keep your peepers open!

keep your peepers open!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

orchestrated comfort

In my quest to purchase and prepare in some form or fashion only the amount of fresh fruits and veggies I can consume in one week, I stood barefoot and hungry, two plum tomatoes in one hand, two golden delicious apples in the other, in the middle of my kitchen floor completely wiped out from a few days of suffering from a migraine trying to determine what I was going to make as both were just on the verge of beyond ripe. I looked and felt like a limp dishrag in dangly earrings...yes, I did manage to pick out jewels to adorn the forlorn before trudging from one room to the other. My energy warned me not to allow the cook in me to get overly ambitious; I had not the strength to argue, though the cook still wanted to whip up something tasty. I keep frozen vegetables on hand, will caramelize an onion in a heartbeat and mix it with any given ingredient that I think it compliments hot or cold. An idea began to brew.

Both of my grandmothers made succotash. Though each had a slight variation on the theme, they started by putting canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, a little bacon grease and fully boned skin on pieces of chicken into a huge black pot. Fresh or frozen lima beans were added when the meat was just about falling off the bone, followed by corn sheared from the cob or poured from a bag taken from the freezer. It took a few hours before the succulent stew was finally ladled into deep bowls ready to devour. I have since altered this recipe and because I no longer use bacon or chicken fat (that came from the skin), it took a few times to get the seasoning just right so that it was close enough to the original to satisfy to my taste buds. Succotash is serious comfort food to me, I wanted to be comforted. The idea mushroomed.

I rarely cook without music in the background. One of my close gal friends had given me the new Pat Metheny. I never drive long distances without one or more of his CD’s, the soothing sounds allow me to cruise comfortably along steady as I go. I put down the produce, popped in Pat, and before I got pooped, took an old goodie on a quick new spin.

Sautéed Succotash

1 cup frozen lima beans (these need to simmer covered for approx. 20 minutes until soft)
Light tasting olive oil (I use Bertolli)
¼ - ½ cup sweet onion (sliced crosswise, then in half)
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (optional) cubed
two large plum tomatoes (slice crosswise, then in half)
1 cup frozen corn
½ tsp. basil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder

Lima beans should already be cooking! Cover the bottom of a medium skillet with olive oil, heat on medium high until hot. Add onion, cook about 1 – 2 minutes, stir, reduce heat and caramelize. Once onions are soft and translucent, turn heat up to medium high, add chicken, salt, pepper and a couple of shakes of garlic powder. Brown chicken until cooked through. (Check lima beans. If soft, turn off the heat, add the corn so it can unthaw, stir and cover.) Add tomatoes and basil to chicken, sauté for a couple of minutes. Drain vegetables and add to skillet, stir until all ingredients are mixed, reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let rest. Taste it, it may need more salt and pepper. Though it is a much drier version than the traditional recipe, spooned rather than ladled, it is still a comforting dish that only took about 30 minutes from start to finish if that. Yields about 3 cups with a small amount of gravy.

One of my friends makes apple pies with the best crust, my mom made a cobbler that I never mastered but I do make a delicious crisp. This was definitely not the day for apples froufrou so I opted for a bared down version that I often bake especially during the winter.

Naked Apples

Oven 325 °

2 large golden delicious apples
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
Sprinkle of dark brown sugar
1 tsp. maple flavoring (optional)
2 Tbsp. brandy flavoring (I actually use a secret liqueur which in that case makes them woozy naked apples, however, brandy flavoring adds a buttery taste w/o the calories or the alcohol and is the key ingredient in my sweet potato/banana bread pudding, so see I gave you one of my secrets.)

Peel, core and slice the apples, place in medium bowl. (I like them thick, but if you prefer thin, you'll need to reduce the cooking time unless you want applesauce. You can use another type of apple, not sure how long to cook them though, so try it and see if you happen to prefer another kind.) Shake on cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, a couple of squirts of honey and flavoring. Stir until apples are completely coated. Place in 9 inch glass pie pan, sprinkle with brown sugar, cover with foil, bake 40 minutes or until the softness you prefer.

