Carrot, Apple, ____

Two of the friendliest items to juice are carrots and apples.  They are sweet, leave little pulp, and produce a lot of juice.  My latest two juices begin with this base.

Carrot, Apple, Ginger

This weekend, we had a friend visit from KC.  We share a love for health and holistic living.  Of all our moments shared this weekend, one small nugget of wisdom rang loudly: Ginger is quite strong.

This was spoken moments after she tasted this latest juice.  After the last attempt that was ginger-licous, I tried to use a smaller segment.  Clearly, it was still too big.

Otherwise, this was a great juice.  Sweet and simple with loads of flavor, besides the ginger mania.

Apple, Beet, Carrot (ABC)

Firstly, the colors of these items alone are breathtaking. Bright orange, rich purple, and perfectly green.  Incredibly excited to try this one.

My husband’s initial reaction: Tastes like dirt.  As much as I want to love this juice because of it’s incredible color, I have to agree.  It had two strikes against it with the root vegetables.

But like the other veggie juice, the more I sipped, the more pleasing it became.  Not something I’d want to gulp after a run or enjoy with a dinner.  But it is rich in nutrients and not unappealing.

I’m left to question – are my taste buds so accustomed to processed sugar and foods that I can’t appreciate the subtle flavors of vegetables?  Or is it merely just a preference?  I know what my husband would say, dirt tastes like dirt.

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Words

It got quiet in Carter’s room and I was curious.  Supposedly quiet children mean mischief.  This is what I found:

My mother faithfully taught him French while we lived in Kansas City and sent the books with us when we moved.  Every once in awhile, he’ll bring them out and giggle through all 100 words.  They literally feel fun to say.

Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl have the same effect on him.  How could one not smile whilst saying hornswagglers, snozzberries and roast beast?

We even found a tree nearby that looks like a Dr. Seuss creation.

I love words.  I love the way they sound, just like Carter.  I love reading.  I love learning about grammar.  I love listening to and learning new languages.

But of late I’ve wondered how frivolously we use language.  We talk all the time.

A few days ago, Carter and I went for a walk to the light pole.  It’s a little over a mile and is an oft tread route for our family.  During this particular walk, we practiced a new discipline – silence.  For about a quarter mile (almost five minutes), we walked silently.  We decided this was different than the quiet game; it wasn’t a competition.  We would stop once we arrived at the light pole.  This was a practice in listening.  When we weren’t talking, what did we hear?

Five minutes went quickly.  When we touched the light pole, Carter let out a sigh with a smile as if he had been holding his breath in his attempt not to speak.  No major revelations in what we heard.  Cars and people talking.  But interestingly, I can remember those five minutes more acutely than the rest of the walk and any since.

One year, I fasted speaking from Good Friday service until Easter Sunday morning.  It was BC (before Carter) and took a lot of preparation.  I spent all of Saturday either on a walk or journaling in our home office.  The first half of the day, my mind was spinning and churning.  I think it was semi-freaking out that I was doing something so foreign.

After an hour or two, things started to surface.  It was like a Spring cleaning of the mind.  I thought about my family, friends, coworkers, and students.  I thought about my direction in life.  I considered my views on recent world events that I had been meaning to process, but never had.  I prayed for deep issues and concerns that I had promised people, but never actually done.

Then, there was peace.  Overwhelming quiet. A warm sense of balance.  Almost like my mind got a deep tissue massage and was free from the toxins I had been cramming in.

My first words were spoken Easter morning – Christ is risen! How rich and satisfying those words were coming from my head and out of my mouth.  They had never carried such depth of meaning.

And so my quest continues.  I seek words with rich depth as well as moments of silence to bring balance and connection to the Creator.

Mirror

It was a Michael Jackson run this morning.  Which was a good thing, because inner motivation wasn’t bursting forth.  Usually his music usually prompts me to scour Youtube where I spend fruitless energies attempting (and failing) the moonwalk.  Today, I was able to forgo Billie Jean and focus on the classic hit, Man in the Mirror.

Excellent lyrics.  Superb song.  Right where I’m at.

So, my longest-lasting souvenir from a Youth in Mission summer in Italy was a big brown spot on my cheek (yes, random transition).  It was 1998, summer after my freshman year of college, and we did a lot of outdoor work and play.  Fantastic experience.

