Sunday

Winding down the year......

2013 has not been one of my favorite years for several reasons and I know a handful of people who would agree. 
It's been a year of personal lessons and loss and although I have grown, it hasn't been easy with all of the transitions. 
2013 has been a year when I've come to realize my own strengths as well as those around me:
children, siblings, parents....
  Sometimes it takes circumstances that literally knock us to our knees to see
who we are,
what we are made of
and
what we can become.


I lost a brother this year. 
He was my littlest brother.
My sweet, little Jack. 
He came into the world with some challenges......
a heart condition from birth. 
This made his life a bit more difficult than most. 
As he grew into an adult he had even more challenges.
 
As a family, we placed him in hospice in September
hoping for the best
but
realizing the worse. 
Jack passed away surrounded by family on October 4, 2013. 
 
On the morning of October 4th,
I knew that this was his last day.
When I received a text from my other brother, Joe stating
"it's getting close"
I felt compelled to go sit on these stairs,
and wait until I heard more. 
 
That place was here.
If this looks familiar to you it's because I used
this picture before in my blog. 
This is  Lake Michigan, near my home.
It was on these steps that I sat
and
 
I waited  
 
until Jack died.
 
I didn't know why I chose this place until days later. 
After I heard he was gone I just sat there watching the waves in silence thinking about our lives together.   
A tiny, white butterfly flew toward me, flittered around my head then away. 
As I watched the butterfly, I thought that is a symbol for Jack.
 
I called my daughters, Allie and Sophie to let them know.
 
Sophie was at school.  It hasn't been an easy year for her and although I want to shield and protect
every little part of her, I had to give the news when it happened.
It was only right.
 
That afternoon I picked her up from school and I told her about going to Lake Michigan
when Jack passed and about the butterfly. 
 
When we came home there were dozens of small,
white butterflies in the back yard.
Tiny, white angels.
 
 
 
Earlier, I mentioned that I didn't know why I went to the stairs. 
 
Last November 6, 2012
I wrote a post called
"Stairways, Paths and Embracing Change." 
I quote from the post:
 

"The stairs represent transition – a way of getting from one stage to another.  I (personally) often stumble on stairs.  I’ve even broken my foot falling down stairs and I’ve been known to trip up them as well.  A “stair” can take us from one plane to another.  It’s symbolic – they can bring us higher to our destiny or lower to our destination.  It seems my norm is to stumble when making the transition."

I've often referred to death as "transition."
But it's important to note the date of the post.
November 6th was Jack's birthday. 

Thank you, little brother, for bringing me comfort when I need it.
I will always love you, remember you and cherish the time we had together.

To all....
Happy Holidays.
Keep those important to you close. 
Be present.
Be kind.
Cherish life. 

  
 
 
 
 
 .
 
 

 

Time to give back.........

 
 
Aren't they precious?
Yes, they are.
Each one of these children are orphaned. They live in an orphanage in Pokhara Nepal.
I've been intensely interested in doing a family volunteer vacation for about 5 years now. I've researched, signed up on websites and spoken with organizations.
Do you know that you have to pay to volunteer?
At first, it didn't make sense to me.
When you volunteer, they are feeding you, housing you......etc.
So there are some expenses.

It takes money.

Something caught my eye yesterday when I was doing my usual internet "stuff".
The word - "crowdfunding" came up.
I looked it up.
Hmm....now I might be able to do what I want to do on my next "vacation"
VOLUNTEER!
Gofundme.com is a way to raise the funds you need to do what you want.
Well, what I really want to do is volunteer somewhere - help small children and make a difference.

Sophie (my daughter) is 16.
She is excellent with children and very interested in volunteering over our winter vacation.
I've gotten permission from The Love Company Orphanage for her to volunteer as well.
I have long been an advocate for volunteering and philanthropy work.
Even when I was growing up, my mother taught me to give to those less fortunate.
I remember cooking an extra turkey, dressing and dessert and taking it
"across the tracks" when I was a young girl to help out
others who couldn't afford a Thanksgiving dinner.

Lesson learned?

