Scatterbrain #3

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I’m in a complete scatterbrain mode yet again, can’t seem to bring all the thoughts together to express anything in a cohesive manner. Maybe it’s the Full Supermoon today. Or maybe I need a vacation. Or maybe it’s just me being my usual self who needs once in a while to shake all the puzzle pieces, put them back together but in a new pattern.

And while I’m trying to figure out what my new puzzle pattern should be, I’m off on a short trip to Stamford CT to play a “flower child” model for the very talented Robert Velasco (RV Photography) who needed a redhead for his next photo shoot (there is apparently a shortage of redheads in Connecticut – just kidding).

So what’s cooking this morning? Nothing. Because I’m too busy sitting pretty and having all the people fuss around me making curls, curls, and more of them…

 

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And that has to go on my head. It’s heavy! Such a difficult “flower life”.

 

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And all of those. But at least not all at once. Or I’d get a neck injury.

 

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Therefore you write your own text, and I’ll just post pictures of various foods that were produced in the Peddler’s kitchen over the past couple of weeks. Whether elaborate or simple, just have fun, with both the dishes you are making and the pictures you are posting.

 

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Cancer Dancer

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To to all the cancer fighters and survivors – my very heart and soul are with you! As you battle this fight or, just like me, survive to move away from the experience further and further, may you continue staying as strong and beautiful as you already are! Some of you I know personally, some I just know of (you’re family or friends of those close to me), and many of you are strangers but are still very dear to my heart.  My continuous thoughts and prayers are going your way, and may God grant you the power to overcome it (for however long we each have to live) as every single day we are here, we are all Survivors!

One of my friends (who had breast cancer three (!) times but is now about 10 years cancer free) called her treatment periods “dancing with cancer” – where intensity, passion and often danger exist when you twist and turn and embrace and then try to outrun each other, but where on a basic level you just try not to step on your partner’s toes. Dancing with cancer is something I know all too well. Cancer and I had one intense dance back in 2007, and, yes, it was passionate and definitely dangerous at times, we had a steamy “I hate you” love affair and tried to kill each other during sleep. We did decide to part though, and the separation has been going rather nice I may add, but we are both still dancers, we dance for different troupes but at one big theater company called Life. And my wish is that the Main Director would never pair us again to dance together. But this is something I have no control over, I can only wish!

 

This week marks the 7th anniversary since I had my last chemotherapy treatment, and even though I didn’t truly feel the dance period was over till I was done with Tamoxifen and reached that first survivor mark of being cancer free for 5 years, it was a huge sigh of relief to feel free from the dance routine that sustained me (and almost killed me, as it looked at times) during those surgery and chemo months.

 

And I do ask myself sometimes “for how long is that appropriate to do this countdown and mark each diagnosis date and then each end of chemo date, and wave them goodbye and then wait for the next year”? But then I remind myself, once you’ve danced the dance, there are no rules to what’s normal or not, because you’ve already had the most abnormal experience of your life and lived to tell the world about it. So why the heck not to celebrate and mark each turning point and each survival day!

 

This current 7-year mark has been especially contemplative (thus all the hiding at the rooftop lounges lately to rest and think and sing The Drifters “Up on the Roof” song – just see the previous post).  Two weeks ago I received a letter from the 9/11 Health Registry that after a careful examination (and after being thorough evaluated at Bellevue 9/11 clinic), the government concluded that both my asthma and breast cancer were most likely developed due to the exposure to dust and toxic environment lingering at the WTC site for months (the planes hit the Towers literary above my head as I was undergoing grad school internship at an agency nearby and was standing by the Plaza but managed to leave it before the collapse, and the dust and smell of burned wires along with decomposing bodies penetrated the air throughout that Fall and well into the Spring of next year, and from what it looks like now, every cell in my body too). I developed first asthma symptoms that Winter, but it didn’t really “hit me” that breast cancer I had 6 years later would be connected to the exposure too until the government approved a long list of cancers related to the 9/11 exposure in 2012.  So that “why” question that many cancer survivors have may have been answered by the US government : the inside meaning of the letter basically reads “we have examined both your prior medical history, predisposition and family factors and determined that you “had no business of being a cancer dancer” if not for the 9/11 exposure”. So, there you go!

