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Hibernating ’til 2015

By December 17, 2014 feeding ourselves, living a joyful life, nurturing, personal growth, pleasure, practice, slowing down

Hey guys. It’s been awhile since my last post. Maybe I will share what’s been going on after the first of the year. As with everything around me, I have been going through lots of changes. What a world we are living in! For a while, I will be taking some time to focus on self and be attentive to my own world. I will share at some point. I am not sure when and how that will evolve. I promise to keep you posted.

Cheers to each and everyone of you that have been keeping up with my site. It has been and will continue to be an expression of love. I have been so grateful for the interest and appreciation some of you have shared with me. I wish you all a wonderful holiday. I look forward to re-connecting with you in the new year.

So much love from way deep in my heart,

Shelly

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A Thoughtful Monday: A Moment’s Re-cap of the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium

By October 28, 2014 #sfa14, building relationships, feeding the inner self, in the South, inspired by others, practice, Southern Foodways Alliance

I spent this last weekend eating some of the best food in the South. I’ve listened to meaningful, emotional, and thought provoking presentations by a variety of passionate humans. I’ve seen my own passions for life, food, and humanity become illuminated from the authenticity-stirring theme at the 2014 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium- “Who’s Welcome at the Welcome Table.” I’m incredibly grateful to each and every soul who was there. Now I ponder how I want to take action with the momentum of energy kindled inside of me about race, sexuality, class, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and what it means to be human. May we each dig into to our own fears, anger, prejudices, insecurities, and shame that we’ve experienced in this life. We are living in an amazing time of change. The change begins inside of each and every one of us. May we get closer to truly welcoming each other at our tables and feeling welcome at any table. I’m grateful for coming home with my cup overflowing as I prepare dinner and connect with myself in my own kitchen. Thank you to John T. Edge for leading such an important event and to all that made it possible. 

If you don’t know about the Southern Foodways Alliance, I invite you to check them out at southernfoodways.org They have a dynamic site full of stories, resources, and education.

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Lesson: I have honored my need for a day of solitude and chilling out. Stay tuned for a more in-depth recap of my symposium experience! What are you doing to honor what you need today?

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Taking Care of Your Veggies and Yourself

By October 19, 2014 Fall, greens, nurturing, practice, self care, taking care of veggies

Saturday I went to the farmers’ market. I was hoping to find a variety of autumn vegetables, and I certainly got what I had hoped for. The tables were loaded with lots of root vegetables: carrots, beets, kohlrabi, breakfast radishes, daikon radishes, and my personal favorite – Japanese salad (or hakeuri) turnips. There was quite the bounty of greens as well. It was a greens lover’s dream come true – a wide variety of lettuces, lacinato kale, red Russian kale, collards, escarole, tatsoi, mustard greens, cabbages, spinach and arugula.

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I have a “thing” for the roots, radishes, kale, and other hearty greens that can be found at the farmers’ market this time of year. The quality of the greens you will find at the market most often surpasses the produce you can buy at grocery stores.

Your greens will have a much longer shelf life when you buy what is locally grown. The less “travel time” there is from farm to market, the greater the amount of enzymes and nutrients the food will retain. And the healthier it is for our bodies.

Here’s a tip for keeping your root vegetables and greens livelier longer. I learned this technique while working in the produce department of a little neighborhood gem: The Turnip Truck natural market. Most larger grocers also use this method to keep their produce livelier and looking good for their customers.

The process is called hydrating. You are basically giving your vegetables a good drink of water. It’s amazing what this does for them. Let’s begin with the roots – if your root vegetables get soft, simply put them in a sink or bowl of lukewarm water. Allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes or until you feel them get firmer to your touch. Then you can drain the water off and either use the vegetables immediately for a recipe or put them back into the crisper in your refrigerator. If you buy a lot of carrots (or other roots) at once, but don’t use them that often, you can repeat this hydrating process as many times as you like.

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For the greens and lettuces, fill the sink or a large bowl about 2/3 full of lukewarm water. Next, trim the very bottom stem off of the lettuce head with a paring knife. If you have a bunch of greens like kale or collards, trim the stems off by ¼ inch. Immerse the lettuce or greens in the water. If you plan to use the greens right away, you can make the water a little colder. This will make a lettuce like romaine a little crisper right before eating it in a salad. Make sure not to put the vegetables into extremely cold water, because this shocks the plant. Soaking the lettuce or greens for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour and a half will liven them up really nicely.

