Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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If we were having coffee this weekend in Tucson, I would try to cool you off and ask you to join in a rain dance before you go. Our wildfires are very hard to control with no rain, so things are out of hand here in Arizona. I know the weather is warm all over this summer, but we are truly surrounded by a burning ring of fire. We went out early this morning to a produce distribution near our home. Our produce haul this week includes a 20 pound box of fresh dates. They are beautiful. Please help yourself to some while I pour you some iced tea. I will be studying Pinterest for date recipes to try that do not include baking…it is too hot for that. Sit back and tell me how your week and your writing has gone. Is your muse treating you well?
If we were having coffee I would tell you I am really enjoying that Audible subscription I purchased. I am tearing through the books, and loving the podcasts. I may disable myself from true reading with my own eyes, but I think it is super fun to have a great voice read to me. It is the perfect companion for my job. I continue to learn more every time I go to work. Yesterday I learned exactly where the big mesquite tree branch is in the parking lot. I was leaving work, obviously kind of distracted, and backed right into said tree branch. I had a long way to drive home with a shattered rear window, and later discovered body damage on the door that will require repair. I had to stay calm while hoping my window would not drop out on the road behind me in severe heat. I made it into my garage, had some exchange with the insurance company, then slept on it.
Of course I wish I had not damaged my car, but I always ask “Compared to what?” I did not hurt anyone else or anyone else’s car. I do have insurance coverage to repair the damage. I reflected on the central messages of my most recent audio books…I decided this accident was the flash of reality I needed to sell this car and get a much smaller more efficient model. I can save money on my insurance premiums by purchasing a small car, so I am going shopping for a Prius. I think it will be fun, and will suit my present lifestyle much better. I am not in a big rush. I have to get my car fixed in order to trade it in. This turns out to be some kind of turning point that will not require a dark night of the soul, just a car purchase. That is why it is an excellent idea to listen to Buddhist philosophy before you smash your rear window. Since one never knows when one may smash a window, it is always good to listen to the Buddha. The same might be said of death. Nothing is more valuable than equanimity.
How is your writing? I am still enjoying tea reviews and weed Wednesday. I shot some footage yesterday to use next Wednesday that I think will turn out well. My short fiction this week was again kind of gloomy and dystopian. The memoir book has been very helpful to me as a guide to creating fiction. I have not written much of it, and have not thought about character development and story arc, etc. Like my poetry, I have miles to go before I create my masterpiece, but I find the journey interesting and stimulating.
Speaking of stimulating, have some more iced tea. I have Peppermint Butler brewed for a cool zing and a caffeine buzz. It pairs well with the dates. If you know any simple, bacon free (I am a vegetarian), date recipes please let me know. I think I might attempt date chutney, but I am low on ideas beyond that.
Please stay hydrated during your visit to our hellish weather. Visit our hostess, Emily, at Nerd In The Brain to stay in touch with this digital party. Share your own post, drink some coffee, and let us know what is happening in your life.
Since this is a digital and moveable feast, next weekend we will converge in New Orleans at the blog of our original coffee share hostess, ParttimeMonster. We do this through the magic of the internet. Thanks for stopping in today.
If we were having coffee today I would tell you how I ended up teaching a holiday session of mermaid camp for a lovely young lady. Some of you have noticed that my blog is officially named mermaidcamp, and may have wondered why. Sit down by the wood stove and put your feet up on the ottoman while I serve you a hot cup of tea, coffee, or holiday cheer. Tell me about your week while I prepare for my young student’s arrival later this morning.
Last week at a holiday gathering a friend told me she thought about buying her 9 year old daughter a mermaid tail for Christmas. I told her that being a mermaid is about so much more than just a tail, and since the child is not a strong swimmer yet it may prove dangerous. I have seen people buy expensive costume tails for kids without thought to how strong one must be to swim dolphin kick. It is no joke. First one needs to be able to handle flippers, then flippers with feet and legs close together. These steps take time and practice. Very few adults swim the butterfly stroke well because it requires strength and coordination. I tried to convince her mom to outfit her with a merskirt..a tail free costume that clearly indicated life under the sea. She is an excellent seamstress and costumer who can craft a really custom look for her daughter. I was able to gift her a big load of sequin fabric for the mer skirt project in return for an agreement to skip the tail this year. The tail is awkward and hard to construct, but a merskirt is whatever you make it. Real serious professional mermaids, such as Cate Vail of Sirens Photography in Reno, respect the merskirt. The mermaids up there are sometimes connected to Burning Man, so they take costuming very seriously. I was lucky to be invited to a fundraising fiesta in Reno where I met many very cool mermaid personas. The real key is never cut your hair.
