Conscious Carnivore

by Wednesday, October 27, 2010
My sister in law was vegetarian for many years, but in recent years she and her husband have been eating some meat.  Lucky for us in the Northwest, we have a lot of fantastic organic local resources for our food, it allows us all to be conscientious about our meat choices without too much effort (and a fairly reasonable increase in cost).

I have been inspired by my family and friends' consciousness about their food choices. And having gotten more into cooking, and thoroughly thrilled at the bounty we have around us in our area, I have been interested in cutting down on my meat intake and explore alternatives. This is partly due to wanting to cultivate a more compassionate approach to my world in general, but also, frankly, for the challenge and inspiration that comes from cooking meatless in a world of MEAT! MEAT! MEAT! You may have already seen this reflected in my meat-free cooking once a week I have been blogging about, and the vegetarian alternatives I have been slotting into my posted recipes as well.

I have been doing a little reading of wonderful "meat lite" recipes, and have come across a couple interesting resources I thought I would share:

"Becoming a Compassionate Carnivore"
written by a city-kid turned farmer, who raises animals for food, which addresses the following:

"Here’s a heads up, though: Becoming a more compassionate carnivore requires change, and change requires time, the one thing most of us lack. How can we possibly change how we eat when we barely have enough time to eat?"

And brings us the hopeful remark:

"This is an exciting time to be both a carnivore and a farmer, and I’m optimistic we’re approaching a tipping point when it comes to buying meat from animals raised humanely."

From the authors of Almost Meatless comes a weekly recipe installment on Serious Eats:

About their book:
"Despite its title, almost every recipe in this book uses meat, fish or eggs. A collaboration between Manning, a former vegan, and Desmond, an unabashed meat lover, the aim is to help Americans, who they believe eat far more meat than is healthy or good for agricultural sustainability, compose meals that are both tasty and filling without having a slab of meat as the overbearing star ingredient."

The Flexitarian Diet"

The 100 Mile Diet - looking at eating regionally to cut back on fossil fuels:

Frankly, I am personally not interested in becoming a vegetarian. Never have been. I eat animals and believe humans are part of a system in which this is our role in the food chain--I don't judge people who feel otherwise in the least, and hope they won't judge me in return. But I am always interested in little and big ways that I can live a healthier, more conscious life, and this is one way that my region, finances, and energies allow me to explore food consumption with more consideration than I might were I not who and where I am at this time in my life.

What are your thoughts on all this? Do you eat out of habit, or out of actual thoughtful choice? How important is the source of your food in this day and age compared to how you thought about it growing up? I welcome any feedback.

Music Monday - Meditation

by Monday, October 25, 2010
I have not been as regular in my meditation practice this year as in previous, but I hope to get myself back on the wagon this winter.  I meditate with gentle music in the background, as I find it helps center me, and my monkey mind is a little less wild. I also like to set up playlists so that they run the length of time I would like to meditate, so that I don't shortchange myself by getting grumpy and giving up after 5 minutes, nor do I lose track of my day and sit for an hour when I really only have a half hour to spare.  I like the tracks to be 5-7 minutes or more apiece so that I am not constantly "shifting gears" with new tunes every 3 minutes like most songs run these days.

Unfortunately, much of my music is still "trapped" on an iMac that pooped out on me, but I will share these three I still have on my laptop playlist for your enjoyment. Enjoy!

Song - Artist - Album
Om Jai Jagadeesa Hare       Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia        Om Jai Jagadeesa Hare
Moon of India                    World Meditation Ensemble    Sacred Fusion
Govinda Hare                     Krishna Das                             Pilgrim Heart    
Have questions about meditation? What is it? Why do it?  From me to you, there isn't anything fancy to it, nor does it have to be a particularly spiritual practice.

Find a spot that is quiet and comfortable, away from any distractions. Sit comfortably (I like a couple pillows under my bottom so my knees and legs don't get achey), and breathe normally and gently.   You don't have to have a particular pose, or put your hands or arms in any particular position, though you should sit with your back straight --not rigid or tense -- to protect your spine, with the head balanced comfortably on top.

