Archive for February, 2014

Quotable Beatrix Potter

February 26, 2014

Love the author postcards. Looking at someone s face as you read their words 😉

Whimsical Words

Beatrix Potter I’m back at Whimsical Words after a 2-month hiatus. And I’ll re-start blogging with a new Quotable Wednesday feature.

Beatrix Potter, author-illustrator of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other charming animal tales, was born in London, England, July 28, 1866. One of my favorite quotes of hers: “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”

For me, and many other writers, these words hold true.

(As to where I got this photo and many more I’ll be using this year – I purchased a collection of author postcards many years ago. I used them as bookmarks! It was fascinating to look at the face of the writer as I read his or her work).

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Meditative Practices

February 17, 2014

I wonder how many readers have been urged to learn to meditate as a way to reduce stress and add more calm to their busy, bumptious lives. I know it has been suggested to me. Often I want to smack the generous soul offering this.
Recently in my readings I came across an article on practices in meditation. One instruction stuck with me. It may seem a bit odd, but the advice is to
” chew your food longer.”
People who cope with an eating disorder on a daily basis know the importance of being fully present while eating. ” Being fully present” is a term that has achieved ‘pop’ status. What does it mean?
Simply that your mind, rather than rushing 18 hours ahead on the project you have to finish by Wednesday and various other distractions, sits down with you at the table to appreciate the foods you are about to consume.
What pleasure does food offer in addition to nutrients? Taste is one gift and texture is another. We feel satisfied.
Saliva has an alkaline PH so the more of it that mixes with your food, the more the acid in your stomach will be neutralized. You ought to suffer with less indigestion and heartburn. In addition, the more your teeth break food down the less acid your stomach will have to produce and it won’t be forced to attack half chewed chunks.
There are added benefits to longer chewing to do with weight. Taking more time achieves a sense of fullness somewhat sooner and we don’t tend to eat as much.
So, slow down the next time you ‘re hungry. Whether you make a cup of tea and drink it with a few cookies or a handful of nuts or if you sit down to a meal of roast turkey and squash and mashed potatoes, take your time. Sit. Don’t stand at a counter or in your car with one hand on the wheel wolfing down like a wild cat. Lions and cheetahs have to tear off chunks and swallow them whole before a competitor steals their prey. Cows and sheep chew so long it takes it to another extreme. Each animal has teeth suited for the job. We humans have teeth made for sustained periods of mastication.
So sit down. Savor the flavors and stress less.


February 17, 2014

Rachael. Z. Ikins (c) 2014

It always seems to begin halfway through February. The yearning toward spring. Light lasts appreciably longer and late afternoon is not quite so dark. More birds gather at crowded feeders. Earliest migrators blow in and sit in dejected male groups on bare branches proclaiming their arrival. The tips of the branches which have been conversing with the sun all winter, a conversation too quiet for human ears, begin to swell as the trees pull sap from safe storage deep beneath snow crusted ground in roots, and into the trunk, up the branches, and ultimately out to become swelling buds for a new spring.
Nights, the full wolf moon has blurred the sharpest outer edge. Yet it arcs so steadily across the sky, all the while staring in my window at me on my couch in front of television, that I stare back at it, sure that I can see the movement. On the frozen ground, at temperatures so low it makes me cough, spangles, frost flowers, and broken pieces of magic spell made visible litter the shoulders of the ever growing drifts. Cedar trees, guardians of the front entrance bow their heads with the white weight of winter on their necks.
My eyes flit from this glittering spot to that feathered rush overhead. I cannot imagine how all this frozen water will disappear in approximately 30 days or so. Where will it all go? Two hawks spiral around one another in the clouds of air buoyed by my heated rising breath. I remember two other hawks, another February afternoon in a tiny cottage at the edge of woods, halfway up a mountain. The previous January’s full moon had been celebrated by coyote warble as my dogs and I had stood knee deep in subzero snowfall late one night in our back yard.
I know that chickadees and cardinals start their mating rituals and nest building while the world is still cold and snow covers most of last year. I ‘ve never looked it up, but upon seeing these two hawks, I suspect again, that they, too, begin their sky- dance this time of year.
One July long ago, the summer I turned 12, my avid bird-watching parents brought me on a hike after supper into the woods and fields surrounding our camp. We sat on a ridge with binoculars, lucky enough to have found a grandfather oak tree jutting above the rest and in its top most branches, a red tailed hawk nest. I held my new ” Skipper” doll in one hand and brushed her long blond hair with a tiny pink brush. I wasn’t altogether oblivious to the natural spectacle that enraptured my parents, however. The adult birds came and left with food for the boisterous group. The babies pierced the air with their eager shrieks.
Ever since that summer, my heart has held a special place for hawks. Their plaintive cry expresses the ultimate freedom to me. Yes, for sure they sometimes come to the bird feeders too, and red spattered snow and a few small feathers in a kicked up drift remain as proof that all beings need to eat. I’ve never begrudged them their meals, only marveled at the aerial artistry of predator and prey and maneuverability that determines if today is the death of one and dinner of the other. Will one go hungry in this cold white and lavender place that is midwinter?

