Tag Archives: Cooking

Eliminating Noise

the coast

I am continuing my quest to be good.

Step 1: the elimination of noise.

By noise, I don’t mean all sound, but a particular kind of sound that keeps me from focusing on what I need and want in my life. And by sound, I don’t even mean literal sound, but information that is unnecessary and welcome.

Like FB or twitter: It’s so exhausting–it’s like trying to keep up with a conversation in which I’m not a major player. Do I really need to take part? When I walk away, it’s not like I’m missed; that conversation keeps moving, whether I’m contributing or not.

So I stepped away. I’m managing to step almost entirely away from Facebook and finding myself…happier, lighter, as a result. (But drats that Farm Town–is there a gum I can chew to wean myself off that addiction? I’m not even sure WHY it is I’m so addicted to Farm Town).

Within the realm of FB, I still trimmed down. I pressed “hide” on Facebook at least 50 times. The first time I hit “hide” I felt cruel, then the next few times I hit “hide” I felt crueller, then I felt guilty, and then I felt…relief.

I am beginning to hear my own thoughts again. And that’s important to me as a writer.

And when I logged off, I began to roam the world.

A friend came to town; and with her visit came a new romance with the city in which I live. She had missed San Francisco and Berkeley and I got caught up in a love affair.

We went to 3 museums in 1 day.

First, the Asian Art Museum, where we observed hundreds of Buddhas. This one, titled “Buddha as an Ascetic,” was most different, and therefore to me, most beautiful:
Buddha as an ascetic

He looks like a man, not a deity. I could have a chat with this Buddha. This Buddha looks like he could totally rip a loud fart and then laugh his ass off. I’m on board with that.

We have been friends for a long time. I tend to bond with women who buck tradition. Two lone wolves together:

Reflection of the Shanghai Exhibit and us

At the Academy of Sciences, where we ooh’d and ahhh’d over myriad sea creatures and where I needed a shower after walking through the Rain Forest exhibition, we observed male crotch on display. Awesome, kind of:

in this display: a male crotch

That clam in the picture is there by coincidence. Brilliant coincidence.

And then last but not least, the SFMOMA. Does Michael Jackson have 3 arms, or is that the monkey’s foot?

Michael Jackson has 3 arms

Over a weekend, the hubby and I took a mini roadtrip, during which we encountered this sign at a Taco Bell. Remember, NEVER go through that door late at night because “YOUR LIFE COULD DEPEND ON IT!!”:
awesome sign at Taco Bell

That sign is so melodramatic, I love it. It appeals to the melodramatic Korean in me. Oh, btw, I’m 100% Korean. Thus, 100% melodramatic.

Also, part of me wants to open that door after night. Does it open up to a world of bad gremlins?

There was snow en route to Tahoe:
snow Memorial Day weekend

OMG, SNOW ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND?!  Yes.

Isn’t Lake Tahoe beautiful? This is by Cave Rock:

Cave Rock and Lake Tahoe

I wish we’d brought some sort of picnic lunch with us. I could have gazed at this vista for quite some time, with a lobster roll or sandwich or cold fried chicken and a drink in hand. Talk about the elimination of noise, right?  Just looking at this picture eliminates all noise in my brain.

That’s not to say I’ve achieved the elimination of noise; I still have a lot to go until I reach an optimal level.

The elimination of noise does not mean going on a diet. Thus, we ate yum food. A chard and mushroom frittata:
Monday brunch: swiss chard and mushroom frittata

And blueberry pancakes; using fresh blueberries:
Monday brunch: blueberry pancakes

In search of more vistas and sights and experiences, a friend and I headed up for a special visit and tour of Skywalker Ranch. I saw the real lightsabers of Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, there. And did you know that there are two different lightsabers for Obi-Wan Kenobi? Now you do. Oh, and I saw Indiana Jones’s hat and whip.

visitor day pass for skywalker ranch

It’s locked down like a fortress; photography limited. All I can say is that it is set in the picturesque Marin landscape, where again, the noise leaves my head because of surroundings like this:
skywalker ranch

Does this mean I’m a country girl and not so much a City girl?