Some people close their eyes (I do), while others let their lids hang but not close all the way. You don't have to chant anything or think on any particular phrase or topic. You don't have to have an altar, or light candles or incense (though if you like those things, create a little space for yourself and light up!). As I indicated, I liked to have some music, but some people find that to be a distraction. Find out what creates tranquility in your practice, experiment with different environments (inside or out, bedroom, living room, or dedicated space, sound, scents, etc), and settle in for a little nothingness. Because for me, that is what meditation can be. It is an attempt at pure nothingness, which makes space for...anything and everything!  Through guided practice, you can choose a focus or mantra which can be as simple and narrow as your breath, or as wide-reaching as world peace (cliche, but a wonderful exercise in compassion).

I started when I had my back injury, and I was spending a lot of sedentary time at home alone, unable to even walk to the kitchen without agonizing pain. I was spending a lot of time in front of the TV and computer. Well, honestly, all freaking day was some combination of computer, television, video game, etc. I was feeling really depressed and tired and sorry for myself. I decided I wanted to get myself away from all the constant media input, and focus on healing and centering myself, inside and out.  It was summer when I began, so I would put a thick towel on my back deck in the sunshine, along with a couple pillows to sit on. I would play some soft music, and just sit. And breathe. Sometimes I would think a little mantra in my mind: "I am strong. I am healing." But most days, the plan was to think of nothing. Concentrate on my breath. Feel the breeze on my skin. Allow the sounds of the world around me to diminish and turn my focus gently inward, without closing off from all that was surrounding me.  I gave myself a gift of at least a half hour of this gentleness and quiet each and every day. What a blessing that simple act can be!

If you are interested in reading more, The Google has tons of links and info of course. There are tons of people trying to sell you stuff these days--books and videos. But there are lots of free resources as well, so avail yourself of them and avoid hucksters. Here are a few to get you started:

4 Powerful Reasons to Meditate and How to Get Started:

"How to Meditate"

Simple Breathing Meditation:

Loving Kindness Meditation:

Hypersensitivity: a creative's bane

by Friday, October 22, 2010
Lateral Action hits it out of the park again and again. Thought I would share this snippet from their "Dark Side of Creativity - Burnout" article.  And if this section sounds familiar, you should read the parts about Control Freakery and expectations!

Why are creative people so sensitive to criticism of their work? Because our work is not just something we do, it’s an expression of who we are. As Gustave Flaubert put it:
A book is essentially organic, part of ourselves. We tear a length of gut from our bellies and serve it up.
So when the critics get their knives out, it feels like a direct personal attack. When nobody comes to the show it feels as if your innermost soul has been rejected. And again, this is as it should be – up to a point. If you didn’t care enough to put your heart and soul into your work, there would be no reason for anyone else to care about it. But if you really want to improve, you have to learn to let go of the work, to stand back and appraise it coldly, to see whether it measures up to the standards you aspire to. And you have to be able to listen to others’ feedback and see whether you can learn from it. Otherwise you set yourself up for a world of pain each time you present your work to an audience."

(image: The Green Muse by Albert Maignan, 1895)

Easy Hearty Sausage and White Bean Soup

by Thursday, October 21, 2010
1-2 large sausage(s) of your choice (we chose a local smoked sausage), sliced into thick half-rounds
3 thick slices of ham, cubed
2 cans Great Northern beans (or cannelini beans)
2 carrots, cut into thick rounds
1 red bell pepper, rough cut
2 stalks celery, rough cut
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 cans chicken broth (we use low sodium)
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin
dash of cayenne pepper for pep
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients into your crock pot, mix up well. Turn on crock pot and let your house fill with delicious smells all day. 8-10 hours on low, 4-6 hours on high. Add any additional salt or pepper to taste just before serving. Serve with crusty bread.

  • Throw in a can of diced tomatoes for another level of flavor. 
  • Sub ham base/stock for the chicken broth for a saltier, ham-ier flavor.
  • Use Healthy Choice  keilbasa, turkey sausage, or other low fat sausage for a diet-friendly option
  • For a thicker finished result, shortly before the end of your cooking time, scoop out a couple big scoops of the beans into a separate bowl. Mash with the back of a fork and return to the soup, stir in, cook for another 20 minutes and serve.
  • If you have the time, you can choose to sautee the sausage a little bit, then throw in the onions and garlic for a minute before adding to the soup, but since I wanted to make a "super quick" recipe, throwing all the ingredients in without additional prep works out just fine. Sauteeing also allows you to cook off some of the fat in the sausage, if that is something you would like to do.