I snuggled on the couch as the apples cooked and got drunk on the aromas that surrounded me like a big hug. Seems like my grandma’s had orchestrated the comfort I needed without having to be, well actually they were in the house.

keep your peepers open! ®

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

main squeeze

In a couple of weeks, my new workshop on the use of vessels in the healing process is going to debut. The main concepts for the session were complete in my head, making sure I could squeeze a 360 degree vision into 180 minutes had yet to gel. I tend to work backwards when it comes to events and some projects. I can describe in great detail exactly what the end result should be, experience jubilation long before I’m there. The route to that place, well that’s when I have to slow down, put it in reverse and walk myself through the process which at times involves others who know better than I what needs to happen. During one of those assessments that’s meant to tell you what you’re good at, I was told that I am the bread on a sandwich…great with concept and ideas on the top, very clear when it comes to evaluation on the bottom. As for the ingredients and condiments that go in between, it was best for me to leave implementation to those who have just the right stuff to make the whole thing come together so it doesn’t topple and all are satisfied. That said, development and execution of my workshops rests with moi and only moi making me the chief cook AND bottle washer.

Once I decided what materials I wanted to work with it dawned on me that I had not used paper pulp and polymer clay in awhile. Plus, my prior experience with both never required that I be able to teach someone else how to make anything with either or know just how much time they needed to dry. I would have to sculpt prototypes and record the steps necessary to complete a raw paper bowl and pinch pot. True to form, my out of order sequence of doing things prevailed as I started squishing the mixture before I tore the plastic wrap whose box ended up covered in grayish goop. Forgot that I needed my rolling pin for art projects, had no idea where it was stored, was forced to grab the one I bake with which of course was in with my other cooking utensils; many of them needed a cycle in the dishwasher to remove the gunk I got all over them. Wasabi colored Sculpey is easy to manipulate, is lots of fun, leaves behind stains. The white polish on my nails turned bright green; my hands looked like I could audition to be a female Grinch as I popped the tiny pots into the oven for “no more than 30 minutes.” I laughed and laughed at myself, my crazy methodology. Glancing at my notes hours later, bits of chartreuse clay and dried pulp dotted the paper reminding me of the well worth it mess I had made earlier -- the entire workshop had worked itself out. I was comfortable knowing that all by lonesome I had filled in all the necessary ingredients to make my creation stand and deliver. 

I must admit that my penchant for doing things in reverse used to leave me completely frazzled. However, during a morning meditation many years ago, I opened to a reading that put a name to this behavior; the results of that assessment I mentioned came as no surprise to me. Envisionation, being able to fully and clearly see the end result, is a gift I totally embrace. What I had to gain comfort with was the process it takes to get there, have always welcomed many cooks into my kitchen which reminds me, it's time to start dinner so…

keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, May 23, 2010

tie me up

I much prefer a shawl to a coat; there is something about flinging loose fabric around my shoulders that feels more feminine than pulling on a constructed garment. Decoration for the décolletage or room décor, scarves plain or intricate in design add a bit of spice that makes the palette take note.

I’ve been on the prowl for a black wrap for the spring and fall. Not necessarily a wrap per se because I’ve been known to rock an over-sized scarf on any given outing and not necessarily all black because so often, regardless of the season, I am draped in it; I do indeed need a blush of color to accent my look. When I walk the streets of DC I know I am not in New York anymore. My recent visit reminded me that BLACK, a splash or head to toe, is de rigueur in the great fashion capitol to the north no matter the season so I figured it would be easy to satisfy my desire for something ebony to swathe myself in. No such luck until later when my friend arrived with a gift bag filled with chocolate and two scarves…turquoise swirls with black and white etching around the edge, perfecto!

Just before I scooted up to NYC, an artist presented me with a tie-dye scarf from brightly twisted, her brothers company. Receiving it brought to mind how enamored I am with the movie and music of Woodstock circa 1969. I remember afternoons of securing knotted cotton with string and rubbers bands, immersing all or part of a T-shirt in metal wash tubs or plastic buckets filled with tinted water, withdrawing discolored hands that smelled a little bit funny as we made our own creations to the sounds of Janis Joplin and other rockers. So I began to wonder...what’s up with the scarves all of the sudden? I do know that I am traveling to Egypt later this year and will need these lovely woven and spun fabrics for both protection and custom; I will certainly pack the ones I just received to take on my journey and without a doubt return to the States with a few more to wear and hang. (I have longed to decorate a room with flowing non-traditional curtains since I bought a painted silk elongated scarf from one of my favorite boutiques on Broadway; it was one of the last things I bought in New York before I moved to DC, the store has since closed. Maybe that vision will no longer be a mirage after my trip abroad.)

