Saturday, January 30, 2010

Some Shifts Are Worth Keeping

In 2009 I implemented a few dietary changes that I think are worth sticking with for 2010.

1. I continued not eating anything with a face (not counting the potatoes that sometimes grow eyes while in the pantry). I have made the decision to continue on the vegetarian path. When I started, it was towards the end of 2008, I didn’t know if it was for a day, week, month, or indefinitely but I like it and will continue for now.

2. Started drinking kombucha. I don’t drink one every day and when I drink one I have to add a few Stevia drops to tame the pungent taste but oddly enough I really like it and I think the health benefits are worth it.

3. Eliminated sodas from my diet. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped drinking soda’s but I have continued through 2009. I think it is just a really good thing to do especially when you realize that 12 oz of soda decreases your body's immunity by 50% for 5 hours.

4. Learned how to cook eggplant. I tried many years ago and failed. But thanks to a friend who is a fabulous and creative cook, I now can make yummy eggplant recipes too.

5. I prefer to think of myself as varietal rather than inconsistent. But whatever the word, I like to try things and I like to try a lot of things which means that sometimes although I like what I try I move on to the next good thing. Case in point. I came across Bee Pollen at the Farmers Market and decided to try it. I've heard it is very healthy, I like the taste and I took it faithfully for awhile. I’ll go back to it I am sure but right now it is on the shelf along with the container of Chyawanprash.

6. Lost 30 lbs. Another good thing.

7. Always try to eat real food. Use half and half in my coffee rather than a popular non-dairy creamer. Not using the pink, yellow and blue packaged sweeteners. I have discovered I like to use Stevia and I have friends who love Truvia. In food preparation I would rather use real sugar and use less. Use butter rather than margarine.

8. Incorporated organic where possible. Not always possible but when I can, I do.

9. Hemp Seeds are amazing. Thank you Dr. Oz for making me aware of this nutrious power house. I like to add a spoonful or two to my oatmeal. They conveniently provide all the 10 essential amino acids and lots of omega 3 and a bunch of protein. All good things.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Color Me Grateful

Dark pink or peach flowers when given signify appreciation and gratitude. Some say that green is the color of gratitude. I say the color of gratitude is the full spectrum.

I am grateful for no particular reason except that I am alive and for every reason because I am alive. I am healthy, I have food, warmth, and am relatively secure given the state of our world today.

This morning the sun is bright. It is a bit chilly but that only adds to my aliveness. I decided to hang the jean load that I washed out on the line to dry. As I am outside I hear a bird. Not sure of the kind species I looked around and saw a woodpecker busily doing what woodpeckers do. Although I couldn’t hear the constant rhythmic pecking I could see that she was busily pounding out the tap - tap - tap that her kind are famous for. The tree from the neighbors yard that gives me grief when it drops it leaves and seed pods in another season was giving a place for this lone woodpecker to add some staccato to my morning.

Although the ground around our house seems to be drying out from the deluge of rain we have received there were still puddles and damp ground all around on our walk. What is good for some is not always good for everyone. The rain has caused great pain to those affected by flooding. The grief associated with the loss of possessions and life has been felt by many this week. The fact that my roof still leaks despite numerous visits from the roofer over the past 3 years is frustrating, inconvenient and definitely an eyesore as I watch the gross water soaked spot sag with the weight, but the fact that we live in the desert and often lack the necessary rain fall needed I know that the rain is good and necessary.

I realize haven’t done anything in particular to warrant my gratefulness. Earth shaking calamity has not knocked on my door so far. That I know of I don’t live on a fault line where earthquakes are likely to happen. I have moved away from tornado alley although I didn’t move for that reason. I moved for love which is a far better reason. The floods that occur occasionally somehow don’t usually affect me. Health wise, I do what I think is right to stay essentially healthy nevertheless there are no guarantees. Young vibrant beautiful people are afflicted with ravishing diseases for reasons no one can explain. Sure, like all, I have endured some life altering circumstances. My fair share of tears have been shed over the pain and loss that I have experienced. Felt despair for a time over things that are seemingly out of my control.

