Are you where you want to be?


Spiritual Growth: The Two Sides Of Life

It is Sunday morning and I am sitting in my lanai.  I relished a short lie-in this morning after our trip home yesterday afternoon, unpacking and sorting out clothes and getting them washed and put away. It is good to be home in familiar surroundings.  We had a great week in Orlando and it was good to be away from the usual routines.  But it’s always lovely to come home.

It is a gorgeous day.  Another one of those sparkling “Princess Di” days.  The sun is shining brilliantly from a clear blue sky and there is a slight breeze sighing through the pine trees out back.  Everything is gently moving and I can see all the individual needles on the pine trees fluttering in the breeze and shimmering in the sunlight.

I sit back in my chair and breathe in the soft, warm air.  Yes, it’s warm here in sunny Florida at the end of NovemberSmile, although I hear that temperatures are going to dip down later on this week.  In the meantime, I am enjoying this “Indian summer” and feel very happy and content.  In fact my heart is full joy right now as I look at the beauty that God has placed right here in my back yard.

I notice that the small brown birds, I believe they are sparrows, are back again as they pass through on their way to who-knows-where and they are clustering on the feeders.  There’s a flash of red as a colorful cardinal claims his place and the sparrows flutter away until he is done.  I can hear the squirrels barking in the trees as they playfully, or maybe not, fuss at each other. Mokka, our cat, sits in the sun, her tail slowly swishing as she thinks her cat-thoughts about the birds.

But even as I am aware of the joy that I feel I am also aware that there is sadness punching and poking at my heart.  It feels as though one ventricle is full of joy and the other is full of sadness.  My life is blessed in so many ways and I am truly grateful for that.  Yet I have a longing for a healed relationship with my sister who I miss so very much, and another longing for a happy, satisfying relationship with my daughter who I also miss very much.

And I am reminded of one of my favorite authors, Kahlil Gibran, who, when asked in his book The Prophet to speak about Joy and Sorrow, responds with these wise and wonderful words of wisdom:

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.”…………..

“Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”……………

“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”………..

”Together they come [Joy and Sorrow], and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”


And so hangs the balance of all life.  One moment we are in joy, and the next we are in sorrow.  And sometimes we carry them together.  And I can only learn to surrender to what is, to accept the gift of my emotions no matter what they are.  As a character in the movie Shirley Valentine said, “If I can feel it means I am alive.”

Going Raw: Part One

(My Life-Long Love Affair With Food)

I don’t normally put sub-titles to my postings, but I felt this one deserved one.  There is no way I can share my “adventure” at going raw without giving some background as to my relationship with food.  And it is a love affair.

I have had an intimate relationship with food ever since I can remember.  Some of my earliest memories of food are:

– sitting under the dining room table in the middle of the night eating rice paper (don’t even ask!!)

– sitting for what seemed like hours on the garden gate or at the front room window waiting for Aunty Polly to arrive with ice cream and candy

– going to Aunty Peggy’s to have wonderful four course dinners that included incredible appetizers, cheese and crackers, dessert with coffee (like in a “grown 
   up’s” restaurant)

– going down to the kid’s secret den to eat as many candies as I had been able to take from the pantry without it looking as though someone had taken them
   (I’m sure my mother realized!)

– finger-swiping the frosting off a freshly baked “chocolate horror” cake (bliss!)

– sneaking teaspoonful’s of Fry’s chocolate spread (pure paradise!!)

– biting into the crusty heel of a fresh loaf of country bread slathered in real butter

– English cheddar cheese and crunchy pickled onions

So as you can see I was pretty much addicted to food from an early age.  I could describe in detail, and still can, the sensations of different foods hitting the different taste buds in the various areas of my mouth just the way someone can describe the details in a picture.  I think God proved that He really, really loved us when he gave us taste buds.

I discovered “ethnic” restaurants in my mid to upper teens and a whole new world of tastes and flavors opened up to me.  English food is usually so bland and much of it, particularly vegetables, is simply boiled into oblivion and mush.  Indian curry and crisp Chinese vegetables were like heaven, and the awesome blend of herbs in authentic, freshly cooked, Italian cuisine can still send me into a swoon today. I think you get the picture.