When you take the lettuce or greens out of the water, you can simply shake off the excess water and return them to your fridge, or put them into your favorite salad recipe. If I am going to put lettuce or greens back into the fridge, I wrap paper towels around them to absorb some of the excess water and to keep my other veggies dry.

The hydrating process can help extend the life of your veggies and give them a good cleaning at the same time! In addition to the roots and greens, you can hydrate green onions, potatoes, fennel, and celery. However, I do not recommend this process for squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, or eggplants.

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Enjoy the fall harvest! If you haven’t tried it yet, check out the farmers’ market bounty. You might be surprised how much you like it!

Lesson: The energy and care that we put into our lives is what we get in return. Taking time to care for our veggies and ourselves gives a beautiful return on our investments. What are you going to do to care for yourself this week? 

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A Beautiful Equation – The Melding of Skill and Love

By October 13, 2014 creativity, Durham, Fall, feeding ourselves, living a joyful life, nurturing, personal growth, pleasure, practice, self care, slowing down, Travel

Wow! Life has been busy and full of adventure. How about for you guys?

I had a wonderful week at the beach with friends mid-September. I took naps. I read fiction. I danced. I fished. I allowed myself to lose track of time. I nurtured myself and friendships with meaningful people in my life. I enjoyed the sun, the sand, and the water.

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That time re-ignited my intention to only put my energy into avenues and projects that feed my soul. I came back from that trip with a new sense of what I am going to be doing next. I will keep you posted on these adventures.

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I returned from vacation with my feet hitting the ground and running. I participated in and planned two different dinners for an annual fundraiser for Durham Central Park called Meals from the Market. I played a more of a hands-on role at a dinner at the historic Kress Building in downtown Durham with hosts Amanda Smith, Marybeth Dugan, and Kenny Dalsheimer. We could not have imagined a more picture-perfect evening!

These guests are enjoying a glass of Friulano, one of my favorite Italian white wines.

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I had the pleasure of working with a close friend and talented chef, Amanda Orser (pictured below on the right). This was mine and Amanda’s first public expression of melding our passions  and skill as a team. We have enjoyed each other’s company in the kitchen for as long as we have known each other.

We plan to facilitate many meals for others in the near future. If you know anyone need of a party, we are your gals. Amanda does the savory cooking, and I enjoy doing the wine pairing and making desserts. I was thrilled to have some of my Pizzeria Toro colleagues, including the lovely Nicky Owens (pictured below on the left), assist in making our service seamless from beginning to end.

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From fundraising to family- I just returned from a long weekend in San Antonio, Texas. I flew out to visit my family. I have a new niece, Rosalie, who just turned six weeks old. I went give her a loving welcome to this world and share some quality time with the rest of my family.

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I enjoyed time in the kitchen with my niece, Selena. We roasted okra that we found at the Pearl Farmer’s Market in downtown San Antonio.

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My mom flew back to North Carolina with me. She will be staying with me for a few weeks. Over this last weekend, we enjoyed a nice balance of cooking, connecting, and relaxing. I am looking forward to spending some time in the kitchen with her. She likes to bake as much as I do. I see some apple pie in our future. It is apple season here in North Carolina. Tonight I made sorghum glazed apples for dinner. They were the epitome of seasonal fare!

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I have another dinner event coming up this week. I am going to make some sorghum and cinnamon ice cream to serve with a pumpkin shortcake. I am excited and nervous to pull off a dessert that I have never made before. What always works in these situations is trusting my instincts and experience. It always turns out great! I was baking long before I could drive a car. I see an opportunity to share a recipe in the future.

With as full as my plate had been over the last month, I am as content with my life as I have ever been. I am putting my energy into projects that I truly enjoy. I am moving into the space of work becoming play. Who wants more of that? All hands raised, please!

Lesson: I am continuing to focus on my goal of only putting my energy into what feeds me – keeping in mind that I want to nurture the expansion of my talents and gifts. I am stretching myself all along the way. Isn’t that what this journey is about? What are you doing to feed yourself these days, even if it’s one little thing (that really is a big thing)?

 

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Lighten Up and Let Go: Flutter Breath

By September 10, 2014 feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, having flexibility, inspired by others, living a joyful life, personal growth, pleasure, practice, self care, silliness

I have been in a pretty serious and focused space over the last few weeks. I have been craving avenues to express silliness. Who would have thought that an expression of silly would be found in my yoga practice?

I was reminded how invigorating it is to be silly this evening in my yoga class when the instructor guided the class through a series of breaths. The final breath in the series was what is called the “flutter breath.”

I found a delightful snippet about fluttering on a blog about breathing and yoga. I found this image on there too! I am not sure who to give credit to, but I love it!

