Sunday, January 26, 2014

Island Winter Inspired Soup

For those of you reading this on the mainland you probably wouldn't believe that there is winter weather on a tropical island. Really. If you came in the winter for a visit and you live in the frozen tundra it would obviously feel like summer to you. However, after living through our 3rd winter here, I understand even Hawaii goes through a winter season in which you will see locals wearing sweaters, you will hear them talk about sleeping in sweats and 2 blankets, you will watch in awe the 20-30 foot waves on the north shore, and you will notice how much it can pour down the rain, hence why it is so vividly green as well. This is so funny to me after living through 3 winters in Chicago and experiencing -20 degree weather and then getting so spoiled in Hawaii that it feels cold again! Hah! Those of you living in the REAL cold temperatures may scoff at me now. But really, this past week we experienced many nights in the mid 50's, and yes, that means we are cold here, because we are used to at least 70 and up here in paradise. And I sure don't mind being spoiled in that matter. =)

So after shivering (a bit) this past week and gaining more organic produce from my latest volunteer day at SOFT farm (an organic farm run by UH Manoa students and volunteers), then came all the thoughts of how I could utilize this magnificent giant gourd vegetable grown abundantly on the islands. Many of my experiences in life has taught me the value of healthy organic food and how not everyone can access or afford their own, therefore, I NEVER waste, I will and can always find a way to utilize the greatest gift provided in life.

I got some inspiration from a local friend who just happens to be a chef (Mahalo Kaimana) and the recent double blanket induced temperatures, grabbed that gourd and the rest of the vegetables I had on hand and got to work. And really this is not work to me, I just freakin love it!

Asparagus Cabbage Gourd Soup 
Organic Ingredients- Non GMO unsweetened soy milk, grapeseed oil, asparagus, cabbage, gourd, parsley, onion, garlic, Hawaiian sea salt, fresh ground pepper, turmeric, paprika, and bay leaf.

Chop all the veggies

Steam just the asparagus, (except the tops, will add to soup pot later)
In a blender or food processor, add the steamed asparagus, 4 garlic cloves, and 2 cups soy milk, and blend until smooth.

Add the blended asparagus garlic broth to a large pot, add 2-3 cups water, 1 more cup soy milk, 2 Tbs. grapeseed oil, all chopped veggies with the asparagus tops, salt, pepper, paprika, and turmeric (I don't measure out spices, I use my intuition and taste as I go.)

Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. 

Now all you have to do is enjoy and that will be so easy to do! I topped the soup with fresh parsley and paired it with a piece of homemade cornbread topped with local raw honey.

Cornbread is so quick and easy to make, try this wholesome healthy version with only unrefined, organic, and non-gmo ingredients. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl add and mix dry ingredients together then mix in the wet with the dry, pour in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. (I use Bob's Red Mill brand for my non-gmo and gluten-free flours.)

2 cups polenta
1 cup masa harina flour
3/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup fresh ground flaxseed (golden or brown version)
1/2 teas. sea salt
3/4 cup grade B maple syrup (you can substitute with any unrefined sweetener of choice)
1/2 cup coconut oil (can substitute with butter)
2 cups coconut milk (or any nut milk or dairy milk)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Happy Healthy Healing 2014!

After we have all overcome our challenges of last year it is time for a fresh new beginning. I love the new year for all it's new possibilities being dreamed of, new ventures unforeseen, and exciting belly butterflies of the unknown. Some like to make new goals, reflect on previous achievements, or measure personal growth and success. I believe all of these are great and purposeful to realize where you are in your life and what you want for your future. This year I would like to focus on the important little things that bring me happiness, health, and healing  through my own creativity and self expression.