If we were having coffee I would tell you how one thing lead to another and before long I had decided to take on the task of essential education a mermaid needs before owning a tail. This morning my little pupil will be at my house while her mom sews her merskirt back at her house. We will be preparing lunch with a mermaid theme, doing some art work, and chalking her hair. We have Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson cued up on Alexa so she can read to us while we work. We will learn all the words to “Under the Sea” by Sebastian the Crab for Karaoke performances later in the day. When the parents come back in the afternoon we will wow them with our deep knowledge of Neptune and his realm, and some mermaid themed appetizers. I am pretty sure this will be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Stick around if you want me to chalk your hair. I am hoping this will lead to a sincere desire to be in the Tucson Parks and Recreation synchronized swimming program next summer. The program is excellent, and I believe she would have a great time. First things first…costuming and initiation, then some serious practice on the swimming skills. That is how we make mermaids, one child at a time.
Thanks for visiting me today in Tucson. Drop by Diana’s blog to read, write, or shuffle through this week’s offerings. We thank Diana for keeping the good times rolling every weekend.
We went out to eat in our neighborhood today to celebrate the new year. I was thinking of eggs Benedict but we arrived after the breakfast menu had been retired. Much to my delight the lunch menu had been updated since our last visit to include many new dishes that are right up my culinary alley. The Arizona Inn is a very classy place to dine, stay, or do just about anything. I used to take my mother there all the time because she loved the ambiance. I am also a fan of the reserved, quiet atmosphere and the historic style. In Tucson nobody really needs to put up a Christmas tree at home because the Inn provides a fabulous super tree in the library every year for all of us to enjoy. They keep the wood fire going and the charm flowing for hotel guests, so off the street visitors are treated to the same upgraded style. We love the dining room, but the Audubon Bar is adjacent which has a patio where the full menu is also available. The entire space is elegant and designed for classic leisure. I am not sure if many remember classic leisure, but it includes well designed surroundings, croquet, and fabulous service.
I was surprised to see the jackfruit Korean tacos so I ordered them. My starter of vegetarian spring rolls was fresh and delicious. The salad on which the rolls were served was the most sumptuous part of the dish, adding texture and another layer of flavor to go with the dipping sauces. To be honest I would have been satisfied after that course, but the tacos arrived and they really excited me. I finished my soba noodles and two of my tacos, which took me past the point of sensible portions. I am guilty of overeating on New Years Day!! Well, I made no resolutions, so I guess I did not break any. Bob was not able to finish his paella after his starter of corn and cauliflower chowder. I tasted the chowder, another vegetarian item, and really like it too. Bob ordered take out dessert, so the experience lives on in the fridge as two kinds of cake.
Our service was delivered with impeccable precision and grace by Mike Yaugor who has worked at the Inn for six years and likes it. I try not to hound waiters with my lacto-ovo vegetarianism by asking too many questions, but I need specificity. Mike was proactively ready to serve anyone, even vegans. He knew everything about everything on the menu. When Bob ordered paella, which normally is served after 5 pm, he proactively found out that the kitchen could accommodate the order at lunch time. Mike is my kind of guy, a happy, attentive, detail oriented server, comfortable with his colleagues and his guests. He did not mind asking the chefs to don the toques to come out for kudos on camera. Nathan Brown and Mathew Patton were holding down the kitchen on 1 January, 2016. They kicked out a lunch that made our celebration special and memorable. We are both impressed with the innovative new twists to the offerings. We’ll be back! This is, by far, the best restaurant in my neighborhood at the moment.
My food prep practice has helped me introduce more variety into our diet and reduce waste. I don’t aspire to fit all my preparation for the week into one day, like many of the serious preppers. My goal is to consolidate my cooking in order to have a few days each week free from major kitchen cleaning. The reward is so valuable to me that it inspires me to improve my strategy. I believe 3 days at leisure with a selection of prepared meals available is ideal for me because I do enjoy cooking. My perfect style is like having a delicatessen at home that never runs out of treats. Sometimes specialty items can be purchased to fill in for home-made, but cooking from scratch is what I like to do and the way I like to eat. Trader Joe’s helps me a lot when I don’t want to fuss, but I have a goal of eating more whole foods.
This autumn season I want to develop some new variations on some old themes. Chowder, chili, and cornbread are on the menu for savory foods. Tapioca pudding and bubble teas are on the new frontier of desserts. I like deconstructing desserts, then building small portions when I want a bite. Deconstructing lends itself to food prep, since you can create the elements to be combined later as desired.
There is one healthy food I want to include more often in new ways. That food is the mighty sweet potato. Most of the dishes I prepared in the past were sweet, like soufflé or sweet potato pie. I recently tried a savory sweet potato salad with cilantro, bell peppers, cumin and chiles. That savory recipe has inspired me to experiment with the spicy/savory realm. There are good reasons to include sweet potatoes in your diet:
This healthy root vegetable will be featured on our fall table in as many new ways as possible. What is your favorite sweet potato recipe, gentle reader?
