Quick Kitchen Tip

While preparing some food for a potluck, my mom called to ask if she could borrow my reamer.

Me: “I’m using mine, but, ya know, you can simply cut the lemon in half and stick a fork in it, twist and squeeze.”

Mom: “That’s great honey, thanks.”

He-he. I just told my mom to stick a fork in it.

Exercise: The Most Obtainable Remedy


Each day this week I woke up so sore that getting out of bed was a comedy of sorts. Back, arms, joints, ankle – what did I do to myself? Besides a little swimming with the kids, I really have no idea what brought on this pain. And each day I just hobbled around and took it easy.

Taking it too easy soon turned into a general funk (day 2) from which it was hard to emerge. I told myself that I simply get blue sometimes for no apparent reason. Or then (day 3) I listed all the many reasons I imagined that could make me depressed. The list became endless (day 4) as I got more and more imaginative with each item that I dredged up. Before too long, I was caught in a fantasy of misery.

This morning I was saved by the bell, or, in this case, my little one who woke up early with a nightmare. With a few kisses and snuggles, he quickly returned to sleep. Me? Oh, my back, my hip, my arm… I couldn’t rest as my mind was too focused on all my little gripes. Finally, in defeat (or triumph), I got up, threw on my shoes, and went for a walk.

Ah, to see the sun rise on Lake Michigan is such a privilege. The aches and pains that have been plaguing me all week soon eased, and by the time I got back home, I felt that blue shroud dissipate as my energy returned.

It is too easy for me to forget how to cure myself. The exercise that seems so impossible to attempt when I’m feeling achy and blue, is exactly the right remedy. Truth.

It’s a Wrap – BlogHer 13

Always grateful to drop the swag bags.

I didn’t think I wanted to go to BlogHer this year, because, you know, I haven’t really been blogging much.  Writing dropped from my list of priorities, along with eating well and exercising.  Budgeting (to save my house), homeschooling (had to drop the expensive tutors), housework (letting the maid go), cooking (mostly dropped the takeout), driving, driving, and more driving, and endless piles of laundry, stress, anxiety and the occasional blues somehow trumped writing, exercising and anything else that I probably need to do for myself.  How to fit it all in?  So easy to let a few things go.  I may have let too much of myself go, perhaps. The conference, however, was just across the river from me, which made it impossible to turn down.  I’m glad I didn’t.

bean

Impromptu tour of the neighborhood.

What I found at BlogHer13: bloggersSo many beautiful women who openly bare their souls to help us all become better people, make better parents, be better siblings, neighbors, lovers, partners, workers, friends and citizens.  Folks sharing their time and talents to be better photographers, videographers, programmers, writers, networkers, consumers, advocates, etc.  This list goes on and on and on.  It was a vibrant community of mostly women and a few good men all intent on sharing support for one another.  I felt like I arrived empty handed, and left so full.

bedThank you, BlogHer, for some much needed time for myself.dog tiredI am still so dog tired.  (wah, wah, wah…)

Oncoming Storm

stormI’m too young for my bones to be predicting an oncoming storm; unfortunately, age has nothing to do with it.  This morning, my teen and I both woke up feeling like zombies.  I had a terrible sleep.  My hips, elbows, wrists and fingers ached.  Finally at 3am I took an Advil PM.  Stupid, because then I could barely get up.  Zombie.  My daughter, she felt it, too.  Her wrists and knuckles felt terrible.  Both of us were foggy headed and crabby.

In spite of all that, I managed to drag myself and the kids out to do some errands.  Just as we finished grocery shopping, a storm broke out.  It was one of those Chicago specials – not for the faint of heart.  The sky was indeed falling.  After loading the groceries, we jumped in the car.  Flexing our hands, rubbing our knuckles, we looked at each other and laughed.  Storm – yup, we should’ve known.

New York City – Now I, the Tourist

It’s been so long, blah, blah, blah… Once out of the practice of posting, it becomes strange to jump right back in, but today is as good as any.