No matter how misfortunate you may feel at times, there is always someone making do with less.
I passed along what my mother passed along to me
to my daughters.
Before Allie (my oldest) was a year old, her father and I would make sack lunches on Easter Sunday
then drive downtown to lower Wacker Drive where people were living in boxes.
We'd call individuals to our car and I was sitting the backseat with Allie.  The sack lunch was in her lap and she would hand it to me to give.

In the past several years while on road trips with my girls, we would often pay the toll for the car behind us.
I believe that kindness and compassion is something that can be taught. I make a point to teach my children to always help the elderly, a child or anyone in need.

Some places have a real sense of community and it's easier to do.
I recently visited
New Orleans and I'm always amazed at their sense of community.
People just start random conversations and it's so nice to connect.
I think that is harder to do in other places in the U.S.

Sometimes in our lives we are "made" to become more compassionate due to circumstances beyond our control.
It's easy to pass judgement on someone when you haven't walked in
their shoes.

So, now I am looking forward to volunteering in Nepal with my Sophie.
It's not easy to see how others live and not be affected.
Sophie has always had a very tender heart.
Even when she was little, other children
gravitated to her for comfort.
I know she will be changed by this experience and so will I.

Please, if you can, help the cause.

:)
 

Saturday

Weathered

I've been a bit silent for the past (well 4 months to be exact). Life has been busy for me and I've spent more time in quietness than anything else. I guess some would call this a 'hiatus'. Yes, that's what it has been, a hiatus.

hi·a·tus


[hahy-ey-tuhs] Show IPA

noun, plural hi·a·tus·es, hi·a·tus.
1.
a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.


I've had an interruption in the continuity of work.

This has made room for other types of work to be born and developed. The above is called "Weathered". It's tiny. Very small pieces of torn canvas...painted....sewn and shredded.



The weathered theme seems appropriate at this point. Softly worn, over time, there seems to be a wiseness about anything weathered. Take a piece of furniture you find thrifting or at a garage or estate sale. It has a story, a history and it speaks quietly. I have many pieces in my home that have come from estate sales. I always ask about the owner, who was he/she? What did they do? My dining room table is a beautiful curly wood maple/pecan table with six chairs. The table is exquisite. When I asked about the owner, I was told that the piece belonged to a "self made millionaire". I liked the sound of that.



My hiatus will last a bit longer.....probably another 6 months. Then I will be back in rare form, but now is the time to take a break to focus on observation, rest, renewal and storing energy for the next creative process.



Stay tuned.......I'm not gone.....just hibernating.

Sunday

People!.....It's time for a recipe


I bought a mango and an avocado along with some scallions and some fresh herbs for the kitchen.  The herbs consisted of the usual standbys:  basil, rosemary and tarragon.  I added a few more: chocolate mint and grapefruit mint. 

1 mango - peeled and cubed
1/2 avocado cubed
1/2 cup onion scallions (I got these from the local Asian market)
3 leaves of grapefruit-mint
4 boiled shrimp chopped into bite-size pieces
1/4  cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. sugar
Potsticker wrapper fried in 1 tbsp. coconut oil sprinkle with a touch of sea salt...less is more.

Cube the mango, avocado and cut up the shrimp, put in a bowl and add the scallions and grapefruit mint.  Mix up the soy/water/sugar and pour over the mixture. 
Take the Gyoza/potsticker wrapper and cut in half, then cut in half again.  Fry in a tbsp. of coconut oil until brown. 

I use a "form" to get a stacked look.  I took a can (I think it had water chestnuts), cut the bottom and top off, washed it off and was good to go.  Take your form, put it on a plate then fill it with the mango/avocado mixture.  Top it off with the fried wrapper. 



This is absolutely amazing!  An excellent start to any dinner!

On another note, although my trip to Austin, I initially had some trepidation (due to the health conditions of my parents) it was by far one of my best trips.  Both parents are doing well.....very well. 

Life......is......good!

Friday

Grandfathers.......and their place...........

I would love to blog about the latest recipe or the most fantastic trip I just took, but sometimes you just have to write what is real and true. 


My apologies to anyone if this is too real.............but

Like most of you, I had two grandfathers growing up.  The first,  my dad's dad who died right before he died.  Which was ridiculously early!

The second.....my grandmother's husband  (my mother's father died long before)....... George Conklin.... a kind, military, strict kind of grandfather...a bit removed....but kind.

