“Take away this pudding, it has no theme!”

“Take away this pudding, it has no theme!” is attributed to Winston Churchill, who desired his desserts be expressive.

My theme today blends the hope of spring and good health, with the reality of a cold, fall-like day. The wind of dark morning, brightening a bit this afternoon, still blusters and calls for substantial taste and fortifying nurture.

The weather changes daily from winter to spring, winter to summer, then back to winter, temperatures fluctuating wildly, to say nothing of wardrobes. I start the day in flip-flops and end it in boots–I wake up today on May 11th craving Butternut Squash Soup!

So it is! I research a googled list of recipes, choose what appeals to me from each one, complete my project before 8:30, and now a pot of soul satisfying goodness simmers on my stove.

Cheryl’s Recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

4 – 6 cups Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (2 medium butternut squash)
1 large sweet Onion
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and sliced in thick chunks
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Ground Pepper
1 -2 cups Vegetable Broth
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
1 cup Evaporated Milk (see variations below)
Touch of Honey — Optional
Touch of Cayenne — Optional

Variations:
Add or substitute any or all of the following, to taste.

1 medium Granny Smith Apple
1/2 cup diced Carrots
1/2 inch piece fresh Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Season with Dried, toasted Coriander, to taste
Simmer with a couple fresh Sage Leaves

May substitute Almond Milk or Coconut Milk for the Evaporated Milk

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In large mixing bowl, combine squash cubes, thick onion sections, garlic chunks, sea salt and ground pepper.

Add olive oil to coat everything well. Mix thoroughly.
Spread in roasting pan (I always cover pan with tin foil for easy clean up later.)
Roast in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out of oven to stir and turn over the vegetables. If there are burning tips on any onions, tuck them under some squash chunks!
Return to 375 degree oven and roast another 30 – 35 minutes.

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Spoon 1/2 of the roasted vegetables into blender.

Pour in vegetable broth to almost cover.
Season with a little bit of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg.

Remove the little round part of your blender lid, to allow for the steam.

Hold a towel or paper towel over the hole.

Blend (I use the Puree setting.)

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Pour into soup pot and repeat with the other half of the vegetables, adding broth and seasonings in the same manner.

Puree and add to soup pot.
Turn heat on low.

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Add milk of your choice (evaporated, half and half, almond, coconut), stir to blend.
I like to add a bit of honey and a touch of ground cayenne pepper at this point (be gentle with the cayenne, a little goes a very long way.)
Simmer for 20 minutes and serve!
Or refrigerate, simmer and serve later.

Fall comfort this windy spring day.

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TIPButternut Squash is a Power Food — Rich in potassium, vitamin B6, folate, with high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C.  Its high antioxidant content has anti-inflammatory effects too!  So many health benefits–for proper functioning of your nervous and immune systems, protection against heart disease (high fiber content is very heart friendly), as a deterrent against breast cancer, and to possibly reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.  I haven’t even mentioned everything — there’s more, look it up!

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I leave you with a treat for your mind as well:

Four Haiku
by Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)

Spring:
A hill without a name
Veiled in morning mist.

The beginning of autumn:
Sea and emerald paddy
Both the same green.

The winds of autumn
Blow: yet still green
The chestnut husks.