Moving to Sardinia, Italy in 1979 was a dream come true for this foodaholic.  The Sardinian cuisine is unique and is as beautiful as the island itself.  Home-made pasta was the norm in a Sardinian home in those days and if you have never eaten fresh home-made pasta you need to before you die.  Roast lamb, kid, and pig are nothing like anything over here.  I have eaten some of the best bar-b-q pork since coming to the States but nothing touches a succulent roast-in-the-ground pig in Sardinia. 

From Sardinia I returned to London in 1978.  It was mainly a “big mistake” but forms part of my life journey so it was important.  During the five years I remained in the UK back then the only time that I ate well was when I cooked Italian pasta or I ate ethnic.  I missed Italy badly, not just the food but the whole culture.  So it was with a happy heart that I returned in 1983 to live in Naples, Italy.

Naples, rather like Sicily, gets a bad rap in some tourist books, but I fell in love with Naples very quickly.  There’s an Italian saying that goes, “see Naples and die”.  There’s a Neapolitan saying that goes, “Napoli ti prende per la gola” – Naples grabs you by the throat.  The people are warm-hearted and friendly and the food, well I’m not sure anything I could say about Neapolitan food would do it justice.  There are amazing pasta dishes with incredible sauces and fresh seafood cooked in the simplest but most divinely-tasting ways. “Dolce” (cakes) are out of this world and the pizza, oh the pizza!!!!!  You have not eaten real pizza until you eat pizza prepared and baked in Naples.  Not even the pizza in other parts of Italy is as sublime as Neapolitan pizza. 

And then there’s REAL mozzarella cheese freshly dripping in its own liquid.  This is an absolute delicacy that is only made in Naples, Italy.  There is only one place over here that I know of where you can find real, fresh Mozzarella cheese and that is at the Fratelli La Buffala restaurant in the beaches area of Miami.  They have it flown in fresh from Naples two or three times per week.  

So, with all this love of marvelously prepared and served food, how do I get to going raw?  With great difficulty let me tell you!  I guess with age comes some sort of wisdom, and my brain began to tell my body that two hundred pounds on a five foot four inch frame was not so healthy.  And, as usually happens with the fat accumulation, my blood pressure had risen and my cholesterol was fast following it.

Thankfully, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Back in 2005, about eighteen months after getting to Jacksonville, Florida, my church hosted a series of classes on the vegetarian diet.  I was interested not only because I thought it would help me lose weight, combat the BP and cholesterol issue, and improve my overall wellness, but also because the classes were offered by the Cancer Society as a way to help people prevent cancer or live cancer free once they were in remission.  Because there is a history of cancer in my family I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.

I’ll leave the “vegetarian experiment” for my next posting in this series.  

Musings: Eating In And Around Orlando

So here I am, back in my sanctuary.  The sun is shining and the sky is blue.  The birds are swooping back and forth to the feeders in my yard, and Mokka the cat lies lazily in the warmth of this November sun.  My heart is content and my soul feels peaceful.  I am “home”.

Our week away was lovely, even though we had a few stressful issues that came up.  In the bigger scheme of things they were very “high class” problems that were simply irritating but were really no more than infinitesimal blips on the radar of that particular week-long screen in our lives.  The sort of thing that was only as irritating as the amount of energy that we gave it, and we didn’t.

And beyond that were the joys we experienced.  A whole week just to ourselves.  No work issues or other people’s issues intruding on our time.  A time to be “lazy”.  A time to wake up and decide, with no hurry, what we wanted to make of the day.  We did “plan” a couple of things in advance but we also had the luxury of being able to change our minds and do something else – which we did once or twice.

I know I’ve already mentioned in previous postings that I really enjoy food.  Well I had the opportunity to indulge at various restaurants in the Orlando area.  Last year we enjoyed Bahama Breeze so much that we decided to return and we were not disappointed.  It’s an eatery that I would recommend to anyone visiting the area.  From the name you can guess that it offers a Caribbean flavored cuisine, and the menu is extensive and very mouth watering.

I love Indian food.  I had researched for a good Indian restaurant in the Orlando area and came up with the New Punjab Indian Restaurant on International Drive.  It had appeared as a recommended restaurant on several sites, and one in particular had described it as “quaint and unusual”.  On our various excursions out we had located what we thought was the Punjab place and so picked our night for Indian cuisine and went there.