Many of you may have heard me say, "in my next life, I want to be a dancer!" LOL. I have always admired, loved, and enjoyed watching anyone brave, skillful, graceful, and strong enough to dance. So instead of waiting for my next life, why not do it in this one? After participating in rigorous intense physical activity in my 20's and after unsuccessfully trying to keep up the pace, I came upon the realization that if I continued the same way I would not have any energy left for other important endeavors in my life. So, I have accepted myself and my body for what it is and slowed down. And I am so happy. I now thoroughly enjoy yoga, hiking, gardening, and ocean swimming. I have always found so much joy and therapy in using and moving my body and I still yearn for more of that, so this year, I desire to learn and practice Hula. For me. So I can express myself in the way that feels best. And I am hopeful one day that I may be able to pass that knowledge and love down to my own child(ren).

Another desire of mine sprung up recently because of my upbringing. Even though I grew up in a gigantor of a family my parents somehow made it possible to provide enriching activities for all of us. I remember the piano lessons, and I remember our sweet piano teacher, she was so patient, loving, and fun. She would laugh when something silly happened and she never got angry or frustrated if I didn't practice or when I made mistakes. I am so grateful for her lessons in piano and in life. As I got older I chose other activities over piano and eventually the piano was gone and forgotten. After reflecting on this past, I now have the desire to bring that aspect back into my life. And after recently being given a piano from Angel's boss (in his second job as a mover) I am again given the same opportunity that I had before and so I will relearn and play. I realize how important music and song is in my life. It it truly healing to hear a song, play a song, or sing a song. So my husband and I together plan on learning and using a musical instrument this year, me the piano, and him the ukulele. Now, we can not only sing together, and ya'll know how much we love that, but now we can play and sing together. I can't wait!

This year I hope you all can tap into your creative side and just try something new or do something that will make YOU happy. Pick something you have a passion for, a desire for, and a joy for. Find the time even if you work full-time and have children, work full-time and have school, or work full-time with a second job, or work full-time and have a life. Believe in yourself. Heal yourself. If not in this life, then when?

Aloha 2014

This picture was taken in 2007, the beginning stages of our dating life, we still sing like this together and will forever. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013: A Life in a Year

I just want to start off by saying that I feel compelled to write about the past year because it was pretty significant to me and my husband Angel, and also because I am far from family and friends that I would normally get to talk regularly in person with about life and daily struggles and I just need an outlet to tell my story for myself and hopefully to help others. To make it clear, I am not looking for sympathy, I do not think my life is bad or too much to handle, I LOVE my life, but I do feel the need to write about my experiences and how it is shaping me into the person I am now and who I want to be when I grow up. =)

Well, 2013 has come and gone and the world is still revolving around the sun, which I am really grateful for because I yearn for more of this stuff and all the knowledge, relationships, and experiences it continues to provide as I continue on with this journey we are all on together.

I have to say, I LOVE getting older because it means I am growing and learning and loving more and more! This past year, specifically, I experienced such remarkable growth, which I and I know many others, including you, felt the enormous growing pains of. Reflecting back, I still remember the growing pains I had as a child, my legs would ache every night because I kept getting taller and taller, I would whimper in the night, and my dad would come check on me to make sure I was okay, wow, he was so good at keeping watch on all his children (all 12 of us) at night and he ALWAYS sensed when something was wrong. Well, I continued to feel the growing pains as a teenager as I went through puberty and trying to get through that oh so awkward stage in life when you want and try so hard to be accepted by others. Then, I really felt the growing pains in my 20's when I was trying to be strong through a healthy diet, rigorous exercise, financial stability by working 3 jobs to pay my way through college, and wanting to love and be loved back. Now, that I am in my 30's, I thought these growing pains would taper off a bit when I considered what I had been through in my 20's with the onset of celiac disease and 6 years of severe symptoms before my diagnosis, many nutritional deficiencies, emergency surgeries, and learning how to heal, love, and forgive. Boy, did I get a smacked in the face for thinking I deserved a break in life, LOL.