I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 1950’s. I ate iceberg lettuce from Kroger’s and frozen produce from my grandparents’ farm in Arkansas. I liked fruits and vegetables, but had only been exposed to a small range because in those times produce was not shipped around the world and stored. It was eaten close to the place where it was grown. When I was 13 my family moved to eastern Venezuela, where my yard contained around 30 super large mango trees. There were also tamarinds, limes, coconuts, a breadfruit, oranges, and papayas right outside the back door. There were so many mangos falling to the ground when they were ripe that a man came daily to our yard to fill a big trailer with ripe mangoes to feed to his pigs. Had he not gathered up the thick layer of ripe mangoes every day we might have drowned in compost. We did eat them and give them to everyone who wanted them, but we still had a huge excess.
I loved my new yard and the orchids my mom grew in the courtyard of our house. It was a big change from suburban Pittsburgh, and I approved. I learned to make jalea de mango with green mango, which was when I discovered my extreme skin allergy to green mangoes. If I handle them I break out I hives where they have touched my skin. Oddly enough, ripe ones don’t bother my skin at all, and I can consume both the green and ripe fruits once they are cooked without any problems. Another wonderful way to eat green mangoes is in a pie. You treat it just like an apple pie, and the flavor is slightly similar. The fruit is green and crisp when it is used it for pie.
This week I had a plethora of ripening mangoes which made me investigate different ways to preserve them. Yesterday I made chutney which turned out very well. I used a chile from our garden,one small lime, raisins, mustard seed, cinnamon stick, cloves, black pepper, lots of ginger, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar to season the ripe mangoes and create a savory and spicy condiment. This is a quick easy way to create a custom flavor burst with your own twist. I followed a recipe but cut the sugar in half to get the taste I was seeking. It is delicious with goat cheese. I think will make more chutney, with ingredients like tomato and onion, because they are simple and add a lot of bang for the buck to a meal. When my partner tasted the mango chutney he said “Get back, fancy restaurants! This is fantastic.” His enthusiasm has encouraged me to groove on down the chutney trail with new ingredients.
I still have a few ripe mangoes today, as well as some strawberries that need to be eaten. I am going to prepare a fruit compote with the two fruits plus a little orange juice, lime zest, and a touch of agave nectar. This creation will need to be consumed in the next day, but the chutney will keep for a month or so in the refrigerator, should it survive for that long. Do you have a favorite way to eat mangoes, gentle reader?
During my visit to Austin I have been on a grand and very festive culinary journey without traveling very much. I discovered in the first couple of days how little I liked driving in this city. Traffic is like Southern California, but there is no ocean view. Knowing that, I investigated all the walkable and easy driving destinations to either buy groceries or enjoy restaurants and food trucks. The only problem I have had is a complete inability to be hungry enough to eat everything I want to try. Honestly, I don’t think they tolerate bad food around here. At least I have not run across any. This is the highest concentration of foodist festivities I have seen in my life. I have been to Napa and the Bay area, and do like all the options in New York City. However, I choose Austin, Texas as my own gourmet destination supreme. I am here at a good time, with plenty of ripe peaches, figs, melons, peppers, okra, and all garden greens. There are farmers markets on every day of the week if you choose to go. Food trucks offer new kinds of fusion cuisine that you could not even imagine. Naturally barbecue is big, but I don’t eat meat, so I stick to all the smoked veggies, cheese,and condiments. They even smoke hummus. It is the creativity and dedication to pure unadulterated products that makes the difference. I even tried beers that are 100% naturally fermented with yeast grown on the farm. I have made some reviews in this blog to guide the gentle readers who might visit, but I would encourage anyone to just follow your nose and the menu that speaks to you. There is an abundance of quality that will surprise you no matter what you like to eat.
During a museum tour I got hungry and walked out to find a bite to eat. I went to the drag (Guadalupe) by the campus and was not favorably impressed. The area has become pretty dumpy with graffiti and garbage. This surprised me because next to campus was always a profitable active place for business. It is now run down, tacky, and did not appeal to me. I managed to find a restaurant right on the mall on campus operated by UT endowment that was lovely and when I was there, very off-peak. This place is the best bargain in town. The Carillon Restaurant serves an all you can eat buffet at lunch for $17.00 that includes a 20% tip!!!! The selection was outstanding, innovative, and prepared with skill and artfulness. Servers were friendly and attentive, and the ambiance elegant. All my selections were delicious. The carrot ginger soup was much creamier ( as in half and half) than my own version which made it almost like a dessert. The grilled romaine was tasty, as were the many grilled veggies on the buffet. I splurged on a tiny raspberry tart and chocolate mousse before heading back to the museum. I think if you only come to town for a day and will only have a chance to try one dining experience The Carillon is the place to go. Bon Appetite, gentle readers. Do you have a favorite food place in Austin? Do tell.
Here in the Sonoran Desert the precious chile tepin grows wild. It has a distinctive flashy flavor that is desired by many on both sides of the border. It is said to be the mother of all cultivated chiles. I have recently replanted some in my garden after loosing some old ones in frosts. They can live for many years when protected in the winter. This promotional video from Sonora has chosen to use South American Inca pipe flute music, which has nothing to do with Sonora…but the chile is an emblem of life in desert conditions. Our natural chile forrest south of town in Tucson is still the largest in the US.