find that I’m slowly getting back into exercise.

Therefore this challenge has created two positive outcomes: healthier food choices and exercise.

Not bad for only 18 days.

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