Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What's Your Song?

I have a love affair with love songs. Of course, I do. #iStillBelieveInLove

I can pin point exact times in my life with just a hint of the first measure of a song. For instance, the first two notes of I NEED LOVE by L.L. Cool J will have me thinking of the summer I turned 13. I had to have played that song a hundred times a day. If I wasn't in the ocean turning purple from being in the sun, I was laying out on the sand listening to L.L. and dreaming of being the one he wanted to kiss and hold. I had his posters plastered all over my bedroom wall. My nieces say he looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I can't relate to that! He's aged but I still think he is delicious-looking. He's a married man and I shouldn't crush on him. Duh!

My older brother and I have this thing when we hear songs from our younger years... we will call out the year that it reminds us of. TWO OCCASIONS by The Deele -- sick memories for him and I. He's three years older than me so the memories are different but it takes us back to the same year. For me, it reminds me of Christmas time when I was in the 8th grade. I remember the first time I heard it, we were on our way to a volleyball tournament. I was the setter for our Laie Town Girls team. Our jerseys were white with blue letters. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to be in love, to have someone feel that way about me -- that they only "...think of me on Two Occasions. Day and Night." My enthusiasm for love and being in love way back when could not have prepared me for all the heartache I have known in my life since then. And even with all the heartache I have known, it has not dampered my excitement to love and be loved. Call me a hopeless romantic or foolish. #iStillBelieveInLove

The first strum of PURPLE RAIN has multiple memories attached to it. I think I was in the 4th or 5th grade when that movie came out. As a little person, I could not have identified with the lyrics of that song in its full totality in the way that I do now. Prince is and will always be a genius in my eyes. The personal stories everyone has with his music and especially Purple Rain, the song and the movie, could probably fill volumes of books. I remember riding in a van with a bunch of girls to Waimea Valley and we had Purple Rain on repeat throughout the hour long drive. By the end of the drive, we had all memorized the lyrics and had our own connection to the song. As an adult, I remember having a "date night" with my sis. She had her man and I had brought over a "friend" and we did dinner and a movie at her place. The movie we watched was Purple Rain. Needless to say, it was a night to remember. The details of which will remain tucked away in my memory and attached to that song and movie.

Music has a crazy way of manufacturing feelings that may not have been there beforehand. I think of the song by Shai, COME WITH ME. At the time that song came out, my then boyfriend had just moved away from me - thousands of miles across the ocean. I remember hearing the song and the lyrics and I decided in my mind that I would follow him, that I would do whatever was necessary to be in his arms and be the love of his life. I get that way - when I want something I go after it hard. Is it a flaw or a strength? I don't know. I end up putting my ALL into following my desires. And it's not his fault that I am so forward and so very devoted to loving him - whoever "him" is at the moment. It's a crazy pattern that I should probably change because it seems to have a negative effect on me.
I want to know
Should I really, really go
And if so, are you coming with me?
So I, I got to know,
If you really want me to go,
And if so, come with me!

I married that man that I followed thousands of miles across the sea. He was my first husband. When we married, we had a big wedding. He was my first love and the man that I wanted to share forever with. The song I chose to walk down the aisle to is RIBBONS IN THE SKY by Stevie Wonder. The first bars of that song still reminds me of the day we wed. It was so very rainy. Nothing was going right. One of my bridesmaids told me, right before we went out to walk down the aisle, "You don't have to do this. If you have any reservations, we can run away right now." I will never forget her words. I almost took her up on it. No amount of wedding primp could have prepared me for the loss of that love in my life. He was the only man to have my heart so full and so complete - it had not been jaded or tainted by hurt and broken promises. He left me after six years of marriage. I still think of him walking out of my apartment after we signed the divorce papers. Seeing his back exit the door, his distinct walk, the silhouette of his body; my heart went with him.

Music will always be a big part of my life. In recent months India Arie's, BEAUTIFUL SURPRISE, has me all warm and fuzzy. New love is always so exciting especially when love was not the expectation. And new love can never be that deep love that comes after years of being in a relationship. It's not supposed to but it contains all the hope of enduring love, forever love. It can never get to that point without the butterflies of new affection first. That initial attraction fuels the fire that forces us to take flirtation to some next level feelings.

I know I am EXTRA when it comes to the way I demonstrate my affections. I will never stop being that way and one day someone will appreciate that about me. I will not change the way that I love. I will not change how devoted I am when in love. I will never change my level of commitment when I give it and my loyalty will always be something that my man will always remember. My past loves could NEVER say that they ever questioned my loyalty or my devotion to them. When you talk about a true partner, I see myself as that woman. I will always make sure that my man looks good to everyone in his life. I support his vision, encourage him to be the best man that he can be for everyone in his world, not just me. EVERYONE. I will never understand why my past loves would walk away from this. I can only move forward and believe in the hope of new love.