Dance Injuries - Having a Plan C

by Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Dance Advantage listed an article recently on dancers and injuries. Specifically the idea that injuries can take away dance from your life. I am familiar with this, having been on and off battling a severe back issue, and more recently knee problems surfacing, and my foot issue which will require surgery I cannot afford at present, which leaves me in pain every day just walking around, let alone dancing.  I have had to give a lot of thought to the possibility that I may not be able to have dance as my career any more, and how betrayed by fate it has made me feel over the past few months.  This is something I am really really good at--the first thing that really resonated with me so deeply, and was validated in the opinions of my peers as well. To imagine it not being my profession any more was impossible to contemplate, and yet I had to give it some serious "face-time" in my meditations this summer.

So this article is somewhat encouraging in its tone and message. Summing up the message in one line:
"As a young dancer, I felt pigeonholed into thinking that I only had two options (dance or don’t dance), when plan C was as simple as being a barefoot dancer who wears shoes – and it took me six years to figure that out."

In trying to figure out where dance fits into my definition of self , this article presents the idea of creative experimentation with the ways dance slots into your life when factors seem to push against that possibility.

In other news, I started Music Monday a few weeks ago, and pre-loaded some posts to release on Mondays. Then didn't go back and check to see if they were posting. Oops! I had them in the queue, but hadn't released them for posting. So keep an eye out for Music Monday NEXT Monday, and hopefully I will have that all cleared up and ready to post for your auditory enjoyment.

A delightful fall weekend....

by Sunday, October 10, 2010
Started the weekend early with a matinee movie with my friend Arya, followed by tea and stimulating conversation. Friday night was a chill night in with hubby. Saturday morning was breakfast, then some food prep for the potluck mini-family reunion later. SIL and hubby came over a little early for a little chat, then we head to the reunion, which was filled with kind, funny, friendly relatives Chris n' sis hadn't seen in maybe two decades or more (as well as delicious ham!).  Went later than we planned, so we went home instead of the Tiff's birthday (sorry to miss it, Tiff! Hope your 30th rocked!) to chill out and watch a couple episodes of Dexter before going to bed early.

Early to bed, early to rise this morning, and went to breakfast at the Jewel Box Cafe, splitting a breakfast panini and a sweet berry crepe.  Came home and knit some on my new mitt design. Spending the afternoon cooking a wild mushroom soup while hubby performs delicate surgery on my iMac to try and fix it (replacing the video card *fingers crossed*). Chopping veggies, plucking some of the last of the fresh herbs from our garden (leaving my fingers smelling of thyme and rosemary all day long), sipping wine and smelling a rich, earthy soup simmering on the stove, all with a background soundtrack of Ella Fitzgerald on Pandora= one thing I can easily adore about the changing of the seasons.

I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of October as I am.

Smartphones = Wallets

by Friday, October 08, 2010
It is alarming to me how often I hear about people leaving their smart phone or their iPod touch behind at restaurants, in their cars in plain view, or it slipping out in a parking lot or theater. Losing an iPod touch or a phone these days is more like losing your wallet, with ID and credit cards all in there. (And a lot like losing a laptop, too!)

Recently on Ravelry, a woman said that her iPod touch had slipped out of her bag on a university campus. The young man who found it opened it up, and she was logged into her mail and Facebook (among other social apps and such), which she uses all the time and keeps up and running. Luckily, this young man posted his phone number to her wall, so she could call and recover it (unfortunately with a broken screen from being dropped and run over by a car, apparently, but still running!).  But to think what he COULD have done with the data on that "entertainment device" is alarming.

These things hold a lot of data that can be used inappropriately, for sure.  So guard it like you would a wallet! You wouldn't just let a wallet slip out of your purse, would you? You keep it in a secure spot in your bag, don't you? Do the same with your iPod touch or phone. You don't leave the restaurant without your wallet, do you? I sure hope not. You keep it tucked in your pocket or purse when not in use, right?  Do the same with your devices.

Just a friendly reminder to keep your identity secure, and not let these "entertainment electronics" become a ID theft nightmare.

