Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving!

Last week I was a guest on What's the Point?, a show on WHUS, the University of Connecticut radio. The show was dedicated to gratitude, and we spent the entire two hours discussing ways to cultivate more gratitude, and the positive, lifelong gifts an attitude of gratitude offers.

Today, one of the greatest gifts I received was cooking with my mom. We really jived together, cutting and dicing and washing and drying - it was magic. The phone rang all day with friends calling to wish us a happy Thanksgiving. We felt so appreciated and loved. Of course, stories of my grandparents came up, and we reminisced about past traditions. One in particular we found interesting. My grandmother would always cook pickled herring on New Year's Eve - she told my mom that pickled herring ensured a healthy and happy new year. According to my mom, this belief came out of nowhere since my great grandparents never served pickled herring.

I've always wondered about tradition for that very reason. Fortunately, my parents adopted the "traditions" that were healthy and served us in the 20th and 21st centuries. We didn't adhere to tradition for tradition sake or out of obligation, thankfully.

Last Thursday I read Canticle of the Creatures written by St. Francis of Assisi - a prayer of Thanksgiving to God for the blessings in nature, including God's creatures, and Brother Sun and Sister Moon. I offer the prayer as I read it on the air. May we all focus on the blessings in our lives and allow that focus to open our hearts, forgive others, and create peace in our lives and in the world.

Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi

Most High, All-powerful, All-Good, Lord!
All praise is yours,
All glory, all honor,
And all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first, my Lord, Brother Sun;
Who brings the day, and light you give to us through him,
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them,
Bright, precious, and fair.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air;
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods, by which you
Cherish all that you have made.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water;
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire;
Through whom you brighten the night.
How beautiful he is, playful, robust and strong.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother;
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits and colored flowers and herbs.

All praise be yours, my Lord,
Through those who grant pardon for love of you;
Through those whose endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace.
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death;
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.

Happy those She finds doing Your holy will!
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord,
And give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Om, shanti, shanti, shanti

Friday, November 13, 2009


This past year, I have devoted my time in the kitchen to strictly vegan cooking, and that has proven to be a wonderful gift to my body - I'm feeling healthier than I ever have in my life. The cookbook will feature vegan versions of most recipes, including desserts. This will be an interesting feature of the book, and I wonder what my great grandmother would think. I know she would be pleased that I'm doing what feels right for my body and life in the 21st century.

Healthy desserts was the focus of the last week of my cooking classes, and I set out to prepare 6-7 desserts over a couple of days. When it came time to start baking, I had two thoughts - 1). I don't bake much because I have never enjoyed sweet foods or desserts - granulated sugar and the like is just too sweet for me, and I've never really enjoyed ice cream. (I know what you're thinking at this point, and that's okay). 2). My firm belief in the detriment of western desserts loaded with butter, processed sugar, corn syrup, and all- purpose flour, led me to stay clear of desserts in general.

So, there I was in the kitchen with a bias against desserts needing to teach others how to bake them. Onward and upward is my motto, so I put my thoughts aside and proceeded with the vegan desserts: chocolate chip cookies, coconut cookies, "white" cake with a lemon sauce and poached pears, pumpkin squares, and baked buckwheat with apples and blueberries. (My inspiration for these recipes come directly from the cookbooks written by Christina Pirello - check her out.) To my surprise and delight, the desserts turned out wonderful. I was pleased, and the students enjoyed them.

I decided to read the section in one of the cookbooks where Ms. Pirello writes about the need for desserts in our life and the need for regular sweetness - those are my words. She was talking literally and figuratively, and I connected with her words immediately, knowing there was a significant message for me. Her words were in the back of mind as I baked, but I didn't spend time reflecting on them until the class was over. Actually, when I started really understanding her words was somewhere in the middle of this week, around Monday, when my husband and I had finished the coconut cookies, the chocolate chip cookies, and were half way through the cake and pumpkin squares. We haven't had that much dessert in the house since our Christmas party 5 years ago.

I noticed how much I was enjoying having these sweet and healthy treats in the house. Well, it's been 8 days since my class, and I decided to weigh myself today. Now, there is actually more to this story that I will write about at another time, but let me just say that the stars have been aligned in this direction all year. I got on the scale, and this past week, I lost 7 pounds.

Now, I'm not consciously trying to lose weight. I do watch what I eat, and I eat exceedingly healthy foods. I walk and do yoga, and I spent an entire week eating desserts everyday - sometimes for breakfast in place of my usual buckwheat and blueberries, and I'm 7 pounds lighter. I get how that happened, and I'm hoping you do, too.

I told a friend today how much I enjoyed having those vegan sweets in the house. Synchronistically, I made a wonderful connection this week with a woman who owns her own business. I'll be teaching monthly cooking classes at her place beginning in January, and that is just pure fun for me - more sweetness.

We really do need sweet stuff in our lives, and healthy desserts remind us of the joy that's available to us when life is in balance. Tonight, I passed by a local health food market and bought organic pumpkin for more pumpkin squares. They're just delicious - whole wheat pastry crust, pumpkin with cinnamon and amasake, topped with pecans. Yum!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Never Alone

The last few weeks feel like a blur, and suddenly it's November 8th. I have been consumed by my cooking classes - researching, preparing handouts, dishes, shopping, and cleaning. My students were the best - so enthusiastic, willing to try new foods, and always gracious.