So I am grateful today not for any reasons of grandeur or luck that may have befallen my path. But I am grateful just to be here.

If though, tomorrow would bring a 7.0 earthquake into my existence would I still experience the gratefulness just to be here?

Kahlil Gibran said “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Philanthropy: The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind

Philanthropy: The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations. The word is made up from Latin and Greek words and quite simply means loving mankind.

I read a blog recently that got me thinking. The blog was titled Simplify Your Finances. It was a repost from Bryan Link who is the CEO of SimpliFi and he lists five suggestions that people can do to simplify their finances. The Power of Slow has become one of my favorite blogs to read, but the suggestion that got me thinking was #5, “Increase your giving to a charity that helps those less fortunate–and find a way to volunteer there as well. Both of these actions will increase your happiness and make you feel more grateful for the blessings you have in your life.”

I could have never guessed that in the days following my reading of this blog, we all would become painfully aware of how much our giving impacts another person. That the needs for a group of people would be so great. Although the giving efforts to help ease the devastation in Haiti have been astounding we continue to hear that people do not have basic needs being met. How horrible to be dealing with death, loss and destruction and not have water, food or clothing.

I grew up going to a church that had a very strong emphasis on missions and ran giving campaigns to raise funds and awareness. I learned that it didn’t matter the size of the gift but that your giving to help another was what was important. We brought our Alabaster boxes to church after months of filing it with our coins, walked up to the front and emptied in the cardboard church representing the churches that would be built in part because I chose to give my money away rather than buy candy or a toy.

As Aristotle said “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man's power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man power nor an easy matter.”

In this new year I have determined to become more aware of different charities and the needs they help to alleviate. In order to realize this I decided to take an amount of money that I normally spend on me, whether it is to buy a coffee, eating in a restaurant, going to a movie or getting a massage and each month take this money and give it to a different charity.

January is already spoken for. Haiti holds a special place in my heart and life. The kids and I sponsor a boy Drew’s age who lives in Haiti through World Vision. We purposely chose someone in Haiti. The summer after graduating from high school my church youth group under the leadership of Jim and Betty Cooper, took a trip to Haiti. We learned songs in Creole so we could participate in the native tongue during church services. We painted a church in bright turquoise blue and flamingo pink, bright colors that these beautiful people love. The children would come around to watch what we were doing. Our interaction with them changed my life. Evan after all these years I feel a connection with the people of this island.

I recently came across another blog called Dollar Philanthropy. The challenge is to encourage people to give a dollar a week to a reputable charitable organization. Michael Bloomberg, NYC mayor and major philanthropist said “Every dollar makes a difference. And that's true whether it's Warren Buffett's remarkable $31 billion pledge to the Gates Foundation, or my late father's $25 check to the NAACP.”

Here's the fun part, I am calling on my friends and readers of conversations from a sticky note, to suggest a cause or favorite charity that I could consider making a donation to. I look forward to hearing from you and learning about the causes that are important to you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Love Cashmere

“Cashmere is a great fabric because it glides over problem areas, can be dressed up or down and makes you feel good and luxurious.”  Anne Hankey

I love cashmere. I love fabrics of all kinds, but I especially love cashmere. I wondered about where cashmere comes from and why is it so expensive. And so I did what any person on the hunt for knowledge does in this information age, I hit the internet. Which then caused me to wonder if at some point in my life I knew that it is goats wool that comes from the Cashmere Goat found in Kashmir? That in the 18th and 19th century the English called Kashmir Cashmere? I am pretty sure I never knew that the fiber is also known as pashm, the Persian word for wool, or pashmina which is the Hindi word for pashm. Hello famed pashmina scarves.

