Thursday, November 30, 2006

Heighten Five Senses: Vision

To continue this mini-series on the five senses, which is both inspired and adapted from the book "The How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook" by Michael Gelb -- let's now take a look at what we see -- with impressions on the mind's eye leading to true vision. Can you identify with the following:
-- I am sensitive to color harmonies and clashes.
-- I know the color of all my friends' eyes.
-- I look out into the far horizon and up to the sky at least once a day.
-- I am good at describing a scene in detail.
-- I like doodling and drawing.
-- Friends would describe me as alert.
-- I am sensitive to subtle changes in lighting.
-- I can picture things clearly in my mind's eye.

Don't think that journaling or even drawing, for that matter, needs to end up as finished works of art for all to admire. Look at Leonardo da Vinci's methods -- he didn't necessarily draw to please others but because he loved to draw. Most of his drawings are contained in his "unpublished" notebooks. He valued process more than product. By first observing, followed by writing or drawing, we can enhance our capacity for "saper vedere" or knowing how to see. ◦

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Heighten Five Senses: Smell

The best writing employs the use of the five senses to explore metaphor, to show instead of just tell. In the book, "The How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook," the author Michael Gelb poses this self-assessment test to help you become more aware of your sense of smell:
-- I have a favorite scent. (What is it? Why do I like it? What does it remind me of?)
-- Smells affect my emotions strongly, for better or worse.
-- I can recognize friends by their scent.
-- I know how to use aromas to influence my mood.
-- I can reliably judge the quality of food or wine by its aroma.
-- When I see fresh flowers, I usually take a few moments to breathe in their aroma.

Gelb also suggests making "smells" a theme for a day. This could be a perfect journaling "date." Record what you smell and how it affects you through the course of a day. Spend a half hour at your favorite florist. Inhale the aroma of ten different perfumes or essential oils and describe your reactions.

Others have suggested smelling a crayon, chalk, a rubber ball or other simple items from childhood. How does smell affect your mood or memory? Write down your observations. What does each scent remind you of? Comparing sensory reactions to real life experiences or memories is the core of metaphor and image. You might want to even create a poem out of these images. ◦

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mud Street, Spring Street, Blue Spring

More journal notes written during my stay at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, October 2006: I caught a trolley and headed downtown to get the lay of the land. Found the coolest place in town as if by magnetism -- The Mud Street Café. A downstairs, hippie, French-feeling cafe'with an art gallery, perfect poetry venue with Coltrane in the background and the best chicken waldorf salad I couldn’t imagine creating myself. Lounged on a corner couch and enjoyed the music, art and art magazines. It would make a perfect live poetry venue. It's what the Guild Complex and Lower Links in Chicago always wanted to be, but never quite could muster. Unfortunately, the place closes at 3 p.m.

Afterward, Carlos called and it turned out we had somewhat parallel days. He spent the morning cleaning and organizing the refrigerator at home. Hooly looked inside and said it looked like a page out of Real Simple magazine. And my culinary suite kitchen at the colony that I inventoried and stocked is truly out of Renovation Style magazine, snce they did the actual renovation. Carlos went to a coffee house in Chicago for lunch and had a sandwich, much as I did at the Mud Street. I wish he were here. We have to come back together.

The streets were packed with visitors attending the town's annual folk festival. Impromtu and scheduled troupes played outside in Basin Park. Arlo Guthrie and his family had appeared at the auditorium the night before and played a lot of old Woody Guthrie tunes, from what I heard. Sorry I missed the concert by only one day.

I visited a native store that is run by Tony and Belinda, a hippie-type white couple in their forties who are sincere and easy to talk with. Told me Mud Street Café has the best coffee in town. Duly noted. I didn’t let Tony know that I had just been there. Belinda is a herbal afficionado, grows her own herbs and sells several books on the subject. She is deaf, but reads lips. They live about 10 miles outside of town in the country and make leather moccasins. Talked about the Blue Spring Heritage Center, a spring that nurtured the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. The shop had cute, funny names for some of its teas. SeeLessO’Me tea is for weight management. BearInTheWoods is an herbal laxative tea.

