Sunday, 26 April 2009

Tempeh pizza sausage

A long time ago I read a recipe for tempeh sausage crumbles in 'Vegan with a Vengeance', and today while making our beloved vegan pizzas, I remembered that I have a package of tempeh in the bottom of the fridge. I decided to improvise a sausage for the pizza, having completely forgotten that I had read a recipe for it somewhere else. I thought that I'd just thought of it myself. Here's what I did:

half a package of tempeh, crumbled up

olive oil
fennel seeds
crushed red pepper flakes
black pepper
Liquid Smoke

While the olive oil heated, I crushed the fennel and other spices in a mortar and pestle, then I threw the tempeh into the skillet with the spices and cooked on low for a time. It didn't seem to be the right texture and wasn't really browning, so I put a bit of water in the pan and it quickly evaporated. I added a tad bit more olive oil to it to make it have a rich taste. I then used this with my usual mix of courgettes, bell pepper, onion, olives, etc, on our vegan pizza.

Well, that was on delicious pizza. And guess what I found online when I opened this up to post about it! Isa's original recipe, which isn't at all far off what I did anyway! Look:

saute pan

8 oz package tempeh
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried margoram or oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

In a saute pan, crumble the tempeh and add enough water to almost cover it. Over high heat, steam the tempeh until most of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Drain the remaining water and add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

It's amazing how similar my version is to Isa's. Either I have an eerily accurate subconscious recall for recipes, or this is how nature intended you to get tempeh to taste like Italian sausage.

Give it a go. It's a winner!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

What's your fitness personality?

I just took a quiz called 'The 8 Colors of Fitness' and it was really surprisingly accurate. I found out I'm a 'Purple Efficient'. Here's what it said about me:

It is in the nature of Purples to orient toward a routine, become comforted by it, and take pleasure in completing their plan as envisioned. Active Purples are occupied with a constant quest for increased competency and self-improvement and believe they should be sufficiently disciplined to make a place and time for regular exercise. Purples approach exercise purposefully and always with a plan—often a loosely envisioned plan, but nevertheless, a plan.

They will research, study, consult authorities, and do whatever is needed to collect information. However, with confidence and independence as trademarks of their personality, they trust their own ability to pull together their exercise program, complete with categories such as cardio, strength, and flexibility. As Intuitves, they readily see the mind/body/soul connection and will often include exercise with that focus as a category.

Purples are attracted to variety and experiment with different approaches from time to time, but are soon drawn back to exercise they can make routine. They prefer a consistent approach to exercise. Once exercise takes on an established pattern, Purples comfortably maintain that routine. As natural planners, they’ll easily pack their gym bag to prepare for their personal needs before and after their workout. They take advantage and enjoy the amenities of a well appointed club—all part of the routine.

Purples prefer to control their own environment and can be surprisingly disturbed by what they perceive as out-of- place elements in their surroundings. Many report they become so distracted by such non-conducive factors in an environment that it actually interferes with their ability to enjoy and maintain an exercise program. (For example, loud music, stray dumbbells, or messy equipment.)

Well, that pretty much sums me up, right down to including kundalini yoga and being annoyed when the dumbbells aren't lined up properly. What's your color?

Jet Lag and Turbo Jam

It's been a long couple of weeks.

We'd all planned a surprise family reunion beginning May 14th. Derek and I booked flights back in February for it, and of course we told Mom and Dad, but they didn't know that the entire rest of the family was planning to turn up and surprise them. My sister had booked a venue and caterers and everything. Then this unexpected thing happened, a family reunion of sorts took place in April, and now it's just me and Derek visiting May. We agree we're never going to tell Mom about this sad irony.

Anyway, my son turns 18 May 1st, and graduates May 16th. We are going to get him set up with a laptop for university, which he starts in August. The computer and broadband will be his combined birthday and graduation present. We will have to take care of that while we're there, as well some other stuff.

I got back on 22nd April and this trip has taken me longer than any other to recover from jet lag. I'm still not quite back to normal yet. I guess I'm getting old.

On another note, I've discovered some fabulous workouts. They've been out about 2 years, but I've only just got into them: TURBO JAM!

I don't know why these programs have to have such silly adverts. 'You can be lean for life and still enjoy your food!' 'Get rock hard abs!' Blah blah blah. Well, I don't have rock hard abs and never will, and I know for a fact just doing workouts such as these won't get them for you, nor will they give you free license to eat whatever you want--but they're still great workouts! They have to be the most fun workouts I've ever done, and I have done a lot of workouts.