The doctor called it a huge sun freckle and assured me it wasn’t dangerous.  The strange thing about the so-called freckle is I forget it’s there.  If you asked me to point to it, I wouldn’t know which side it’s on.  I don’t even notice it in the mirror anymore.  It’s just part of my face.

The only time I notice it is in pictures.

(final seemingly unrelated change of subject) My favorite book of all time is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.  As a child of the 80s, I loved the movie.  Bastian reading that huge leather bound book in a closet.  Falkor the luckdragon, super cool, but super gross with the pearly scales.  And of course, above all else, the racing snail.

Atreyu, the hero of the story (within the story), passes through a series of gates to get information from an oracle.  Each gate appears easier than it proves.  The second gate is a mirror.

Instead of reflecting your physical image, it reflects your truest nature.  Who you really are inside.  Knights and many brave men fell victim to this gate because their reflection was horrific or terrifying.

I’ve always wondered what I REALLY look like.  If my character were reflected instead of my physical image, what would I see?  Are there parts of me that I’ve become so accustomed to that I don’t see anymore?  Flaws that I disregard?

More importantly, what does God see?

Am I brave enough to see reflected the real me?  Brave enough to see the bad as well as the good?  Am I then ready to see beyond the surface of others to their real reflection?  Does it move me to terror or compassion? Or does it perhaps remind me of the incredible need for God’s grace…

Ash Wednesday

Honeymoon.  This phase of Lent is usually thrilling, new, and relatively easy.  No sugar or caffeine withdrawal, no longing for my old TV besties; this seems like it’ll be a cinch. These are moments to relish and soak in.

Juicing
Went crazy and concocted a juice without a recipe.  Good news, no one/thing was injured.

I used half a pineapple, a jazz apple (new variety for me), 3 kiwi, a few strawberries and some coconut water.  (I decided to cut off the kiwi peel after I took the picture.)  Hamilton struggled a bit with these items.  Seems the stringiness of the pineapple and kiwi clogged up the blade.  Regardless, it took some stops and starts to get it all through.

In my mind, these are all things I love and they should blend perfectly!  In reality, it was a bit of a pineapple ‘splosion.  Crazy tart and caused my son to utter three words I never thought I’d hear, “It’s too sweet.”  So, I added another cup of coconut water to the mix and it toned down quite dramatically.  A good morning or afternoon pick-me-up I shall now call Hawaiian Sun.

Disciplines
At a recent parish group gathering, the kids learned that during Lent people practice praying, fasting, and giving.  Those three disciplines have been the topic of our breakfast conversation the past few days.  It was decided that our whole family will give up sweets, which was quite a big decision for the little one.

We have also implemented something (the idea of which I take no credit) called the Prayer Bucket.  It contains slips of paper listing the names of our extended family as well as people who are in need of intercession.  We write the name on one side and the need on the other.  Before nap and bed times, we each draw one name out of the bucket and pray.  It has changed prayer time from a struggle to an organized success. Now he’ll hear of someone who is sick and say, “We need to put that person in our bucket!”

Reflection
The ashes are imposed.  The journey has begun.

Even at the beginning, let not the details of a fast supersede the purpose.  William Arthur Ward encapsulates for me the bigger picture:

Fast from judging others; Feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; Feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; Feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; Feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; Feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; Feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; Feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; Feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; Feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; Feast on verities that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; Feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; Feast on prayer that [strengthens].

Juicing

Right off the bat (baseball pun intended), the word juicing gives me visions of Hall of Fame awards being stripped away.  Is that so early-2000s of me?  Nowadays, juicing is more synonymous with squeezing liquid from fruits and vegetables than the other more ominous meaning.  Moving on…

Previous fasts in my household looked like replacing meals with water or juice.  It didn’t occur to me that the type of juice would make any difference.  It was just something to fill my belly since I wasn’t eating.  We tried to get 100% juice and not too acidic.  Sometimes we would drink some broth or herbal tea for a warm up.

This year, we decided to take it to the next level and invest in a juicer.  After researching I learned a fairly obvious rule – if it’s high speed using a centrifugal motor, you get faster results but may not get every drop from the produce.  If you use the more expensive masticating motor, it’s slower but you’ll get more juice and less pulp you throw away.    Since this is our first juicing experience and we have a limited budget, we went with a Hamilton Beach Big Mouth juicer.  Time will tell whether this was a worthy investment!