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Here’s what Diane Neuman, author of Breathing Deep Exercises, had to say about fluttering: 

Fluttering is an effective way (albeit silly) to dump some tension from your face. Face muscles are very small, very complicated and, therefore, a bit difficult to unknot.

Considering all the personal and professional challenges that get dumped on you during the day, it is no wonder that you squint, grimace, clench your jaws, wrinkle your forehead, tense your tongue and jut your head forward! Small face muscles eat up an enormous amount of energy. A tense face messes with your breathing and that messes with your speaking and that messes with your accomplishments.

We will stray briefly from the preferred nose-breathing. Keep any mouth-breathing brief and stop for water if you begin to feel dry.

Keep your mouth closed with lips and jaw muscles completely relaxed. Your lips will be parted slightly only by the escaping exhalation.

1. Breathe in through your nose. Softly blow out each exhalation through your relaxed lips until they flutter. Wet your lips when necessary. Horses and babies make this same sound.

2. Inhale slowly through your nose and breathe out through your “flutter.” Gently squeeze out as much air as possible. The gentle vibration will gradually melt away tension from your face and jaws.

Lesson: I am working on letting go of my serious approach to a number of things in my life. I am sending soulful gratitude to Jennie Dickson at Durham Yoga Company for facilitating the flutter breath in class tonight! I have learned a new strategy to be silly on the mat and in life. I can do it anywhere! 

What strategies do you have to allow some silliness in your life? What might happen if you allow yourself to be silly in unexpected places? 

 

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A Short and Sweet Reminder of How Important You Are

By August 24, 2014 feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, living a joyful life, nurturing, personal growth, practice, self care, slowing down

I could give you a post about a recent trip, making refreshing beverages for hot summer days, or how to preserve the last of summer vegetables.

Instead, I am keeping this post short, sweet, and to the point.

Who knew I was capable of that?

I am sending a loving nudge and a reminder to you of how important you are.

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Self care and nurturing are expressions of loving ourselves.

Learning to love ourselves is the most important work that we will do in our lives.

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Lesson: We are worthy of being a priority in our own lives. I know that the world is busy. There is a lot going on right now -inside and outside of us.

What can you do to treat yourself extra special this week?

How can you plant some seeds to keep you in the forefront of importance in your life? 

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Coffee and Tea: From a Server’s Point of View

By August 17, 2014 attention to detail, beverage junkie, coffee, customer service, having flexibility, practice, working in restaurants

Imagine running 100 miles a minute, having a list of 40 things to do next, and having to stop in the midst of it all to pull together an after dinner drink ensemble for five people. All of the 40 things I am about to orchestrate are going to be put on hold. It is time to make coffee!

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To some restaurant servers- as many as I know – serving coffee and tea can put a kink in our flow. We have to leave our sections (what we call where all of our guests are sitting) for more time than we really like to, and we often have to run around the restaurant to gather ingredients that are not within arms’ reach. It really takes a lot of time to put together an assortment of after dinner drinks for five people, unless they all decide to have the same thing – and that doesn’t happen often. People have individual preferences, don’t you know! And we want to be respected for those preferences!

Living in the wonderful world of customization, people have a lot of choices when it comes to what they will be drinking after dinner. It no longer comes down to “I’ll have regular or decaf.” People have at least 10 options when thinking about how they want their coffee. There are a variety of espresso drinks, with or without steamed milk, foam, whole milk, skim milk, etc. There’s drip coffee. At some places you can get French pressed beans or pour overs. Again, you have all of the dairy options, and don’t forget the non-dairy options: almond, rice, or soy milk.

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Then there is the sweetener option, a whole different debate for some people. Which is better to offer for guests? There’s straight white sugar, sugar cubes (a bit more elegant in appearance and less messy), less-processed sugar in the raw, honey, and stevia. Then there are the artificial sweetener choices. I could write an entire post about the “yellow, pink, and blue stuff” that people still ask for.

There are also many options for tea drinkers. Do you want honey, sugar, perhaps lemon? If you really want to get technical – which I do when I am at home – there are varying degrees of water temperature that one should be thinking about when serving tea, especially if you are having green tea.

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Thankfully for me, and for my guests, who I do not want to burden with too many choices, the place where I work only offers coffee and tea. We serve simple and well-crafted food, and our coffee and tea list matches the rest of the menu in simplicity. That means I do not have to run all over God’s green earth to gather ingredients for after dinner drinks (although it seems that way sometimes). I just have to go away from the place where I can visually monitor what the guests in my section are doing. I have to put everything I am doing on pause for 5 or 10 minutes to prepare some delicious espresso drinks and tea for my guests. Just as I do, they appreciate the way good coffee complements their dessert and wraps up their dining experience in a ritualistic way.