Turbo Jam Infomercial

Now, the only way you could burn 1000 calories in one workout is if you weigh a LOT--I use a heart rate monitor and tend to burn about 400ish calories in a 45 minute Turbo Jam. Same with losing 10 lbs in 10 days. If you are overweight and eating crap, and then you start the Turbo Jam diet and start to do the workouts, yes you'll drop 10 lbs in 10 days. Most of it will be water...that's the thing that really irks me about the infomercial approach. These workouts are terrific, but they're not miraculous and the over-enthusiastic presentation and miracle claims could turn people off from something that could change their lives--home exercise using tried and true methods. The infomercial makes the product look gimmicky, but the fact of the matter is, she's doing good old cardio and weight training, and that's the only real way to lose weight and get fit.

The workouts really are fun, the moves really are easy, and I've been working out regularly using home DVDs for nearly 5 years, and I can say without reservation that these are the most fun I've had working out so far. They're just FUN! And they work you hard, but for some reason you don't realise it. Chalene is just not 'serious' about it. All her workouts use the same 11 moves based on kickboxing. She calls them the 'Elite 11' and she teaches them to you slowly in a session called 'Learn and Burn'. Then she uses them in different combinations and with simple variations in all her subsequent Turbo Jam workouts.

Anyway, if you have the chance to try Turbo Jam, take it! I think just about anybody would enjoy these workouts.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I'm back

Too jetlagged to say much. Too much to say to know where to start.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

On my way

We're leaving here at 6AM. Flight at 9.00. Arrive Newark 11.50 local time, departing 15.40. Arrive Memphis 17.35. (Which my time is 1AM the next morning...19 hours door to door).

Hubby's going to his parents' after he drops me at the airport.

I'll be back 22nd April. :)

Friday, 10 April 2009

He went at 3.15 this morning, 9.15 last night, Arkansas time.

I'm grateful this was fast. Just Tuesday he walked 4 miles with mom. He's climbed on the house, he's mowed the lawn, he's worked in his shop whistling and cheerful. He was tired and scared but he laughed and chatted with me when I called him last Friday after he was admitted to the hospital.

None of us could have imagined that a week later he would be gone. We thought he was there for an exam and to pick up a 90 day supply of chemo tablets, to return home and begin treatment. The complications became very quickly apparent, though, and if there was no hope for him, if the alternative was a long, painful and ultimately fruitless treatment, as so often happens with difficult cancer cases, then I believe it is good that he went fast.

It's just occurred to me. Now he knows what the rest of us have always wondered about.

Vigil continues

He's still hanging on. I have booked a flight for Sunday and will be back on 21st April. My sister emailed me and said there would be a funeral within the next few days. I don't know what to hope for, but it sounds like a quick end to this would be best. The doctors say it's not the leukemia but his heart that will finish him. I can't help but think they should have thought of that before and not taken him off his heart meds. If they hadn't he might not have had a stroke. But the reality and the truth of the moment is that they did what they did, and whether it was the direct cause of his situation now is immaterial.

Hope Mom is okay.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

I took the theory test today and got 50/50 on the multiple choice and 61/75 on the hazard perception. I am very relieved to get that out of the way.

Sister sent word that they're stopping all treatment on my dad. He's not expected to live much longer, maybe less than 24 hours. I don't know if I'm in total shock or if I have already made my peace with it, but I feel oddly calm. I just feel like he's still as much with me as he ever was. And that he always will be.

My stress is manifesting itself in emotional eating, though. You'd think I'd lose my appetite but no. That's not the case. It's like I want to keep myself stuffed. I just keep eating.

It's all been so fast, I haven't scrambled for a flight. Somehow it just didn't seem right to race over to try to get 10 minutes in the room with him while he's in such a state. He was always such a proud, private person. This is a man who didn't want me to see that he needed to stand on a stump to get on a horse. (After his first heart attack about 20 years ago). This is a man who worked a kidney stone so large he had to do it by hand out of himself in the toilet at work and then finished his shift! When he had the first stroke the other day, he didn't want Mom to know and she didn't realise it until she saw him lift his right hand with his left and she rushed out to find the nurses. With him unable to speak, so many mini-strokes having taken away so much of his mind, not able to swallow, not able to breath--I know he wouldn't want me to see him like that. We don't know if he knows who's with him or anything. I feel that I'm respecting what he would have wanted by keeping in my mind and heart the image of him as I last saw him. So I'm waiting here, and I don't think the wait will be long. Then I will go and see what, if any, comfort I can offer to my mother.