For centuries, scarves made from all sorts of fabrics have been worn by both men and women in various cultures around the world, still are. Practical, tradition or just for style, the pattern and colors of some can evoke fear or symbolize peace depending on how you view them. I chuckled when I did a search and stumbled on a site that went into scarf etiquette in great detail. The writer suggested that “the diminutive people…the short, fat with large busted women…and long necked men” among other descriptive should watch it when deciding on which one to wear…are you kiddin’ me? And hello whoever you are, it’s “Burberry” NOT “Buberry”…I had to move on. A well designed, clever site with scarves coveted by fashion divas everywhere can be found by clicking on Hermes. I spent quite some time perusing before I realized I had wrapped my own pretty little neck in a writers noose. So let me wrap this all up in a neat knot if I can.

A little thing, small as a scarf can have great meaning. An unexpected gift was the realization of a desire that somehow went into the universe to be filled for me not by me; a tangible present given as a kind gesture aroused several senses, brought me back to a pleasant memory; one awaiting its place as a piece of art is a reminder that the economy has snatched up places I can no longer go; others arouse caution and prejudice that I hope I don’t embrace as I venture to places I have yet to go. Knowing me as I do my mind is and please…

keep your peepers open!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

soulful strut

What’s the opposite of writer’s block? I Googled this question and immediately disregarded the obvious reference to business better left in the bathroom. And though I honestly remember using this place as a refuge where I could close the door, lock out the world and feverishly compose short stories before anyone knocked (which is why I always chose the half bath on the first floor) I will answer my own inquiry with this response…maybe it’s fluidity of creative chatter. Whatever it is, it’s what I’ve got this afternoon as my fingers cramp not able to keep pace with the surging ideas, clever lines, thoughtful passages, narrative exchanges and the jumping from one document to another to get it all down. Okay, perhaps a few quieting pictures will soothe the swell so excuse me for just a moment…

…uh, never mind. I hear the birds chirping loudly and persistently outside, feel the need to shut it down and just hum off key. A leisure stroll sans too much stimulation is in order so I think I’ll leave my hat on, the camera and the I Phone by the door and go on a soulfulfulling strut. Excuse me again and until I get back…

keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, May 16, 2010

blossoming blogs

In the last 48 hours, I hobbled through two train stations once each day because I had tickets to see FELA! on Broadway. My sprained ankle protested almost every step of the way however the discomfort in my very low extremity this morning is an affliction caused by dance unfulfilled; my body recorded, pressed paused and is in wait of the moment when it can hit play and start dancing the way it so wanted to on Friday night…wow, what a show! A couple of my girlfriends were in tow as we hurried from our uh, oh it’s past time to go dinner chatter. I’m telling you, or maybe I don’t have to, you are flirting with the possibility of not making it before the house lights go down when girls who have not been together for months need to catch up…OMGoddess we can talk! Despite our delay, we arrived with a few minutes to spare and walked into a vision of creative thought that hushed my mouth.

Set design whether grand in scale or as simplistic as a stool center stage is an integral part of the unfolding story we witness as an audience. Walking to our seats, I became keenly aware that we had suddenly become engulfed by one huge surround sound club. The walls were covered with African artifacts, pictures, screens in motion, graffiti on brightly colored hammered tin. My head and neck got into a syncopated roll with rhythms I recognized as seriously funky Afrobeat played by musicians already jammin' up on stage. The room on slow simmer pulsation, dancers gyrated, pranced back and forth at eye level and above in mesmerizing garb, make-up and hair that held my gaze, coaxed us into the space. I’m not sure if the lack of full blast air conditioning was deliberate or not but the muggy air was close, made it intimate, clung to my skin, made me recall nights of dancing until I felt I had not a drop of sweat left to pour from my glands. Someone was serving drinks...when did we get to Nigeria? Who cared because the lights dimmed, the place started cookin' and we had the most awe-mazing evening at “The Shrine” on W. 49th St. NYC!