As we walked from the car to the restaurant door I looked up and saw the name “Taj Punjab”.  A small warning bell rang in the back of my head but I couldn’t tie it to anything.  When we walked in the door I remember feeling disappointed and thinking, “hmmm, this doesn’t look either quaint or unusual, more like a regular diner or cafe”.  But the hostess was already upon us with a charming smile and asking “table for two?”.

I have nothing detrimental to say about the food or the service.  It was just “okay”.  Coming from London, where the best Indian restaurants outside of India can be found, I have a pretty high standard for Indian food.  This did not reach it.  The service was adequate and I did enjoy the Indian flavors and spices, but I knew that I was not “in joy”.  Imagine our frustration when we left the restaurant and discovered the New Punjab Indian Restaurant literally just around the corner.  Ah well, next year.

We had another excellent eating experience in the town of Winter Park.  I need to explain that this is what I choose to label an “elite” town.  It is classy, without appearing to be snobbish – although a few hours visit is probably not sufficient to determine that.  The main drag is pretty, quaint, and full of boutiques and some very interesting shops.  Here and there are small alley ways that open out onto minute courtyards with fountains and wrought iron and potted plants – very European.

A restaurant called Orchid Thai Cuisine caught our eye.  Richard is rather partial to a good Pad Thai and I’m always up for ethnic food of any variety.  This has to be a family run restaurant because our server (the only one,  and I’m sorry but her name eludes me) mentioned that her Mom made the ice-cream.  The service was excellent, the presentation of the dishes was superb, and the food was really delicious.  They also had the best Jasmine Green Tea that I have ever tasted, and I was so effusive about it that our sweet server gave me a few bags to take home:-).

The dinner that we had on our last evening was one that my husband had been promising me ever since we first visited Kentucky back in 1986!!  At that time he talked about going for a meal to Benihana’s Japanese Steakhouse, but we never made it.  Since then we have been back to Kentucky about seven or eight times but I never got my Benihana meal.

Well, as luck would have it, there was a Benihana’s located about a quarter of a mile from our vacation resort.  So Rich was finally able to fulfill his promise.  Over the last twenty six years of our relationship we have been to a couple of different Japanese steakhouses and have always enjoyed the experience.  Benihana’s didn’t change that.  The food was excellent as was the service and, of course, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the talented chef cook our food to perfection before our eyes.

However, I think the “eating experience” of the week was our Thanksgiving lunch at the Caribe Royale Hotel Resort.  This is the third year running that we have enjoyed Thanksgiving with them.  They prepare a truly world class supreme buffet that has something for everyone. Just to walk around, which I do so that, 1) I can look at everything, 2) decide what I will chose and what I will not, is a feast for the eyes.  The colors and presentations are superb.

There are huge platters of cheeses, fresh fruit, roasted vegetables, crackers, cold cuts, pates, and Mediterranean hors d’oevres accompanied by baskets of every kind of bread imaginable.  And that’s just the appetizer tables!!  Then there are more platters and fountains of seafood prepared in many ways from simply steamed to elaborately mixed with noodles or rice. And alongside these dishes are more platters with Sushi and vegetables and pasta salads of every kind.

This year I really paced myself and also made some very specific choices about what I wanted to eat so that I wouldn’t fill up in the first few minutes.  So, having eaten my fill from the previously mentioned dishes, I was then ready for the main course.  Yes, there was still the main course area to visit!  For those who wanted it there was soup available, then came the traditional choices of stuffing, a vegetable medley, mashed potatoes, marshmallowed yams, fillet of sole, smoked pork loin, turkey and wonderful roast beef.  Nothing was simple; everything had a specific flavor or sauce.  Absolutely divine!

And then there was dessert.  Four or five tables full of dessert.  Delectable cakes from Strawberry Shortcake to Spice to rich Chocolate Ganache to delightfully light Tiramisu.  Richard found some wonderful  sugar cookies that had an unusual caramel center and were drizzled with a white glaze. And of course their signature champagne flutes filled with a mousse and cream concoction rounded out the choices.   

I’m sure there are many more really good restaurants in the Orlando area, and as we plan to be there again next year I know that we will get to sample them.  Can you believe I’ve written such a long posting about food?  Well, if you know me well, you probably can.  Buon appetito!!