 

I’m not angry though, that “why or why me” question never really developed any dwelling inside me. If anything, I tend to say “I’m glad I had cancer”, even though it sounds bizarre. I would go without of course all the grueling physical intensity of treatment and now life-long effects of having gone through that experience. But who I am today is so entwined with having had cancer that I can’t separate the two, I can only go forward, and, yes, pray that the experience would be “the one and only”.

 

 

So today I celebrate Life, how long or short we each have is unimportant! We breathe, we live, we love – we survive it all! I raise this glass of pink wine to all the cancer dancers and your loved ones who surround you and help you fight it – may you all be enveloped in their love and support and may you all remain strong and in God’s light and guidance!

 

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Other Stories

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There is something in the air, apparently everybody wants to take my pictures. In the past couple of weeks numerous people , some complete strangers, thought it’d be a good idea to aim their cameras at me, from all possible angles, during whatever party or gathering or even simple after-work outing I happened to be at the time. And then everybody, in a very diligent manner, emailed /texted/ brought picture CDs or even the actual pictures to show their work. Therefore, I’m now a proud owner of more pictures of myself than I’ve probably had in a year.

I’m usually the one who walks around with a camera to snap pictures of everybody and food of course. So maybe the Universe was saying it is now “me” time. So I thought it’d be a “Me, Me, Me” post. Though let me tell you, all those people following you with their cameras – it’s fun for about 2 – 3 pictures, and then your exhibitionist side shuts off, and you just want to hide.

 

Here, still in a mood, channeling (very loosely, and probably failing at it miserably) Audrey Hepburn.

 

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So if I stand there and look pretty, you’ll take one picture and go, right?

 

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No? How about now?

 

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What if I just ignore you?

 

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Or pretend you don’t exist at all.

 

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I’m just trying to talk you (still nicely) so are we done already?

 

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Asking me to pose next to a sign about a gluten filled liquor and snakes (shudder) is NOT a good idea!

 

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Why are you taking my picture?? You don’t even know me.

 

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Let’s try hiding in a dark room.

 

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I guess not…

 

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And I climbed up to that rooftop for one specific reason – to hide. Like, seriously!

 

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Kids, this song actually gives the best advice, and I take it literary. Up on the roof (even in Manhattan) is where all your troubles disappear.

 

 

 

But what do you know! A photographer just asked me to pose for more pictures as he wants a redhead model. I assume there is a shortage of redheads in Connecticut. So, kids, stay tuned for more pictures!

 

 

 

What’s Cooking This Week

Since it’s a post all about pictures, this one is definitely food and drink related – my newest kitchen tool.

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Plus today’s recipe is French dessert, and I don’t know how to cook French and NOT to drink wine. Clafoutis sounds really fancy, but it’s basically just a fruit tart where the filling is simply baked in a sweet dough rather than on top of a harder crust. And despite an indulgent sounding name, the dessert is actually pretty light in both the taste and the calories. And you can use whatever fruits you already have at home.

Blueberry and Nectarines Clafoutis 

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Makes 6 medium tarts or 1 standard 8-9 inch tart:

1 1/4 cup of milk (I used coconut/almond blend)

4 eggs

3/4 cup of flour (I used Cup4Cup gluten free blend)

1/3 + 1/3 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of sliced or chopped almonds

2 nectarines, diced

1/2 – 2/3 cup of blueberries

2 tspoons of vanilla

1/8 tspoon of salt

powdered sugar for dusting

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Beat together milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar. Then add salt and beat again, gradually incorporate the flour till no clumps are visible. Batter will be thin.

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Brush the tart forms with oil and pour some batter into each to create a thin crust. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F degrees for 7 minutes. When the crust is just slightly set, remove from the oven and top with diced nectarines, blueberries, the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and sliced almonds. Then top with the remaining batter.

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Return to the oven and bake for another 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of a pan.

This dessert is elegant enough to serve at Tiffany (if we imagine the store would serve us breakfast) yet it doesn’t involve hours spent in the kitchen (which French cuisine sometimes is guilty of).

You can then pretend you are Audrey Hepburn, or anybody else you want.

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Enjoy!

In the Land of Childhood

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Thursday night, I should’ve have been working, or doing something else important and productive. Instead, I joined a childhood friend killing the evening by doing absolutely nothing. The weather was gorgeous, and Central Park was just steps away, so we called it a “mental health night”. Hey, the therapist needs a break too! Maybe even more than the clients!