It's my decision how I handle this situation and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. We all have to deal with our grief in our own way.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Beautiful day

It's my day off. No one's up in the US, or they may just be rising about now. So no news yet.

It's such a glorious day outside. The sky is so blue. The sun has that fragile golden quality of April in England. The sun and a blue sky are precious commodities here. You want to rush joyously out into it, with your arms flailing about over your head. You feel like you need to get out there in it and soak it up because it will be gone all too soon.

Everything's like that. And I don't mean that in a fatalistic or downbeat way. What I mean to say is, everything is fleeting and fragile. Everything should be cherished.

I'm reminded of a scene in 'The Last Samurai', where Ken Watanabe's character is dying on the battlefield. He had spent so many hours of his life in meditation, staring at cherry blossoms, searching for the perfect blossom. The last sight he sees from the battlefield is a cherry tree in bloom and his last words are, 'Perfect--they are all perfect.' Click here--that bit starts at 3.54.

We only get the moments of our lives, that's all there is. May we not overlook them, ignore them, or waste our time searching out the perfect one.

They are all treasures.

Neither created nor destroyed

'In the teaching and understanding of the Buddha, we all share the nature of no birth and no death. Not only humans, but also animals and plants share the nature of no birth and no death. A leaf and a flower share the same ground of no birth and no death. There is a manifestation of a flower or a leaf or a cloud. During the winter we do not see any sunflowers or dragonflies, and we do not hear the cuckoo bird sing. It seems that they do not exist in winter, but we know this idea is wrong. In the beginning of spring, all of these beings will manifest themselves again. They have just been somewhere else during the winter, in another manifestation, waiting until conditions are favorable in order to manifest themselves again. To qualify them as non-existing in winter is a wrong perception...

'It is real and deep wisdom to learn to look at things in terms of manifestation. If someone who is very close to you has passed away and you define him or her as non-existing, you are mistaken. From nothing cannot be born something. From no one cannot be born someone. From something you cannot become nothing. From someone you cannot become no one. That is the truth. If the person close to you does not manifest in the form that you are used to seeing or perceiving, that does not mean that he is non-existing. It does not mean that he is no longer there. If you look deeply, you can touch his or her presence in other forms of manifestation.

'One day I took the hand of a young father who had just buried his little son. I invited him to walk with me to discover his son in other forms. His son had come to Plum Village when he ws young and learned to enjoy vegetarian food. He gave me his allowance and extra pocket money and asked me to buy a plum tree and plant it for him. He wanted to participate in the work of supporting children in the world by planting a fruit tree at Plum Village. He knew that a plum tree gives a lot of fruit. He knew that we could sell the fruit and send the money to hungry children in the third world. He learned to do walking and sitting meditation, and he practised the dharma very well. When he was sick, I went to Bordeaux and visited him in the hospital. He said to me, 'Grandpa monk, I will do walking meditation for you.' And he got down from his bed and walked beautifully. Shortly after my visit, he died. The day of his cremation, I sprinkled the water and chanted the Heart Sutra for him. A week later, I took the hand of his father during a walking meditation and showed him many other manifestations of his little boy. Together we visited the plum tree I planted for his son, and as we sat in the afternoon light, we saw his little boy waving to us from every bud and branch.

'Looking deeply into reality, you can discover many things. You can surmount so much suffering and counter many wrong perceptions. If we can abide peacefully in the ultimate dimension, we will not drown in the ocean of suffering, grief, fear and despair.

'...The Buddha has advised us that we should not accept any teachings as true just because a famous master teaches them or because they are found in holy books. This also includes the Buddhist canon. We can only accept the teachings that we have put into practice with our own awakened understanding andtht we can see with our own experience to be true. The Buddha said our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Let us look at this again.

'If you light a candle and the flame keeps burning until the whole candle is finished, is the candle still there or not? The Buddha says there is no annhiliation. We have seen that this is true. And also we have seen that the concept of permanence is not applicable to things as they are. So the truth lies somewhere in between. Here we must look deeply with all our concentration.

