Monthly Archives: July 2015

Brown rice, White bean, & Spinach salad

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A lot of times I kind of “wing” my meals. I occasionally pull out recipes but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for instructions and moreover, the odds of me having all the listed ingredients on hand is not great. This was a spur-of-the-moment dish that turned out pretty well. I won’t list exact measurements because it’s not all that crucial.

I had cooked a pot (1 lb bag) of small white beans and was wondering what to do with them. I have a White Bean Tomato Soup that is super easy that I like a lot but as I sit here at the end of July, my tank top & shorts sticking to me in the steamy heat, well, the last thing I want is a big bowl of hot soup.

Instead, I cooked a bunch of Brown rice to mix in and added steam-in-the-bag frozen spinach that I had. Now, by itself I would find this trio of albeit healthy ingredients quite boring, so I added some unsalted peanuts, stuffed green olives halved, canola oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and curry powder. If you wanted to try it, I’d suggest just adding whatever of these ingredients you like or substituting your own. As described, this is a powerhouse, well-balanced dish including Fiber, Carbohydrates, Good fats, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Iron, and Magnesium. Curry powder has a variety of health benefits (reduces inflammation, aids digestion, has anti-cancer properties, protects against Alzheimer’s).

Part of why I wanted to make the recipe a blog post is so I don’t forget it later! (As I am wont to do.)

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Short Thought 132 (perspective)

It’s a miserable, hot July day, one of those where the weatherman says the temperature and humidity combined make it feel like just-kill-me-now. A thought occurred to me. I would have swooned for this day six months ago. In fact, six months ago, I would have paid money to have this day. To walk around in shorts and a tank top, to feel the air against my skin, to not be constantly tensed up, bracing against the chill. To see green and bright colors. Yes, I would have handed over cash for it. Maybe even $30. Suddenly I’m looking at today differently.

My life in low heels

A couple weeks ago I went to a rummage sale and did splendidly in the shoe corner. The thing about buying second-hand, be it clothes or shoes, is you can’t usually get your heart set on an exact item in advance and then just walk in and find it. No, it’s more a matter of going & seeing what’s there. I do sort of have a mental list at any given time of things I might like to find, but truth be told, items can stay on that “list” quite a long time when shopping thrift & second-hand.

So anyway, since I unloaded my car over a dozen years ago, I’ve done a lot of walking. I walk for exercise and pleasure, yes, but the motherload is practical in nature, or actually, I’d say that practical and exercise are often combined. Like, I’ll walk to a shopping center two miles away rather than take a bus. My point, going back to the business of shoes is twofold: 1) I need practical, low-heeled footwear for all the walking year-round and 2) I wear down the soles and need more shoes. I think of shoes as what tire treads used to be! At present, I own more shoes than I ever have in my life, although it took me awhile to realize that was both okay and practical, the latter given my lifestyle. Most are second-hand.

At the rummage sale all shoes were $3. I settled right in and could not believe my good fortune in finding six pairs (in a fairly small display) that I liked, that fit me, and were, for the most part, in decent shape. I always check the “treads” to make sure there’s lots of wear left in them.

If you wondering about cleanliness, a thorough examination of the shoe helps, as does washing if possible. One of my tricks is to use an old toothbrush to scrub surfaces, especially inside. If the shoes aren’t washable, such as leather, I polish them. I routinely put inexpensive shoe inserts in most of my shoes anyway, so that also makes them feel “newer.” I hope I don’t have to tell you if they look funky-bad in any way, I pass them by. Most shoes at thrift stores or rummage sales are pretty good. (I’m more likely to see shoes at yard sales that should have been tossed in the trash.)