Made the rest of the grand circle of the historic loop around Spring Street on foot. Eureka Springs streets are a lot like New Orleans but sort of in a western style way, have the hilly twists and turns as they do in St. John, Virgin Islands, but with a mid- to late-19th century American look. The dimly lit walk back up the hill led to the forested area surrounding the writers’ colony main house. Tony had told me that rare large, pileated woodpeckers are in these woods. I saw a large bird that looked like a pterodactyl(sp?) fly through the woods across from where I walked. It wasn’t a hawk, eagle or crow. Even unto now imagined extinct ivory-billed woodpeckers have been seen in the Arkansas woods. Reached my door just as the sun was setting at 7 p.m. Found the coffee grinder and cleaned up the blender for tomorrow’s smoothie. ◦

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ginseng Research Lunch

I recently visited the unusual and local Korean ginseng restaurant for lunch, located on Lawrence Avenue east of Elston on the northwest side of Chicago. Large glass cylinders six-feet tall hold dozens of fresh, scrubbed ginseng roots suspended in liquid throughout the restaurant. The menu features several ginseng items such as hot ginseng tea with a few pine nuts floating on top, which I enjoyed along with the house specialty, ginseng chicken soup.

A large bowl holding boiling broth, a whole boiled chicken and a six-inch ginseng root was placed before me. Six or seven small dishes of condiments also arrived for me to create my own soup mixture. Seasoned seaweed, kimchee cabbage, sliced steamed peppers, spiced carrots and other root vegetables, brown rice and beans, radishes, a rough salt -- one by one I added the items to the soup, tasted, stirred and removed the chicken bones and skins as I mixed with chopsticks. The waitress helped me identify the items I didn't recognize. It was then time to enjoy. Ahh. It was some of the tastiest chicken soup to cure what ails you and enough for two people. I ate my fill and brought the remainder home to share with a lucky family member.

Before I left, I bought a small bag of dried, steamed, sweetned ginseng that I can chew when I need a pick-me-up at work on stressful days. I also bought a box of panax ginseng extract in handy single-serving tubes at a remarkably inexpensive price.

I told the elegant, beautiful waitress who served me that I was doing research on ginseng and my visit to the restaurant was an exceptionally enjoyable portion of this process. She disappeared behind the counter to emerge with a small book in Korean and English on the virtues of ginseng, which she gave me as a gift. I will read and treasure it. This told me that it pays to be outgoing, to ask questions, make observations and tell strangers about yourself. Blessings often take place as a result of it. ◦

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What's your journaling style?

Journaling is an important element on any scrapbook page, but there's no right or wrong way to tell your story. There is only your way! You can tell your story any way you like. If you need a starting place, take this fun, little quiz from Elsie Flannigan's book, 52 Scrapbooking Challenges.

1. You want to touch base with a friend. You:
A. Call
B. Send a text message
C. E-mail
D. Instant message

2.You're going out tonight. What do you wear?
A. Something trendy
B. Something casual
C. Something pretty
D. Something comfy

3. How many hours do you spend on the computer a day?
A. Less than one
B. 1-2
C. 3-4
D. 5 or more

4. You're sending a friend a birthday card. You:
A. Write 'Happy Birthday' and sign your name.
B. Write a personal note and sign your name.
C. Sign your name.
D. Slip the card into the envelope and send it off.

5. What's your favorite kind of test?
A. Short answer
B. Multiple choice
C. Essay
D. I don't like any tests

Tally up your scores and take a look at your results here.

If your quiz results were:

Mostly A's: Try writing down bits and pieces of conversations with friends, journal with favorite quotations, or do a back-and-forth journaling exercise with a friend, where you write one thing and she writes the next thing. Be on the lookout for journaling inspiration everywhere you go (think billboards, signs and magazine advertisements).

Mostly B's: Try journaling in lists or making up your own fun journaling code. Use stickers and scrapbooking embellishments. Write fill-in-the-blank journaling. Journal with just an assortment of randomly-selected words that describe a favorite photography or something you love.

Mostly C's: Try journaling like you're telling a story to a friend. Or think about journaling as a creative writing exercise. Your journaling is probably already pretty interesting to read—keep challenging yourself to make it real and keep it as fun as possible!

Mostly D's: Try creating your own journaling shorthand. Use your favorite abbreviations as often as you'd like. Think about making a little guide to these sayings that you can put in the front of your album (your grandkids, for example, might not know the LOL means laughing out loud!).

