Song of a Captive Bird (Book Review)

When I requested this book, Song of a Captive Bird, by Jasmin Darznik, from NetGalley, I knew I’d be in for a reading adventure. I know nothing about Iranian poets, past or present, and not much about Iranian history or culture. Because this was about a poet from Iran, Forugh Farrokhzad, who was also a woman drew me to it–that and the title. The book read a bit like a movie, opening with a mysterious and violent scene that became clear as the story continued and the cultural traditions and expectations were explained.

As it takes place in the fifties and sixties, in a land very far away and different from my own, there was much to be discovered about the way people lived and thought about life in general, and about women, in particular. Forugh suffered at the hands of men–her father, her husband, her lovers, and a male-dominated publishing industry. Her suffering marked her, but her resilience and independent spirit shaped her into who she became. Again and again she defies cultural expectations and pioneers a path for herself and women after her with the words she writes, her work in film, and the way she lives. The poetry that is woven into the chapters is exquisite; I savored the lines and felt closer to the woman whose story was being told.

In addition to learning a bit about Iranian women struggling to become respected and independent during that time period, I learned something of the struggle for Iranians to own their oil and of the violent political turmoil of those days. To me, Forugh is a symbol of progress, of the artistic voice that speaks in every culture and time period, and of every woman working toward being respected and heard with equality.

Reading this book stirred up a desire to read Iranian poetry, of which I am unfamiliar. If you’re like me and know little to nothing about Iranian history and culture, and particularly, Iranian poetry, then I recommend you read this story and start your own journey of discovery.

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Juicy Update

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Well, it’s been a week since I began juicing daily. For those of you who read my post on habits, I mentioned my painful eye condition (Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome) and how it’s incurable. I also wrote about how if I juice every day, I don’t wake up to eye pain, tearing, swelling and a migraine–I actually wake up like I should, with no eye pain. This week I missed juicing one day and that was the only night my cornea tore once, but it was still minor compared to what I’ve been dealing with.

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So, although I’m no medical expert, I’m also no idiot: juicing helps my eyes, folks, and most likely is benefiting other parts of me as well. (I’m hoping to see the rosacea-red skin on my face calm down eventually). If you have a juicer at home, why not dust it off and put it to work boosting your health, especially with all the cold and flu flying around.

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Here are two easy-peasy recipes I’ve made a few times this week. I do make a lot of juice at once and drink it throughout the day–and I give a glass to Alan too. Feel free to cut the recipes in half if it’s too much for you or come up with your own combos. Obviously, mine are carrot-heavy because…my eyes.

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Kim’s Favorite Winter Juice #1

  • 10 carrots, rinsed, ends trimmed and cut in half
  • 5 celery stalks, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 oranges, rinsed and sliced into fourths
  • 2 limes, rinsed and cut in half
  • 4 apples, rinsed, peeled, seeds removed, in fourths or large pieces
  • 1 yam, rinsed, peeled, cut into large pieces

Kim’s Favorite Winter Juice # 2

  • 7 carrots, rinsed, ends trimmed, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, rinsed and cut in half
  • 3 oranges, rinsed and cut in half
  • 3 apples, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 yams, rinsed peeled, cut in large pieces
  • 1 bunch of parsley, rinsed

Cheers! Please share your own favorite recipes in the comments.

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My Favorite Gluten Free Bread Recipe

 

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In January, I marked five years of eating gluten free. Food restrictions are challenging, can cause stress (what am I going to eat) and friction with family or friends (a little bit won’t hurt you will it?), but, if looked at through a positive lens, can take you on a lifelong adventure of learning and experimentation.

Hands down, the thing I miss most from my old life is real bread. Fresh, artisan loaves of ciabatta, focaccia, boule, baguette made with local, organic flour in a bakery right down the road…OK I’ll stop torturing myself now. One of my early purchases was Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a DayLet’s be honest, nothing will ever quite taste like bread full of wheat and gluten yumminess, but the breads I’ve made with this cookbook definitely satisfy my cravings. The deal with the “five minutes” is that you mix up the flour blend and then make the dough and store it in the fridge. Then any time you want bread, it takes five minutes to shape the dough, let it rise, and bake it. I love refrigerator doughs! So, if you’re gluten free, I recommend you get a copy of this book.

My favorite sandwich/toast bread, however, was given to me by a good friend back in 2014. And this is the recipe I will share with you here.

 

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I tried these without parchment paper this time.