The cooking classes have been the backdrop of my life these past 5 weeks, and I'm grateful for the peace and tranquility I have felt as I cooked and prepared the various dishes. I appreciate that every recipe needed my undivided attention because that brought me fully into the present moment, and that helped me to relax and enjoy the process a bit more. I also felt my great grandmother and other ancestors with me, and that too, was deeply comforting. Standing in my kitchen, I was never alone.

That's the beauty of cooking and sharing a meal. Generally, these acts provide a common ground on which family and friends can connect. I felt that with the students as they came week after week to my home. We connected on deep levels, but through the medium of food. The feedback from the students varied from feeling deeply inspired to continue to learn and do more cooking to feeling truly grateful for the new information and experience of such vibrant, healthy food.

As I consider my recent experience of feeling so connected to those I love while preparing for my classes, my reason for writing this book is reinforced in my mind and heart.

Life continues to be very full. There will be much progress made on the recipes for the book in the next several weeks. I'll be keeping you posted.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

With Husbands, Keep it Simple

The cooking classes have been a great reminder that what I take for granted in terms of knowledge or understanding may be very foreign or new to others. Of course, we all start at the same place - the beginning. Since, I'm not a trained, professional chef, I am continually learning. In fact, I have been reading so much about leafy greens and root vegetables that my head is about to explode.

I enjoy cooking with fresh herbs of all kinds, and thanks to a coop near my home, I am able to purchase fresh, organic herbs nearly all year round. As I've written about before, I have a love of basil. I use it in so many dishes from pasta sauces to quinoa to winter stews.

My husband was visiting his parents, and his mother asked him to go out and cut some basil for crostini she was making. My mother in law grows her herbs in pots. So, he did as he was asked. He handed the leaves to her, and she looked at them knowing something wasn't quite right. I don't have all the details, but ultimately, she realized that he had cut the "fake" leaves, either plastic or silk, from the artificial plant on the porch. He never went outside - he took the path of least resistance, and descended upon the nearest plant.

He and his mother started laughing, and they were still laughing when he called me to tell me about it. He admitted that he wondered about the look and feel of the leaves when he looked at the stems, and there was no soil. The stems seemed to go into nothingness. Hmm, that would be the first clue...

We have basil in our outside garden, and in a pot in our kitchen. My husband knows what basil looks like. I frequently have him go into the garden to get me parsley, rosemary, basil. This humorous story got me to thinking about the students in my cooking classes and about the cook book. When I think I'm giving too much detail, I step back, consider if it will only overwhelm, or if it's crucial to the success of the dish, and then generally give the information. I've learned that we can't assume someone else knows the ins and outs of working with various ingredients or kitchen tools. There is so much to learn!

As I add my personal touch to my family's recipes, I will keep this story in mind, and be sure to fill in as many gaps as possible. In the meantime, please don't eat plastic or silk basil - the flavor is really lacking. Fresh is best.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Well, the cooking classes are a hit, and I'm thrilled! So much fun, and a wonderful group of people. We finished the evening by sitting at the dining room table and enjoying all the various dishes. On the way to the table, one of the students looked a bit uncomfortable. I asked her about it, and she said, "I'm not used to having someone cook for me. I'm not used to being served." I encouraged her to enjoy and receive. Later, her reaction got me thinking.

I introduced them to my philosophy of cooking, and one of the tenets is to cook for others as often as possible. For some women, cooking for others is a daily event, but typically day to day meals involve hurrying to get everyone fed before another school or community activity. We can still cook for others with short amounts of time but make it a meaningful experience for everyone. The best way I have found to elevate meal time is to pay attention to the details and cook consciously. Many times, preparing meals ahead of time, like on a weekend day, when the entire family can participate is a great way to get everyone together and have food for the week.

Again, my mom reminded me of her family's yearly ritual of canning tomatoes. 365 jars would be canned and shelved for use throughout the year. Tomatoes grown in the garden, free of pesticides and chemicals, grown in fertile soil. My great grandmother and my grandfather would do the canning with help from various other family members. They canned out of necessity, but when unexpected guests arrived or fresh tomatoes were unavailable, my grandmothers would go downstairs and get what they needed. They frequently shared what they had with others and the food they served was vibrant.

I am pleased to serve my guests, especially when I know they aren't typically the ones on the receiving end of things. Serving others is an honor, and what a grand way to do it than with a meal cooked with love.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


My cooking classes are about to begin. I'm looking forward to sharing my love of good vegetarian food. Preparing for the classes meant combing through dozens of recipes and writing down my own. What would we do without the cookbooks? We're so accustomed to having a reference for every kind of food and dish imaginable. I know it wasn't always that way, of course. My mom has a couple of old cookbooks written in Italian. They date back to the early 20th century. My grandmother and great grandmother would consult them every now and then. While recipes and cookbooks are not created equal, there's something about a drawing or picture and a list of ingredients that's exciting. I think it's the anticipation of what might be when everything comes together. There is an alchemy to the whole thing that I find fascinating.

Last night I just finished Julia Child's book, My Life in France. It's a marvelous book, full of great stories and humor. When I turned the last page, however, I was filled with melancholy. She had such a vibrant life, filled with many joys and sorrows. I can't put my finger on the sadness I was feeling, and there are remnants of it still today. Perhaps I'm thinking of my ancestors and their love for life. They, too, brought friends and family together with great meals. I didn't know my grandmother, she died when I was a baby - maybe I'm missing that connection...