I don't remember being close to either one.  Partly due to an early death and partly due to a lack of relationship.  I mean......what more can you say?  

Allie (my daughter) has a very strong connection to her Papa. I personally have lived vicarously through this relationship.    It's one of the sweetest relationships I've ever watched.  He's getting up there in age.....but takes time to call her and check in.  I love this about their connection.... he's involved.

My stepdad (Tony) also has a strong connection with his grandchildren.....but he's losing it.  He has early alzheimers.  This is our first trip to Austin that I really question if he will recognize us.   It saddens me beyond belief that the man I have called my dad most of my life is losing his memory.

When he sees Allie and Sophie, will he recognize them?

We've all (Allie, Sophie and I) been thinking about the trip. It's heavier than in  times past.  Usually we gear up, head towards Texas and "yee-haw"it  (Sophie-style) all the way there. 

Aging is a bitch.  I mean really it can't be described as anything else.  It's a cold, hard bitch!  

I think it's more difficult to watch your children watch their grandparents age more than it is to witness your own parents slowly dimming the light.



Wednesday

Process

proc·ess

[pros-es; especially British proh-ses] Show IPA noun, plural proc·ess·es [pros-es-iz, uh-siz, uh-seez or, esp. British, proh-ses‐, proh-suh] Show IPA , verb, adjective
noun
1.  a systematic series of actions directed to some end:

I tend to delve (as an artist) and look beneath.  I must scrape away at what is there, to find what's underneath....(in my view) the deeper truth.
I search for meaning in what I do....it's not just the act of painting - it's Why this?  Why now? And what is the message am I trying to convey?
 
This mirrors my (day job)  as a headhunter as well.  I interview most of my days away, asking question after question.  When I hit an area that needs more digging......I dig deeper. 
I usually do get to the bottom of things.

That's my "process".  
I'm not the slip-on-the-surface kind of girl. 
I do know that annoys some people and I am okay with that. 
It takes all kinds, right? 
 
 
These are  "grounding rods." 

That's what I call them.
I've been working on my "process" with this medium about 15 months now. 
Everything in the piece is recycled. 
I've taken clothing that has outlived their
usefulness and cut or torn into strips and wrapped them around a tube.   
As with any artist in perfecting a process, I've tried many different
techniques. 
 
This piece sold at the show within the first hour of the show. 
It was one of the first groupings I put together.
After receiving such a positive response,
I took the idea and process back into my studio and worked on it.
 
If you haven't noticed,
it's circles
(again).
The tubes are really just elongated circles and
I spend my time winding
around
and
around
connecting one end to the other.
Unifying.
 
This shot is the show I was in.....the woman in the photo is reading this:
 
“The Rag Trade” is a journey;
a process of unraveling, disassembling and redefining textiles into an ‘upcycled’ afterlife.
It is a global piece to which nature - plants, animals, and minerals - have contributed their beauty.
A comprehensive collaboration of countries and people have participated in the spinning, weaving, cutting, winding, and spooling of these fabrics, producing a creation as complex as the world around us.
 
This was my artist statement. 
 
The connection of one to all.
 
This has led me to believe that
my
process
is not only
bringing
me
full
circle
but it's
bringing
everyone
else along too.
 

Sunday

Moving forward - looking back

I used to sell my art on ebay. 
Now I have a website and am celebrating my 1 year anniversary with etsy.

 

Like many artists, since I don't have an agent, I'm in the business of  self promotion. 
These days you can pretty much do anything with a camera,
a little creativity
and
the internet. 
I (personally) am simply amazed at all of the talented people out there! 
I scour page after page - creativity abounds. 
 
I predict a return to a simpler time. 
Don't worry, we will still have the internet, drive our cars and use electricity. 
I'm talking more about a spot for artists again. 
A world where there is
less of the
mass produced
and more of the
past produced. 
 
Years ago, we made the things that we needed daily. 
We grew cotton, spun it, then made our clothing, we grew our food, we milked our cows, then churned our butter, we 'fashioned' our furniture....

As I write, this is the image I just conjured up for myself.....

I never noticed it before but check out "Corn Flakes" getting in on some of the action!

Back to my point, Granny made her own soap, cooked from scratch, had a few
chickens and hog or two.....
 