Since fun new toys should be used immediately, we took Hamilton on a couple test runs.  Here are the results:

First juice attempt -modified Purple Power juice.  6 cups black grapes, 1 gala apple, 2 inches ginger root, 3/4 cup blackberries.

Taste analysis – Solid A.  Tasted like a grape-y ginger ale. Still, ginger was overpowering for our taste.  Would use about half next time, maybe 1 inch.  Blackberries had been frozen and thawed, because they were handpicked this past June.  We did them last and didn’t get as much juice as I would’ve like.  Probably should have done ginger and blackberries first and the others to sort of work out more juice.

My son asked to change the juice’s name to Violet Beauregarde.  I concur.

Second juice attempt – Great Green Fruity Mix.  2 cups spinach, 1 cup coconut water, 1 gala apple, 1 pear, 10 strawberries.    Six grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Taste analysis – B.  (Will anything with veggies get an A?) The first taste is definitely spinach.  But then you think, “Am I repulsed or is it ok?”  Since it had a fruity second note, I took another sip and kept waiting for a weird film or aftertaste.  None!  As well, this juice left me feeling energized and satisfied.

I officially rename this juice Popeye.

Cleanup was no problem.  Helpful tip:  put the grocery produce bag in the pulp collecting section for easy cleanup.  Take the pieces apart, wipe off base, rinse others, dishwasher, done.  I did spend time with the filter and a small cleaning brush to make sure all the little pieces were removed.  It took maybe 3 minutes.  I hear this is the part that can cause the most problems for the juicer if it isn’t cleaned carefully.

As a vegetarian who is only recently learning to love vegetables, I’m excited to explore their juices!

Pre-Lent

Ash Wednesday approaches and two words echo in my mind:  holistic detox.

Mind, body, soul, and heart. Filtered, reshaped, and centered. Ok, I guess that’s more like 9 words.

Here’s another word: fasting.

In the bible, there are a few times that people have experienced fasts.  Moses fasted 40 days on top of a mountain before drafting the ten commandments.  The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years living on honey wafers, black birds and water coming out of a rock.  Jesus went without food for 40 days in a desert before being tempted and subsequently starting his ministry.  Seems like prayer and fasting precede major events. Hmmm…

Big picture
Fasting and other disciplines are a way to create space in my life.  Space for God to dwell.

Details
This year, my husband and I will fast soda and sweets for the first half of Lent.  Why these?  Simply unnecessary food items that have a big hold on our taste buds and wallet.  Not working wonders on our health, either.

The second half will be a graduated food fast.  Replace regular meals with juice.  So, I just saw a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  It’s good.  Find it on Hulu.  As a result, we bought a juicer and will now make our own juice during the fasting time.  We’ll finish Lent with a reboot juicing plan as suggested by the documentary’s website.  It’ll be 15 days prior to Easter.  We’ll begin with 5 days of juicing plus eating veggies and fruit followed by 5 juicing only days and finishing with 5 juice and eat days.  This will be a great challenge, but also give us a bit of flexibility.

We have done food fasting previously for Lent.  Our longest fast was 7 days on just juice.  Great experience, but we’re excited to try something different.

Secondly, I plan to do a media fast.  Here’s the deal,  I heart media.  I stay at home with my son and there is…mmm…a tiny bit of down time.  An internally motivated person would clean, cook, compost and do infinitely creative things.  Unless I make a todo list that morning, I find solace in my new besties, Netflix and Hulu.

I want to create sustainable habits, not just deprive.  So I resolve to eliminate facebook and watching TV/movies on my own.  Family movie night?  No prob.  Will I go to the Hunger Games in March?  Def.  Will Jason and I still watch Fringe to find out the fate of the current timeline Peter Bishop is in?  Duh. I will never give up Walter Bishop.

Finally, I will practice some spiritual disciplines with my son at his level.  Check out Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, for more info.  I’m imagining hikes with portions of silence, worshiping together, even his own fast.  Pipe dream?  Maybe.  My only requirement is for the discipline to have meaning.  I want to focus on the journey to the cross for him as well.  If the discipline supports that, cheers.  If it’s not at his level or appropriate, save it for another time.  But the more practice and familiarity he has, the better.  Plus, disciplines are way better when you’re doing them with someone (sans solitude, of course).

This year is about the journey for me.  The process.  Breathing.  Being present.  Embracing the moments instead of charging blindly to the finish line.

I anticipate now what God will say and do through these moments.