I understand the need to have time honored recipes written so that future generations have access to the traditions and wisdom of another time. Preserving the recipes helps my soul stay connected to something larger than myself - my human family on Earth, and helps give meaning to my life.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Been waiting to see the final version on the front cover, and it arrived today. The colors are so vibrant, and while I haven't revealed the design, the cover is earthy and welcoming.

An inspiration came to me the other day on how to effectively and seamlessly incorporate the 4th female voice in the book - mine. Since becoming a vegetarian, I am always substituting ingredients in order to accomodate my lifestyle and tastebuds. Honestly, flavor and taste are never sacrificed, and I'm so thankful for that. So, the book will include the traditional recipes and the vegetarian version, and that is very exciting to me. Writing, writing, and more writing.

My vegetarian cooking classes are beginning soon, and so it is going to be head-down through October, but I'll update as I can. Teaching others always reveals insights and offers more inspiration, so I'm sure you'll be hearing from me soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Gravy Train - Freedom, Part II

The need for freedom runs deep in me. Those who know me will attest to this.

The past two weeks have found me a bit run down - lots of projects, both at home and professionally, and traveling. The supplements I take are holding me up, and the extra couple hours of sleep are helping too. Interesting how when I feel this way, suddenly time opens up, and the crammed schedule I normally keep just disappears. The body knows how to slow me down when I don't take the time I need for myself everyday. Amazing how I can prioritize when I need to focus on taking extra care of my body.

Eating healthy meals requires time. Time to shop, store, and prepare. Quick, healthy meals don't need to take more than 30-60 minutes, but that is still a chunk of time that can seem like forever when the rest of your life is packed. During some down time yesterday, I had the memory of a delicate, vegetable gravy that I made about 9 years ago. I don't know why I had this memory, but I got to thinking about the day I prepared it. My future in-laws were coming for dinner. I had only known them a few months, and I wanted to prepare a delicious meal. I wanted to make a gravy for the scallops and garlic and herb mashed potatoes. I found a recipe (from a cookbook I don't remember), and set out to make the meal. When I read the instructions for the gravy, I suddenly realized that it was going to take many hours. I hadn't planned on that, but I had never made something like this before.

What I can remember is the chopping, sauteing, simmering, straining, simmering. After about 5-6 hours, it was done. I can honestly say that the gravy ended up being the star of the show, the best I've ever tasted - fresh, organic vegetables, organic stock. Absolutely delicious. The rest of the meal was wonderful, too. (My stuffed mushrooms were incredible.) However, I vowed at the end of the night that I would never make a gravy like that again. I was feeling exhausted - my legs ached from standing all day, and I just wasn't sure the gravy was worth it.

Looking back at that night, the time was well worth the effort. I haven't made that gravy again, and I know it's because I couldn't justify spending 5-6 hours cooking. (What I didn't realize then was that the mushrooms were far more work intensive than the gravy - I blamed the gravy unnecessarily.) Now, the possibility of having an entire day to cook sounds delightful. And, I know what you're thinking - take an entire day and cook. Why not? That's a good question.

Until recently, cooking was something I did to nourish my body, but it was always secondary to my other activities. My priorities are changing. I thought of my great grandmother yesterday when I remembered the gravy. She spent her days cooking for her family. Cooking was the main focus of her life along with childrearing. To have nothing else to focus on...that looks like freedom to me with the hectic schedule that I keep, and with the demands I place on myself. But, the grass always looks greener on the other side. My great grandmother would have thoroughly enjoyed the freedoms I take for granted - the ability to have a career and enjoy a fulfilling personal and professional life, and do things like vote, drive, and travel.

Spending time contemplating this brings home the point that the choices I make can either support and nurture the feeling of freedom within me or not. I am choosing to do only half of what is on my to-do list for today. As a result, I do feel like I have more room to breathe. One of my desires for this month is to spend the day making bread. I need to take my time making bread. That's coming soon.

Making gravy and feeling free - that's my mantra for today.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I especially appreciate a good book. The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin is my current read. A renowned world chef, his memoir touches me deeply. He speaks about respecting ingredients, and the power of food and a meal to bring family and friends together. Once he had lived in America for several years, he writes about feeling free to begin to create dishes that deviated from the traditional French dishes he was accustomed to making.

Reading his words got me thinking about all the immigrants that ventured to America, but most especially my ancestors. They did not leave Italy in search of an adventure. They left specifically for freedom - the freedom that expanded opportunity provides. While they had to work very hard and experienced prejudice, they also actively participated in a supportive community in the Italian neighborhoods of Chicago. They grew to love and cherish the spirit of freedom that is so very palpable in the United States. Their courage to cross an ocean is reflected in the millions of journeys taken, risking everything for freedom. I get that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Airplanes, Food, and Other Stuff

Life is funny. When you least expect it, a new friend can show up in the most unexpected places. However, I have a history of connecting with people on planes that end up significantly changing my life. The first encounter occurred back in the '90s when coach customers still received a meal (for "free"). I ordered a "special" meal since I'm a vegetarian. The man sitting two sits away found this curious and a bit annoying that I should have a "special" meal that included an apple. We struck up a conversation, and he told me a little about where he lived. Shortly thereafter, I visited, and a year later, I moved to that place. (No, not with him). Needless to say, that meeting was very significant.