Get more fun quizzes and challenges in 52 Scrapbooking Challenges by Elsie Flannigan. ◦

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Shamaness encounter and another green drink

More journal notes written during my stay at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Yesterday I met a tall, thin biker-type woman, Janet, at a party on Beaver Lake who is a "missionary alternative healer," (using her words) with a "whole body ministry." She works out of Fayetteville and uses Christian prayer, massage, herbs and muscle testing in her practice. Evidently, she has helped heal a large number of people and even medical doctors recommend her to their patients with little to no hope. Janet walks with a cane as she is recovering from a accident and I helped her get up and down the boat ramp. She smokes and drinks, which doesn't seem too beatific, but nonetheless comes off as a true shamaness. She is so down home and real, I don't think she knows how much she exudes the aura of blessedness. she is one of the most unusual, loving and committed people I've met down here, and I mean unusual in the best sense.

As an afficiando of deep purple, seedy, crunchy berry smoothies, I've nonetheless been exploring a lot of green drinks on this trip. I made a great kiwi, pear, green grape and liquid lecithin smoothie before going to church at the Thorncrown Chapel this morning -- turned out really excellent. However, lunch was mediocre -- a blender soup of tomato, avocado, yogurt, lemon juice, rice vinegar and a little cayenne. It called for balsamic vinegar, which I didn't have but was probably the right choice for this recipe. Was a little too acidic this way. The gazpacho I made earlier this week was 10 times better. Ate a little cornbread and two Ak-Maks on the side. ◦

Spices, herbs, culinary suite at Dairy Hollow

Some journal notes from my stay last month in the culinary suite at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow: Took the spice/herb inventory. It’s almost 8 a.m. Drawers and racks of spices – and among the standards, some stand-outs: banana extract, brandied pepper, whiskey rub, Quebec steak seasoning, black sesame seeds, Hawaiian sea salt (red), Celtic gray salt, lavender, African bird pepper, chipotle chili pepper, and pink, green, black and rainbow peppercorns. They have all the spices for the recipes I’ve planned. I’m shocked, not. But only about a teaspoon of cinnamon left. Multiple bottles of cinnamon extract, however.

The culinary suite is exquisite. Everything was newly remodeled by Renovation Style magazine and looks very HGTV. The large living room has a cozy sitting area next to a real woodburning stone-faced fireplace. A pull-up table is also available for meals. The office includes a large desk and bookshelf along the south wall with multi-lighting options. In fact, lighting and dimming options throughout the suite are stunning, in addition to the natural skylights in the living room and bathroom.

Sage green, off-white, painted wood walls and natural stone and wood make up the décor. A large, luscious acrylic painting of two red and two white onions graces one wall, visible as you enter the front door.

I am working in the most smashing, up-to-date, impeccable full kitchen anyone can imagine; fully equipped, almost all KitchenAid appliances -- a six-burner stainless stove with hood, double oven, outdoor gas grill and sink on the adjacent deck, dishwasher and restaurant grade monster refrigerator and freezer, also blender, juicer, food processor, coffee grinder and mixer. Lots of storage space, Cuisinart cookware, glasses, dishes, gadgets, food staples from the previous colony residents. Hardly anything a cook could fall short of. Plan to take as much advantage of the kitchen as my writing schedule allows. ◦

Monday, November 06, 2006

Smoothies, juices and soups from Dairy Hollow

Some journal notes/letter from my culinary suite stay at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, last month: Spent a lot of time researching ginseng today and will try to work on a poem before I go to bed. Rosaleen brought Irish whiskey to dinner and I couldn't help but try a few nips. My typing's still o.k. so all is well, thus far.

Did some non-cooking cooking today, too. I made, get a load of this, an avocado, Bartlett pear and yogurt smoothie, with some vanilla extract and raw sugar. It turned out to be one of the best smoothies I've ever tasted. A green tea boost would make it perfect, because it was the color of green tea ice cream to begin with. My lunchtime cucumber, celery and lemon smoothie/cold soup didn't fare as well as it turned out an overly cold, sour slop.

While I was at it, I pulled out the food processor (I've never used one in my life except for my mini-Cuisinart chopper back home) and whipped up some gazpacho I plan to serve as a prelude to the colony dinner tomorrow. Cucumbers, white onions, green onions, celery, red peppers, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, tabasco, lemon juice, some V8 low sodium, Hawaiian red salt, rainbow ground pepper. Will garnish later with limes. Tastes good so far -- letting it meld overnight.

Another concoction on the agenda: Theobrand: Food of the Gods, Montezuma II -- a blend of cocoa, cayenne pepper, vanilla, cornstarch and hot water. Thought of making it tonight so I can stay up a little later to get some work done. Is this what Montezuma drank 30 cups of a day? ◦