Two plus hours later, me and the girls were back in the throng of congestion that is The City. We laughed wondering if we could move our backsides like the performers we had just seen and my mind began taking notes. So often a word, a phrase during conversation births an idea for me to work on for The Eclectic Eye. More often than not, those exchanges are with my girlfriends so I want to take a moment to say that talking with you women generates so many seeds that grow into thoughts that blossom into blogs. I honor you with my words today and hope that each time I post, they serve as fertilizer to all who read them. Cheers to each one of you for tilling the soil of my mind, soul and spirit so very often and to you chicks who went on the two hour tour to Lagos with me, I will be on the couch today reading a book, coddling my ankle and LMAO, we did have such fun ;

If you want to have a fabulous time, grab a couple of friends or just yourself, go see FELA! and…

keep your peepers open! ®

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

content 2 b happy

Content and happy are synonymous yet they feel very different to me. Content is settled, an exhale, comfortable, pleased, quiet. Happy is spirited, bubbly, blissful, pleased, louder than content. After sharing a most delicious meal with two of my close friends, one of them said she was content with how her life was going. Hearing this made me happy for her, gave me a sense of happiness, got me to wondering if one could be happy but not content. I feel fortunate and very thankful for so many things. My achievements, contributions, and the good that has come to me many times over have exceeded my own expectations, which gives me a thrill but I am far from content. There is still more to accomplish, desires yet to be met and though I’m grown, the curve of learning continues to arch…thankfully you can’t hear that I am groaning! When does it end?

Lately, I feel like I’m grappling with life as it stands right this moment on the sloping side of the bell curve (emphasis on “this moment” as I am fully aware that in the scheme of things this is a blip on the radar, we cannot always be on top). However, climbing let it be social, a rock wall, or the slippery slope are no-no’s for me! I don’t waste energy schmoozing with superficial judgmental folk who want to know my current stature on somebody’s roster before I am worthy of conversation; I thank my lucky stars for the unconditional friendships that fell from heaven into my world. But my person, that one man who wants to stay to play long term is still orbiting my galaxy though my landing strip is more than prepared. Knock on everything, I’m in good health and when I sprained my ankle days ago on an evening walk, I refused to succumb bending and flexing through the pain. But I struggle to find the best work out regimen for me as I still truly need to weigh less; scaling a wall is not on the short list. I can visualize studio space a get-away near some water place for sale, bought and decorated in my head. The news said that the first time home owner benefit has fled, oh my! But the bottom line is I made the decision to refrain from rushing into a nightmare financial or otherwise just so I could make that particular deadline. What’s that saying about fools who rush…? “This moment” is also consumed with wondering if being kind, thoughtful and generous is a good or bad thing. As I focus on me, does that mean it’s all in me? Okay…I’m not every woman every day so will someone -- man woman other the universe -- actually hear the things my heart desires and either lend an assist or hell, just make them come true?

In the mist of the fog is joyous news that makes a grateful clearing on my path. A meeting with a mind that shed a different perspective on the familiar raised my eyebrow, gained a nod of approval. And so the day it ends is the day you stop and I don’t mean breathing but living. Let’s just say I am somewhat content, happy more often than not and beyond pleased when I open my eyes each morning knowing that I have been afforded a fresh start to contemplate it all. So I encourage you to…

keep your peepers open! ®

Sunday, May 9, 2010

mommie's day

By now I certainly expected to be a mother. Though it is past time for me to consider becoming the expectant, my body is still fully able to do so (thanks doc I think for that news). Honestly, hearing this set off all sorts of emotions as I recalled the little girl holding her mother’s hand that I saw walking towards me earlier in the morning. She and I locked eyes well before we were in close range; the level of anticipation about being able to greet each other was very high, I could feel a strange excitement. Our smiles wide, we giggled loudly exclaiming hello and hi as we passed on the sidewalk. That set the tone for and made my day. At dinner later in the evening, my eyes welled up as I shared the news from my doctor, the story about the mom and daughter, and whispered, “I wanted to be a mommie.” I don’t know if I will ever stop missing having my own little girl.

When I got under the covers that night I whispered thank you…knowing I am able to bear fruit really is a gift and though I may never unwrap a tiny bundle that shares my likeness, there are so many children right here in America waiting to be adopted by mommie's who want to be.

Happy Mother’s Day!

keep your peepers open! ®

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I was riding the Metro one Sunday and noticed a little girl sitting next to an adult female, both with their legs crossed tightly like twisted pretzels. Seeing this brought a smile to my face for some reason, maybe because the tiny child seemed very intent on imitating what the grown up beside her was doing. I glanced at my friend, noticed that she too had taken note and asked her if she ever sat like that when she was that age. We agreed that the women around us when we were children did cross their legs in a more elegant, sophisticated even sensual fashion however they did not encourage us to do the same. Placing one leg over the other was reserved for our later years…I wondered what that was all about but it got to me to thinking.

