A rainbow a day

My friend Robyn asked to join for my Sunday cookfest where I cook some meals that can be refrigerated and prep some of the veggies for meals later in the week.  Here’s what happened this weekend when I was trapped in Muswell Hill because of bonfire night with lots of spare time on my hands.

I heard when I was little that one should try and eat a rainbow a day in fruits and vegetables.  I’ve also heard that we should be consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  I’ve also heard that we have to actually eat them, not mix them up in smoothies.  I’ve also heard that it’s bad to eat raw vegetables because it’s hard on the digestion.  I’ve also heard it’s bad to eat cooked vegetables because all of the nutrients get blasted out.

In the last year I have decided that I don’t care about any of this.  All of this advice is disguised as being about health, when actually the root of it is about being skinny.  As someone who is involved in forwarding the Health At Every Size movement, I see how lots of things in our society are designed to make us feel bad about the way we look and encourage us to “take control” over what we eat through a series of books, pills, potions, and regimens.  This is not sustainable over time, as people who set unrealistic goals for themselves will fail and then hate themselves even more.

Now that I’m done with that tangent, I will say that what I’ve decided to do is become more intuitive with what I eat, savouring flavors, colors and textures, and actively ignoring any advice I hear about food.  I, like many, was relying too much on the advice of others and not enough on my own intuition.  The result is that I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering the world of vegan and sugar free cooking.

 

 

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Burgh Island

If you’ve never seen Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode of Evil Under the Sun, quick!  Go watch it and then come back.

Ok, recognize it?  It was Friday night and Andrew called me up and asked if I wanted to come with him to his gig on Burgh Island.  Apparently, one couple had cancelled and we would be able to stay in the Hotel for free.  Since I know what Burgh Island is, I freaked out and immediately packed my bags.

 

We were there less than 24 hours and it was fun to be behind the scenes, posing as a tech specialist, taking a bath in the enormous clawfoot tub, having a cocktail in the gorgeous bar, and walking around the craggly island.

Rainbow of Books

In the last two weeks I have decided not to ride my bike to work as often because of the cold, the dark, and the effort.  This means I’ve had more time to read.  I have read more in the last few weeks than I have in all of 2016.  I have read 5/6 of the Man Booker Prize Shortlist.  I read two books that people gave me to borrow instead of leaving them on a shelf to gather dust for a year until I sheepishly return it and admit that I’m giving it back because I don’t think I’ll ever read it.  I have read magazine articles, newspaper clippings, academic journals, poetry, short stories, essays, and even the informational placards at museums and on the sides of noteworthy buildings.  I’ve been reading articles people send me at work.  I’ve been a reading maniac.  And while the destructive and violent noises of the explosions from the fireworks blast outside non-stop for two weeks straight, I am safe inside reading like I did when I was a kid: voraciously, engrossed, under a blanket, as I nod off to sleep.

Follow the Yellow Staircase

Yellow Staircase

The famous yellow staircase is a fixture of the Southbank Centre and of the entire south waterfront in London.  Over the years, I find myself here time and time again whether it’s to see a photography exhibit, to see Andrew play, or to use their free public bathrooms.

Yesterday, I took a group of five middle school girls to see a play here.  Due to some disorganisation beyond our control and poor timing, we were actually about four hours early for the play.  At first, it seemed like this was going to be a hardship, however, the girls were immediately drawn into the various activities and stalls that the centre had to offer.  We were able to walk around the amazing food market where I ate Sri Lankan street food known as Kothu Roti, which is also yellow in colour.

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I’ve got to learn how to make this.  After the food, it was time for a little workshop on the United Nation’s Right of the Child.  I learned there are a lot of them, and they’re written in a child-friendly way on light yellow paper.

It’s good for kids to see how they have the right to be treated.  Appropriately after that workshop we went to see a play called Layla’s Room.  This is a three-person play written as a single story but is actually an amalgamation of hundreds of girls’ stories from across the UK.  The play is narrated by a young girl who was sexually harassed and assaulted in her school while she deals with her peers, the administration, and parental reactions.  The girls enjoyed it and found it to be relevant to their world.  I can’t wait to talk about it more when we get back to school.

