Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I should have said Yes to the Italian, No?

I like to think of myself as a writer, which would work if I actually wrote even somewhat regularly, which I don't. Also, just by the quality of that first sentence, I need more practice and have a ways to go. This is what we call free writing... stream of consciousness writing, where the "editor" isn't really turned on and is actually better completely turned off. I have a very strong internal editor who is very difficult to silence. While I write, I am simultaneously reading my words through the eyes of at least three or four other people who are judging and reading into every word. Needless to say, I don't get much done.

View from my exquisite room at the Atlantic Hotel
I actually started writing tonight because I thought I should say something about the Italian I met on Ft. Lauderdale Beach Blvd. last night. (I am in Florida attending some workshops on new software we are implementing at my office.)

First of all, he was extraordinarily Italian and in the best of ways. Probably about my age, handsome as could be, pleasantly overweight, and on a skateboard. I was walking from my hotel after a long day of travel, hungry, and intent on enjoying a bit of sunset on the beach and hopefully finding a nice spot to enjoy a lonely meal. Along the way, I started singing. No one was around (and I am shy about singing out loud in public unless it is a performance venue) and I was truly enjoying the air, the gorgeous crystaline blue ocean view, and simply feeling happy. The gentleman on the skateboard scooting by surprised me, and hearing my voice, he turned his head and smiled.

Then he stopped and within a few steps I met up with him. He asked if I was Indian, and I said no, but I am Sikh. Within a few moments we were laughing and talking about his college roommates who had been Punjabi Sikhs. He spoke better Punjabi than I did. His name was Gianni and what a natural charmer.

Italians appreciate good food, love, and natural beauty. I know this from Italians I have known and from books I have read (hello, Eat, Pray, Love). I haven't known a lot of Italians or read many books about Italians, but I feel confident in making that statement. I realized that he was hoping for some company for the evening. I felt flattered by his comments about my classic natural beauty that glowed from within. He also noted I did not have a wedding ring (and I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of the first things he noticed). I laughed and told him how both my husband and I had broken our ring fingers on separate occasions and had to cut off our rings. We'd never replaced them, and didn't feel the need to do so. We are so solid! Poor Gianni seemed a little disappointed, and said, "Oh, well I guess you probably don't drink either." I confirmed this. So we talked, shook hands, and parted ways, I walking one way, and he turned around and skateboarded the other.
Here is Gianni (not!). I should have said yes. It would have been fun to sit and talk.

I walked on and found a lovely Italian restaurant right across from the beach. The sun was sitting low in the sky which was already shutting its eyelids in shades of pink, orange and purple. I asked for a table where I could sit and enjoy the view and have a bite to eat. And I did. Some crusty warm bread dipped in luscious olive oil & garlic, salad with asparagus spears, goat cheese, baby greens, toasted pecans and a medley of other perfect ingredients, along with a virgin strawberry daiquiri for dessert. It was perfect; me, the sun, the sea, and a beautifully prepared simple meal. I felt complete and blessed.
Delicious. And the fork is not blue. I think it is reflecting the sky.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A brief history of favorite snacks and sandwiches

Peanut butter on  one side
Then add strawberry and swirl into peanut butter in a pretty design
Put sides together
Onion slice
3rd grade
Leftover spaghetti and meatballs
5th  grade
    Peanut butter on one side
    Top with Bologna
    Mustard on the other side
    Put together
7th grade
    Powdered sugar
    Cocoa powder
8th grade
    Jello, any flavor, straight out of the box
High school
    Anything that satisfied munchies
Age 18-20
Avocado sprinkled with Dr Jensens vegetable broth powder
Hav a Chips
    Whole wheat bread
    Alfalfa sprouts
    Dr. Jensens Vegetable broth powder sprinkled on
Lost decade
    Ciabatta roll sliced lengthwise and very lightly toasted
    Light smear of eggless mayo topped with
    Lighter smear of Harissa
    Arugula and/or romaine leaves
    Sliced ripe luscious tomato
    2 slices Yves Canadian bacon, seared (use iron skillet, olive oil spray, high heat)
    Other side of bread spread with ¼ avocado
    This is still my favorite sandwich
Early Fifties
    Chopped romaine lettuce
    Chopped ripe tomato
    Kalamata olives
    Sliced red onion
    Baked tofu, cut in squares or baked tempeh strips (with little braggs & cayenne)
or chevre broken up into salad
    Chopped celery heart
    Chopped other veggies (broccoli, green beans, jicama, carrots, steamed beets) in season
    Trader Joes Balsamic Vinaigrette, or olive oil & lemon juice
    Day old ciabatta torn/cut into pieces
Late Fifties
    Option 1 – blender breakfast – put in blender until smooth:
½ cup frozen mango/papaya/strawberries/pineapple
½ banana
3 leaves of black kale (de-stemmed) or a big handful of fresh spinach
½ cup orange juice
½ scoop Alive vanilla rice/pea protein powder
1 Tbsp. organic flaxseed oil
½ cup water