Lesson: Working as a server, and in life, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. Sometimes focusing on the bigger picture can make all the difference in a dining experience. When is looking at the bigger picture helpful to you in your life? 

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What Do I Do with a Mushy Cantaloupe?

By July 28, 2014 beverage junkie, creativity, having flexibility, practice, recipes, summer

There are few things more disappointing to me than picking a fruit that has an undesirable texture. Come on, you know what I am talking about. How many tomatoes, peaches, plums, apples, or melons have you sunk your teeth into with disappointment?

In the summer I can eat a cantaloupe a day. There’s nothing quite like that subtle musky, juicy, refreshing melon experience. What is hard to swallow is when I pick a melon with a mushy texture. Who’s with me here?

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As usual, I went to the Durham Farmers Market on Saturday morning. I have been buying three cantaloupes from Brinkley Farms each Saturday. I have to admit, for as long as I have been eating cantaloupes this summer, my run on really good one’s has been mind-blowing!

Today was the first time that I sliced open that wonderfully musky fragranced melon to discover a mushy texture. The flavor, on the other hand, was perfect. What was I going to do?

I grabbed my Vitamix blender and scooped out the flesh of the melon straight into the blender pitcher. Once I had all of the melon scooped out, I put the lid on the blender and turned it on low. In seconds I had a refreshing juice. That was an incredibly easy solution!

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One thing to note is that after it sits, this juice will thicken. I did not strain out any of the pulp. You can thin it by adding some coconut water until you get the consistency that you want.

Another option would be to transform the juice into a shrub. Click here to learn more about shrubs and shrub making. I haven’t tried that yet, but will check it out and get back to you. You could also make a soda with your juice by adding sparkling water to it. Play with the ratios to get the flavor and texture you like. It is better to add a little bit of soda at a time. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away after you mix with your juice.  Let me know how you like it!

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Lesson: When things don’t go quite the way we planned or even assumed that they would, we can feel disappointed or even frustrated. These feelings often show up when we have expectations of a particular outcome. Who doesn’t want  to eat a perfect melon?

I always do my best to come up with alternate options that will work just as well as the outcome that I had hoped for in the kitchen and in life. This cantaloupe juice is a good example of that. What do you do to have flexibility when things don’t turn out as you had hoped?

 

 

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My o ya Experience

By July 21, 2014 attention to detail, creativity, feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, living a joyful life, nurturing, personal growth, pleasure, practice, self care, so much to learn, Travel

First, I want to extend my apologies to anyone who was looking for my post from Loving Food and Life in their inbox this last Monday. I unexpectedly did not have Internet access that was strong enough to handle posting to my site. I decided to chill out about it. Unexpected things happen. I was on a magnificent island at the time. What else was I to do?

I have at least 20 tales to tell you about the last month of my life. I have been making some leaps. I have been having a blast. I have been on vacation. I have been laughing or crying tears of joy depending on the moment. I have been appreciating these human-ly emotions that I have been feeling.

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This post is about exhibiting one of the finest meals of my life (so far). What lands it on the list of the finest? For one, I decided to take a leap and go explore the city of Boston by myself. This meal was a magical benefit of my decision to take this trip. There was no way that I could return to Boston (my 2nd visit there) without a meal at o ya. To make it even more special, my friend and past colleague from the days of working at the Magnolia Grill, Maggie Warren now lives in Boston and works as a server at o ya. She wanted to wait on me, and I was thrilled to have her share a dining experience with me.

It might be redundant for me to say this, but I dig deep into the beauty of a meal. By the time I left o ya, my eyes were filled with tears of joy. I was full of gratitude to all of the people who participated in running this restaurant. Each one contributed to making my experience grand. I was appreciative of how thoughtful Maggie chose each course for me with a perfect sake pairing to match. I almost felt like I had been transported to another world. Then I became deeply in touch with my own creation of this experience. As the tears uncontrollably fell down my cheeks, I realized how it felt to be responsible for all of this.

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I went to o ya early on a Friday night. When I made my reservation, I asked to be seated close to the “pass” at the chef counter where I could see the food coming out. I went in feeling thrilled to be there again. This was my 2nd time dining at o ya. My anticipation of many exquisite bites was bubbling over.