So now that I know here is a little recap of all the wonderful stuff I now am sure I know about cashmere.
  • It is believed that as far back as the 11th Century, Cashmere was being woven for use in garments or blankets.
  • Usually cashmere is harvested from the goats in the spring during when they are molting through the shedding or the shearing of their down.
  • Most of the goats are raised in the cold high desert climates where the dense inner coat guards against harsh winter weather, but once seasons change, goats begin to lose the protective layer of down.
  • It is believed that cashmere originated from the West Himalayas in India. Cashmere goats are found in China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Tibet and Iran but are primarily bred in Mongolia. You can now add America to the list.
  • In some regions, the mixed mass of down and coarse hair is removed by hand with a coarse comb that pulls tufts of fiber from the animal as the comb is raked through the fleece. The collected fiber then has a higher yield of pure cashmere after the fiber has been washed and dehaired.
  • Ounce for ounce, cashmere is the warmest of natural fibers. It provides wonderful insulation from the cold and is cozy without being bulky.
  • Cashmere can also be mixed with other fibers for warmer weather items.
  • It takes one precious goat four years to produce enough wool to make just one cashmere sweater. Or four little darlings one season.
  • The most expensive cashmere comes from the underbelly and throat of the goats. The fibers are longer and finer which produces softer wool.
  • Lesser grade is also taken from the goats' legs and backs. The shorter fibers from the backs and legs are heavier and less expensive, making it easier to afford a luxury garment.
  • The fibers can be woven or knitted into garments such as sweaters, shawls, capes, dresses, hats, gloves, socks, coats and blankets. No excuse not to have some cashmere. I think sleeping on cashmere sheets in a cashmere nighty would be the ultimate!
  • In the United States, you can find out the specification for the wool to be considered cashmere, under the U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, as amended, (U.S.C. 15 Section 68b(a)(6)). If you really care. I thought I did but I don’t understand the measurement system so now I don’t.
  • Cashmere goats are either white, gray or brown. The colors you see did not come straight from the goats. The fibers have been dyed which they say is easily done.
  • Garments made of cashmere were once only available to royalty because of how rare the wool was which increased its value. Napoleon is said to have popularized the use of cashmere as shawls when he gave his second wife, Empress Eugenie, seventeen of them.
  • The 1940’s and 50’s Hollywood glamour girls brought attention to cashmere. Lana Turner was dubbed The Sweater Girl making cashmere sweaters and skirts the fashion rage.
  • Cashmere sweaters soon became high fashion. In the 1940’s at many affaires you would see evening sweaters with heavily encrusted jewels and embroidery. In the 1950’s those charming college students made the best dressed list wearing a sweater set made of cashmere.
  • Woven garments made of cashmere must be dry cleaned, but knitted articles may be hand washed. Good to know when you have spent your lunch money on a sweater.

I do have a couple favorite cashmere items. One is a vintage sweater with a fur collar. Its a beaut and I am sure it has had a great life and it is not finished yet. The highest quality piece I own is from Marshall Fields. I can put my hand in my sweater drawer when the room is dark and pick this sweater out. It feels amazing. And yes I did buy it at a thrift store and got it for a song. I have taken to rescuing cashmere items who have seen better days and probably lived a rich full life. But by putting them into a quilt made with felted sweaters I can give them a new purpose. There is nothing like curling up on the couch with a blanket and feeling cashmere on your lap.

Cashmere seems to be more popular than ever. You can find it in many different items, styles and for many different price points. I received cashmere socks one year for Christmas. Luxury from head to toe. You can get an Isaac Mizrahi sweater at Target  for under $50. You can pick up a Michael Kors cardigan for $895 at Neiman Marcus. Or you might be interested in something somewhere in between. And if by chance you aren't ready to buy, enjoy a cheap thrill. Go to the store, let this luxurious fabric sweep across your hands. The catch is you must surrender the sweater when security tells you to leave. - thank you for the picture of kel goat

Monday, January 4, 2010

Knowing Me

A friend responded to our Christmas card and said that she was amazed by all my crafting and my ability to make time to do what I enjoy. Hmmmm. I decided to give it some thought and ponder that statement.