It’s approaching noon on a glorious, Chicago summer day.  Although the ice has melted, the Blackhawks are marching across town along with a gazillion fans in thick, polyester jerseys celebrating another Stanley Cup victory.  Go Blackhawks.  My kids and I are still in our pajamas, enjoying our respective digital devices with the prospects of another wide-open and unstructured day.

We’ve just returned from a week long adventure in New York City to celebrate one nephew’s Eighth Grade graduation, and another nephew’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  I love visiting my family.  I don’t always love visiting New York.  Since leaving about 12 years ago, I haven’t had much desire to go back.  However, this trip was special.

My daughter, who was a chubby, one-year-old when we left, is now a tall, lanky, teen who is super excited about seeing “the city”.  Eye-roll.  My approach was, “What is so special about NY?  We have everything right here, at home in Chicago without all the congestion, garbage and stink.”

Her turn to eye-roll.   “But Mom, New York is the center of everything!”  I had to chuckle, because I once believed that.  She is about the same age as I was when I first visited New York City.  Because of her enthusiasm, I made certain to chisel out time just for her and Manhattan – a brief, glorious and exhausting, one-day, mother-daughter tour.

The itinerary was simple, she wanted to see the Guggenheim.  She’d seen it in movies, read about it in books, and was dying to experience Frank Lloyd Wright’s temple to the arts.  She could have cared less about the art, it was the building she longed to experience.GuggenheimWell, we didn’t exactly get the full experience as the entire interior has been altered as one piece of work by space and lighting artist, James Turrell.  It was lovely, but not an earth shattering experience.  It was not at all unlike sitting in my son’s fort-under-the-stairs as a strand of Ikea LED lights gradually change colors.  There, that’s it!  After 12 years in the Midwest, I’ve become the ignorant art observer to shout out, “That’s it?!?”  The paintings were pushed to the galleries and the otherwise gorgeous, spiraling ramp was encase in a white screen, creating a claustrophobic, tunnel effect.

After reading many breathtaking reviews about the show, my daughter and I waited nearly an hour in line to get into a gallery dedicated to his work.  Hmmm, one piece.  We entered with about 15 people.  My feet were sooo sore because I’ve lost my NY edge and wore cute flats instead of sensible shoes.  The gallery was dark.  On the far wall was painted a grey rectangle with two dim lights on the side walls.  In the dark, with this small band of strangers, awkwardly shifting around, and one security guard, my daughter whispered to me, “is something supposed to happen?”  Immediately I thought of the Emperor’s New Clothes when the child exclaims, “But he’s naked!”

We were the first to leave, rather quickly, giggling like school girls.

I read later that the rectangle could be an illuminated hole in the wall.  Drat!  I could have put my hand through.  That would have been a totally different experience.  Except that security guard looked rather intimidating, especially after being accosted by guards every moment my hand touched my iPhone – No Photos!The WrightTo complete our completely ridiculous, New York City, I-don’t-get-it Art Scene, we met my lovely SIL, Mara (she’s not ridiculous), at The Wright for lunch.  It was heavenly to get off our feet, sit in an elegant, air conditioned, beautifully designed, museum cafe.  I had the Spring Vegetables with poached egg.  Mara had the Heirloom Yellow & Red Gazpacho.  My girl had the Filet of Beef.  It came out and she gasped, “The plate, it’s so big.  And look at this tiny piece of meat!”  Yes, it was about 1 oz of meat arranged carefully with a few teensy carrots on a bed of green goop.  Twenty-eight dollars.  Yep.  Gotta love New York.Lovely MaraThe rest of the day was a whirlwind.  We cabbed it over to MoMA to see the Rain Room.  The lines were already closed for the day (up to a 4-hour wait!!!), but we were able to enter with ease to walk through as an observer.  Oooh, this was cool.  I hope it comes to Chicago.Rain RoomI thought I’d have to drag my art-averse kid through the galleries at MoMA, but to my surprise, she delighted in all we saw there.  From Le Corbusier’s designs from the 30′s (They look so Modern!!) to Claes Oldenburg’s large, soft sculptures (Pie!), she bounced back and forth to whatever grabbed her eye in the moment.  It was thrilling to me to see her mind wide open to all the possibilities.LoveOh, I love this girl.StreetOur feet were really killing us both by then, so a decision had to be made.  Central Park vs Grand Central Station.  Easy for me, Grand Central was towards home.  We made a slight detour through Bryant Park and were treated to quite a spectacle.  Throngs of people bordered the lawn, that was completely empty.  Suddenly, at 5 o’clock on the dot, an announcement was made and hundreds of screaming people ran at once, with their blankets as banners to stake their territory.  Once declared, they all jumped up and down shouting cheers.  ???  It was all in fun to stake out a good viewing spot to see Invasion of the Body Snatchers at 9pm later that evening.  My girl imagined how much she looks forward to doing this when she lives in New York.  (Mom gasp – so far away!  I’m looking for a small condo for me, now.)