A flash of lightning:
Into the gloom
Goes the heron’s cry.

~~~~~~~

Energy Check!

Roasted Veggies 2 (2)


Roasted Asparagus — Quickest, Easiest, Most Delicious Healthy Treat!
Choose the little bit thicker spears. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Dribble with olive oil to coat lightly, season with Sea Salt and Ground Pepper if desired.
It’s that simple. You may also sprinkle with lemon juice and/or add garlic.
Roast for 20 minutes. Yum!

 

In my early twenties I was diagnosed at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY, with a strange anemia, usually genetically linked to populations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and predominantly to men!  It included a severe allergy to lima beans as well as others.

Female, my heritage is Polish, German, with a little English, and Irish.

I thought it was pure craziness.  I still believe it was.   I was anemic, yes.  But at the time, I attributed the way I felt to my experimentation throughout 1973, with a broad spectrum of drugs offered in the alternative communities I lived in on my travels across the country.  (Mentioned in http://cherylrspooner.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/quinoa-tomato-soup-inspired/)

Of course I did not tell the doctors.  That period of my life was over and I did not want it documented and filed away in medical records.  I kept it to myself.  After a series of Vitamin B12 shots, I recovered, but will admit I shy away from lima beans to this day! From time to time I wonder what actually did trigger such a bizarre diagnosis.

My daughter researched vitamin B deficiency two years ago upon her bout with anemia.  She found her only plausible explanation was a genetic predisposition preventing the proper absorption of vitamin B.  I began thinking of my past, and my mother’s…and for that matter, my grandmother’s.

From grandmother to my daughter–four strong, talented, productive women who proved themselves time and time again against all odds, leading what observers would call very successful lives.  Yet at the same time, who dipped into valleys of low ground which I now believe can very well be explained by the chemical imbalance caused by this genetic predisposition. I’m grateful in my daughter’s case, she knows this early and can watch for it.

In October of 2012 my vitamin B levels were so low, as to literally almost have fallen off the bottom of the chart.  A seven-round B12 regimen served well.  I climb the six flights of stairs to my doctor’s office each month now for a B12 booster.

It’s been forty years since my early-twenties anemia diagnosis. What if more follow-up and serious consideration at that time had uncovered a need for a lifetime of B12 boosters?  We’ll never know.  But I do know that a shortage of B12 in Illinois for the last two months caused my boosters to be delayed.  Checking my vitamin B levels last week, the doctor was surprised to see them so low again in such a short time.

In the middle of another seven-round regimen now, I also know, with my renewed energy…

I cannot walk by a load of laundry without putting it in the washer, attacking stains with a vengeance, and deciding while I’m at it to wash and prepare all my winter clothes for summer storage.

I cannot see recently purchased fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator without rinsing and preparing all of them for the week’s healthy eating.

I cannot sit down at the computer and not write another entry in this blog.

I can attack a large “to-do” pile till it’s gone.  I can call friends I’ve been meaning to call.  I can organize, schedule, pay for, volunteer for, line up, carry out, cart away, give away, clean out, plan for…anything and everything that falls in my path.  I can function as the 100% fully energized person  I know I am.

 

TIP 1

If you feel less than who you know you are…look into why, and don’t forget to check your vitamin and mineral levels.  So important.  Ask your doctor to specifically check your Vitamin B levels.

 

TIP 2

Asparagus provides anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidant nutrients! Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients are some of the best risk reducers known for common chronic health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Cleaning the Pantry

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Beans-of-Your-Choice Salad
Recipe and thoughts below. Roses from the best kind of surprise, a “Thinking of you,” delivery!

Echoes of emotional life, today my refrigerator is mostly bare,  pantry shelves are in confused disarray, and freezer contents are minimal.

I’ve thawed a lot of my past and let it go.  I’m learning not to replace it with new frozen content.

My fresh, day-to-day thoughts are in transition, accepting the moment and ready for each new inspiration.

However, that old pantry of emotions needs a periodic shelf-cleaning!