So past producers would be...
soap makers
millineries
potters
pattern makers
streamstresses
furniture makers
tallow chandlers
(also known as a
candle maker.) 
Think about your worth in the 1800's as a tallow chandler, my goodness you provided light!

 
When I was about 9 or 10, my mother gave me a book that was written in the late 1800's.
The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
it was written by Margaret Sidney. 
While I wasn't a terribly studious child, I did like to read. 
Reading has always been my great escape.
This particular book is 
 about the lives of the five children who were born into poverty in a rural "little brown house."
A simpler time. 
I probably read it a dozen times when I was small. 
The book was such an important part of my childhood that
I sought out a vintage copy of my own as an adult. 
The book was full of tales of the little Pepper children - a simpler time.  The stories were how they managed to get food, mend their clothing, etc.  It was basically how a mother and small children worked together to survive. 
I still have visual images that I conjured up as a child while reading these stories. 
 
I believe my mother gave this book to me so that I knew there were others who had gone or were going through similar circumstances....poverty.   
We were poor.
We didn't look poor.
I didn't realize until a few years ago while spending time with some old classmates that others didn't
have a clue as to how 'poor' I was....to me it was so obvious,
to them....
not so much!
 
Here's a shot of my family when I was about 9 or 10.  That's me on the far left.  The little guy right in front wasn't a sibling, but my cousin, Jonathan.
To the right is my brother, Joe, Jack and little sister, Kim. 
circa 1968/69'ish
 
During this time I was reading TFLPaHTG,
I was also at the age where "playing house"
brought a great deal of enjoyment. 

My (play) house was a chicken coop! 
 
That's right, it had excellent cross ventilation,
a 'natural' dirt floor
and built in furniture. 
I swept that floor until it was down to the dirt, the hard, clean dirt.
I would have company in the way of my little brothers and sister. 
We would drink cold water and sit on the floor.  There was a lot of knocking on the door and coming in, going out, then knocking on the door and coming in, then going out.....what is it about that ritual when you are little?
 
Life was good,
Life was simple.
Back to my prediction....
When I make a purchase on a site like etsy, I can view a shot of the person who made the object.  I might get a little history, "artist process" and where in the world they reside.
I don't just purchase a product,
I purchase a story. 
I purchase a piece of someone else.

I made it a point to purchase most of my gifts from several artists this year or I personally made the gifts I gave. 
This held great satisfaction in doing so. 
It was a very personal Christmas for me. 

As we begin 2013, I am making a committment to make more of what I need on a daily basis:

soap
candles
plates
bowls
cups
art

I am also encouraging all of you DIY'ers to do the same. 

Cheers!
 
 

Wednesday

Being American and the art of overdoing!

I know November's posts were a little dark and sad.  You all know by now that November is a tough month for me in general.  One of my daughter's jokingly referred to my blog as "deaddaddyblog.com"  I love her humor. 
You just gotta laugh!
 
 
Well, now we enter December.....ahhh....the month of sparkling lights, pine scented candles and celebrations of all kinds all over the world. 
 
We get time off and can now relax!
 
I have come to realize there is an art to relaxing.

It's a process.....

Clearing personal space.

Putting up your feet

and

melting

Simply taking time.

I saw on the news the other day that "Americans" don't take all of their vacation time. The U.S. has less time off than most other countries to begin with and we are refusing the full two weeks.

Interesting. 

Other countries know the value of relaxing and revitalizing. France gives 30 days vacation a year as does Spain, Denmark, Brazil and Germany. We are at the bottom of the list giving 14 days. Only Japan and South Korea gave less at 11 and 10 (respectively). 

 We should also note that Americans represent 5% of the world's population, yet we are the sickest in the world. 
We consume 50 - 60% of the world's manufactured drugs. 
I do believe there are many factors playing into this, but one for sure is our inability to
relax.
 

For me, relaxing is being able to do whatever or not do whatever whenever I want.

To cease "do-ing".

But so many times just as I am about to "relax" things like "the dishes are waiting," "the floors are waiting," "the laundry is waiting"......everything that is inanimate seems to come alive, miraculously gets a voice and starts making demands.

They beckon me to animate them.