Library LionFinally, in Grand Central.  She exclaims how taking the trains are so much more fun than a cab.  Ughh!  It’s so crazy how age has caught up to me.  Walking through the station I reminisced how the last time I walked these halls, I was hugely pregnant with her (very, very huge) with incredibly sore feet (plantar fasciitis – ouch) .  I walked through Grand Central nearly every day, on my way to work, during my pregnancy with that girl, up until the day she was born (almost).  Look at her, 13 years later!  Grand CentralWait a minute, while I pick up my exploding heart from the keyboard.Staten Island Ferry TerminalNever more grateful to see this sign as we made our way back to my sister’s house.  The Staten Island Ferry, still the best ride in town.  We sat on the upper deck, this time facing the ocean, letting the wind cool us as Manhattan receded into the distance.

What a privilege to sneak away with my daughter to share what I had once imagined was the center of the universe.  I will admit – it was fun to be a tourist for a day.

Chicago, Stop this Killing

Non-Violence, sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswald, image by freshwater2006

Non-Violence, sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswald, image by freshwater2006

As the gun control debate rages on in Washington, people are getting shot and killed daily in Chicago.  Just this last week, a friend posted this news blurb about two kids that got shot.  The young girl, 15yo, someone she knew, died.  Horrifying. I cried for this girl I never knew.  For that moment, what has become a numbing statistic for Chicagoans, jumped to real life just knowing someone who knew her.

I don’t know if folks in my neighborhood of Chicago are thinking that much of the daily shooting statistics.  It would be cruel for me to suggest that they aren’t as horrified as I am.  Yet, I’m not terrified of letting my daughter walk to the grocery store.  I’m not paranoid to leave my house after dark.  I’m going to take a gamble that most of my neighbors don’t live with the same fear, because these shootings don’t happen in my neighborhood.

Just as horrifying was the first comment on the page written by some yahoo, “we need a national guard sweeping of these ghettos.”

I cried again for the attitude held by so many people that this isn’t our problem because it doesn’t happen in the “nice” neighborhoods.  I’ve walked down the streets where this young girl was killed.  My daughter (along with the President Obama’s daughter) danced on stage at the high school that was only a couple blocks away.  I only name drop because I want you all to envision that even the president of our country values this community.  I remember driving through the area dumbstruck at the beauty of the architecture.  There are tidy lawns and beautiful, mature trees.  I saw parents enjoying their Sunday afternoons with their neighbors and kids.  While I don’t know the area enough to say all is wine and roses along leafy avenues, there are beautiful people living there.  Those good folks, their parents, their children, their friends all have as much right to live free from violence as the rest of us.  There is no us and them.  For every victim that falls, that life of possibility, hope and strength can no longer contribute to our shared community.

Frankly, violence spreads.  Just today, a woman was found shot to death on Lakeshore Drive, not terribly far from my home.  None of us are immune.