Just recently, I stumbled on PROMISE TO LOVE by Kem. I am picking that as my song if I ever fall in love again and maybe one day marry again. Maybe (marry again)! My heart has been banged up especially this past year. But I will never lose my enthusiasm to be in love again. I will never stop believing that there is a man out there that wants to be in my world FOREVER.
You're the baddest woman I have every known
The sweetest thing I've ever had, yes you are
And I want to thank you baby
For loving me, and changing me, and saving me
You see I was lost, I was lonely
But you came and turned it all around girl
You light up my life, yes you do
You're the song of my heart
The joy of my soul

What's your song?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Photo Blog: New Zion, South Carolina

One can rarely appreciate the beauty that is all around us. On my country drives through South Carolina, I absolutely love that I can drive for miles and not see one single vehicle on the road. It allows me to slow down and look at the scenery around me.

Yesterday's early morning drive had me witness this beautiful scene. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

15 Things: 2017 is Almost Over

1. The Watched/Read It List
Name of the book I'm currently reading:
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison - it's my favorite book and I've read it a dozen times. I just love the way she develops each character. It's like I know them. I'm scared of them. I would steer clear of them if I met them in the street. From Milkman to Hagar and everyone in between. My skin crawls at the dysfunction of each character.

Last Movie I Watched:
Thanksgiving Weekend we went to watch The Justice League. I only went to look at Jason Momoa's fine self. I fell asleep when he wasn't in the scene. The movie was quite boring to me. I am just not into the whole action, comic book thing. There's nothing about it that engages my brain, which is why I prefer to read instead of watch a cheesy teenage film but... seeing AquaMan was worth every penny. **giggles**

2. Gramma's Wisdom
Yesterday was my paternal grandmother's birthday (my popps mother). She would have been 98. She was a woman of very little words but when she spoke, there was no question what she wanted to say. Probably the thing I remember the most about my grandmother and her home is she was always ready to entertain guests. The house and the kitchen was ALWAYS spotless. Even when I would arrive with several friends in tow, she was always available to make food for us. I loved that about her home. And the wisdom in that is because of her hospitality, her home was NEVER empty. She was NEVER alone. I hope that as I age, I too will be able to welcome anyone into my home that is in need of a kind word or a hot meal and I pray that my home will NEVER be empty either.

3. My True Happiness
It is not a secret that this past year has been a rough one for me. The last time I went through such a life-changing event was probably when my mother passed in 2011. This last year has been spent attempting to find myself again. What I discovered is that my TRUE happiness is writing. I am most happy when I am digging into the emotion of my life and expressing it through the written word. Lately, I have been working on a poem and it is so emotional, so hopeful, so full of love. I forgot how beautiful life is when I can sit in silence and just write - let my thoughts flow uninhibited!

4. The Mistake I Never Want To Make
Going back to any of my exes? There is a reason and season for everything and the past should stay in the past. There is no doubt that there was genuine love between my first husband and I as well as my most recent ex and I. I would like to think that I had an impact on their lives and that they will think of me with fondness but even if they don't, I know the memories that I carry with me. I know love and I know how to love. I know the woman I am and I know my value even if THEY never ever acknowledge it.

5. Best GO-TO Recipe From a Friend
Ohhh... Tawnya's butter mochi!! She is the cutest, most bubbly, talented, funny lady and she can freaken bake her tail off. A close second is her pecan bars. :-) I don't have her permission to share the recipe so I am not posting it. I don't know if the butter mochi will still be my "go-to" recipe here in South Carolina but it's definitely a popular one in Hawai'i.

6. My Favorite Failure
I don't know what failure is my most favorite. I look at failures as part of a cycle so that even if I initially think that I failed at something, really it's part of the come-up. It's part of a bigger picture that leads to success. The failure eventually pushes me to becoming a better me. The biggest failure I see right now is my inability to save my marriage. Before I knew that I was losing at being his life partner and that my marriage was slipping away, the relationship was too far gone and HE was done with all of it. It was already too late for me to attempt fixing anything.