After moving to Hawaii in 2011, with no home or job in place and one suitcase each, my husband and I began to build a new life together while in search of health, happiness, and quality of life. We have been through so many enriching experiences, some good, some bad, happy, sad, scary, painful, and joyful! Now, after 2 1/2 years of building this new life in paradise with the love of my life, which I know looks amazing and beautiful in all the pictures I love to share on facebook,and  believe me all those moments definitely are all those things. It just doesn't depict the other part of life we ALL deal with. Like the tremendous pain and guilt I felt, from being so far from loved ones and not being able to afford to visit them or help them when they were in need, and fear, when I wasn't sure we would make rent or have any money for groceries after all the bills are paid, then despair, when myself or others were mistreated, misjudged, or unappreciated, worry, about the uncontrollable, and uncertainty, when my husband goes through one job loss after another, and while I search relentlessly and apply for jobs that I will never hear back from. And then, after finally securing a job on my part, trying to live off of a servers salary in one of the most expensive places to live in our country. Again, please do not mistake this for complaining, this just a part of what my husband and I have been through while building this new life, which we knew  and told family we knew, would not be easy, but if we had to start over again, hell yeah, we would do it and I am so proud of how far we come!

All this has been worth it. In 2013, my husband finally started his dream job teaching Sociology courses at University of Hawaii Manoa. And as his wife, I watched him struggle the last 7 years that I have known him (and his quest started even before that) to just be able to begin a career! I believe all those years he spent in grad school, as a student teacher, and all the odd jobs he has had to make a living is so meaningful and necessary to get him to this point today. Nothing comes without the work and that takes time and patience. I am so proud of him for remaining true to himself when he has so much pressures from society to do otherwise and just focus on making money. Well, he just got his student reviews this week for last semester and I must quote a couple of them because it just reaffirms to me that he is fulfilling his passion in this life to teach others and help us all find a way to make this world a better place for all, no matter what color your skin, what language you speak, where your from, or what you believe. I couldn't be more proud and happy for him! He is a remarkable man.

"It was very eye opening to see how many of the problems in our society are interconnected. I think it is a good course because it exposed me to problems that I often never think about; it broadened my understanding of how society interacts and why certain problems occur and persist." -Anonymous UH student.
"Don't change a thing I love the way he teach's, he has become one of my favorite teachers." -Anonymous UH student
"Angel was extremely knowledgeable and very opinionated but would always tell us to take everything, even what he presented to us, with a grain of salt which made the whole class better sociologists in my opinion. I think he's the best sociology professor on staff. He presents us with information the way it is and not sugar coated which is very refreshing." -Anonymous UH student

"I really apologize for the disappointment our Honors class caused you this semester, and I hope Angel knows that he is an excellent professor that is both inspiring and relatable. He makes sociology more interesting than it already is and I hope to take his Pop Culture 400 level class in the near future." -Anonymous UH student
-this student was so sweet that he/she apologized for the students not engaging in class discussions. 

Okay I know that was more than a couple but I wanted to add way more. =)

So last year, even though we had to pick up and move for the 11th time in less than 7 years together (and yes I moaned and groaned throughout the whole process), we are now in a marvelous home nestled in Manoa Valley, one of the most majestic and unique tropical valleys in Oahu. It is right next to the UH Manoa campus and Honolulu but it looks and feels like country living and more importantly, it FEELS like home. We have a chicken living on the property, and our sweet landlord just approved us to get more baby chicks to raise them as pets and to enjoy the healthy eggs so we can save money on groceries! My multi-talented husband is almost finished building our Hawaiian hut chicken coup out of wood pallets other people were throwing out in their rubbish piles! Yeeehaw! For the first time in all the years we have been together, we adopted our first pet, (baby steps now) a beautiful blue beta fish we named Kai Uli, meaning deep blue sea, because I was gifted a aquaponic fish tank that grows veggies on top, for my birthday, from a good friend of ours who is not only very generous but so thoughtful that he knew I would love and enjoy it!