Well, just the other day, I was flying again, and without any notice, I have a new friend. The plane was full, and I nearly didn't make it on board since I fly standby, but I got the last seat. A might fine one at that - by the window. There was a man in the aisle seat, and no one between us. Then just as the door was getting ready to close, a lady came aboard carrying her pillow, and sure enough she was sitting between us. Before buckling her seatbelt, she grabbed my hand, told me she hadn't flown in twenty years, and was very anxious. Immediately, I had the feeling that she was honest and authentic. She proceeded to tell me about herself, her family, her friends. We then began talking about nutrition and food in general, and discovered we have a lot in common. We like to cook - she bakes, and I just like cooking, in general. We talked about individual ingredients and their health benefits. (I bought organic extra virgin coconut oil today!) I told her about the cookbook. She smiled. She said she always wanted to be Italian.

She bought an organic snack box, and she shared her goodies with me. The two hours flew by, and what could have been a nerve wrecking trip for her, was a most enjoyable adventure for both of us. I love talking about the cookbook. Cookbooks, in general, are so joyous. We all have some sort of relationship with food. We all need food to live (minus the saints and ascended masters), regardless of our likes and dislikes. Eating with someone else can provide a powerful foundation on which to build a relationship.

I would like to think that I would have always extended myself to someone like my new friend, and I hope that is true. Remembering the title of my blog, I remained open to listening and sharing with this unique being that suddenly graced my life. I often feel I'm navigating through a blurry sea of faces at an airport or need to curl up in my own little cacoon. As a result, I miss out on the opportunity of connecting with someone who could literally change my life. This trip proved, once again, that an open heart and mind take me beyond the boundaries of what I know, and move me to a place where infinite possibility exists. In that eternal place, what God can dream for me I can allow to come true.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Feel and Flow

There is a scene in a Seinfeld episode (The Sniffing Accountant) in which Jerry, Kramer, and Newman set up a sting. The three of them are in the car, and Kramer and Newman launch into a discussion about the "feel" of the day.

Kramer: "What's today?"
Newman: "It's Thursday."
Kramer: "Feels like Tuesday."
Newman: "Tuesday has no feel. Monday has a feel. Friday has a feel. Sunday has a feel."
Kramer: "I feel Tuesday and Wednesday... "
Jerry: "Alright, shut up both of you!"

More, hilarious Seinfeld nonsense.

I remembered this scene as I thought about the "feel" of this week. Everywhere I look, the people I know are slowing down after a hectic Labor Day weekend. People are heading out for day trips, weekend getaways, or just a well-deserved day off. This is not a coincidence. Perhaps this is related to some gentle, yet powerful natural rhythm. Something is definitely in the air this week.

Going With the Flow

I believe that the "feel" of the day or week, etc., is really an intuitive nudge, a message from within that warrants attention. For me, the feel of this week is about relaxation, rest, rejuvenation, and enjoyment. Based on this, I'm going with the flow of it - taking time to rest and enjoy the beautiful weather. To do otherwise would be to ignore the internal messages that I rely on for guidance. For me, this is going with my own personal flow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Inspiration - a topic I've written about before continues to come at the most inconvenient times, but I'm not complaining. This time, however, the inspiration was for my colleagues book project. I awoke with ideas about the interior of the book that will allow readers to connect with the material at a more intimate level.

When and why inspiration comes in the middle of the night is really a mystery, but I have a theory. The middle of the night is when I'm the quietest other than when I'm meditating. When I'm meditating, I am focused on my mantra and on stilling the mind completely, so I typically don't receive inspiration then. (However, that is likely the time that the inspiration seed gets planted.) So, the best time, for me, to receive the information I've requested, is in the middle of the night. The information rises to the surface of my conscious mind, and I'm then able to access it, and generally, I'm very pleased with what comes.

Why I received info about Michael's book project, who knows? But, when I told him about it today, he told me he also received that guidance. The information that came to me just confirmed his own guidance. Sometimes, that's the point - to help and support each other. That's so cool.

Monday, September 7, 2009


An update on the progress of the book. The recipes are coming along - sauces are done, working on vegetable dishes. Finalized the design for the cover with the artist (who lives in Nicaragua). We also discussed sketches for the interior. We agreed on a price, so it's a go. With the cooking classes approaching, I have been holding a space for the intro, but not physically working on it. Inspiration comes, however, and I take notes so I don't forget. Planning on having time tomorrow for writing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


For today, my entry departs from the usual reflections about the relevance of my day to day life on the writing of the cookbook. Instead, I will relate the events of the last 24 hours. When I returned from the fair yesterday afternoon, I called my husband. We talked about my experience, and he suggested that we send an email to friends (along with the pictures I had taken), telling them we bought a farm. We laughed so hard. We truly thought everyone would know that we were kidding.

The email began with an explanation of how we wanted to return to the earth, live off the land, etc. We do love our gardens, but a farm? I included pictures of the cows, pigs, roosters, lambs, goats, and the various vegetables on display. I did expect responses, just not the ones we received.