    Option 2 little fried snack
    8 slices tempeh (1/8” thick crosswise)
    Heat olive oil in small iron skillet
    When very hot, fry one side tempeh until browned
    Turn over. Get second side slightly browned, adding more oil as necessary
    Sprinkle with Braggs and cayenne
    Turn over one more time and let sizzle 15 seconds
    If imagining being on a diet, bake tempeh instead, 400 degrees on cookie sheet sprayed w/olive oil
    Should be browned and a little bit crispy
    Eat with ZING raw cultured vegetables (with beets)
    And San-J black sesame rice crackers

Saturday, May 29, 2010

yes this is what I'm thinking

After skating for years on good genes, good habits, and yogic lifestyle, gravity is finally taking its toll. My turban does help a bit to hold everything in place, but realistically I can only tie my turban so many times in a day. All those who dye their hair, get their faces pulled tight, and spend thousands clinging to whatever remnants of youthful appearance they can... Really, I am not that vain. It’s a battle I refuse to wage, and a process I can fully accept, this drooping, wrinkling, graying thing.... later on, when I am actually old. However, for now, no harm done putting a few things back where they belong. Don’t you think?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Day in the Bay

Thirteen. That’s the number school-free days of my Spring break. I thought it would be great for Gurujodha and me to get away for a weekend… a weekend entirely free of internet, research papers, textbooks, and hours in front of my computer screen. So I planned a short overnighter to Morro Bay. I’ve driven past Morro Bay on the 101 and 1 highways, and mainly remembered it for the huge domed rock jutting out of the water in the bay. I later learned that this “rock” is actually the remains of a volcanic plume from over 20 million years ago, and is one of nine such plumes (called the “Nine Sisters”) in the San Luis Obispo area. The word “Morro” actually has something to do with turbans! When Juan Cabrillo first spotted the rocky pillar in 1542, it reminded him of the turban worn by the Moors. He named the rock “El Moro.” But, that’s history.

So, back to my story… After a lot of internet searching I settled on a spot for us to stay, the Inn at Morro Bay. It was right next to a state park and bird reserve, and also was nestled on the bay, south of the rock. This seemed like it would be a quiet spot, and a good starting point for nature walks. That was really the extent of my planning.  We’d really just have a little over 24 hours anyway and I figured we’d just go with the flow, take a few walks, enjoy a few local eateries, and perhaps find some kind of entertainment. Gurujodha is a huge fan of jazz (I also very much enjoy). I’d hoped to surprise him with a live performance somewhere in town. There was something at a nightclub in San Luis Obispo (about 15 minutes away), but we are not quite up for the nightclub scene.

Anyway, we started off with a trip to the car wash, and left Bakersfield around 9:15 AM on Saturday for our 140 mile road trip, first heading north on the 5. Driving west on Hwy 46 it appeared as though someone had splashed vats of primary yellow, vivid orange, and lavender water colors all over the otherwise green rolling hills…  Fiddlenecks, California poppies, and lupine flashed their colors with utter lack of modesty, literally everywhere! By chance, our trip was during the few most spectacular wildflower spotting weeks of the year. Between my oohs and aahs I managed to take some photos through our already bug-spotted windshield.

Finally arriving at the Inn around noon, we got an early check in, which really just meant bringing our few pieces of luggage into our room (from the balcony we could see the bay). It was small, but clean, a very comfy King bed, and a recently renovated bathroom with a beautiful black slate floor, new pedestal sink, and slate tiled shower. The lush grounds are meticulously maintained with lovely gardens, flowers, towering eucalyptus trees, surrounding all the buildings. Across the street is the 18-hole championship Morro Bay golf course. Quiet. Peaceful.  Stunningly scenic. So far, so good!

Hungry, we drove back into town where we enjoyed a tasty Thai meal. Then we took a stroll, checking out a few great antique stores, chatting with the locals, and then headed down to the beach and the Embarcadero.