I take responsibility for the things I think I may have done wrong but ultimately he left and his only concern was himself. I hope the grass is greener on the other side and that he will live out his days in bliss. I have LET GO and made peace with the fact that he has moved on and so must I. It's a scary feeling to let go of something that I cherished for so long. I know how good of a woman I am and what I want most is a man that will take care of my heart and never take it for granted in the way that I feel that the last two did. Part of letting go also means that there's a gaping hole where the relationship used to be. And because I let go, I have made room in my heart, my mind, and in my life for something greater, something better than even I can imagine. #iStillBelieveInLove

7. The Most Unexpected Compliment I Ever Got
The other night my sis said to me, "You're good at everything. You are so talented...(or something along those lines)"

This is coming from a woman that was just promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. A General came to promote her in her pinning ceremony and had such wonderful things to say about her that he had me in tears. For her to tell me that I am good at everything was very unexpected. So often, I get caught up doing things out of necessity that I don't realize the skill it takes to do things. And others observe it and think, "Wow. She is so talented," but really I'm only learning or doing something out of the need for it and the need to save money on it. For instance, everybody knows I do florals. I love working with flowers. The beauty of flowers and the joy it brings to people when they look at something so beautiful makes me happy.

8. My Personal Syllabus for 2018
The things I will accomplish in 2018 - publishing my first book... writing as my main job. Yes, please!

9. Deep Dark Secret
I don't feel like I have any dark secrets. My life is so wide open and I don't mind sharing the things that have shaped me and made me who I am today. What surprises most people about me is when they find out that I am a rape survivor. How does that topic ever come up on its own? It's rare but when the topic does surface, I am happy to share my story.

10. What Younger ME Would Love About Present ME
...that I am so comfortable in my own skin. Turn the other way if you don't like what you see. As for me, I love every inch of me and am not afraid ANYMORE of what people have to say about it. 100% unapologetic!

11. That One Quote
"Abundance is scooped from abundance yet abundance remains"
I want for this to always be my core belief. The universe is full of abundance and I want to live in that space and not in "lack". There is infinite resources to give all of us everything we need. May my heart and my mind ALWAYS be open to the abundance of the universe.

12. The Hardest Thing To Forgive
Betrayal is probably the hardest thing to forgive. And it's not just in terms of a cheating mate or spouse. Betrayal by friends or family members is so damaging. If someone lets me down when I am counting on them, I sometimes retreat into complete bitterness. That has always been the most difficult thing for me to forgive... when someone lets me down.

13. The Best Surprise I Ever Had
The first memory that came to mind was with the boyfriend I had when I was 18. It was a Saturday. He and I had talked on the phone in the morning. This was before cell-phones so when he had called me from the payphone outside his barracks room, he told me what he planned to do for the rest of the day and I said I would be home doing laundry. I didn't have a ride to see him and he was car-less until his car arrived on the boat. He had just moved here from Colorado, military relocation, and was having the car shipped over.

The normal attire for being at home and doing laundry is a tshirt and shorts (no underwear), and that "tita bun" on top of my head. It's comfortable and it's just what I do. The clouds were forming and the late afternoon was going to be rainy. I love days like that. It means curling up on the couch and either reading a good book or watching a chic flick. For some reason, everyone was busy that day. I was home alone. The phone rings and it's boyfriend. We are still so brand new at this point that the butterflies in my belly flutter at the sound of his voice. He asks me what I'm doing. I tell him I'm watching a movie while folding laundry then abruptly stops and tells me he's going to call me right back. I go back to what I was doing. About five minutes or so after I hang up the phone I hear a car honk its horn outside. When I look outside, it's boyfriend in his room mate's car. I look a wreck but he doesn't seem to care.

He gets out of the car and I am so thrilled at his presence and his "surprise" visit. I get in the car with him and we go cruising for a couple hours. I don't recall what, exactly, we did. I'm pretty sure there was lots of making out involved. That's what teenagers in love do, right?! He was 24 but I was 18 so I was still considered a teenager.

I'm 42 now and I still love surprises like this. It shows me that the man who wants me is thinking of me and finding ways to love me and show me he cares.

14. Amendment to the Bucket List
Publishing a book. Getting paid to write. I want this sooner than later. This bucket list item is my number one priority now. It's not some lofty bucket list pipe dream. It is the only thing I am focused on right now.

15. My Christmas Wish This Year
This year I think I am in a better space than I was last year. Last year I probably wanted the sadness NOT to engulf me. This year - no sadness - just love in my heart and gratitude. What I want for Christmas this year is a camera. To be specific - a Canon 6D. It's been sitting in my Amazon shopping cart for quite some time now. Photography is such an expensive hobby but I love it and I feel lost without my camera. It is like an extension of my body. I always carry it for the times when I behold something beautiful and want to capture it on film. I don't know why I have such a difficult time spending money on myself but am quick to drop dollars for the people that I love. **sigh**

Thursday, December 07, 2017

NeenaLoveCooks: Beef Stew In 90 Minutes or Less

I was at work utterly bored with building a database. As I looked out onto the beautiful view from my office, I couldn't help but notice the thick rain clouds that had gathered. Within minutes, the rain began to fall and I was immediately craving a nice hot bowl of beef stew and rice. Beef stew is definitely one of my comfort foods. My father makes really good stew and my mom did too. I carry the tradition on with my own cooking skills.