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I sat at the chef’s counter thrilled to have Maggie as a dining companion, while I would be the only one eating. I told Maggie to feed me whatever she wanted. I told her that I would let her know when I needed to slow down. She brought me a beautiful flute of champagne to get things started.

Here’s what happened next: (I have posted the dish and then the picture)

Kumamoto Oyster watermelon pearls, cucumber mignonette

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Hamachi spicy banana pepper mousse

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Salmon unfiltered wheat soy moromi

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Santa Barbara Sea Urchin and Russian Ossetra Caviar

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Karikari Crispy Sesame Chicken Skin yuzu-honey pickled ginger, schmaltz powder

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Artic Char yuzu cured, sesame brittle, cumin aioli, cilantro

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Fried Kumamoto Oyster yuzu kosho aioli, squid ink bubbles

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Wild Bluefin Maguro soy braised garlic, micro greens

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Kyoto Style Wild Morel Mushrooms garlic, soy

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Line Caught Ishidai Usuzukuri spotted knife jaw, ponzu, green onion, spicy daikon

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Scottish Salmon Belly cilantro, ginger, hot sesame oil drizzle

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Hamachi viet mignonette, thai basil, shallot

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Bluefin Toro Tartare ginger kimchee jus

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Chilled Maine Lobster Salad avocado, creamy yuzu dressing, micro greens, cucumber gelee

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Tea Brined Fried Pork Ribs hot sesame oil, honey, scallions

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Grilled Chanterelle and Shiitake Mushroom Sashimi rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth, soy

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Kushiyaki of Kobe roasted onion, yuzu kosho, maple soy sauce

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Foie Gras Miso Spoon tempura bits, preserved yuzu

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Chilled Daikon Dumpling miso nut “cheese,” homemade kimchee, wakame, spicy pine nut mayo

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Yuzu Curd almond, blackberry-jasmine, meringue and Aged Sake Gelato miso-hazelnut caramel, vanilla cremeaux, financier

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I am not a restaurant critic. You can find all sorts of amazing reviews of o ya here from critics all over the country.  Please check out o ya for yourself if you’re curious in learning more about them. If you’re in Boston, make a reservation.  It truly is a “don’t miss!” They pay attention to every detail you can imagine. When you are there, you will see beauty at every turn. I definitely had moments when I thought I could’t bear to lose the taste that I had just experienced. In his review of o ya in the New York Times in 2008, Frank Bruni said that he ordered a 2nd piece of one dish right after the first. There was no way he was leaving o ya with the memory of just one.

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Lesson: I have been in the process of stepping into a new way of living. To give you contrast, I spent many years often expecting the worse or not having much expectation because I was afraid of being disappointed. I am learning to trust that life is joyful and full of beautiful experiences. This dinner at o ya was indeed aesthetically beautiful. The presentation of the food was an exhibit of art. The smells and tastes of each plate were inviting and expansive. This dinner was an exhibition of how beautiful life can be. It served as a reminder that I am an artist to the depths of my soul. I have the ability and the power to create anything that I want in this life.

I am going to continue to practice this art of creating. It is bringing so much joy into my life. It’s not that fleeting kind of feeling that comes and goes. It is hanging around. It is flowing through me and into each encounter and experience that I create. It is hard to put into words what this is like. It is my wish that you can feel what I am saying.

What steps are you taking to make room for more joy in your life?

 

 

 

 

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Dear Summer, thank you for the pleasures you bring!

By June 30, 2014 feeding ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, nurturing, pleasure, practice, self care, simplicity, slowing down, summer veggies

Here’s a visual expression of a few things that are bringing pleasure to me right now. IMG_0169The anticipation of tomato season is beyond words. I savor every juicy bite!

IMG_0288There are few pleasures greater than homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

IMG_0321I wake to see blossoming all around me! 

IMG_0335Fruits of summer at the Durham Farmers’ Market.

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IMG_0388More blossoming. Sungold tomatoes on their way.

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IMG_0417My garden mentor, Peter.

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IMG_0445Cantaloupe, I can eat all day every day.

IMG_0476Summer supper with friends. My first corn of the season, elote` asada.

Lesson: Summer brings simple pleasures. I am taking the time to appreciate all of the simple things in my life right now: the juicy bite of a tomato, the refreshment that a slice of cantaloupe brings to my senses, learning in the garden with my dear friend Peter, time spent in my garden reflecting on the growth I am seeing inside and outside of me, and so much more.

I am shifting my attitude about my life. I am making room for more pleasure. In previous posts I have mentioned that I am only choosing to do things that feed me. Paying attention to pleasure and allowing it in my life is what is feeding me right now. What is feeding you? 

 

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