Why Spontaneity Comes from Following the Rules

by Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Over at Lateral Action, there is an interesting (& rather deep) post regarding a conversation between Brian Eno and the developer of Sim City, and the application of rules bringing about successful spontaneity. Read the full article here:

The simplest, and most profound, summation of this conversation came in the final segment, quoted here:
Play It Simple

A point that comes up repeatedly in the Eno/Wright talk is that complex results emerge from simple rules. No rules mean there is no system, so nothing is generated. But if you add too many rules and risk breaking the system. The trick is to find just enough rules to get the system under way without destroying it prematurely.

Listening to the talk, I was reminded of playing improvisation games at The Spontaneity Shop: when actors try to improvise a scene in which ‘anything goes’, the results are flat and lifeless.

But introduce a simple rule such as ‘one of you is higher status and the other’, and it starts to come alive. Tweak the rules slightly – ‘one of you is the servant but acts higher status than the master’ – and you have a recipe for spontaneous comedy.

Twitter is another good example of a generative system. When I first tried Twitter, I didn’t see the point. There was so little I could do. Type a 140 character message? Get messages from other people? Is that all?

But when I was persuaded to persist with Twitter, I discovered the incredible richness of the conversations and connections it facilitates. Now you can find me there most days. It’s one of the very few web applications I would genuinely miss if it disappeared overnight.

I’m not the first one to be puzzled by Twitter’s lack of ‘obvious’ features that can be found in similar – but less successful – networks such as FriendFeed or Plurk. But Eno and Wright would probably argue that Twitter is so successful because its rules are so simple.

But how can you know in advance which rules will bring you the best creative results? Which ideas should you pursue and implement, and which should you leave on the drawing-board?

You can’t.

Which means you have to try things, play around with them, test quickly and test often. Allow failure to tag along as a daily playmate.

Isn’t that the beauty of real creativity, that you wake up every morning not knowing what you’re going to discover?

How much do I love those final few sentences. Testing ideas, playing, and being open to failure. Knowing that we *don't know* the outcome, and letting it reveal itself through the process. This is what I mean when I talk about organic creativity! Rules are powerful! Rules are what gives structure to our attempts, what binds together disparate ideas and aesthetics into something solid, tangible, impactful. The results are something familiar to everyone on some level, yet truly unique to us. We use the rules as a tool to create something greater than we could have if we had not defined them and honored them to begin with. And of course, the other lesson in this article is to not impose too many rules. Find those which are truly important, truly valuable to the process and the outcome, and let the rest flow as it will. I aspire to be this confident and comfortable in my creative process, through the thoughtful, sparing, application of rules.

Certifications...what do you think?

by Sunday, October 03, 2010
Here's the truth of it: When it comes to training intensives, I sometimes wish there were no certificate tied to the coursework. 

Particularly in programs which are essentially "participation certificates" rather than tested on demonstrated knowledge and ability, I feel it gives a false sense of accomplishment to the participant, and sends a confusing message to the public that one need only take a few days of workshops and suddenly you can be "officially certified" in a given style or skill. It diminishes both the idea of a certificate and the art/style itself, in my opinion. This is one way in which I have a lot of admiration for the Suhaila certification program. While it has never been of interest to me to pursue, I can see the tremendous value in the way it is structured, and the tangible feedback it provides the dancers--as a friend once said, it can be a roadmap for personal goal setting, and that's fantastic.

At the root, I would rather we focus on the meat of a dancer's/teachers' skills--proven through time and experience and demonstrated skill--than pieces of paper.  
I found my certification training with Gypsy Caravan, FatChance, and now Jamila (still to test, but took the course) to have been incredibly valuable to not only my technique, knowledge, and teaching ability, but also gave me a tremendous sense of history and perspective. Like the proverbial elephant and the blind men, we're all touching different parts of the dance, and are limited by the part we have in our immediate reach. By being exposed to other teachers' and dancer's experience/part of the elephant, I feel I have a better idea of the bigger picture and where I fit into it. If slapping a certificate on it encourages more people to pony up the cash and time to commit to these programs and grow as a result, I suppose in the end it's a Good Thing. But I didn't care one tiny bit if I held a piece of paper at the end of them, because what I got out of these experiences couldn't be measured in that way.

What do you think of certifications in the bellydance world today? Any you particularly endorse or eschew? What are your experiences?


On this blog I share my personal posts about cooking and knitting, travel and other musings; while I will blog about dance-specific topics over on the Deep Roots Dance blog:

I hope you will enjoy both my sites. Thanks for visiting!
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