Ignorance, fear and hate will continue to prevent any possible, positive change to happen.  For every individual that feels they need a gun to protect themselves out of fear, strengthens the machine that makes guns so readily available to those who use them for intentional harm.  I’ve heard people say that gun control laws just keep guns out of the hands of the lawfully abiding citizens and keeps them readily available to the criminals.  I don’t believe it.  In Chicago where it was illegal to posses a firearm, one can drive ten minutes into Indiana, go to a gun show, and come out fully loaded without very little (none?) background checks.

I know there is so much more to this violence than gun control.  Poverty.  Drugs.  Mental illness.  I know.  But please, Chicago, stop killing each other.

Something’s gotta be done.

Raspberry Smoothie

My daughter was in the middle of her Japanese lesson on Skype as I was rummaging through the fridge for breakfast. For someone who has never used Skype, I love it for all the resourceful connections my kid has found. I was hesitant to interrupt her lesson with the noise of my Vitamix.

I did it anyways. 30 seconds of noise pollution for a delicious breakfast to stave off that mid-morning blood sugar crash, which inevitably leads to binging, is so worth it. And my girl liked it, too. (I didn’t tell her about the avocado and chia seeds.)

1/4 pineapple
1/2 pint raspberries
2 cups grapefruit juice
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup chia seeds

Blend. Share. Love.

Pomegranate Green Smoothie

Incredible how these smoothie images tend to look the same after awhile. Well, maybe not that incredible, but what is impressive is how something that looks so identical, day after day, can taste so remarkably different.

Today, I let too much time pass before eating breakfast. Now it’s well after lunchtime, and after snapping at my kids a few times too many, I realize that I’m really hungry.

Time for a smoothie.

Smoothies are the lazy vegan’s fast food. I crave something more complex than an apple, but I need to prepare it in five minutes or less. So into the blender go a few select items, and whirl. This one turned out a bit sweet, so I added an avocado to mellow it a little. Perfect.

1 pomegranate
1/4 pineapple
2 cups grapefruit juice
1/2 avocado
1 cup packed spinach

Blend and drink. Store the leftovers for those snack attack moments.

Citrus Sanity

Ugh.

The smoke detectors began chirping at 4am, demanding battery replacement. After meeting that chore, sleep escaped, leaving me with an entire Saturday to parent through a foggy veil. Hopefully, this citrus charged smoothie will provide a little sanity to my day.

This delicious concoction was the result of cleaning my counter of citrus fruits that threatened to mold and a little Saturday refrigerator cleanup.

1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1/2 cup orange juice
6 clementines, peeled
1/2 avocado
6 kale leaves, stems removed

Blend. Drink. Embrace the power.

Mango Spinach Smoothie

I’m standing inside my warm home watching some determined kids across the park try to sled down a barely dusted hill. That was my boy last year. So what if Chicago didn’t grace us with snow, by god, we’re gonna put that sled to use!

Four o’clock. This is the time of day that I’m ready to eat straight from the cupboards for no reason whatsoever. I’m so glad I have this smoothie leftover from breakfast. So satisfying.

Satisfying a craving doesn’t always stop a binge. So it’s good to ask myself a few questions. Any 12 step junkies familiar with HALT? Am I hungry? A little bit. Am I angry? Not today. Lonely? Hmmm, not really. Tired? Yes! And for overeaters, am I dehydrated? Yes, most likely.

That water thing, unless I’m coming from a workout, it just never occurs to me to drink it. Yet, for some crazy, wonky reason, being thirsty often translates as I need to eat a box of Oreo cookies, along with some peanut butter smothered graham crackers with chips and whatever else I’ve got going on. Crazy, I know. It’s been awhile since I’ve done that, but not so long that I couldn’t imagine it.

Instead, my beautiful mango smoothie.

2 mangos
1 banana
1/2 cup cranberries
1 cup spinach
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Blend. Drink. Love.