How do you make time to do what you enjoy?

First you have to know what you enjoy. Sounds simple enough but I haven’t always know what I enjoy (to experience with joy; take pleasure in). I think I have known what brings me joy (a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated). Outside of my children there was a time when I was busy with kids and family and making sure that everyone else was happy that I didn’t know what I liked or what brought me joy. I thought I did but then one day I was asked “what do you like?” I felt like a deer staring into the biggest brightest headlights. Rather pensively I responded that I liked foreign movies. What? where in the heck did that come from? At the time I am sure I hadn't watched many but somewhere in me I knew that that was something I liked and that I would find joy to sit down and watch a movie with subtitles that is set in a foreign country. Wow, I think I like saying out loud what I like. Feeling fortified I added, I think I would like a red kitchen". Although that was the beginning, it was a slow and arduous trek coming to where I am today. Is it acceptable to really and truly own what I like and dislike?

As I was thinking about this I decided to go back and read a blog I posted on October 16 called being true. In its simplist form that is it. To be true to the person you were created to be I believe is a high compliment to our creator. To say to God that yes, not only do I yearn to know you better but I want to know me better to. You thought it would be good for me to be alive, I want to know why. As I understand it I am created in your image. What can I contribute to your plan? Could you do it with out me? Absolutely but for some reason I believe you like me. And I believe I function better when I actually like the person that I am.

So how to you make time to do what you enjoy? Well I don’t really know. I live on the same planet that revolves around the sun every 24 hours. But I know what I enjoy and what makes me a better person. If I don't know I like trying to figure it out. I know that I like to get massages so I go occasionally. I like to get a manicure and pedicure so I treat myself to them once in awhile. I know that if I want to go do something that seems out of the question then I need to make some decisions. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it or shouldn’t do it. I figured out that I need me time. I get out of kilter and a bit cranky if I am pulled in too many directions. I haven’t always been that way. There was a time when I thought I was unstoppable and if something needed to be done than I was the one to do it. I have worked full time since Drew was about 3. Just like everyone else I take care of the car, house, kids, work, etc. etc. etc. But now I also take care of me.

I also know what I am not. I am not a great time manager so something has to give because I can't do it all. House cleaning isn't high on the list. Now I don't want to mislead you into thinking that at one time it was high on my list because it never has been. I love a clean house but since mine usually isn't I would never invite someone to eat off my floors. And if I have a chance to go do something or play a game with the kids then I have no problem leaving dust on the bookshelves. A few years ago I let go of my church responsibilities and obiligations. I no longer enjoyed the areas I served in. I felt drained and I needed go cold turkey. After a good 25 years of major involvment I had to do an intervention of self preservation.

I am not advocating dropping out of areas where you have a responsibility but I would invite you to try figuring out what you like on for size. Maybe you are already introspective enough to know. Maybe it is time to mix it up and change a few things. Maybe you have just been crowded out by all the other things that are putting dibs on your time.

I learned something else about myself today. I like rap music to a degree. As I write I keep playing Jay Z and Alicia Keyes singing Empire State of Mind. Bet you didn’t expect that to be one of my favorite songs. Drew didn’t either and Allison just laughs at me as I dance around the house. That’s okay I laugh at myself often and can be rather shocking. Just the way I like it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Adventures in the Land of Food

By nature, when it comes trying new foods or new preparations for old food I am fairly undaunted. Since making the decision to not eat meat or in the broader form, anything with a face, my world and tastebuds have opened up. Outside of anything that I deem as too gross for human consuptions I am quite ready to broaden my horizons. I follow a couple vegetarian blogs to get new ideas and I love to go to the farmers market to see what is fresh and available that I might not have tried before.

I recently found a recipe for Collards I decided to try. I have never really fixed any kind of greens. The kids grandma used to make swiss chard but I don't remember eating it. I do add kale on occasion to soup. On Saturday Allison and I headed to the Scottsdale Farmers Market for collard greens. Not only did we find collards but picked up a couple other greens to throw in for good measure.