In the beginning of 2013, Angel went through his second job loss in Hawaii, he knew it was time to move on and tried again without much hope, for another teaching position in the UH system. Spring came and he got news that they wanted him for the summer at UH Manoa! Oh the JOY, excitement, and relief we both felt. The light at the end of the tunnel could be seen.
Unfortunately, the summer classes fell through so he started working for a moving company because my part-time hours as a server just wasn't cutting it. We then planned our next move to be close to work (since both our luxury beaters were no longer holding up, traffic to town was to horrendous to continue, and gas prices to much for us to afford). We sold our beloved 99 Land Rover Deluxe Beater, and moved into our new home in early summer. I started getting full-time hours at work and Angel took the 2 months before school to prep for his 4 class schedule (which was extremely tedious and time consuming). So I supported us during that time and thankfully was given enough hours at work to make it through. The day finally came for him to start teaching, and on his first day of classes he was told that his load of 4 classes was cut down to 2 due to low enrollment. This cut his expected income in half, and I broke down from the stress of not being able to make it financially in Hawaii, we had lived on the beach when we first moved to Hawaii but I no longer felt able to do that again.

I became sick, so sick, and I had been sick before, so I did what I knew to do, I took care of myself by cooking and eating what my body needed and resting every chance I could, which, unfortunately was not much with the new schedule I was working at the hotel. After a month of deteriorating, I woke up one morning and was going about my morning tasks before getting ready for my shift later in the day, when I collapsed, I could not get up from the floor and I could not get enough air to breathe. I was so scared, so I just cried. Angel was in the middle of teaching so I calmed down, left a message on his phone and waited. He finished class and called right away and ran home and thank God it's only a mile from home. I told him I knew something was wrong, seriously wrong, so he took me to the emergency room, which I was hesitant about after previous experiences I had in the past and  knowing how our health care system works. Well, they did what they could for me, treated me with fluids and after many tests said it could be mononucleosis, and that was that, they did not feel the need to confirm it or tell me how to treat it, except to refrain from all physical activity for another 2 months due to a swollen spleen that could rupture. They sent me home and told me to see a doctor to confirm and for follow up care.

So I found a doctor, (have not had or needed one this whole time in Hawaii until this) she confirmed it was in fact a mono infection that also caused a B12 and B1 deficiency which resulted in beri beri, a deficiency disease that causes severe weakness and fatigue. My doctor asked if I needed time off work, and I replied with, I would like time off but cannot financially afford to take time off, because as an on call position at the hotel I did not receive any sick time benefits. So I kept working, even though a typical mono infection takes a minimum of 3 months and up to 2 years or more to fully recover and regain your normal energy levels and strength. And work was busy and physically strenuous and I was in constant pain but no one really understood due to the lack of awareness as well as the fact that I looked normal and healthy to them. But I wasn't getting better, I felt like I was going to feel like this for the rest of my life, everything hurt, especially my back (from the swollen spleen) and I cried like a big baby before every shift I worked because I knew how painful it would be and how I would feel afterwards.

Then, our only luxury beater, the 99 SAAB, Green Machine, gave out too, and this time we couldn't afford to fix it or pay the overdue registration. I made myself walk 3 miles to work, thinking it would help me get stronger again (silly me) and left my shift early to make it to the last bus to get home or hitched a ride from a friendly co-worker when we were slammed and was unable to leave early. By November, Angel, could not take it anymore, he said I had to leave my job and rest so I could get better, but I was scared because I knew he only made enough for rent and I covered everything else. So I worked and saved what I thought would get us through the rest of the year. Then I trusted.  And I am so glad, because everything just fell into place. I would not have recovered so quickly this last month if it wasn't for him, he made me do nothing, literally, he started working for the moving company while also teaching, he did all the housework, and he cared for me like I have never been cared for in my life. He IS my Angel. 