So many stored feelings and dreams.  Some are past their expiration date.  Some never needed to be on the shelf in the first place.  Others just don’t fit into my life today.  Yet they are thrown on the packed shelves of my sub-conscious, ready to use at the slightest trigger.

I’ve cleaned these shelves so many times.  In the recent past I shifted from resenting my new-construction condo and all its problems, to accepting it fully and celebrating the positive.  I continually work on shifting from judgment, to acceptance–of myself and others.

Beginning with the tangible, I clear the content of my kitchen pantry shelves into give-away, throw-away, and save piles. Stumbling upon two cans of green and yellow waxed beans,  I remember them from the last pantry do-over, months ago.

I’m distracted long enough to throw together a treat, adapting a recipe from another tantalizing websiteThe Garden Grazer.  Mixing the beans with chopped onion and garlic, I then create a dressing and top off with ingredients from my fridge.  My reward for later this evening when everything is clean and orderly again!  Also, my creative fun, making something out of whatever is available.

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First make the dressing. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl, or shake in a container with a tight lid.

Dressing Ingredients

2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
My Secret Ingredient:  A touch of Maple Syrup–Sweeten to taste.
Sea Salt and Pepper

 Rinse and drain a couple pounds of beans--your choice.


Rinse and drain a couple pounds of beans–your choice.

Chop a small red onion.


Chop a small red onion.

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Mix onion and beans.
Now I’m really looking forward to this salad!

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Stir in dressing. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

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When ready to serve, top with halved Grape or Cherry Tomatoes and sprinkle with crumbled Feta Cheese.

It occurs to me, my emotional “cans of yellow and green beans” is my dream of being a writer.  The dream sits on my shelf year after year.  It’s time to make something of it!

Mixing it with the ingredients I have available–

my life experience, training, and the words that flow down my arm onto the page.

Preparing a specific time dedicated to writing each day.

Serving it with fresh thoughts and well wishes.

Any emotions you need to shift–give away, throw away, or simply sort through?  Any dreams you need to take off your shelves today, taking the steps to make them come true?

 

***A friend of mine just added some great fresh ingredients to his dream.  Click on “David’s new blog” to read about his exciting stair racing goals!

Sharing: The long road

The long road.

I have no idea how Cristian Mihai found my blog.  I don’t even know if he actually did.  Perhaps there is some automated search engine that finds blogs they think he might like, then “follows” them in order to bring more attention back to him and his writings.  I’d rather not think that.  Of course I’d rather think somehow he found my blog, was intrigued and decided to follow it.

Whatever happened, I’m glad it happened because I found him and his writing. I’ve included it here for you at the top of this page. Click on “The Long Road.”

Hopefully I’ll meet you on it soon.

Now, I’m off to the gym to try to run again.

Quinoa Tomato Soup Inspired

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Chickpea, Quinoa, and Tomato Soup
This simple soup is a bowl of satisfaction.
See Recipe below.

Yesterday a friend wished me the best for this new episode in my life.   Since her message, I realize it is a perfect way to think of this venture of stepping away from Facebook and starting this blog–indeed worthy of being separated out as a new episode. Thank you Maria!

In the past, I readily labeled dramatic events as new episodes in my life, such as an interstate move, having children, deciding to climb a mountain on my birthday or become a stair climber…even the first time I worked out in the gym.

One of the more dramatic, at age 20, I took a break from college, packed my Volkswagen Beetle with everything I owned and set out on a road trip from coast to coast. In the early seventies, everything I owned included a few very simple housewares, a carpet-bag of clothing, a kit of essentials, cassette tapes and a huge spirit of adventure–looking for alternatives, new awareness and levels of consciousness.

In 2013, my cassette tapes of Madman Across the Water, Tea for the Tillerman, Leon Russell and the Shelter People, and After the Gold Rush, are long gone.  My spirit of adventure?  My desire for alternatives, increased awareness and new levels of consciousness?  All as strong as ever, as I pack this daily blog experience with my sub-conscious belongings and set out coast to coast online instead of driving my yellow Beetle.