Many of our friends were so supportive of our idea to buy a farm. Many said they could see us with the animals, and they wondered what vegetables we would be planting. They sent love and blessings to us, and I was so moved. Honestly, since reading their responses, I wonder if we should consider getting the goats we've talked about. We will be expanding our garden next year. Since neither of us eat meat, I don't know what we'd do with the pigs. (They eat poison ivy, though, and we have alot of that). One girlfriend had a really hard time putting her head around the idea - she wondered how I had learned so much about farm animals since the last time we talked.

Big sigh. Thank you, friends, for the support. Even after I informed everyone of the joke, they still insisted they could see us living on a farm. I'm sure they feel how peaceful we are here with the land we do have. Sending out that email stirred up a lot of stuff, and made us both feel really loved.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Fair

The Modern Day Fair
In the early '90's I lived in central Illinois. I was in graduate school, and it was during this time that I developed an appreciation for country music. To this day, no one close to me can believe I listen to the stuff. My favorite artists - Travis Tritt, Martina McBride, Randy Travis, Vince Gill, to name a few. I have always had and worn a cowboy hat, especially when I was in college. Being close to the land has always been important to me as much as I love cities, big cities. When it comes to settling down - I need land around me. Being from the Midwest, corn and wheat fields make my heart sing. Yes, there's a little bit of country in this city girl.

My plan since Tuesday was to go to the local fair today. In my heart, I really didn't want to go, but it was something I said I would do. My usual approach to things is to do some research first, and that's just what I did. I went to the fair's website - printed out the map of the fair grounds, (and was told by a friend that I was overplanning). I also did some digging for an ethnography or two about county fairs. And guess what? I found a book review in Museum Anthropology, vol 20, number 1, pp 79-81. The review critiques Leslie Prosterman's work entitled Ordinary Life, Festival Days: Aesthetics in the Midwestern County Fair. She is known for her field work exploring county fairs in Illinois and Wisconsin. Ms. Prosterman asserts that the fair be perceived as an art form in which the "folk" (farmers) purposely arrange and run the fair in an uniform and organized manner to offset their otherwise unpredictable life (dealing with nature's elements, death, and dirt). She does, however, point to many ironies and tensions, "in the pursuit of uniformity" that are quite interesting. I bring this up because I wanted to gain more insight on the fair culture of which I am an outsider. Feeling slightly more enlightened, I headed out.

Pulling into the fair grounds, I had a deja vu experience. Just yesterday, I was listening to a friend talk about cellular memory. Memories are stored in the body, and when we revisit a place or a similar situation, those memories can rise to the surface. This can have varying emotional responses within us. I parked the car in the field, and as I started walking toward the entrance, tears were streaming down my face. The rural corn fields of Northern Illinois were calling, and I could feel them in my body. Memories of my undergraduate days came flooding back. I was having a nostalgic moment.

Unfortunately, as soon as I entered, the sweet memories of days gone by quickly evaporated. Feeling bombarded by carnival rides, cheap trinkets, and gut wrenching food, I headed for the exhibits. "Get to the animals" became my mantra. I found the cows first. To be honest, I was taken aback at the size of some of these cows - are they all called cows? I don't think so, and I apologize for not educating myself a bit more on their official names. Anyway, two very nice women took my picture with some miniature cows - maybe they were youngsters. I don't know. In any case, I enjoyed my time in that barn very much. Bless the sweet animals.

The noise and racket in the poultry and rabbit barn was enough to split my eardrums. However, it was here that I met Millie. That's my name for her. A great big pig with some new babes all huddled around her nipples. Poor thing looks exhausted, don't you think? Then on to the sheep who stood perfectly still for people to pet them, and I took advantage of that - definitely a lot of firsts for me today.

The vegi and fruit exhibit was interesting. Of course, we don't know what kind of farming practices produced these specimens. This is important to me. Non genetically modified food that is raised pesticide and chemical free is what we all need to be fighting for. Walking up and down the aisles admiring the food made me smile. They finally got their day in the spotlight. I like the idea of honoring the food. (And yes, I did notice that every other vegetable and fruit had either a red or blue ribbon on it. How can they all have won first or second prize?)

The birthing barn would have been exciting and thrilling, but there was a new calf, and the children running the barn were allowing people to pet this small creature who was just born a few hours before. Taken away from its mother, surrounded by strange human hands, how was it going to feel safe? What if it wanted to eat? Would we do that to a human baby? Can we please stop treating animals as if they are inanimate objects? I had enough.

From here, I found some extremely average Thai food, and the exit. I can honestly say that I can't think of a reason I would ever go to the fair in the future. The carneval aspect killed the idea of ever doing something like this again - it bleeds out into everything else. The birthing barn experience did not sit well with me.

Ancestral Connection
A cowbell sits on my nightstand next to my bed. It belonged to my maternal great grandfather, and was worn by one of his precious animals in Italy. Holding the bell calls my great grandfather to me, and I can feel his love for the land and his animals. I had almost forgotten about this until I got home today. Visiting the animals at the fair is something my great grandparents would have loved to do. They cherished the land, and revered God's creatures. I didn't know I would feel them so close to me today - that was a gift.