I had rather fancied the idea that we might go kayaking in the estuary that runs along much of the bay, created by waters from the Chorro and Los Osos Creeks and protected from ocean waves  by a long sand spit.

When we walked out to the end of the pier where we could really feel the ocean breeze (it was wind) and see kayakers out there struggling in the choppy water I agreed with my husband that it was probably more fun to watch, which we did for a few minutes.

Then we continued on our walk down the embarcadero to check out all the touristy shops there. I noted a restaurant called Ciao Bella Trattoria and for some reason this instantly brought to my mind a pasta dish I had once enjoyed in La Spezia, Italy, about 25 years ago, and I said to GK, “I’ll bet that this place has a great pasta dish with porcini mushrooms, just like I had at a seafood restaurant in Italy!” He laughed (and probably rolled his eyes), saying something like, “Oh yea, we’ll have to come here for dinner,” and we just kept walking, and stopped in a number of shops, the usual tourist stuff, bought a little pink T-shirt for Cassie… we got to the end of shops and turned around and visited shops on the other side of the street on our way back.

When we got to Ciao Bella, GK said, “Siri Ved, here’s your restaurant.” And I said, “Oh yea! I’ve gotta check the  menu!” And I ran inside while he waited, and can you believe it? Posted right there on the wall was their menu, and what was there? “Rigatoni al Tre Funghi,” rigatoni pasta with porcini, portabella, and crimini mushrooms in a pink sauce with truffles. I laughed and called out to GK, “Am I a food psychic or what!?” We decided then and there we would return later on for dinner.

After a lovely snooze in our hotel we headed back out around 6:30 PM and arrived at the restaurant. Jazz music wafted down the stairs as we climbed up to the trattoria. Can you believe? It was Toty Viola, an amazing jazz guitarist, doing a wine country tour, playing this one night only, at Ciao Bella. We were seated a few tables away, with an expansive view of the bay, at sunset, sipping Pellegrini with lime… was this romantic? So totally yes.

I already knew what I was ordering, Rigatoni al Tre Funghi and a primavera salad with goat cheese. GK got his usual angel hair pomodoro and an arugula salad with shaved Parmesan-asiago. Let me just say, my pasta was amazing! Perfectly cooked, the sauce simply luscious, with lots of porcinis, which give so much flavor. If this was take-out at home, I would have licked my pasta bowl. I don’t know if it tasted just like the dish in Italy. That was 25 years ago. But the memory of this one will far surpass the old. We sat for over two hours, enjoying our meal, the music, each other, the peacefulness of the sun sinking in the sea, boats passing by, the perfection of the time and place…

Gurujodha went over and talked to Toty for a few minutes (that’s how we found out who he was). I love how GK will go up and strike a conversation with anyone, from movie stars to salesclerks, and make a connection. We ended with some decaf and shared a piece of irresistible Italian cheese cake.

We left Ciao Bella close to 9 PM and walked some of our meal off, strolling the embarcadero again, and then came back to the Inn. I slept in till after 8:30 AM and woke just in time to join GK in a morning yoga set.

We loaded up our few things and headed to San Luis Obispo for breakfast at the Big Sky CafĂ©, a restaurant that offers amazing meals prepared with locally grown organic produce. I had “New Mexican” style posole with killer cornbread and scrambled tofu (it was tasty, but I don’t think they’ve ever been to New Mexico…. The sauce was all tomatoes – a big no no – and next to no red chile). Gurujodha ordered a tall stack of wholegrain pancakes with cranberries and orange zest and some roasted herbed potatoes… He saved this location on his iphone, and I on my GPS handheld. What a find! Then we explored downtown SLO for a half hour before we headed home, a return drive through the beautiful green, orange, yellow and purple hills that divide the Central Coast and Central Valley.

Tomorrow? Back to work and back to school.

Thank you God, for everything. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just one of those days

When I write I always have an editor on in my head. The editor is the eyes and ears of everyone I know and I don't know who could possibly read it and judge me. I know it's ridiculous. But that's the deal. I've got issues. There are probably only about three people who ever read this anyway.

I believe that we as a species are generally ruled by our beliefs. Ha! We all have underlying beliefs, consciously or not. that affect everything we do, think, how we react. For instance, I have an underlying belief that I am completely unlovable, that it is literally impossible for anyone to love me. On top of that, I also have an underlying belief that all men are incapable of loving, not just me, but anybody. How's that for some issues? A perfect set up for misery.... not only am I unlovable, but even if I was, no man could ever love me, because all men suck at love. These beliefs have provided a whole bus load of opportunity for failed relationships and undermined happiness.