🌈 Steph

 

Orange/Organic/Oregon

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I was so excited on Sunday that I had found a recipe for sugar-free pumpkin bread on one of my favorite cooking blogs.  I had all of the ingredients except for the pumpkin purée.  I tried every single store in Muswell Hill, but no one had pumpkin.  Some people even looked at me funny when I asked about it.  The lady at Holland and Barrett said, “We have pumpkin seeds?”

I quickly got on the phone and asked Andrew to grab a couple of cans in the US and bring them home.  He brought this organic, local pumpkin from Corvallis which made a really nice pumpkin bread.  Is it still “local” if you put it in a suitcase and bring it to London?

🌈 Steph

 

Art-Decorama

I am happy to announce that I am still in love with Chicago.  I haven’t been back since 2012 and I have never been there as a tourist.  This was the first time I could indulge in the more touristy side of the city, and it was a very different experience.

Back in 2004 when I lived there briefly, I was studying race relations, gentrification, homelessness, and social justice issues through the Urban Life Center (Now called the Chicago Center).  Our days were made up of meeting community activists, going to internship, and learning about the changes over time in Chicago’s 70+ neighborhoods.  I hardly ever went to the Loop or did anything a tourist would do.

When I went back in 2012 for a friend’s wedding, I did what I knew: visited neighborhoods, talked to old friends, sought out old haunts, and visited homeless shelters.  As a result, Andrew had a very skewed view on Chicago and didn’t understand all of the hype.

So this time, we still stayed on the South Side, but we made an effort to see the more famous parts of Chicago.  We took an art deco tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  We went for drinks at the top of the Hancock tower.  We walked from Lincoln Park to The Art Institute along the lake.  We ate at some famous and fancy restaurants.  It was a different kind of experience.

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However, we stayed on the South Side and got a chance to make community connections as well.  Because of our jetlag, we woke up at 6am really hungry.  There was a cafe nearby that was open.  We found Cafe on the Grove,  run by two friends who immediately gave us a warm welcome at 7am!  We got into a conversation about the neighborhood, how it has changed over time since I lived there, and gun violence.  One of the owners took us next door to meet her husband, a pastor who has started his own campaign against violence in the area.  We talked to him about his work with Rev. Jesse Jackson and his vision for his organization.

As of April 23rd, 2016 the day we arrived in Chicago, there had been 175 murders in Chicago.  The death toll for 2016 alone so far is 551 at the time I’m writing this.  These are murders, but hundreds more have been wounded by gun violence.  Talking to the pastor and thinking about how real and prevalent the threat of gun violence is and how it effects everyone, made me even more aware of how safe I feel on a daily basis and what it would be like to not feel that safe.

Well this post has taken a turn, but that’s life.  You’re bobbing along looking at Art Deco mailboxes and then you have a totally different experience.

There were no rainbows on this trip!  All of our photos are grey-ish. I’ve always loved the Chicago Neighborhoods Map and that’s sort of rainbow-y, so here you go:

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🌈 Steph

 

 

 

Bus Stop Rainbow

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Every day I check my phone between 4:15 and 5:00 at this bus stop.  Some people might think it’s weird that it’s the only time that I check my phone every day.  I think I let the texts and the e-mails pile up for 24 hours because I really like having something to look forward to on this last leg of my journey home.  Today I had a long e-mail from an old friend, a text from Andrew saying he had a good flight, and one of my favorite blogs had an update.  What’s more, I looked up and saw this gorgeous, vibrant rainbow.  And then, I got home, and there was a rainbow in my backyard.  What a great day.

🌈 Steph

 

Beacon of Light

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As we crossed over the muddy field on the Brecon Beacon trail in Wales, the sun began to warm our hands and dry out our clothes.  My face became hot and my cheeks became puffy, which often happens to me while I’m hiking and it turns from cold to warm.  One of the students shouts, “Look, there’s a rainbow!”  I turn to my right and see this amazing rainbow.  Of course in the picture it’s not as bright and vibrant.  This rainbow stayed with us for about a mile and we climbed the hill. When we turned around to look back at it, we could see the end of the rainbow, where it almost met the ground.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this moment in the modern age, is that no one wanted to take a picture.  I’m standing with 12 teenagers on a mountain, and no one suggests getting a picture, we all just look at it and begin to talk about leprechauns, belief in the supernatural, cultural differences around spirituality, and physics of light.

