Cheers, Dear Haiku-Kefir!

Not sure which makes me happier— Haiku or Kefir.  They both provide nourishment, a cleansing even.

diy-kefir-by-akuokuo-vallis
With Haiku– there’s this lovely contrast between the short, simple form and the thoughtfulness behind the words.  I like the stillness I feel when reading Haikus.  I drift into a daydreamy, contemplative state of mind.  It’s nice just being present, watching—without saying anything—just an observer.

creamy pebbled grains
turn milk into
gold

kefir-by-akuokuo-vallis

Kefir is definitely not a drink to guzzle down. The sheer thickness of it initiates a luxurious focus. Sitting–quietly enjoying a glass of kefir– I can’t help but drift into a happy, self reflective place. Home made kefir is even better!   No rush, no worries.  Just being– wherever I am–now.

the new year is here
we all need help digesting
go make some kefir!

A Good Hot Bath

I don’t know much about astrology–but, I think, maybe, perhaps I love a good hot bath because I’m a water sign.

 

images-2

 

Actually, it could also just be a family thing.  My mother really loves a good hot bath. Thankfully–even with her mobility issues–she can still enjoy the benefits of a hot bath  with the help of a  bath lift.

 

unknown-1

I used to take my bath time for granted.  I assumed that this special  me time  was something everyone experienced and enjoyed.  I was wrong about that– for sure.

images-7

In 10th grade– I was an exchange student in southern Spain. The town I lived in was very small.  So small–there was no high school.  The high schoolers had to be bussed to school– in a totally different town.

images-9

I remember I had to wake up extra early to get on that bus.  It was a very large bus that looked more like one of those giant city tour buses rather than a school bus. It took more than an hour to get to school.  But, at least the seats on the bus were plush and very comfortable.

 

img_1981

 

There must have been something wrong with the radio on the bus.  Everyday, only one song played on an endless loop over and over and over… (click here to listen to it).

 

red-scarf-by-akuokuo-vallis

 

The exchange family I lived with had a seafood restaurant. My job was to gut the fish, cut the onions, sweep the floor, wash the dishes, set the tables, take out the trash–then pick up the little sister from school and walk the dog.  I don’t know how I got any  homework done. The family kept me very busy–all thanks to a phone call from my father.

 

images-6

 

My very protective father called my new exchange family before I arrived.  He spoke to the dad of the exchange family and apparently made quite an impression.

 

img_1976

 

The day I arrived–the whole exchange family picked me up from the airport.  They asked lots of questions and wanted to know if we spoke Spanish at home.  I explained that my family did not speak Spanish at home. That’s when the dad of the exchange family firmly interrupted and said, “Your father does speak Spanish!  I spoke to him this morning.  And–he said we have to keep our eyes on you– all the time.”  The exchange family dad then pointed directly at me and said in English, “YOU NO GO ANYWHERE!  I no want no trouble from your father!!”

 

bandit-by-akuokuo-vallis

 

I was not a trouble maker.  But, I quickly learned how to make things easier so that I could have my me time.  I’d  walk the dog and pick up the little sister at the same time. Then we’d stop at the bakery on the way home. Everyday, I’d get two very large cream puffs (for me) and a cookie for the little sister. When we got home–the little sister would watch t.v. and I would take a good hot, long bath.  I needed it–fish gutting is dirty, smelly work!

 

images-3

 

One day, while I was sweeping the floor at the restaurant, the exchange family dad said,  “You’re using too much water at home.  Stop with the baths.”

 

img_2085

 

So–I stopped with the baths and doubled up on my cream puff load. Before getting on the school bus every morning–I started going to the bakery.  I bought myself the usual 2 cream puffs plus a hot chocolate!

 

images-2

 

On the bus– I’d eat the cream puffs, listen to that same old song over and over and drift into a daydream about what it would be like to be a princess in a palace.

 

images

 

My fantasy palace had a huge  bath tub that looked more like a swimming pool. And there were butterflies flying around inside and rose petals everywhere and beautiful exotic scents in the air.  This daydream became my new me time.