My Valentine

February 11, 2014

My Valentine
Rachael Z. Ikins (c)2014

He entered my life at a time when I had no food in my fridge.
I ate what students cooked at my work where I was a teaching assistant/sign language interpreter
and I shopped once a month. When the food ran out each month, I did not eat.I told nobody
and did not complain. I was busy working and attending university classes,
living on my own for the first time.

Imagine me and my pride, not wanting him to see the bright white empty fridge.
He showed up with eggs in his coat pocket and heavy cream and
Swiss cheese for an omelet. I was ravenous. It was like nothing I ‘d ever eaten.
I was a nervous wreck after he glanced without comment into the fridge. Worried until he telephoned that night. Even then,
I was uncomfortable. Without preamble, he said
“I know what it is… to be hungry.”
The next afternoon when he arrived, he stuffed $100 bill
in a front pocket of my jeans.”Go buy food.” he suggested.
I spent $98.67 later at the grocery store. What fun that shopping trip was!
My cart was packed to overflowing.

In our early months,in my cramped little student apartment, we cooked and cooked.
Quenelles, quiches and pates, salmon Kulebac, cold salmon mousse with Green Goddess dressing.
He created pastry from scratch with ice cubes, sweet butter and flour. He wrapped a long pink salmon filet in the pastry
fresh diced fine herbs, his favorite, French tarragon from his garden and hardboiled,
chopped egg sprinkled on the fish. After he crimped and sealed the pastry edges, he brushed it with beaten egg for
a golden shine.

Those first few months were magic. We cooked and cooked and ate, drank gallons of the finest wines,
made love, ate some more, dribbled sauce Melba on each other’s naked skin and
made love for dessert. We bathed together in bubble baths by candlelight, classical music
or rhythm and blues on the stereo.

We “went on the road” together. At the educational extension school where I worked, they taught
basic restaurant cooking. He offered to do a cooking demonstration for them.
Many students and teachers on campus sat in. To have someone of his talent and skill as a visitor was rare.
He was a chef of world-class talent. I assisted him. I think we made beef Wellington or tournedos Rossini.
Demi-glace sauce drizzled over, potatoes Dauphinois on the side. He was, as well, a history
buff. As he cooked, he explained the history of each dish and after whom each was named.

January 23, his birthday, 3 years later we married each other in the living room of our stone house. It was a long time ago.
That morning we awoke to a blizzard. As the day passed, snow mounded up. We dug a winding path from driveway
to front door. Come evening-the wedding was to begin at 7:30 p.m., we had lined the path with luminarias. Some guest
thought to cross the street to photograph the flickering, candle-lit snow. The minister arrived. I wore my mother’s
wedding dress which she designed and wore in 1945. The fabric came from my pilot father’s silk parachute.
We wrote our own vows, and also recited portions from the Song of Solomon. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
accompanied each of those with the bride as we walked from the back of the house to the front room to stand in front of the fireplace
where the fire chuckled cheerful warmth and he waited for me, beautiful in a dove gray morning coat and tails. An arch
of living ferns curved over us. The air smelled of fresh plants. I carried pink and white rubrum lilies and roses,
his boutonniere, a single pink lily and baby’s breath. My black peke/chihuahua mix rescue dog sported his own bow tie.
He walked on my train and sat just behind me on it through the entire ceremony. I have always wished someone had captured a shot
of my small canine ring bearer.

Our five year old neighbor was my flower girl. She looked like a princess in the long pink gown we chose for her.
She sobbed into my skirts later, that she had forgotten to drop the rose petals along her way. She feared
that because of this omission the magic would be broken. I hugged and reassured her, even as my heart sped
with nameless dread, that the magic had happened. In later years, my mind has been drawn again and again
to her concern about breaking the spell that night in 1987. In truth it did seem that our life was fraught with much hardship
and loss. Once more, long after his death, I married a second time. Once again a small black dog wore a bow tie and was the sole attendant..

The similarities end there. A year and a half later, I escaped to my freedom. We divorced. I wonder if I will ever find the gentle kindness, respect and passionate love that was my husband’s
gift to me again. I wonder if the scars left by the second experience will prevent me from reaching for that magic. I wonder.