I do know, however, that there is a simple country girl inside me who treasures the land. Home is the peace and quiet and beauty of nature where my heart and soul rest.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Less is More

One of the perks of being an adult is that you can eat ice cream or cereal for dinner. No, I'm not advocating that, but we've all had those nights when cooking just isn't an option, and the frig holds nothing of interest. For my ancestors, cooking fulfilled a large part of their role as wife and mother. Sitting down to a homemade, nutritious meal was a given for my mom, and her extended family. (My great grandmother did work, briefly, at a mill, but the women there made fun of her Italian accent. She was trying to learn to speak English. She left that job).

Today, I eat a big lunch, and a very simple and light dinner - hummus and whole grain crackers, a piece of fruit is all I generally want. No one to worry that I'm not eating enough, and I know I'm getting enough protein and other nutrients - I monitor that closely.

The key is that I'm listening to my body, and honoring its messages. With time, I've been able to discern the foods that my body needs and does not need. I'm not talking about cravings, but instead, my body tells me which vitamins and minerals it needs by what I have a taste for, and I know the difference between a craving, and a real nutritional message from my body. I usually want vegetables of some kind and fruit. I've never felt better than I do at this time in my life, and this has been confirmed by the blood work ordered by my doctor).

I'm no longer afraid to fast or eat light at a meal. (In an Italian home, not eating or not eating enough is sacrilegious). There is a deeper trust between me, myself, and I, that is new for me. That has made all the difference.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


What a day yesterday! I don't think the moon was full, but it was sure bright in the sky. I wonder how much that contributed to the fullness of energy I felt all around me. The abundance of energy was there from the morning. When I finally sat down to write, I accomplished some tasks toward my cooking classes coming up in the fall, returned emails, and continued to enjoy the glorious weather.

In the back of my mind all day, I was anticipating a live, on-line radio seminar by one of my teachers, Denise Linn. She is a powerhouse of energy, empowering others to transform their lives, and my time with her is always so healing. The seminar is based on her 28-day Soul Coaching program, but instead, we're doing a 28-week program. Each month we focus on clearing various apsects of the self and our environment. It's a big clutter clearing that lasts 7 months.

She gave us some assignments for this first month, and one of them is to do something we've never done before. I sat there listening, wondering what I could do. I didn't know the answer would come later that night.

Immediately following Denise Linn's radio program, I left to pick up a yoga student. She is a 16 year old high school sophmore who has been studying yoga with us for 4 years now. She takes private lessons with us, and a couple months ago we were on the radio discussing yoga. Being on the radio is a blast - we both enjoyed it. So, she took it upon herself to get us a gig on another radio show through her connections at church.

This particular show focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle, and it's facilitated by two men who clearly enjoy their work - the show is both humorous and intelligent. After discussing yoga for nearly half the show, they mentioned that the fair is coming up in town this weekend - a 4 day event. This particular fair is visited by thousands each year, and I mentioned I have never attended. The looks on their faces were priceless.

Fairs just don't do it for me. I don't eat junk food. I don't like rides (motion sickness). Crowds don't thrill me unless I'm in the city, and then, for some reason, I'm okay with it. So, the challenge was extended to me to go the fair - to give it a try. I said I would go if I could make another visit to the radio show. They agreed.

When I got home, I started thinking about my assignment from Denise Linn, and the challenge I was given by my new radio friends. The light bulb went on - going to the fair is something I've never done before. I will be out of my comfort zone, doing something I would rather not do, and have no interest in. This is perfecct.

Then I reflected some more. Italy, the home of my ancestors, is alive and vibrant with a sense of community that you can feel in the air. Celebrating with friends, family, and neighbors is at the heart of everyday life. Festivals are common in Italy. My mom has a picture of my grandfather as a young man participating in one of the feast days to the Virgin Mary.

Yes, clearly there are stark differences between the feast day celebrations in Italy which tend to be held with sacrednes and a country fair. However, there are some important similarities. Fairs honor American roots and celebrate the heartland. The same is true for Italy - feast day celebrations continue to be honored to this day keeping ancient Italian traditions alive. Whether in Italy or America, food, music, and community can be found, all of which make us feel connected to each other, and we need more of that in this world. While some of us prefer the Italian version, many love and enjoy the American version - fried twinkies and all.

My plan is to go to the fair on Friday. You can be sure my adventure at the fair will be well documented. In the end, perhaps the fair will be, yet, another source for connecting me to my ancestors.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My brain has a machine inside it that creates lists. My list-making machine is unique to me, but perhaps your brain has a similar mechanism? Mine functions seemingly without any human assistance, and doesn't appear to need any tune ups. My list consists of projects which cover many categories - home: paint trim, clean windows, balance the checking account, buy silver polish..., work: write introduction, finish typing recipes, prepare for cooking classes, balance checking account..., personal: do yoga, meditate, give myself a pedicure and manicure (or pay someone to do it), eat consciously, plan dinner... Of course, the categories and list continues, but I won't bore you with the mundane details.

I have discovered that I can turn the machine off, however. That is what I am doing this morning - turning the machine off. I don't want to unplug for the whole day, but as I sit here, I just don't feel like writing right now. My yoga mat calls, and it is so beautiful outside. The beauty of a brain that makes lists is that it's always there when I need to refer to it.

I am grateful to have the flexibility in my day to be able to pick and choose my activities. I don't take that for granted.

Monday, August 31, 2009


After a summer rain, a garden sparkles, don't you think? The morning dew makes everything feel fresh and alive. Sunday morning, the sky was still gray, but the weathermen assured us the sun would eventually come out of hiding. I was holding tight to that promise.