Ellie’s Gluten Free/Rice Free Multigrain Bread

Dry Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 cup brown teff flour
  • 1/4 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Yeast Mixture:

  • 1 1/4 cups hot water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

 

Instructions:

  1. Combine dry ingredients, mixing until evenly blended.
  2. In separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, molasses and vinegar.
  3. In small bowl, combine honey and hot water. Sprinkle in yeast and stir to combine. Allow to proof for 7 minutes.
  4. When yeast is bubbling, add wet ingredients to dry while mixing on low speed (about 30 seconds), stopping to scrape bowl to ensure even mixing.
  5. Add in yeast mixture and mix on medium for 2-3 minutes or until dough is smooth, making sure to scrape bowl occasionally.
  6. Pour dough into a parchment lined, well-greased, metal 9×5 bread pan. Cover with cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Remove cloth when bread has risen enough to almost touch it. Allow to rise another 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes, until firm all through.
  9. Remove loaf from pan and allow to cool on wire rack.
  10. Cool completely before slicing.

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Great crumb, real-deal bread texture!
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These loaves got a little overdone as I was rehearsing music for our Sunday show…

 

 

 

Everything Happens For A Reason (Book Review)

I just finished reading Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, a memoir of her life before and with incurable Stage IV colon cancer. If you’re like me and tend to shy away from books about terminal illness, you might think it will be a dark, depressing, hopeless tale that will leave you in tears and in a blue mood for a week.

This book isn’t like that. Kate is smart, funny, and endearingly honest with how she faces this illness day by day. She has a young son and a husband whom she loves and doesn’t want to leave. There is no way to ignore her sense of grief as she lives with the fact she is dying, but she is no Debbie Downer. Her narrative goes along with her emotions and thoughts in a way that is tender and raw and completely relatable. She feels sadness, anger, and despair, but also joy, gratitude and hope.

Throughout, she expresses her thoughts on Christianity, particularly the prosperity message and how it does not serve people who face terminal illness or catastrophic events of any kind. By relating not only her experience, but those of many others who have gone through the loss of loved ones or who are ill themselves, she shows how this message does a lot more harm than good. Although she remains a believer, how she thinks about God and Divine interaction does go through an evolution as she attempts to make sense of her circumstances.

What stands out to me, aside from the fact that the book is interlaced with references to the Christian prosperity gospel, which I am very familiar with, is how well she brings the reader so close to herself and her story. You will feel like a trusted friend who is allowed to hear her unedited version of what it’s really like to be her as she makes this journey. Kate Bowler has given the world a gift with this book. I walked away thankful for even the tough things in my life and with a determination to not waste a moment of it. I highly recommend that you read this book for yourself.

* I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Healthy Habits I Am Forming/Re-Forming

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It’s February and I am still getting my act together…with habit forming, that is. We all know that habits, once formed, require little brain power–we just do what we’ve programmed ourselves to do. (By the way, if you’ve never read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, then add that to your TBR list for this year. It’s on my to re-read list.)

And like most humans, some of my habits have become derailed from either constant changes in my schedule, chronic health conditions (I have Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome which causes severe eye pain, migraines, and light sensitivity) work, etc. But I started 2018 with a focus on being nurturing and kind to myself, and I’m easing into a self-care routine that reflects this. So here is my list:

Juicing–I have a Breville Juice Fountain Plus  that is a cinch to use, yet it sat on the counter untouched for most of the past year. Since I do have this incurable chronic eye condition (see above), it is up to me to find a way to stop waking up to horrible eye pain, swelling, migraines, blurry vision, light sensitivity, and basically, a quality of life that needs to improve.

When I juiced regularly back in 2013, I had little to no corneal erosion. Somehow, I forgot about this and then gave myself excuses about juicing taking too much time out of my day, the juicer being too annoying to clean, etc. This past Saturday, after a string of bad eye nights and days, I pulled out my juicer and made carrot-apple-celery-orange juice. I timed the whole process–from gathering the produce, to rinsing and trimming it, to juicing and cleaning up the machine. It only took twelve minutes! That’s all! I CAN do this and am hoping to see an improvement in my eyes as I continue to juice daily.

Yoga–I signed up for DailyOm’s Fit and Fierce Over 40 21-day yoga course with Sadie Nardini. DailyOm offers a sliding scale fee for their courses, and as I am currently in the low-income bracket, I only paid $10. What a generous company! For twenty one days, there are daily journal exercises, meditations, recipes and the actual yoga workout. I expected to work super hard and perhaps give up because it would be too tough. Actually, Sadie is very much into safe and nurturing thoughts, intentions and movements  so I’ve found the yoga to be super doable and a positive way to exercise.