I pounced on these hiking boots – Timberland©! I’ve gotten into a habit of wearing hiking boots a lot in winter because they’re warm – I hate cold feet – reasonably attractive with jeans, and can handle snowy/icy conditions. I already have a pair of (what else but second-hand) REI© hiking boots but the heels are showing wear and I have to use “Shoe Goo” on the front of one where it’s pulling apart. If you are a hiking boot person, you know these babies are pricey. I couldn’t quite decide if the Timberland© boots are Mens or Womens, but since they’ll fit me with winter socks, it really doesn’t matter.
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Last winter I found myself perusing Amazon in hopes of finding an inexpensive “driving shoe.” Not because I’m driving anywhere, but so far as I could tell, it’s a casual, moccasin-style, low-heeled shoe that might be nice to wear at home in Fall/Winter. (I could be wrong so far as what a “driving shoe” is.) I never found the cute, inexpensive shoes in my mind’s eye on Amazon, so I was intrigued to find a close enough possibility at the rummage sale. The oh so very nice thing about $3 shoes is that it’s not such a big risk to try something new or different from what you’ve considered in the past. And – these still had their store tag!
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I always need tennis shoes, athletic shoes, sneakers – whatever we want to call them. These don’t have much wear left but I was feeling pinched for such shoes so I got ’em. I didn’t notice – probably courtesy dim lighting (it’s rummage not Neiman Marcus) – that one of the shoes was pulling apart at the toe. I hand-stitched that.
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Red slippers! Cozy as heck! Unused looking! (You find me the woman who could wear these and still leave the white so clean, ’cause I’d like to meet her.)
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I’ve never had shoes like these either. They seemed like summer walking shoes. When I got home I Googled the brand – Merrell – and discovered it’s a pricey shoe; the website says “Women‘s footwear for running, hiking, and everyday adventures.” Sounds good to me. (Side note: they make Men’s shoes too.) These are really comfortable. Neutral color = goes with all.
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Red. Can you tell I like red? Red shoes just make me happy. (Back in the day, I had a pair of bright red pumps. My sister called them “Minnie Mouse” shoes.) Red shoes aren’t easily found second-hand, so I was delighted to land these. They’re made in Mexico – something else I rarely see.
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Parenting right

In the last five years I had the opportunity to closely watch children being raised right. It has been balm for my soul. A delight. Eye-opening. It’s not the first time I’ve been around parents and their children of course, but it has marked the longest, closest, best opportunity in my life so far. I’ve had a bird’s eye view.

I was terribly curious as I watched things evolve from the births onward. How is it done when it’s done properly? When nobody’s watching? When parents have a game plan? When mom and dad are essentially united in their goals for their offspring?

The beauty of it has been that absolutely nothing has been done for my benefit; I am simply an outside observer, although granted, I observe more than most (but that’s between you, me, the lamp post, and the blogosphere). My point being that people often – though not always – change when they feel they might be watched or judged, particularly parents interacting with children, adopting phoney postures and words. Hiding their worst behavior for behind closed doors. Such was not the case.

You know what happens when you raise children right? You get children with a strong sense of self, who believe their feelings and wishes matter, who are confident in their place in the world, who are unafraid. These children don’t see the world as a place where you get hurt, literally and metaphorically. They don’t know how horribly vulnerable they are because it hasn’t been pointed out and demonstrated on them. I’m not talking about cosseting or over-protecting children either; of never correcting or reprimanding them. From what I’ve seen, there’s LOTS of correcting and directing to do. My head would POP OFF with the amount necessary, with having to repeat the same information and directives so often. But here’s the thing: the workload, from what I can figure, is put in upfront to reap dividends later. The investment in a child builds on itself. When it’s done right.

Have I idealized what I’ve seen? No. These are modern children of two working parents, products of their time. Over-scheduled, fast-track children. From age 3 months they go full-time – all day, five days a week – to what I privately refer to as “Baby School.” It’s like they have jobs! I made unspoken judgements about this. I believed the children would prefer more time with their parents or at least a parent; why not one or two weekdays with mom or dad? Ditch the second car, cut a corner somewhere, slow down a career, in order to do that. Just my opinion as I say, never shared. (Well, never requested either!)

I remind myself the children don’t know any different, they have nothing to compare their lives to. When you spend some 40 hours a week elsewhere from age 3 months on, how could you possibly conceptualize anything else? I do think there was backlash in terms of tantrums and “acting out” on the homefront, which I privately speculated sprung from a frustration small children have no other way of articulating. Their time with their parents is often structured and limited.

Still, even with my reservations or criticisms, I’ve been impressed. I am not often impressed with how I see children being raised (but that may be a whole other post topic). The important thing is whether in the end, there are happy, healthy children being prepared, step by step by step, to be successful in the future. To one day live independently. To know how to interact with other people, how to take care of themselves and the people they love. These children I tell you of, should have all of that. I was a lucky girl to get to watch their launch into life. I sat up and paid attention because at some level I knew I was getting a nudge: “Look at this. You need to see this.”

Don’t react!