I grabbed my kitchen scissors and headed out to the garden. My herb and vegetable garden is very special to me (but that's a topic for another post). A family gathering had me cooking all day yesterday, and I enjoyed the variety of aromas that sprang up out of the pots and pans. Many of the fresh herbs growing in my herb garden, including basil, parsley, rosemary, and chive, found their way into a few of the dishes - quinoa salad, leek and mushroom sauce, and bulgur and bean vegi burgers. (No, I wasn't cooking Italian for this gathering - strictly vegetarian.) Soon, many of those precious friends will return to the earth, and I will need to rely on the dried herbs in my cupboard.

The herb I treasure most is basil. There's no rational explanation for these kind of things - I just love the taste and the scent. I'm reminded of my childhood, and the volumes of basil my dad would grow. Maybe my love for pesto has something to do with it, too. As I gathered the basil leaves, I thought how much I'd love to have basil all year round. That's all I did, just put out the thought that I'd like to find a small basil plant for my sunny kitchen window.

Running an errand this morning, I ran into beautiful, delicate basil plants that were organic, no less. I thought to myself, "That was fast." I sent up a prayer of gratitude - (there's nothing too small or too big for the Creator).

Having the basil plant on my kitchen ledge reminds me of the abundance of our planet, and of our family kitchen I remember as a child. I become still and quiet as I gaze at the green leaves. This aromatic plant opens my heart to the common threads that connect me to my ancestors.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Going through dozens and dozens of family recipes can reveal the likes and dislikes of the women passing them on as well as their quirks. We ran across a recipe for Italian bread from my paternal grandmother. She had given it to my mom shortly after my parents were married. When my mom made the bread, it just didn't turn out right. My mom is an excellent cook, not above average, really excellent. After that, she never pursued bread making because she didn't think she had the knack.

Then one day she was talking to my aunt, and she mentioned that the bread she made using her mother's recipe didn't turn out. My aunt asked my mom for the ingredient list, and she knew what the problem was immediately. My grandmother left out a key ingredient, and my mom didn't realize it. According to my mom, she was notorious for either leaving out an ingredient or giving the wrong quantities of ingredients, just to be sure her bread, cookies, lasagna, pizza, etc., etc. was better than anyone elses. Once my mom included the secret ingredient, success!

We laughed about it and shook our heads as we rummaged through the box of family recipes. Ah, family. If you believe that everyone in your life acts like a mirror for your best and worst traits, then this was a great lesson about withholding - withholding information, love, affection, generosity, kindness, to name a few. I can think of time and time again when it would have been easy enough to extend myself in word or deed, and I chose not to. Interesting how a simple memory can lead to a moment of self-reflection and greater awareness.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


The rain is coming down hard. As I sit here writing the introduction, the cookbook has me conjuring scenes in my head of what it must have been like to live in America as an imigrant in the late 19th century. As I think of the stories my mom has told me about her grandparents, I get this feeling inside me about my own life, and the only word I hear is "modern". I bet my great grandmother believed her life to be "modern" too - she came from rural Italy to the city of Chicago where life's goods were more accessible. I would have loved to know what that experience was really life for her.

There are traditions that survive generation after generation. Some good, and others, well, not so good. Preserving the ones that bring us comfort and keep the family spirit alive are important. I've always felt the absolute necessity to take the traditions in my own family and make them my own. I don't live in the 19th century, and I'm not a product of that time. My life is here, now. What began many generations before me can still have life, but now I'm breathing life into it, and it looks and feels like me.

Some people don't like progress or change. Some believe changing tradition wipes out the memories or dishonors the loved ones that went before. But movement is the way of Life. I need to hear my own voice amongst the voices of the past. I can hold my beloveds close, and still remain free to express my own truth.

What I love about this cookbook - four generations of women's voices are heard. Each generation expressing the truth of the time. And, our voices are in harmony.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Catching Fire

There's an off Broadway musical playing in New York city called Rock of Ages. This love story/musical, set to 1980's rock music, is full of outrageous humor and beautiful voices. Sitting in the third row, I felt as if I was part of the stage. It's an interactive musical - it's like being at a rock concert, so I felt transported back to 1985. (If you have any good memories from the eighties, you'll love this musical).

When the musical was ending, and the performers were singing "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, I had a rush of gratitude and inspiration well up inside me. The audience was on their feet, singing and clapping wildly. As I write this, I can take myself back to that moment of feeling the overwhelming joy and love these actors and actresses have for their art - it was palpable.

On the train, on the way home, I sat quietly thinking about what a gift those performers gave me, and everyone else in the theatre. There are good reasons we need each other - to see what is possible when the human spirit is engaged, to be inspired by another person's passion and joy, and to have the mundane human experience transformed into a spiritual one.

The enthusiasm I felt from the Rock of Ages performers created a spark inside me, and I caught fire. A creative fire that, ultimately, I am responsible for keeping lit. The creative process doesn't occur in a bubble. I am influenced by the entire human family's feelings and thoughts. One of my deepest desires - to be surrounded by people doing what they love, passionately & joyfully. This is a way to transform our lives and our world.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Do you find yourself daydreaming about what you'll do on your next day off? For me, I have my little "companions" that accompany me wherever I go - my writing projects. Since I see them as my companions, they aren't bothersome, annoying, or intrusive. In fact, I find their presence quite comforting. When time opens up, I will either write to keep the projects evolving or simply maintain that space of possibility around them. I visualize how each book will look once completed, or see myself signing them for eager buyers. Right now, I'm focused on the cookbook. What I realized long ago is that I don't really write the book - it writes itself through me. Big difference.