After injuring my back, elbow, wrists and hands multiple times during work and exercise last year, I think it’s starting to sink in that I need to move more slowly and thoughtfully and Sadie is helping me with this. Since January 2, I’ve done yoga with her about half the days and done a few yoga poses on my own the rest of the days. I’m confident eventually yoga will become a habit.

Green Tea in the Afternoon–Not much to say here, because most of us ought to know by now that green tea is purported to have many health benefits.  I’m a coffee drinker, but have been making room for a cup of green tea every afternoon.

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Writing–As I love writing, whether I’m blogging, writing poetry, songs or working on a story, I just need to do it. And I have been. Songwriting, mostly, as we have less than three weeks to write another 10 or so songs. I feel like myself when I write, even if it can be maddening and anxiety-causing and exhilarating and joyful all at once.

Poetry–If I read poetry every day, it changes how I approach words, how I read and write and just gets into my soul like a part of me I was missing and found again. I’m not sure that makes sense, but some days poetry is all I read and it is perfect. Right now, I’m reading The House of Belonging by David Whyte and Delphi Complete Works of the Bronte Sisters: Charlotte, Emily, Anne Brontë .

Essential Oils–Although I’ve used essential oils in my homemade body care products and household cleaning products for years, I recently became a Young Living Member and began taking a few of the oils internally, as well as diffusing and adding them into my facial skincare. I will blog about oils more in upcoming posts.

Internally: I take a drop of Thieves Vitality Oil in a veg capsule one to three times a day. I also take DiGize Vitality Oil to aid digestion (Please follow the website’s directions for usage.)

DiffusingLavender or Stress Away blend at bedtime and Thieves, En-R-Gee, Purification or M-Grain during the day, depending on my needs and which rooms the diffusers are in.

Pain Relief: On Friday, I had a headache and rubbed diluted M-Grain into my temples; within an hour my headache had subsided. For backaches, I rub diluted PanAway into the painful areas for a quick cooling relief. These are wonderfully effective products!

Skincare: I put a drop each of Helichrysum and Copaiba into my fragrance free face lotion every morning and evening to help sooth my rosacea. After a few days of use, my skin was noticeably softer and smoother–no more dry, rough patches on my cheeks.

Learn how you can become a Young Living Member and get your own starter kit with diffuser: Become a Member  If you decide to become a member, please enter my member number (13684396) in the Sponsor ID and Enroller ID sections. Thank you!

So, that’s the list of my current habits-in-the-making. I’d love to hear about yours!

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*There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase items through an Amazon link or with my Young Living member number, I will receive a monetary compensation at no extra cost to you. My opinions are, as always, completely my own. 

** Medical disclaimer. The contents of this blog post are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical disease. Statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. The health and wellness information shared is part of my personal story and meant for educational purposes to help you think about/make decisions for your own wellness journey.

Songwriting Madness in Winter

 

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At Hector Wine Company November 2017

We were at Hector Wine Company two days before Christmas, listening to The Blind Spots when the owner, who is friends with Alan, asked when we were going to play there. He said he had openings on all the Friday nights in February and we could have our pick. So Alan told him that we could do the last Friday night, February 23. I was inwardly panicking, my heart pounding and dread replacing the happiness I had felt at being out, enjoying the evening during the holiday season.

Here’s why I panicked: it’s an all-originals show that we’ll be putting on and we only had a handful of originals penned. How were we going to write 20-25 songs in two months? Alan, ever the optimist, thought it was completely within the realm of possibility. So is being stressed to the max and writing every spare minute we have!

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My songwriting notebook

Fast forward to this week, by which time we’re nearing fifteen completed songs. Completing the number of songs we need feels more like a possibility, but it’s going to continue to be stressful. I need to be disciplined to write during my mentally sharpest hours, while making time to create new products for my Etsy/craft business Delicata House, spend time with my kids, exercise, cook, clean, etc.

It’s a huge challenge, but we will meet it–we have to–and the reward will be that we’ll have access to several more local venues that only allow originals to be played. So if it’s been quiet on the blog lately and if it continues to be for the next three weeks, blame it on Alan. No, just kidding, it’ll just be that I’m songwriting my heart out. When we get some of these tracks recorded, I’ll share a link. In the meantime, if you’d like to check us out, here’s a link to the covers and one original we currently have on SoundCloud.

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