I don't normally follow a recipe. I "eyeball" everything and then taste my food often while I'm cooking. For the sake of this post here is a list of the ingredients I used:
-2.85 Pound Boneless Chuck Roast
-Water or Stock
-2 Pounds of Potatoes
-1 Pound of Carrots
-6 Celery Stalks
-1 Large Round Onion
-5 Cloves of Garlic
-6 Stems of Fresh Thyme
-1 small can of tomato paste
-2 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
-1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
-Salt and Pepper to taste

The great thing about stew is that you can mix up the quantity of the ingredients. Use what you have on hand. If you only have 1 pound of meat, adjust the other ingredients to your taste. I don't really like carrots so when I make stew for just me, I omit the carrots and increase the potatoes. I also LOVE garlic so I will use an entire head of the stuff instead of five cloves.

In the video, I go over the instructions on how I make beef stew. This is meant to be a quick stew. Normally, when I make stew it is an all day process. I cut everything in large chunks. In this recipe,  however, everything is cubed into smaller pieces so that it will cook quickly. This stew will be done in less than 90 minutes.

-Cut beef into roughly 1/2 to 3/4" cubes and dust with 2 TBSP of flour and salt and pepper
-Peel and slice onions
-Peel and slice garlic
-Clean and slice celery into 1/2" slices, diagonal
-Clean and chop carrots into 1/4" slices, diagonal
-Clean and cut potatoes into the size of half a golf ball

-Heat up a large pot with one tablespoon of vegetable oil
-Brown beef
-Add garlic and onions
-The juices from the beef, garlic, and onion should be thick. Add either stock or water to cover the meat.
-Let cook on med-high to high for 45 minutes.
-Add celery and carrots and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
-Add potatoes and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
-Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

And that's it -- you're done. You can do variations by adding ingredients that you like. For instance, I usually add a couple of jalapenos. That is always yummy but I know that the people I'm dining with this evening do not like a lot of spice. You can add green chile, which is another one of my favorite flavor profiles. It's really up to you. I have seen people add green beans. I have seen clams in the mix also. There is nothing you can do that would be wrong. Eat Up!

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Moana Audition: Kira

My niece's audition piece for Moana in 'olelo Hawai'i... a stage play done completely in the Hawaiian language.

She is so beautiful, so intelligent, and so damn talented.
Love her to pieces....

Friday, December 01, 2017

Hello December - Easy Holiday Wreath DIY

Since moving here to South Carolina, I have so much time on my hands. All my side hustles from my former life are UNKNOWN here in South Carolina and for right now, I need it to remain that way so I can concentrate on my writing. However, it is the holiday season and there's just something about Christmas that compels me to express my creativity.

Thanksgiving weekend, the girls and I did a lot of shopping/window shopping. One of our stops was at the craft store Michaels. I love that place. All the Christmas blooms were 50% off. I was attracted to this blush color and inspired by it. White, gold, and silver accented it beautifully. The girls decorated the mantle and prompted me to round out the decoration with a matching wreath.

When selecting your own things to use in a wreath, it should be things that inspire you. This particular wreath just happened to be flowers but you can use anything to make a wreath. You are only limited by your creativity. You can look online or even in the stores to see the kinds of wreaths that are available. I see wreaths covered with ornaments and ribbon and mesh. I have seen feathers and toys. Really, it's up to you and the theme you're going with. Here's a wreath that I saw at Michaels. This is a 12" wreath. With all the added fluff, it looks larger. If you look at the price tag, they are selling that thing for $69.99. Isn't that crazy? And you can look at the wreath and know that NO LOVE went into making that. I'm just pointing out the obvious.

As with any craft, it takes practice to get to a place where you're happy with your creation. That can only happen if you do it all the time. Practice. Practice. Practice. People think they're not creative but give them some time, beautiful materials to work with, a little shove in any direction and the results are fantastic. Don't forget some inspirational music... my inspirational music today was BEYONCE. To be more specific, Drunk In Love. The pulsating beat had me bobbing my head and singing as I made this wreath. Do what makes you happy and NEVER GIVE UP.

Happy Holidays, fam!