 

images-3

 

By the end of the exchange program– I was 20 pounds heavier.  I had become a certified cream puff expert!  And a master daydreamer!!

 

images-8

 

If you are ever in Spain (or NYC or Chicago or even Paris) and you need a good hot bath– you’re in luck.  There’s this place called Aire Ancient Baths  which seeks to revive the ancient bath tradition.  And I don’t think you have to be a water sign to enjoy it!

 

images-4

Hello Kitty, You’re So Pretty

stuck-on-an-island-by-akuokuo-vallis

 

If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have one food–an unlimited supply of it—what would it be?

 

roasted-sweet-potato-by-akuokuo-vallis

 

I’d choose  a sweet potato.  I love sweet potatoes–especially roasted sweet potatoes. I’d also have a few add on condiments–like a generous slathering of cultured butter, a sprinkling of pink Himalayan salt, a drizzling of  local raw honey  and a dash of cinnamon on top.  But–actually–I could eat a roasted sweet potato plain.

 

palm-tree-by-akuokuo-vallis

The one food I really cannot stand is eggplant.  So, if you’re on a neighboring deserted island and your food choice is eggplant– sorry- I won’t be swimming over for lunch anytime soon. Even if you have a stash of chocolate!

images

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I will not eat them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them Anywhere.

 

beach-by-akuokuo-vallis

 

My new favorite way to use roasted sweet potato is in a  Sweet Potato and Almond Cake.

 

slice-of-cake-by-akuokuo-vallis

 

The recipe is based on Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake.  Instead of using oranges–substitute a large, 1 lb. sweet potato (roasted or baked) and add 1 Tbsp. orange juice plus 1/2 tsp. (each) cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and  1/4 tsp. black pepper and coriander.  It’s so easy even a cat could make it. My goodness–I should have said rat instead of cat.  My twin sister’s cat, Paloma,  was indeed quite the baker!

 

paloma-by-akwelle-vallis

 

In fact, not too long ago, Paloma, was the reigning Queen of Cat Baking. Too bad her one and only rival, Niko, could only bake birthday cakes.  Of course, Paloma could do it all! She was also an accomplished water colorist.  Self-Portraits were her specialty.

 

princess-paloma-by-akwelle-vallis

 

Paloma, however, is no more– but my twin sister still has her diary. Apparently, Paloma’s dream was to create a Cooking  A-cat-emy (for the advancement of feline culinary skills).  She wanted to personally groom each student (she called them kittens) to ensure they measured up to her royal Hello Kitty standards.  (Hardee Har Har-that was an inside joke–on page 324 of Paloma’s  diary–she reveals that she hated that floozy Hello Kitty).

unknown

 

Oh, Poor Paloma.  She never got to meet big boy Boris  or  little Stix.  These two handsome fellas were going to be on her dream team at the A-cat-emy.  It’s probably for the best–Boris has a reputation around town and Stix is a thief!   Plus, Alibaba, Paloma’s one true love has a jealous streak (and crazy looking fangs)!   But he is very sweet.  And he still visits!

 

images

 

Because Plants Have Feelings Too

I am terrible with plants.  I know I can do better.  I just need to figure out what to do.

sunflowers-by-akuokuo-vallis

I was in denial at first– but now– I fully accept that my little Bonsai Boy plant, Tiberius–is a goner.  It happened so fast too.  Tiberius was a birthday gift from my twin sister. From the moment I saw him–I could tell he was special.  He even came with instructions.  And I read them– thoroughly.  I thought I was doing all the right things. Poor Tiberius used to have such bright, beautiful, green leaves. He was very healthy and alive. Then something happened. His leaves shriveled up and they all fell to the ground.  He became a collection of stems in a decorative planter.  “He’s probably just hibernating,” I convinced myself.  But, then the stems turned into dry sticks. Then dust.

img_1373

Now, I have a strong feeling–if I don’t do something fast– my Aloe Vera plant, Agripina, will soon meet Tiberius in plant heaven.