Many times, I refer to these projects as if they are people. But that's the point. How we are in relationships shows up in how we relate to our dreams, goals, and everyday adventures. The cookbook and the other writing projects on my list have a unique energy. I approach them as unique beings, and I find that in doing so, various aspects of my personality show up. I still find this amazing and am taken by surprise each time this happens.

For example, the writing of this cookbook is brining out the nurturer in me. I find that I'm cooking more than usual. Suddenly, I'm wanting to have dinner parties and host luncheons. I have also tuned into my nostalgic side, becoming interested in my family tree and wondering about life in 19th century Italy. When I was writing the yoga book, I found myself meditating more, becoming more introspective (if that's possible), and relishing my contemplative side.

My friends have always come in many different packages - some young, some old, all of varying spiritual beliefs, and of many races. And, I've been fortunate to have male friends (both gay and straight). Each friend provides me with the space to express my uniqueness. Some bring out the humor in me, others the reflective side. Some allow me the space to dance and sing, while others encourage my intellectual nature. The same is true for my book projects. They are my companions as well, helping me to birth my whole self, in a balanced and joyful way. They bring out a deeper humanity within me - their energy puts me in touch with a universal heart that is present for all of us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I never saw myself as a street performer, but since I started seriously writing I've become a world class juggler. Women, in general, are pros at family management, and when personal dreams are added to the mix, that's just one more piece of the puzzle to fit together.

The artist who is doing the cover design for the cookbook is the daughter of a dear friend. Her name is Gwen. I don't know if I would have found her otherwise, and she is perfect for this project. The vision for the cover surfaced effortlessly, and Gwen saw it too, because her drawing captures the very spirit of the book. That's one of the joys of self publishing - so many possibilities exist for creating every aspect of this work. For some, this may seem overwhelming, but I love managing the details. We live in a world where possibilities for publishing and writing are endless.

Until recently, accessing the endless possibilities inherent to the human experience felt outside of my personal space. I saw the possibilities out there, but seeing them wasn't enough. There was something still missing. The key was acknowledgment and acceptance. Acknowledging my personal power and accepting the truth of that power. Not ego based power, but one born out of the inherent divinity in all beings. This is empowerment. This level of acceptance has allowed me to view the possibilities for my life, not from a worldly perspective, but from a spiritual perspective that is deeply personal. This has led to less self judgment and more self acceptance.

Ahhhh, (big sigh) more acceptance, less resistance opens a world of possibilities.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

All in a Day's Work

What I would consider a good day's work when I was in my twenties is no longer true for me now. My energy and willingness are nearly the same (of which I'm grateful), and I'm even more inspired these days then a decade or two ago. What has changed is my definition of work. I once had a friend say to me, "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you need to or have to." You see, I am a very capable person. Being capable is sometimes really boring. Somewhere in my childhood, my imagination and the right side of my brain decided to take a long life's nap.

My imagination was dormant for most of my adult years. About five years ago, I began seriously meditating. It was at this time that I started to feel my imagination muscles begin to flex. Periods of quiet and stillness seemed to be freeing the creative process within me. In fact, inspiration was coming at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, every night. I felt compelled to get up and write because if I didn't - the muse was gone.

Now, inspiration isn't always birthed through meditation. It's different for everyone. What I see now as a good day's work is anything from visualizing the cover of my book, its every detail, to actually sitting at the computer and writing a chapter. Of course, I try to write everyday, just a word or two, but sometimes that's not what wants to come. Sometimes it's okay to just hold a space for the work to birth itself. Then when I do sit to write, it flows with greater ease.

I understand now about creating a space for my imagination to roam freely, explore and have fun. That's what I'm doing now with this cookbook and all my projects. Here's to another good day's work.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Adding another project to my list... Oh, but wait, the project has been on my list for the last several years; it's just been moved to the front of the line. A cookbook. I know. Does the world really need another cookbook? But this one is really personal. An Italian cookbook that hopes to preserve some of the best memories of my mother's family. It's just too easy to reject family, and focus on their seemingly endless number of sins. Instead, I intend to honor their strength and fortitude by documenting one skill they clearly mastered - cooking and sharing their bounty with others. A little more acceptance, and a little less resistance is my new motto. Opening to every possibility within me, some influenced by my genes, and others out there in the ethers.

My mom is involved in the process. I'm counting on her to help me document the recipes - what she's calling "homework". This adds some anxiety as we have different approaches to accomplishing this goal. Her's timeless, mine urgent. This urgency has been with me all my life. I'd like to blame turning 40, but that was 4 years ago.

I once had an astrologer tell me that I was born just before the new moon. She said those of us born at this time have an urgency about life in general. Like time is going to run out, and that's how I feel most of the time. Like doing it yesterday is best. I immediately put my arms around that - accepted her explanation without looking back. That's funny as I think about it now. Maybe that explains why I woke up at midnight with Celine Dion's version of I Drove All Night playing in my head. Why wait 'til morning, when you can drive all night?

So, until the cookbook is finished, I'll be here.