Supposedly if you achieve an elevated level of consciousness you stop reacting to everything and merely observe:

“Oh look, that trash truck has just backed into my new car. Interesting.”

“I’ve been snowed in for a week and have been reduced to eating dried oats with tap water three times a day. I feel nauseous and weak. Interesting.”

“The band living next door rehearses every night till 3AM. They play only one song, badly. Interesting.”

“We’ve been here two hours and the waiter is serving everyone but us. Interesting.”

“I’ve worked at this job for 10 years but they just promoted someone less qualified instead of me. Interesting.”

“That car blew right through the crosswalk and would have hit me if I didn’t jump back. Interesting.”

I could go on. Now maybe you’re saying I’ve got it wrong with my examples, that no one is really expected to react so calmly to life’s injustices, calamities, and troubles, even those highly evolved people. That no one could. I don’t know – I mean, not reacting is not reacting, right? Sure, there must be different levels, but wouldn’t my examples, exaggerated as they are, be the ultimate goal, assuming you wanted to learn not to react? Minimally, the place the elevated person is reaching for?

It doesn’t matter in the end. I’m in no danger of getting so evolved. No danger at all. It’s (almost) all theory to me. Yes, I know a blissful, higher state of being is about achieving a kind of inner peace – an almost static state of mind – that no one and nothing can take away from you. No matter what happens, you remain steady & calm. By golly, I’ve read about it in books! Heard about it in lectures! And I’ll grant you, it sounds nice.

Even now and again, I catch a whiff of it. I’ll be in a state of mind where I feel fully connected to the universe, where nothing can bother or affect me, and I am fully in control of what enters and does not enter my consciousness. I am being not reacting. It IS nice. However, this state is rare.

Too often I feel like the ball in an old pinball machine, getting whacked here, ricocheting off there. To me the world is this stimulating, busy, chaotic-at-times place. If you’re participating and not holing up in the woods somewhere, there’s bound to be lots of stuff going on. Plenty of stuff to respond to. I’m tempted to add “some good, some bad” but that addition swings right back around to the idea that labeling things – events, occurrences, what-have-you – as good or bad sets up the stage to react.

I expect I’m in a bit of a bind. I make “value judgements” all the time, i.e., “that was good,” “that was bad,” “that was so-so.” Hell, I have these responses to pretty much everything, from casual interactions with a cashier to a band’s performance at a festival to my thoughts about a funeral I attend. And truth be told, I’m kind of partial to this thinking, making judgments about experiences. On the other hand, I realize that indulging these responses feeds into the constant reacting. Again, I’m kind of caught. If I want to be evolved and have more of those moments where I feel all Zen, flowing and peaceful – all nonreactive – I’d have to give up the desire/inclination to assess everything (which I know pretty much feeds on itself: Did I like this? Did I like that? Was it good? Was it bad? Do I want more of that? Do I want less of it? And round and round.)

I will add this. I really don’t come across other people who are all nonreactive. Oh, I meet plenty who talk about such things, who maybe can act as if they are all go-with-the-flow, but it usually doesn’t take too much to scratch beneath the surface to what the individual really feels. Yeah, I’m a tough audience. But it’s just that we all have more to gain from one another when we admit the truth about ourselves, not just what we’d like others to think, or just how we’d like to be (if only we could get there). I’m dead certain there are people far better at this than I am, and maybe, just maybe there ARE people out there who could respond the extreme way I described in my examples (surely the latter are rare). And I do believe it’s worth working on, being aware of all the reacting and whether, in every instance, it really serves anything.

Yellow Jackets Jackasses

Yellow jackets act impulsively, make poor decisions and fail to plan ahead. Supposedly when they sting you, they are following their natural instinct to protect their home. But once they sting and draw attention to themselves, what happens to their nice comfy home? Somebody blows it to smithereens, that’s what.

I THINK it’s big enough

When I wrote my blog entry about the post office the other day I remembered something from years ago. My older brother had become a mail carrier. After he’d been in the job a little while, I happened to see an envelope he’d addressed for his own purposes. The print size looked like this:
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This was NOT how my brother would have addressed a letter prior to being employed by the Post Office. I’m telling you the writing was comically large. I didn’t say anything about it because he was almost certain not to appreciate any commentary but I inwardly mused that I’d had no idea mail carriers could be so touchy about the public’s letter-addressing skills!

Many years later I had the opportunity to see another envelope addressed by my brother. The print size was back to normal-people standards.