my-agripina-by-akuokuo-vallis

Unlike me, my beautiful mother has a real green thumb.  Plants, flowers, tomatoes–they all flourish under her care.

mommy-november-2016-by-akwelle-vallis-1

While my mom has been recovering from a stroke (10 months)–she has trusted me to take care of her plants.  My dirty little secret (click here to listen) is that I have been slowly getting rid of them–one by one.

shovels2 by Akuokuo Vallis.jpg

Of course, I wait until they’re good and dead first. It’s not like I just bury them for no reason.  I know, I know.  I can do better.  And I will.  It’s just that my mother has a lot of plants–so many plants that my twin sister takes care of half of them and I take care of the other half.  I remember  when my mom was first in rehab– she’d look my way and ask, “How are my plants?”  I’d smile broadly– but in my mind I was singing this song (click here to listen).

rear-window-by-akuokuo-vallis

I  feel terrible about my inability with plants. Especially now that I’ve done some research into the many health benefits they offer.  Not only do plants emit oxygen and humidify the air– but they also purify indoor air of pollutants.  According to healthline.com (click  here to read more):  plants are mood enhancers.  In fact, there’s even a wellness modality called Horticulture Therapy (HT):

  • HT is a practice that uses gardening as therapy. Outdoor gardening can reduce your risk for dementia by 36 percent. You may find similar therapeutic benefits from desk-sized Zen gardens, bonsai trees, or mini herb gardens.

img_1345

I’ve also learned that plants have feelings. Meaning–they feel pain (click here to read more):

  •  According to researchers at the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Bonn in Germany, plants release gases that are the equivalent of crying out in pain. Using a laser-powered microphone, researchers have picked up sound waves produced by plants releasing gases when cut or injured. Although not audible to the human ear, the secret voices of plants have revealed that cucumbers scream when they are sick, and flowers whine when their leaves are cut.

img_1545

According to Michael Pollan (read more here) plants not only feel pain–they also hear, taste and have intelligence.  Pollan says that “the line between plants and animals might be a little softer than we traditionally think.” Click here to listen to an interview with Michael Pollan.

img_1903

Michael Pollan also believes that by studying plants, humans can eventually create more intelligent robots-because plants like robots “process information without a central command post like a brain.”

img_1352

Last night I watched an interview with the famous Australian architect, Peter Stutchbury (click here to watch it).  In the interview Peter Stutchbury talks  about the importance of being responsible by showing respect for all materials used.   This  concept of being responsible by showing respect really struck a nerve with me.

floral-arrangement-by-akuokuo-vallis

I started thinking that the missing link in caring for my mother’s plants is that I was not showing them the respect they deserve.  So, this morning I tried something different.

img_2052

Before watering my mother’s plants — I stroked them and I spoke to them.   I took my time to really be present with them. All of them. And I finally saw how unique and individual they are.  For the first time ever–I quietly listened to them. And I learned that they do not all require the same amount of water.  But they do require care and attention.  I finally respected them.  And in return– I was transformed. Colors seemed brighter.  The air literally became sparkly.  A connection was made and I was healed– on many levels. This simple, profound act of respect has opened up a whole new world for me.  And I like it.  Thank you Peter Stutchbury!

Simon Says, “Rub Your Ears!”

th

The other day, I had my ear needled.  My mom’s acupuncturist, Matt, suggested it.  He said it would help me de-stress. It is amazing how stress can make you look like a giant elephant.

th-2

Or a spaced-out  cat.  “You will buy me that Betta fish.  You know I’ve always wanted one. Buy it…  Buy it meow–oops–now!”

img_1717

Matt  put 3 needles in my left ear at various acupuncture  points for relaxation.

r7_earacupuncture-6col

He then put 3 needles in my twin sister’s left ear. Matt pointed out that my sister and I have completely different ear anatomy. He said he can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their ears.