 

 
 
vacation
time off
getting away
retreats
solitude
checking out
downtime
 
Every culture has a way to deal with this.  In the Japanese culture, it's "Wabi-Sabi" which centers on finding beauty in the simple things.  It's the process of letting go of having a perfect house and embracing nature and simple imperfections. 


Wabi-Sabi.
 
I embrace dust bunnies and dirty dishes.....
 
Wabi-Sabi.

The Italians also have a saying for something similar
 
 "dolce fare niente"
The sweetness of doing nothing.

Others find good use of downtime:
 
 The Finnish hit the sauna
India's culture is fond of head massages
Africans favor drumming
and
Aussies enjoy outdoor meals
 
heat
touch
sound
taste

However you get that time and whatever you do to bring a sense of peace to your soul,

Find
it
this
holiday
season.


Peace to everyone this season, take time and relax.

 
 

Thursday

Gratitude

 
In 2003 my heart went into "arrhythmia" it was an accelerated, irregular heartbeat.  I wasn't alone at the time, yet I drove myself to the hospital.  I think the best way to describe this was there was a lack of commitment in the room - my room.  
A lack of commitment to humanity (basically).  So despite the fact that I had someone with me, when my heart went haywire....I was alone. 
Duly noted. 
 
I walked into the hospital ER and told the nearest doctor that my heart was beating very fast and irregular.  I was met with people who were committed (fortunately!) I was immediately put in a hospital bed in the ER and hooked up to the right kind of machinery. 
They stood by me.
 
As I was laying there, I witnessed an argument between the nurse and doctor on the amount of whatever drug they needed to administer to slow down my heart rate.  The nurse was more conservative and she stood her ground....to me....she seemed committed.  The doctor argued for the larger  amount and ultimately won. 
The nurse, not happy, then left the room.  The doctor stayed to the right of my bed and munched on a green apple as he watched my heart rate on the monitor. 
 
The drugs entered my system through an IV and I felt immediately better.....heart rate coming down, slower and slower, breathing normal....this felt good.  Ahhhhh.
 
Uh-oh!
At some point it dipped past a point that even I thought...hmmmm...this seems too sllloooooooowwwww and I  started to "white" out. 
I didn't black out - I was completely aware of everything around me.  It was a very beautiful soft white all around me.  At that point,  all I could think of were two people:  Allie and Sophie.
"I can't leave" and then I had grayed out images of my own childhoodmixedwithmychildren'schildhoodimagesandIfelt
They were being cheated. 
 
There....I was back.
The next scene was a combination of being out of my body and looking down, yet
simultaneously being completely present feeling a hit to my chest.  I kid you not.....just like in the movies!!
I opened my eyes and (quite honestly) things felt a bit surreal.  My chest stung because I had just been hit with a man's fist
 smack-dab
 in the middle of  my heart and to the left of my bed on the floor was an apple rolling around. 
beep...beep...beep
I laid there for a bit.  It was just me, the doctor and the apple.
Then at some point I asked him if he had hit me in the chest and he admitted doing so.  
The apple was still rolling and I was thinking..the nurse was right. 
 
My mother's father (my grandfather) died of an enlarged heart.  To me that sounds so magnanimous....you are so giving, kind and full of love that your heart is so large.....it's too large and pfffttttt!  then you die. 
 
She's often spoken about his "rattled breathing" and how difficult it was to watch a young man die in her house.  I think he was 40.
 
My mother has had several surgeries on her own heart - you know, the usual type of surgeries. -blocked arteries..... 
 
I (personally) know that my heart is healthy.  I don't believe in the whole prior history theory - just because someone else in my family has "this or that" that I am going to.   I choose my own history and whether or not I want to have heart disease or anything else for that matter.    
 
I don't have heart disease, but I do  have heart "issues".  Those that can be best described as "heartbreak" from a very early time.....father dying at 8...blah, blah, blah.  There is a term for this... Takotsubo cardiomyopathy" - broken heart syndrome. 
 
To back up, I was going through a divorce when my heart did this.  I was devastated by the divorce - shocked, surprised, angry and mad.  So my initial "heart issue" was a divorce issue, a failure/rejection type of issue.  The fact that I hadn't surrounded myself with friends that weren't committed enough to get me to the hospital saddened (or compounded this) even more. 
 