As is sometimes happens, as I was putting the ingredients for the recipe together to cook I discovered I didn't have everything the recipe called for so I made a few adjustments. First, I didn't have any vegetable broth so I just used water. I think the vegetable broth would have been better. I didn't have maple syrup so I used brown sugar. It seemed to work okay but will try it again with the maple syrup. Put in less cayanne and added garlic. I added collard greens, kale and swiss chard to finish it off. Everything else in the recipe I followed as directed. I started it cooking in the crockpot before I went to church and when I came home the house smelled so inviting. It cooked for about 2 hours and was perfect. Since I had left it there were a couple leaves that stuck and were charred on the side of the pot. Next time I'll watch and stir occasionally.

Even addng 1/3 of the cayanne pepper it was still plenty spicey for me. The combo of sweet and spicy was splendid. After scooping it up we topped each bowl with grated parmesan cheese and served it with slices of Dubliner cheese and bread. As a special treat we had received as a gift a jar of homemade Christmas Jam which is always yummy but was especially good on the bread after taking a bite that was particularly fiery.

This recipe proved to be delectable and scrumptious. I believe I'll be making this again very soon. Yum Yum

Friday, January 1, 2010


Tonight, as I was laying on the couch, toasting the New Year, and watching a documentary about Mimi Weddell on PBS called Hats Off, I got to thinking. Ms. Weddell was an actress, loved to dance and at age 90 was named one of New York City’s 50 Most Beautiful People. Although her name isn’t as recognizable as other actors, she is definitely recognizable. Her energy, spirit, willingness and drive to keep going is inspiring. She was 93 when she died. But there was something else. To quote the film synopsis “The story is also about dreams, both literal and figurative. In the dead of winter, Ms. Weddell travels with a cousin on an ethereal journey to visit for the very first time the city of Florence, Italy, for the celebration of her 90th birthday, a goal she has held since age ten. As she proclaims, “If you can achieve one dream in your life, just one, no matter how small or how big, it’s a miracle, it’s a miracle”.

So here I am watching this documentary about a women in her 90’s when my thoughts decided to turn to the fact that I‘ll be 50 in 2010. Now this is not a new revelation. I mull it over from time to time. The last occasion I had issues with my age I was turning 20. There was something momentous with no longer being a teen. I guess at the time I thought that meant that my life would change dramatically. As I recall, it didn’t. And my guess is that turning 50 won’t expose any dramatic changes either. But still, I am struggling with the thought of turning 50. Although the 40's were, shall we say, challenging, with some good, bad, happy and sad, I’d give the last 10 years an overall rating of pretty darn great all things considered. I like being 40. Forty sounds young - enough, but a person who is in their 40’s has lived long enough to have some noteworthy life skills to show off.

So what is up with 50? Chances are nothing. Humans do it all the time and have been doing it for just about ever. I don’t typically try to worry, fret and manufacture drama. After all I am old enough to know better. But “hello, my name is Cynthia and I am 50” just sounds like it belongs to another Cynthia. Not that I have ever introduced myself and told my age at the same time. But point being, I don’t feel different. And when I ran into friends I haven’t seen for years about 7, they said I look better now than the last time they saw me which could either say something about how bad I looked then or preferably, that I am aging gracefully. So if I don’t look 50 and I don’t feel 50 who cares if I will be 50. Not sure, I’ll get back with you on that one.

With all this thinking I am doing tonight, I think it might be good to write an essay chronicling the next 7 months leading up to my 50th birthday. Yes, 1960 was the year of my birth and here we are embarking on 2010. I think there is something for me to learn about myself.

I already know I am blessed because I was lucky enough to be born into a lineage of good people. Kind people, strong people. People with great stories who lived with the intention to do the right thing, the honorable thing, the godly thing. Most of who lived well beyond 50. I wonder what they would say to me?