This was not the only moment on my four day backpacking adventure that gave me hope for the future of humanity.  I hear over and over again, “Kids today ______.”  (Spend too much time on technology, don’t know how to enjoy the outdoors, prefer virtual conversations versus real ones.)  And on and on and on.  But as adults, it is our responsibility to provide them with the opportunities to explore nature, unplug, put them in situations where they must talk face to face, teach them empathy and social skills.  Because guess what?  When we give them that opportunity they take it!  Not only do they take it, they love it.

Here are some more photos from our trip on the Brecon Beacon Trail

🌈 Steph

Red: Rosehips

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Rosehips are in bloom all over the UK right now.  Last week, on a backpacking trip to Wales, I ordered a Ploughman’s and on the platter there were rosehips in the salad.  At the time, I didn’t know what the sweet and tart little morsels were.  Yesterday, Andrew and I went on a bird watching trip to Rye Meads and I saw these growing.  I have since identified them as the same berries on my Ploughman’s and therefore as rosehips.  I could be completely wrong, and if I am, please let me know.

I know rosehips are used in naturopathy as a mood stabilizer and in my moisturizer as a smoothing oil.  Here’s to multi-use plants.

🌈 Steph

 

Dartmoor: A Ghost Story

I’ve heard of Dartmoor as the setting for the Hound of the Baskervilles.  I was pretty excited to go there.  Even as we were driving in I was having a pretty good feeling.  But this is the story of why I won’t be going back by choice any time soon.

As we approached some of the towns in Dartmoor, it became clear that this was not just a cutesy touristy area of natural beauty.  The first landmark we come upon was a huge, imposing prison looking out over the moor.  This place is dark.  It’s actually still a high security prison that has a reputation for being inescapable.  But in fact, there was an escape:  The Mad Axeman.  This man was never recaptured.  Great.

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Next, we pulled up to our B & B, a really, really old farmhouse.  The first thing the host said to us was, “Welcome.”  The second thing she said to us was, “You better lock your car doors.”  It was the moment in those horror movies when you get your first warning, but don’t think much of it.

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The B & B

Then we walked around for a little while, went to a 600 year old pub, had a nice dinner.  It was June 21st, so really close to the longest day of the year and it was pretty nice out.  So around 10 o’clock, there wasn’t really anything else to do so Andrew and I decided to go on a walk.  We headed down the lane to this other little farm and we saw a sweet little foal and goo-goo-gaga-ed at it for a while.  It seemed sudden, but the darkness crept upon us. I was overcome with thoughts of What was that?  What was that?!  It could be the Mad Axeman. I could tell Andrew was creeped out as well.  We began to walk faster back toward the farmhouse.  Then one of us, I’m not sure which one, says “I’m actually really scared of who we might meet on this road.”  We’ve been warned to lock our car about three seconds after arrival, and this is a town of like 20 people, so you know that our host has inside knowledge of people that go around stealing from cars, perhaps even one of her relatives, and we feel an urgent need to get inside.

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Tom Cobley, one of the stories of Dartmoor

A few hours later, we were trying to sleep, and I kept hearing someone in the bathtub sploshing around.  Now lets backup.  We have a shared bathroom at this place and when we arrived, the host said that there is this guy “Chris” who is going to be staying here with us, but he won’t bother us.  So again, this is weird.  I hear the sploshing and Andrew says, “Maybe it’s Chris.”  I fall back asleep and wake up a few hours later and I can hear the sploshing again.  All I can think of is that I can’t go to the bathroom because Chris is still in the bathtub.  In the morning I go into the bathroom and I look in the bathtub to look for evidence of water droplets.  Nothing.

Something strange was afoot there.  When we drove away I had one of those overwhelming senses of relief, just like I get every time a plane lands.

I’m not going back to Dartmoor unless I can guarantee an encounter with Benedict Cumberbatch, but I fully support anyone who loves this unique part of the world.

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Sherlock and Watson in the Hound of the Baskervilles in Dartmoor

Love, Steph

p.s.  Update:  The Mad Axeman was murdered by these guys.

p.p.s.  The people of the unmentioned town we stayed in were actually lovely and helpful.  This was my own experience of Dartmoor as seen in 24 hours.  Although experiencing a rise in wealth, Dartmoor has been a rural area of economic hardship, its main economy being tourism and agriculture.  Nobody we ran into there was scary, but like in many very isolated communities that thrive on tourism, there was a general insider vs. outsider vibe that comes with the territory.