But these are beliefs. These are not what I know.  Because when I rise above my DNA and step outside of those beliefs and see a broader view, I know they are false and based somewhere in the long ago past on the the perceptions of a three-year-old who was trying to make sense out of her world. And, I do know love and I do know I am loved, and love definitely is. But, I am entirely too much in my head. This proves it.

Anyway, that's about as deep as I am going to get tonight!

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Step at at Time

Amputees come to my office every day.  Below knee, above knee, below elbow, above elbow, breasts, toes, feet…. Diabetics, veterans who lost limbs serving our country, breast cancer survivors, accident victims, and God knows all the ways good, everyday, folks end up minus a body part… Maybe they are coming in for a BK adjustment, a new bionic arm, or to pick up a few prosthetic socks. After a while some feel so part of the “family” here that they just walk right back to the staff room and help themselves to a cup of coffee.

The greatest days here are when a new amputee walks for the first time on her/his new leg. It’s like they have life again. I’ll never forget the look on a local police officer’s face the day he first tried out a new leg designed for high impact, heavy duty use. He ran across our walk room, and it wasn’t the running that was amazing, it was the smile on his face that literally filled every corner of the building. Some months later, this handsome man in his late 30s met all the physical requirements to be a fully active police officer, without any restrictions… saved from the fate of a desk job for the rest of his working years. 

The harder days are ones like today. A young woman came in, pushing her husband in a wheelchair. I am not sure what happened to him. I heard the words “burn victim,” which explained the fingerless gloves on his hands, hands that were missing most, if not all, of their fingers. His right leg, above knee and down, was also missing. Both their faces still bore the strain, grief, and shock, of everything that they have gone through, and he has suffered, since the terrifying moment that transformed their lives forever.

The great thing is they will get through this. He will walk, even run, again. Someday when he becomes a dad, he’ll be able to run and play with his kids. He will have hands to lift and hold his babies close to his heart. The face that is now drawn, grieving, and frightened, will again shine with light and he will again feel joy. His life will be transformed again.

Honest to God, I don’t always love all the things my job entails, but I do love what we do here, and that gives purpose to everything else.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Through the eyes of a child

I was thinking today about how I have always had an underlying belief that somehow the amount of gifts one receives has something to do with how much one is loved. I know that this is a perception and not a reality. Like many perceptions that many of us "adults" operate on, it comes from somewhere, and probably from something that happened many years ago. I am thus reminded of this short story I wrote a few years ago, about Christmas morning when I was three or four years old.

It was Christmas Day, the first one I remember.

The first thing I heard that morning was my big sisters squealing in my ear, “Wake up! Corinne, Wake up! Santa came! Santa came!” I followed them into the living room rubbing my eyes with my hands, adjusting to the early morning light. And then I saw the Christmas tree, all lit up like the night before, but with presents piled everywhere around. Carol and Nancy were first to their stockings hung on the mantel, and I could see all the candies and little toy surprises come pouring out and their faces so lit up with big smiles. Carol got mine down and handed it to me. It felt heavy and round. I turned the stocking upside down, in complete wonder about what could be in there!

And then a large onion tumbled onto the floor. I stared at that onion trying to comprehend that it was there and there weren’t any candies or toys at all, and all I felt was a terrifying crack in the world... We three girls in our flannel pajamas with happy little Santas, Nancy Fancy Pantsy always with ruffles…  The Christmas tree still sparkled with silver tinsel and lights, all decorated with twirly ornaments and the colored paper chains we had made with Mommy. Baby Jesus was in the manger with all the animals and angels and Mary and Joseph standing in the hay...

And somehow out from them and out from the walls of the living room that I knew, out through the windows with drapes flying, the onion and I were hurled through space, to some place else far far far away, where there was nobody else. My eyes looked for my mommy’s, hoping for some words that would bring me back to where things were right. She stood, holding my baby brother in her arms, her slender face surrounded by pink plastic curlers, and she explained, “Santa gave you an onion because you still suck your thumb.”

I was struck with disbelief, so much so I didn’t cry, I didn’t ask why, because what it all really meant I didn’t understand and it was too much to try to understand. She didn’t say anything else about the onion. I suppose my lesson was learned. Then we all started opening presents and dolls, toys, and games… and even though it seemed like I was back, nothing was ever the same again.