I learned very recently that when my dad died my mother burned everything he wore.  Shoes, ties.... everything.  My 85 year old mother said, "I couldn't bear the thought of anyone else wearing his clothing so I took out to the back, put it in a barrel and burned it all."   The image of this is extremely sad to me.  Also...I so would have worn this tie if I could!
 
I was 8 when he died and I took care of my mother during her grief stricken period.  I learned to make a really good cup of coffee and a sandwich that could sustain her for another day.  She used to say "it tastes so much better when you make it."
 
My mother, at 38 was heartbroken - she had Takotsubo cardiomyopathy and she needed to be taken care of.  I know, I ended that sentence with a preposition,
but isn't your husband being killed in an automobile accident at 36 kind of like ending a life with a preposition?
 
At 8, I became a very sensitive, care taking child.  I experienced a woman's pain of losing her husband and at the same time I was a child experiencing a very similar pain.
 
My mother often speaks of regret about my childhood.  She says she placed too much responsibility on me. Yet, I never, ever felt like taking care of my mom during some of her darkest days, making some meals or a pot of coffee or watching after my younger siblings ever, ever felt like too much. 
I was needed.
 
It felt like I was in the place I was supposed to be at the very right moment.  I got a real sense of making a valuable contribution to my family at a very early age. 
 
It's Thanksgiving today. 
I am supposed to feel grateful and thankful at this time of year. 
The month of November is always the hardest time of year for me. 

Yet,
I
 am grateful.
I am grateful for the ability to contribute and care for those left behind and
my heart beats a little bit stronger because of these experiences.
 







 

Wednesday

Circles

I recently
sat down
at a
potter's
wheel
and
"threw"
a pot. 
 
That's
what
they
 call it. 
Throwing.
It was an
entirely new
experience for me. 
My instructor sat to my left at her
wheel
and showed me exactly
how to position my body. 
As she showed me what to do
she used words like
"centering"
and
"opening". 
 
It took strength
and
concentration.
 More than I thought it would
and as I concentrated on keeping this arm here
and that hand there in one single second I had a feeling that I've never, ever
felt in my life. As I was attempting to create a perfect circle using as much muscle,
and as little muscle as possible, I felt in a very short moment  -  present.
This is the only way I can think to describe this.  I was completely present
and being present in that moment concentrating only on this one thing - to
create a perfect circle, I was complete.  In that instant, I looked at my instructor
and said something like, "whoa, this is incredible" and she got it immediately
replying, "yeah, I've had ministers who have taken my class and written sermons
about
   this."  
The
c
i
r
c
l
e
....... 
It
is
 ever
 present in my work (even if I try to make it into a straight line). 
 

When I was 8, my father
died in a car crash.  It was due to a blown out tire.  When I was 50, I had a show
called "Mapping Memories" with a fellow artist, Kevin Lucero Less, a very
talented fellow.   My partner came up with  "Mapping Memories" and we both explored
the map.  "Lucy" (as he likes to be called) explored Memory Territories with a
collection of painted pieces and a video.  His pieces were precise - super precise
like a map.  His video was called "Re-en-act-ment" a touching story about loss. 
The interesting thing is that we didn't talk much about what I was going to
do or what he was going to do for the show.  The 'map' piece seemed to
have it's own agenda and that agenda brought our work together. 
My pieces were tires.  Yeah...big, black circles
that I reworked to re-make my tragic memory into something else.
 
My pieces (in comparison) were messy with dripping paint. 
 
The circle.
It keeps reappearing in my work
and every single time it's like
a
 big
 hug
       when      
   I 
see
it's
arrival 
.
 
 

Sunday

Inspiration

I'm inspired!  I'm inspired by music, weather, good movies, good wine, playing with paint and clay and cooking.
I recently watched Eat, Pray, Love.......again. 

I love this movie. 
It combines so many of my favorites:
travel
spirituality
good food
love.
Plus the soundtrack is amazing.  Neil Young - Harvest Moon - classic!
 