 

Let just say we had our own therapy session, chatting, laughing, (shhhhh, eating ice cream) and and walking down the childhood memory lane. And that path was sure long, Alena and I know each other since we were 8. Along the way, we kind of forgot we weren’t blood related, and by now we are just family (the exact relation is unimportant, but the ties that bind are surely un-breakable).

 

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As we walked through the park, carefully navigating among the tourists (ughhhh, LOL), we talked about how certain locations, in the park itself, would always hold for us some specific memories. Which memories? I’m not sharing today, that was definitely “just girls” talk. But I will share the one about the Pond. In my mind, it will always stand along with my memory about going through chemotherapy treatments, that spring and summer of 2007. In between my 6 chemo sessions, after about 2 weeks (and right before the next treatment was scheduled), when I finally would feel strong enough to venture out and walk a bit in the city, I’d take my son (who just turned 10 at that time) to the Pond. He had just received a big motorized boat toy for his birthday and was eager to try it in action. Those quiet late spring and summer afternoons spent sitting on a bench (that’s all I had strength for) watching my child play by the water were a highlight of those 10 months under treatment. A stillness of each moment, savoring the seconds but hoping for many years ahead, those were the days when time ceased to exist bringing together the past and the future into one present “now”, letting me enjoy life, in whichever form I had it, praying that life itself would never stop to exist…

 

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But enough about sad complicated things! It was still a perfect summer evening, and some fun was still ahead! Right where all childhood memories lead to in New York.

FAO Schwartz toy store.

This is where we met Grayer, Lola, Boo and Grover. And, no, they didn’t have those funny name tags attached, but they did speak to me, in that sweet plush whisper, introducing themselves and asking us to come out and play.

And we sure did.

Lola was a bit shy but very girly, we immediately “clicked” and felt like sisters.

 

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I could’ve stayed in that sea of pink forever.

 

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Grayer was definitely a fearless leader of the pack and needed a proper “hello”.

 

 

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We did find some common ground though, not all “go getters” are as scary as people view them (and I think he secretly likes me).

 

 

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Boo was a bit moody, but I managed to talk her into a small chat, after that, we were fast friends.

 

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I kind of think we have some common personality traits.

 

 

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But Grover was my favorite. With his plush skin and a big heart, he was everything I was looking for.

 

 

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We talked and and talked for hours.

 

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It was was love at the first sight.

 

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Unfortunately, Grover came with a price tag of a whopping $70, and I had to leave him behind. Fickle me!

Can somebody pleeeeease buy me a teddy bear?!

I will pay in dessert!

 

 

 

What’s Cooking This Week

When we think of our childhood, we also remember some particular stories, toys and books of course. Today’s recipe is based on beloved children’s classic “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”. It has an extra twist that will definitely be popular with parents – it’s full of green vegetables that are just so cleverly hidden. But you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy it, it’s basically a green smoothie in a cake form.

Spinach Mini Cakes with Limoncello Glaze and Strawberry Mice

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(Makes 5-6 mini cakes):

2 cups of fresh spinach

3 eggs

2 cups of flour (I used Cup4Cup gluten free mix)

1 1/2 cup of sugar

3/4 cup of olive oil

1 tspoon of vanilla

2 Tbspoons of lemon juice

3 tspoons of baking powder

1/2 tspoon of salt

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Glaze and strawberry mice:

1 cup of powdered sugar

2 Tbspoons of limoncello (or lemon juice)

5-6 large strawberries

chocolate chips

sliced almonds

Twizzlers candy

blue or black gel pen

small cookies

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Put away a mixer for this recipe and take your blender out. Blend together fresh spinach, eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar and lemon juice.

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Sift together flour with salt and baking powder, then gradually add it to the green smoothie. Batter will be kind of thin (don’t worry, it will makes the cakes very fluffy). Grease the cake forms and pour the batter in about 3/4 way.

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Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before applying the glaze. To make it, mix together powdered sugar and limoncello or lemon juice and sprinkle over the cakes.

Let the glaze harden before placing a strawberry mouse. To make the mouse, put a strawberry on its side and slightly cut the bottom to let it stand on its own. Insert sliced almonds to make the ears. Use small toothpicks to insert a chocolate chip for a nose and a piece of Twizzlers candy for a tail. Use a gel pen to make the eyes.

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Place each mouse on top of a mini cake and add a small cookie next to it.

If I give a mouse a cookie, will it come back for more?!

I say, definitely, if it sits on top of this spinach cake.

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Enjoy!