  • The ear is a microcosm of the human body– and in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine it is compared to an upside down fetus.

b884474d3bc62ddbf08c1487626c5215

 

You can also de-stress by using your own fingers to press on acupressure (or marma) points of the ear.  According to Vassant Lad’s book, Marma Points of Ayurveda:

  • Gently pulling the earlobe downwards helps to descend energy to relieve headaches and migraines.  It has a tranquilizing effect because of its functional connection with higher cerebral activity, which promotes tranquility and bliss. This action also aids in stress management and quieting children who are hyperactive.

 

img_1384

 

Qi gong is an ancient Chinese health practice that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention for total body wellness.  Try this Qi Gong ear exercise.

 

 

Shiatsu is a form of therapeutic bodywork from Japan. It is based on the same principles as acupuncture–in which pressure is applied to certain points on the body using the hands.  Take a look at this Shiatsu ear exercise.

 

 

You can even make up your own daily ear massage routine. Just do what feels right for you. You cannot go wrong.  Your whole body will benefit!

 

<a href=”https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/18336471/?claim=9gs3sv2xerv”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Caffeine Fiend

 

img_1392

My little caffeine problem started with Kombucha–that fizzy drink that is supposed to be so very healthy for you (according to a lady I overheard at a grocery store).

  • Kombucha is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks. Kombucha has many supposed health benefits. It is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY).

7-benefits-of-kombucha

I did not like Kombucha–at first.  There was something odd about the vinegary aftertaste. Even so–I kept buying it and drinking it.  I became a Kombucha addict. I tried nearly every kind of Kombucha out there. I even tried strange DIY looking local brands that were suspiciously packaged in recycled Coke bottles.  But after a few months–I got tired of Kombucha. That initial odd vinegary aftertaste was hardly even noticeable to me by this point.  It wasn’t even boosting my energy anymore either.

I put a twin size mattress for myself  in my mother’s room so I could help her at night. The night shift began taking a toll on me. I needed something to keep me awake during the day.  That’s when I turned to coffee–Black Coffee!

Wowee. My coffee fling escalated quickly. It was great–at first.  But soon, I noticed my driving was reckless. I was  having terrible thoughts about those #$@&%*! people who should not be on the road. I was getting headaches too.  And I was fidgety–I just could not rest, ever. My vision even deteriorated.  I had to call it quits.

img_1391

But of course, I found something else— Chai. I even started making my own.

The combo of super caffeinated black tea with spices, milk and sugar (lots of sugar) was delicious. It went well with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and everything else in between. Eventually, I realized that caffeine  was getting the best of me.  I had to stop– cold turkey.

  • Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
  • Caffeine can produce a mild form of drug dependence. Tolerance develops with chronic use leading to autonomic effects of increased blood pressure, heart rate, and increased urine output (Wikipedia).

img_1781

I do think about coffee and tea and all things caffeinated from time to time.  I actually still have an unopened bottle of Kombucha in the refrigerator (just in case…).  But even if I am a little tired during the day–I am a much calmer, happier person without the caffeine.

A Good Reason to Vote

When I woke up on Election Day– I had already decided.  I wasn’t going to vote.  I thought, “What difference does my one vote make anyway?”  Plus–I just did not want to deal with long lines or parking problems or people.  I was in a sour mood.

img_0738

 

My mother, on the other hand, was getting ready early.  She was determined to get to the polling place and vote.  She was beyond excited.  “This is historic.  It’s important,” she said.

 

img_1285

 

My older sister had already agreed to take our mother to vote later in the afternoon.   But around 10:00 am, my twin sister suggested we make a dry run to see about handicap parking before our older sister arrived.

 

taxed-wo-rep-24x20-acrylics-tissue-paper-on-canvas

 

Surprisingly, the polling place was practically empty.  There was ample parking–even handicap parking right at the front door.  Clearly, there was no turning back.

 

 

So I voted.  We voted– and I’m glad we did.  I realize now that my mother needed to feel a sense of normalcy again. She got a chance to let go of her own worries to focus on something different, something a little bigger for the moment.  That was important, and a good reason for me.

 

img_1587