It's Sunday morning and since cooking is my religion ;) I am going to cook several meals to be eaten during the week. 
I arose and was at the grocery store by 7:22 a.m.  The market I go to is an International market and by midday on Sunday it's packed.  So packed that last week I couldn't find a parking spot and had to leave.  I love this market because I can get my usual great fresh produce, but I can also get foods I would not find in my regular corner market. 
Plus.....English is hardly spoken (you hear everything else but!). 
When I arrived, the produce guys were still arranging fruits and veggies. 
 
The meat guys were packaging "fresh" for the day and the fish guys hadn't even begun. 
I needed several things:
  • fresh ricotta cheese
  • really good olive oil
  • small vine ripened tomatos
  • good, strong German coffee
  • half and half
I took my time and snapped some pics along the way.  It was such an 'artsy' way to do my very regular grocery run. 
 
The first thing I did when I got back home was unpack my bag. 
Let's talk about that. 
I made some of these last year to sell at a Holiday Boutique. 
This bag is covered with cut up food boxes - there are some Uno game cards too. 
The bag was then covered with a laminate type film and wah-lah!  Recyled, sturdy and quite a little attention grabber. 
I have so many cashiers ask me - "where did you get that?"
There, I managed to fit in the "recycle"
part into the blog. 
The second thing I did was make a really good, strong cup of coffee then start to work.
First on the list is the Manicotti. 
 
 
I didn't go off of any one else's specific recipe.....it's that cooking by feeling thing I do. 
Here's my recipe (it turned out excellent). 
This is for 6 filled Manicotti
Serves 2 people
 
1/2 cup fresh Ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic - minced
3 small "orange" tomatoes
2 medium sized Campari tomatoes
3 Portobella mushrooms
6 big, fresh basil leaves
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup fresh Parmesan
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
6 Manicotti shells (uncooked)
Salt and Pepper to taste
16 oz. tomato sauce - (I used a bottled sauce for this)
 
Cut the tomatoes, mushrooms and basil and mix in with the ricotta cheese, stirring everything together with a spoon. 
Add the cheeses and seasonings (salt, pepper and nutmeg).
 
 
Line a baking dish with about 8 oz. of your sauce. 
Take a Ziploc or sandwich bag and fill it with the cheese filling.  Snip off a small corner and squeeze the mixture into the uncooked Manicotti shells and place in the sauce. 
This fills approximately 6 shells and fits perfectly in a small glass baking  dish 9x11
Pour the rest of the sauce on top and add some mozzarella cheese.
 
Either cover with tin foil and refrigerate until meal time or preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes. 
Keep covered the first 30 minutes.
Serve hot. 

The secret is the nutmeg.  When you add nutmeg to a dish with ricotta, it's automatically "heaven". 
 I learned this from an Italian chef years ago. 

Monday

Stairways, Paths and Embracing Change


This is Lake Michigan in early November.  The landscape has browned and sky and water intermingle between shades of grayed out blue and grayed out gray.  The seasons start out with such gusto in the beginning.  Bright green leaves change to a crimson yellow or a caramel brown eventually into softer more mellowed shades.   It reminds me of change at any level.  We all start out with a lot of energy and hope at the beginning, then somewhere along the road things mellow and we are somewhere comfortable in the middle. 
 
These stairs led me to the water, the rocks and the wind.  They led me to another world below where boulders were beaten and forced to soften pressured by the waves of the water.   What do you end up with?  Something that is still very strong but the hard edges have been softened.
 
As I walked down the path I noticed even the stairs were weathered in a beautiful way.  They serve their purpose and part of "their process" is to be walked on and trampled a bit. That's what they are there for!  There were places along these stairs that half of the stair was gone yet gently creeping up through some of the destruction was a new flower in it's last bloom.  The space made room for something beautiful to spring up.

 

The stairs represent transition – a way of getting from one stage to another.  I (personally) often stumble on stairs.  I’ve even broken my foot falling down stairs and I’ve been known to trip up them as well.  A “stair” can take us from one plane to another.  It’s symbolic – they can bring us higher to our destiny or lower to our destination.  It seems my norm is to stumble when making the transition.     
Currently, I am entering a new phase of my life.  I can identify with the subtle colors of the landscape as it softens and grays.    I connect with the subtlety of the beauty that surrounds me.  At times my path has been smooth sailing and at others it has felt like a constant uphill climb.  I do believe though, we choose our own paths. 

My path is changing  course - something beautiful is about to spring up.