You don’t have to very far to see something cute and funny. This is one of the Wiener Dogs, sleeping on his back, hind paws crossed. Weird.
Scarlet and Ziggy: whose crossed paws?

Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is well underway, albeit delayed by the past cold winter, for the season. That big thing up top left is my french garden sorrel. You know the weird thing about my growing sorrel? I only eat it like, once a year. I really need to eat more sorrel. Its lemony tartness is good. I need to eat more of this sorrel, not only into soup, but this tart.

vegetable garden, mid June 2010

I can’t wait to eat the peas and eggplant and odoriko tomatoes and the triamble squash. We’re devouring the radishes. And using the herbs. I love going out into the garden to gather my dinner. It makes me want a much bigger garden.

Peas in progress. Like embryos.
peapod embryo

Their leaves irritate my skin a little, but I really love pulling radishes out of the ground:
radishes pulled from the garden

And remember that crawfish stock I made? My friend and I used it for a paella this week. I love cooking with friends; I’m the kind of person who, when I play hooky, I spend the day cooking with a friend.

paella

And most importantly, after two months off from exercising (with no reason good enough to serve as a proper excuse), I’m back on the treadmill. It feels good. Why oh why did I stop running regularly?  There are very few things that eliminate noise from my head like running can; every step smashes distraction from my brain.

So–that’s just a few of the things I’ve been doing to be good to myself, to rejuvenate, to eliminate noise.

There are quite a few things I still need to do, but I’m on my way.

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Be Good

tidal pools

This is the beginning of my “be good to myself and inspire others” summer. As I’ve said, I’ve been feeling lost. My novel has felt far away. My friends have felt far away. Inspiration eludes me. Self-confidence has eluded me. Instead of hating this feeling of being lost, I am going to explore this world and try to embrace it and learn some lessons. And I am going to be good to myself while doing it–because I still have choices. I have the choice to eliminate the toxic.

In short, I’m in a period of self-imposed rejuvenation.

I know a little about what is toxic to me; when I was at a writing colony, a Famous Writer came to dinner each night and announced her word count. That alone paralyzed me. It made me feel AWFUL, and it smacked of competitiveness. And Facebook is replete with news like that from my network; word counts, publishing data, industry data. Because Springtime is the time when writers receive literary acceptances to such things as litmag publications, fellowships, conferences, scholarships, etc., it’s been toxic to my writing process and to me. So I logged off of Facebook. (Okay, I will confess here: not entirely, because I’m still addicted to Farm Town–! That in and of itself is kind of a problem, but to my credit, I do skip my newsfeed and go straight to Farm Town). Silence is good.

One thing that struck me was Elizabeth Stark’s video, which made the simple yet brilliant statement that support is key to finishing a book. I didn’t have enough support. And I had plenty of road blocks. So I’m removing those roadblocks. I’m off Facebook, but I’m also spending some time with myself and doing things that make me happy.

I know that the teaching semester isn’t over yet (tomorrow, my students turn in their final papers and we have a potluck in class to celebrate our achievements!) and I have plenty of grading to do, but I’ve made a conscious decision to begin winding down now. This semester has EXHAUSTED me. I’m sleeping in. I’m sleeping a lot. I’m sleeping tons, like I did when I first arrived at Hedgebrook. And instead of feeling guilty like I did then, I’m understanding that it is a part of what I need to do as a writer.

I’m going to all my favorite places, especially those that inspire me. I’m stunned I haven’t visited one of my very favorite places in the Bay Area, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, in nearly 15 years. I used to frequent those tidal pools on a weekly basis during one of the blackest periods of my life, and I used to stare at all the life teeming in the crevices of rocks and in tidal pools, in awe of life’s tenacity.

reef point

A tidal pool habitat is one of the most extreme in the world; the waves constantly pound life and for a few hours each day, the water completely leaves the inhabitants exposed to the air. And yet they survive, and survive well. They have all adapted to this harsh environment. It was totally inspiring to me, and I would sit there on the beach and contemplate this for hours, and derive strength from everything before me. This time around, we sat down and held hands and celebrated our 11th marriage anniversary, feeling more blessed than ever.

anemone and turban snails and hermit crabs

Those waters and that habitat helped me, again. The tidal pools are not the same as they were 15 years ago–instead of many starfish, I spotted one, and no brittle stars and only one tiny sculpin–but still, the myriad anemones and turban snails and hermit crabs were still there, weathering the elements (one of the elements included a family that was actually EATING them straight off the rocks), and persevering/living their lives.