As one grows older we try so hard to fall far from the tree not wanting to be anything like our parents. No matter how much we want to be different, there will always be some tie that unmistakable binds us to them whether it be the way we look, some mannerism or just liking what they liked. My mother painted with oils and water colors, created pieces of sculpture made from spray painted cut wood. Her degree from Howard University came from the school of Fine Arts where she met my father who was a student of music at that time. Though I am not formally trained I have become an artist, still have no skills when it comes to playing an instrument which does not mean I am not a music enthusiast, far from it. What’s funny is how much I cannot be without certain performers in the soundtrack of my life.
I remember roaming through a street festival when I lived in NYC one hot summer afternoon. I took refuge under a tent with thousands of CD’s at greatly reduced prices. Needing to cool down, I perused the titles, stopped flipping the plastic cases when a cover so familiar rested beneath my fingers. When I was a kid, my dad played so much Jazz and gospel it drove me nuts. A rocker with a serious adoration for Hendrix, I could not relate to Miles, the Count and all of the singers belting out tunes from the LP’s we were forced to listen to every weekend. I pulled out the CD with the yellow cover, ran my hand over it remembering, then the turquoise one behind it; from that day on Nina Simone continues to be one of my favorite female vocalists. Now the interesting thing about all of this is when I took classes to become certified in arts in medicine, my classmates renamed me Simone after the visual artist in me made her debut with the first collage goddess. They had no knowledge of how enamored I was with Nina…coincidence that they picked Simone born from seeing my art which was in my DNA waiting to be discovered? I think not.

The desire to trace my ancestry is growing. I wonder who crossed what ocean to be in this land, were they artistic, how far or not from the tree any of my family members fell from those who birthed each of them, if any of them were gifted with the creative energy that courses through my veins so naturally that I sometimes don’t know how to harness the talents. Perhaps my fascination with taking pictures of trees is them calling out to me to climb up and find out so…

keep your peepers open!®

Sunday, May 2, 2010

the omen

I just woke from a dream. In it I was crouched beside a little girl panicked because she could not find her sunglasses. I put my arm around her small shoulders, heard myself tell her to be still for a moment then look again. She paused, centered her being and there they were in such extreme uniqueness that they were hard to miss, yet easy to not find when so many other things get in the way of plain sight.

Over a week ago, I sat with my staff going over a few things before I departed for my business trip. I was wearing rough week from head to toe, exasperation as my makeup. One of them chuckled and asked if I was coming back. My elongated reply of no I am not was meant to be a joke but it set something in motion that I felt immediately and it did not feel good. I hurried to add that I was just going to run far away, sprinkled in some nervous laughter, and assured them that I would return…but it was I who needed assurance. I had caste a dye that haunted me right up until I was riding along the Potomac, a familiar humid wind blowing my hair into spikes as the cab driver took a finally contented me home.

A few small words carelessly spoken had become an omen. My body manifested symptoms of physical illness that made me question whether or not I should go anywhere. A strong dose of responsibility and commitment was medication enough to propel me to board the plane; it would not sustain or prepare me for the string of voice mail and text messages that continued to weigh me down each day I was away nor did it shake that nagging feeling that something was going to happen to me, that my saying I would not return was going to come true. I had to get still, hold onto myself to keep fragility from breaking. I wanted to go home, get home, be there, safe. On the last morning of days filled with words stepping on the broken ice that was me, I was about to crack. The only thing that could keep me above the surface was words spoken from my deep through my lips. I crossed the back of the room, waited my turn to approach the open mic. As I rose from the chair, the timekeeper moved in unison to push me under my splintering exterior. I would not be submerged. Adrenaline thrust to full throttle, I quieted my turbulence into stillness beyond calm and without a waiver, steered myself to the podium, lifted off and soared.

That woman who sat with her team over a week ago will not be back because I am not the person I was that day; we can never be who we were yesterday. So the premonition I spoke did indeed come true, just not with the dire outcome I dared not speak aloud. Those girls in my dream were me, me talking to me, reminding me to hold close what makes me distinct, to be still when the ride gets bumpy because the air ahead is smooth, we will land safely so…

keep your peepers open!®