Sorry I must back track here, after we moved to Hawaii in 2011, we started out on the island of Kauai, one day Angel and I met an Ayurveda herbalist while enjoying some hot tub action at a local beach side hotel. Her name is Kathy Matara and she IS a healer. I told her my about my health complications and how I couldn't figure out why I still wasn't healthy after all I had done, I no longer knew what to do and exhausted all my efforts. She taught me quick, real quick, and I am forever grateful for being put on the right path, because of being on the right path, so I could just meet her in the first place. To this day we remain good friends with her and her beautiful daughter. Well, she also introduced me to me Transcendental Meditation, and told me it was a form of mediation that anyone can learn that provides rest deeper than sleep and  in which healing takes place. I knew I wanted to learn this form of meditation but it took over a year from the time I was introduced to it by her to be able to afford to learn. Oh boy do I love my husband, he is always up for all the things I want to do in this life, so last month, Angel and I learned this technique and we are forever changed. I know it was the missing link to what I needed in my life. I have always had the desire, drive, and hope but now I have the strength, endurance, and health to accomplish everything I dream of in my life. I feel ALIVE again and I feel eternally grateful to the gift of learning TM. Not only have I retrieved my health, strength, and vitality back after losing it all over again, but I am watching my husband continue to evolve into an amazing husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, and teacher. He has gone above and beyond what he thought capable of himself and I am so happy to see him thrive!

As I was regaining my strength this past month, and enjoying the holidays, my favorite time of year, we had the most remarkable experiences that made me cry tears of joy almost every day as well as feel a sense of peace I have never felt before in my life! I will just touch on a few because this is already becoming way longer than I intended. =) I had stocked up on food in November to get us through the holidays and saved as much as possible to pay our monthly utility bills. The first gift we started receiving was from a student at UH Manoa who volunteers at the student organic farm, SOFT, she was providing us with fresh organic produce every week that she said was a surplus they couldn't otherwise use, which we gratefully ate all of. Then she allowed us to borrow her car so we could stock up on groceries and toiletries for the month. As if that wasn't enough she left her car for us to use for 10 days while she left for the mainland to be with family for the holidays and even gifted me some seedlings and starter soil for the garden I had been wanting to start but kept having to put off from being to weak and unable to get supplies. So during this time off together, Angel and I knew gifts were out of the question for us and family, nor did we feel the need to participate, so we enjoyed the holidays by enjoying the island the way we used to when we had a vehicle and visited our favorite island beaches, picked out our Hawaiian tree at our island's Christmas Tree farm, decorated our home, went to see our previous neighbors for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, planted our veggie garden, and went dancing for my birthday.

Angel continued to work for the moving company and one day after housecleaning he complained that our vacuum wasn't working, but I said we just have to deal, we cannot afford another, well, the next day he went to work and came home with a new Dyson vacuum that their client gave away to him during his move. A Dyson! Dude! We are set for life with this bad ass piece of machine! LOL.  Angel's boss, another very good person we are so lucky to have in our life, came over one night and while I was telling him how grateful I was for the vacuum, I said I thought Angel might come home with a piano one day so I could reteach myself how to learn (my parents provided us with lessons and we had a piano when I was young). Then he said well we already have 2 in our storage and I would like you to have one. OMG! really?! Wow, as if all this that wasn't enough for us, I received the most amazing birthday card from my parents and 11 siblings, a check from my caring sister Evette, that was enough to cover our gas bill, another generous gift from my always supportive older sister Rachel that helped with another bill we were short on, and a check from Angels parents that provided more healthy food in our happy belly's! I come from a very large family and I know how hard everyone in my family and Angel's struggles, so I never would ask for anything, ever, but somehow they did all this for us without being told, they loved me through their thoughtful words, their actions, and their gifts, and I am truly thankful for the LOVE I have in my life, and that is the most important thing in life, LOVE. 

So to finish, I am truly grateful for everything my husband and I have been through together this past year, and truly grateful for my family and where I come from. I now can continue on to do what I love most and help others. Whether it's caring for a neighbor's tutu (grandmother), baking for co-workers, cooking with friends, posting a new recipe on face book, hanging out with our chicken, or loving my husband, I am truly happy to do it all. Angel starts teaching a full load next week, and enrollment is up and I can't wait for what's next in my life, I am just excited to be here, right now. I have some very good inklings on what's to come in 2014, and yes, life in paradise is pretty damn good, but I never said it was easy!


If you would like to learn more about Transcendental Mediation, here is their official website, or can call me if you have any questions.

If you are interested in Ayurvedic health management, you can contact Kathy Matara, she is able to do phone consultations for individualized herbal prescriptions and diet plans.