'Do you think that the flame on the candle is going down only in a vertical direction? If you think so, then you are following the flame in time. You may also think in this way about your own life span: that it is going in a linear direction and that one day it will end. You may think that you were born on a point on a vertical line, a point that you might call 1960. You may think that you will die on a point somewhere far away, which you may call 2040. All you can see is yourself moving in time like the candle. But you are not just moving in a linear direction.

'You might think that the flame is just going down. You might think that the candle will die. In fact, the flame is going out in many directions. It is giving out light all around itself to the north, south, east and west. If you have a very sensitive scientific instrument, you would be able to measure the heat and light that the candle is sending out into the universe. The candle is going into you as an image, as light and as heat.

'You are like a candle. Imagine you are sending out light around you. All your words, thoughts and actions are going out in many directions...

'We are transforming and continuing in a different form at every moment.'

~Thich Nhat Hanh
No Death, No Fear

My dad's body is transforming, as it has done since the moment of his conception. But his existence did not begin at that moment, and it will not end when his body stops functioning. He continues.

So hard

It looks like the daddy I knew is gone. I don't know if he's coming back. He's unconscious most of the time and the doctors say 10% chance of survival. He's had a stroke and can't talk or swallow, he's paralyzed on his right side. We don't know, but I don't think it will be long.

I have cried so much in the last couple of hours. I hope they are keeping him comfortable and he's not able to feel fear or pain. It's my mother I'm worried about at this point. She is very strong, though.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Ups and Downs

Yesterday I was told that Daddy was able to talk again and doing better. Then this morning I open my email to find that after his second round of chemo, he has been put on oxygen, slurring his words very badly and unable to feed himself. We are hoping he doesn't have to go into ICU because if he does, Mom won't be able to stay in the room with him. This sort of treatment is full of violent peaks and valleys and we are all going to have to get used to that.

He is very seriously ill and I accept this, but I still believe that he is as likely to pull through this as other people who have been frail and low and have also recovered.

Keep praying for him, please.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Troubling times

I got a call from my sister-in-law night before last. Quite unexpectedly, my dad has been diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. This is a rare form of leukemia that usually occurs in young adults around 40. It is characterised by abnormal, heavily granulated white blood cells (promyelocytes) which accumulate in the bone marrow. Treatment of APL is pretty straightforward and quite successful (90% successful) with a drug called Atra, which is a derivative of vitamin A. The problem is, in order to take the Atra, Daddy has to go off his blood thinner, which he has been taking for years to treat his fibrillation (a tendency of the blood to clot up in his heart, which could lead to stroke). They did an echo on him yesterday and found 2 clots in the upper chambers of his heart, but they had to take him off the blood thinners and start the leukemia treatment anyway. I called last night (it was 12.00 noon there) and spoke to him and he had just taken the first 3 pills in his treatment. He was talking to me and in good spirits. This morning when I got up, I had an email from my sister saying that he had 2 mini-strokes and now can't talk and she and my brother are on their way back to Little Rock to stay with Mom during this.

Nobody knows yet what is going to happen.

Of course, nobody ever knows what is going to happen.

In the past I would have prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, if it was His will, to allow my Dad to recover, and if it was not to give me the peace that passes understanding through the Holy Spirit to accept that in the larger picture that He alone can see, what He allows to happen is for the best. I have to say I don't believe in that version of God anymore. I feel calm, though. I feel the 'universal consciousness' --or whatever you want to call it, some call it God-- has comforted me with the knowledge that my Dad is in good hands in the hospital where he is. It is one of the best cancer hospitals in that part of the United States and people travel from far away to receive treatment there. I know that no amount of worrying or weeping can take away any suffering, but only add to the suffering in existence in the world, and I know that he does not want worrying and weeping on his behalf in any case. I know that he is surrounded by relatives who are comforting and supporting him and my mother in this hour of crisis, and for all these things I am grateful. When people say they're putting everything in God's hands, they might think they mean something different from what I just said, but it occurs to me that we are really saying the same thing. That we know we have no control over what is happening, and we surrender to having no control, and we accept what is happening in the present moment. We accept the truth of it. We accept the fact of it.

I would ask, having read this, if you would send out your positive thoughts or your prayers on behalf of my Dad. Send out your healing energy to him and to us all.