Oh, and the best way to watch a tidal pool? Be still. Be very still and wait.

I am cooking delicious meals again. Over the weekend, cod en papillote atop peashoots with a light mirin sauce). Crawfish boil a couple weekends ago, and then crawfish etouffee. This weekend, I made stock from all the crawfish heads from the boil (I stuck all the shelled heads and tails in the freezer after the boil). I also made chicken stock from a carcass in the freezer. Is it weird when I say that making stock makes me happy? The slow slow simmer rendering the flavor from meat and bones into a clear broth gives me such satisfaction. I like that the discards become the foundation for something new.

beginning the crawfish stock

I’m going to make gumbo tonight. I’m baking cookies for my students grand finale potluck tomorrow; I’m baking all their requests: the New York Times chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin, and toffee chip cookies. My kitchen may look a bit like Sylvia Plath’s kitchen on one of her baking sprees (was she also trying to rejuvenate?)

chicken sausage and shrimp gumbo

Last night, I made a rigantoncini with morel mushrooms + asparagus + shallots in a cream sauce (using Samin’s rigantonicini from the Pop Up General Store, and adapting their suggested recipe).

rigantoncini w morels, asparagus, shallots & prosciutto in a cream sauce

I totally forgot to add chives and a chive flower from the vegetable garden. But seeing that (single) chive flower in the garden made me happy this morning. Speaking of chive flowers–I’ve never gotten any of my chives to flower before (hence the single flower). So that’s sweet.

flowering chive

I bought mangosteens, thanks to my friend (whose blog is a ghosttown) who gave me the heads up about their appearance in a not-so-distant grocery store. And while there, I spotted them: fragrant pears. I filled a bag. (I have to go back for more). Deliciousness. Deliciousness is important to my happiness, and it is important to my psychic health. Deliciousness inspires my tastebuds and in turn, deliciousness inspires me.

I spent some time sitting outdoors on our patio, reading, writing in my journal, and eating homemade salsa. It was nice to spend time outside, in the shade on a temperate day, with a breeze tickling the hair on my forearms. Whatever pollen is flying through the air isn’t bothering me; my allergy season is over.

The resentment and envy has left me and my person, thank goodness. I hate feeling envious–and I see it as an alarm warning saying, “There is something awry in your world, Christine.” There is a quote by Craig Ferguson who said, “Someone once told me resentment is like drinking poison, and expecting someone else to die.” Hence, my immediate decision to detox. I had drunk some kind of poison, and I need to take care of myself. And refill with inspiration and love and support and kindness and energy and joy.

I know, I’m not the kind of person who likes chanting in a yoga class, because I feel it’s too “hippie” but there you go.

I’m decompressing, being still, being with myself. When I was emerging from that Black Period nearly two decades ago, one of the many things I had difficulty with was being by myself, and being still (hence, why I’d go to the tidal pools–knowing that in some way, all the creatures were keeping me company). But in the end, that very ability was the thing that saved me.

There is still heartbreak happening in the world. For starters, the oil slick in the Gulf is now viewable from a NASA satellite…from OUTER SPACE. And there seems to be no end in sight, despite assurances from BP. But–I’m going to start with being good to myself. Or else there will be no goodness coming from me.

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Craving squashed!

disappearing

Remember that apple cider donut craving I’ve been having (for at least a month now)?

Craving squashed.

I made quite a few of them this morning, and then ate two fresh, warm, glazed apple cider donuts. Oh.so.good.

I’m on “vacation” from revising my novel. It’s good to know that on my vacation, I did something other than play Farm Town and grade student papers. 😉 I also ate donuts.

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