Also as I continue learning to run, hoping the day will come when I can keep running, pressing to a new place with my body, feeling the natural high, not only of the endorphins, but of the sheer thrill of doing it.  I’m looking forward to that day!

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In the meantime,  last evening I adapted a soup recipe from the vegan chickpea — a site full of deliciously tempting recipes.

Chick Pea, Quinoa, and Tomato Soup

Ingredients

1 medium Onion, chopped
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon fresh Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh Sage, chopped
Sea Salt
6 cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup dried Quinoa, rinsed
1 15 1/2 oz. can Chick Peas (or Garbanzo)
1 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes

The diced tomatoes were my one non-organic, as I used Del Monte’s Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano.

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I am not a vegan, but I’m attracted to vegan recipes. So often they satisfy on a deep level,
my body thanking me!

In large pot, sauté onion over medium heat with the olive oil and some sea salt, till translucent. Add garlic and a little more sea salt, sauté about 3 minutes, don’t let burn.  Add in herbs and sauté 30 seconds.  Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

Add quinoa.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes over low heat.

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Non-vegans, I’m sure the vegetable broth can be substituted with chicken broth if you prefer.

Now add in the chick peas and can of diced tomatoes.

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Starting to look like soup!

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I didn’t have fresh rosemary and sage on hand…too early for my herb garden. Dried herbs worked. But I did find some early chives standing tall already, so used some to garnish the soup!

TIP

For inspiration, a great read is  Scott Jurek’s, “Eat and Run.”  He dominates the sport of ultrarunning and shares his journey in these pages, along with his own vegan recipes! 

From Amazon’s review:  In Eat and Run, Jurek opens up about his life and career as a champion athlete with a plant-based diet and inspires runners at every level. From his Midwestern childhood hunting, fishing, and cooking for his meat-and-potatoes family to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, Scott’s story shows the power of an iron will and blows apart the stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. Full of stories of competition as well as science and practical advice—including his own recipes—Eat and Run will motivate readers and expand their food horizons.

What inspires you to keep running?

Learning to Run

Two thoughts today:

1) Taking a break from Facebook is more difficult than anticipated. 

2)  New running shoes and a great app do not a runner make! 

#1)  I’m beginning to wonder if Facebook really is an addiction that must be treated with the sobriety of complete abandonment.  Or perhaps, is it simply the new way of life?  A grandiose thought, but what if the first car drivers decided they were addicted to cars and they must stop driving?  Were the first fire users concerned with becoming addicted?  Am I becoming delusional?

I spent the last thirty minutes reaching out to friends on Facebook, promoting the link to this new blog!  I can rationalize that move.  However, last night I gave in and checked my news feed.  It was thoroughly satisfying. Then I felt guilty for giving in.

Worse, it literally tugged on my insides, a dull ache, when I couldn’t “like” a friend’s most evocative, almost surreal photograph he titled, “Moon over clouds over Incline tonight.” The text alone is a poem. The photograph was muted blues of snow covered pines surrounding the steps up the Manitou Springs Incline.  The photo looked down from the top with the snowy blue, moon-lit steps descending into clouds.  A dot of a moon above the clouds whispered, “Yes, this is what I can do with moonlight.”  I knew he’d climbed the mountain in that deep cold beauty, turned to snap the magnificence, then share it on Facebook with his friends…and I couldn’t “like” it or comment because of my self-imposed ban, which I was simultaneously cheating on by looking at the picture!

I don’t need any more proof cheating isn’t an option.  It must be all or nothing.

 

#2)  A first–I’m registered for the 5K part of the June 23rd Chicago Women’s  Half Marathon and 5K  http://www.womenshalfchicago.com/

Without going into my sedentary history and how I’ve worked for the last few years to overcome, blazing many new trails, suffice it to say weeks four and five of my training are not living up to weeks one, two and three.  The beginning was exciting–wow, I’m really going to do this, I CAN do this, let’s GO!  Rah, rah, rah!  Then week four, the crazy app expected me to run five minutes in a row–repeatedly, with  90 second walking breaks.  Are you kidding?   Let’s just say well into week five, I’m still not there yet.

I’m learning to walk briskly when I think I can’t run for a bit. Hoping this strategy continues to move me along somehow.  Finding it more difficult to motivate myself…need new tunes, tired of the old ones.  Ha, need new lungs, legs and feet too!

At times I believe I want a life equivalent to sitting under a palm tree at the edge of a beach, sipping Bahama Mamas or Mai Tais, and reading my favorite authors.  Then I want to run.

At times I believe I want a life with no demands, where I make no demands.  Then I turn off Facebook and get real.

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A good fitting shoe is the first step. Check!

TIP

Starting out, having never run before?  I found this quote online, “Run until you’re tired, walk until you’re bored.” 

I would add, “Then do it all over again.”  And again, and again :)

Today’s Reflections on Facebook

Stepping away from Facebook is complicated.

I decide to take a legitimate break .  The first step this morning is deactivating my account–gone, erased from the Facebook world.  A friend took this action New Year’s Day and I remember being struck by how completely his presence disappeared.  This morning I took the plunge, deciding to spend more time writing.

However, learning to set up this WordPress blog, I discover I need to keep my Facebook page after all, at least for now…to post the blog!

Plan B:  Re-activate my Facebook account solely for the purpose of posting the blog.  Construct all settings to not receive any notifications.  After that, it’s all discipline.  I will not communicate on Facebook, but I do encourage conversation in the comment sections here at the end of each blog.

Time for a cup of tea!

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Green tea can help maintain normal alkaline levels in your body, promoting good health. Great for post workout, as well as throughout the day!

Preparing lunch, it occurs to me I do not have the option of posting a picture of this leftover concoction.

If  I no longer visit Facebook, how will I know when…

Joy M. is having happy family time?  Palani and Carisse are running along the beach in San Diego or babysitting “Li’l E”?  Rhonda is swing dancing or Melinda is traveling?

Harold M and Leslie are looking forward to a sporting event? Matt and Rachel are painting, or partying, or dressing up Sammy?

The latest tower racing results break?

Sheryl is with her grandkids?  Carol, Nancy, Norma, Gloria, Faith, Ron, Robert, Andrea, Linda, Donna, and all my cousins are ok?

Steve and Leslie host another house concert?  Rich or Lydia find the next perfect political  poster?

Erin posts a magnificent photograph of her children or Kentucky’s countryside?  David discovers one more great way to eat chia seeds?  Nicole or Anastasia reveal a new insight on healthy eating?

Trina has another baby?

Gabrielle helps another woman make a huge breakthrough in her life?

It’s easy to say, “I’m addicted to Facebook.” It’s more difficult to realize exactly what it is I’m addicted to, and why.

I share what’s important to me, what’s fun, food, achievements and milestones. In return, a certain subset of friends like the fun or the food, another set the achievements, and sometimes they all like what’s significant in my life.  In turn, I smile, appreciate and truly like the moments and thoughts they share.

Much is said about the “false sense of connection.”  I view it as controlled connection.  Facebook is not the messy connection of daily encounters and close relationships.  Rather, it’s the ideal connection we create with those we for the most part agree with…with those we only need show our best if that is what we desire, or I suppose our worst if that is what we desire.  Controlled.

Isn’t that the allure–one place where I can choose to set up a little world of sharing and affirmation? Not quite the make-believe of my childhood tea parties with stuffed animals and dolls.  More like a game–real life where we still get to make the rules.

My time in control, verses my time in messy connections, is out of proportion.  So let’s see if I can give up Facebook all summer.

I’m diving back into the messy pool head first.

Deeper moments behind the surface sharing will be missed.  For example…

…when Ben or Sarah, close NY friends of my departed father, “like” or comment on my posts.  This encounter on Facebook is not simply type-face on a computer page, but rather, the memory and sun of my father’s love breaking into my day.

I’ll miss when I discover a new dish, a new place, scene, idea…and it ends there.

I’ll miss my old friends, my very old friends, far away friends, and new friends I’m just beginning to know.

It’s time to invest in the real life moment.  It’s where I need to be.

But I will very much miss…

…my friends on the screen.