Ode to Taylor Street

MariosItalianLemonadebyRebeccaVillarrealListen to me perform this poem by clicking here.

 

monarch tattoo dances up her calf

lick Mario’s Italian Lemonade

cantaloupe her choice

MariosCantaloupeyRebeccaVillarreal

twist your rubber neck down Taylor

for a marble doughnut glazed with 50 years

of Scafuri fingertips

ScafuriMarbleDoughnutbyRebeccaVillarreal

pop down Loomis

the 157 keens your stop

lean forty-five degrees into Davanti’s Pizza della Terra

Taleggio tangling your tongue

leeks taunting taste buds

shrooms singing ballads

if I could marry you in Vegas

there’d be nothing left but crumbs

DavantiPizzadellaTerrabyRebeccaVillarreal

It’s time for Chicago’s Festa Italiana August 14-17!

Check out some of my favorite stops:

Davanti Enoteca– 1359 W. Taylor Street

Mario’s Italian Lemonade– 1068 W. Taylor Street

Scafuri Bakery– 1337 W. Taylor Street

My First Time: Two Audio Poems for You

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One of the most exciting aspects of blogging is trying new things. There was once a first time that I wrote a poem. Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? How about your first kiss?

I remember my first reading in the mid-90s at Dark Horse Books in Washington, DC. I met one of my best friends that day. And I released a part of my soul. It felt so good to share my art.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m broadcasting two poems using SoundCloud. Rochelle Soetan just shared them for the first time on her blog Tuesday Morning Love.

Please take a listen to Jacob’s Bridge, for my son, Providence, Rhode Island

https://soundcloud.com/rebecca-villarreal-author/jacobs-bridge

This poem taught me how I can be present for my son, even when I’m on travel for work. It lightens the guilt (a useless emotion) about leaving and celebrates our ever-present connection through poetry and story.

Please take a listen to Generation Asante, for Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

https://soundcloud.com/rebecca-villarreal-author/generation-asante-a-poem-for

Wangari Maathai is founder of the Green Belt Movement. You can watch an inspiring short film about her here. I first learned about her during my years working at the African Wildlife Foundation. She proves that one person can make a difference every single day. I wrote Generation Asante in gratitude to Dr. Maathai for the air we breathe.

To read Jacob’s Bridge and Generation Asante, please visit Tuesday Morning Love by clicking here.

Asante sana for listening to my first SoundCloud recording!

The Pulsating YES meets the Dabbler

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5 Life-Saving Tips for Your Body and the Promise of 4-Pepper Posole

It’s a new month! Wahoo! We have a chance to renew. My friend Amheric’s mom takes every new month as a chance for a fresh start. Who needs January when you have March? That’s why I gave him the video poem New Month for his birthday. It’s a chance to shed your soulskin and start fresh.

Do you ever feel like you’re walking on air? Everything is flowing? Yes? I call that the “pulsating yes.”  Like when I went to file some paperwork with city hall and there was no line, people were helpful and I received the answers that I wanted and needed. I think though, that they felt me bouncing in, they felt my pulsating yes and were happy to receive it. When I walked in, the energy emanating in the office seemed tired from being stuck inside a government building during the second Polar Vortex in Chicago.

Sometimes, we can feel both ways in one day. One moment we are floating with grace and another moment we are crawling on the office carpet sucking in the recycled air and slurping down caffeine.

Today’s tips focus on the body.  I have a slew of other resources for mind and spirit for another day. Here’s my advice: pick one thing to explore, then stick your toe in and dabble.

As you scroll on your phone, computer or iPad, find what grabs you.

The whole point of the art of dabbling is to try something new.  (If you want to try more than one, go for it!) The idea though, is not to overwhelm you with hyperlinks and pressures to change your diet or world view, but instead, to know that these resources can serve as an anchor or reference when you want or need them.

1. Find thirty minutes a day, three to five times per week to move your body. My friend invited me to join her for February and March to be active this way for six days per week. I committed to five days per week and it’s revolutionized my body and my mental state. Think about it: three ten minute spurts of squats, or abdominal exercises, dancing, yoga, walking. That’s 150 minutes for your health over the course of an entire week. Start with three or four days.  It’s just not that big of a deal. Some days, I’ve created an obstacle course in my hallway and jumped around with my son.  Other days, I got off the train early and walked a longer route home. Here’s a 7-minute workout from the New York Times that is being used by a very busy public school teacher friend of mine.

2. The Evolution of Juice: You may be hearing lots about green juice. Folks are posting pictures on Facebook and juice bars are popping up all over.  When I first tried juicing a few years ago, the only juice I liked was carrot apple. All of the other recipes that I invented tasted like garbage. I’m not being sarcastic.  Fast forward to three weeks ago. I’ve been juicing when I can, usually in the morning (wash a bowl of veggies the night before) or in the evening (frequent alternative to wine—which I still enjoy). I have never felt so good in my entire life.  I already thought I felt fine. Now I have more energy than ever.  I am sleeping better and get this, I am somehow more patient and kind. Is it the juice? Or that I’m consuming slightly less caffeine because I no longer have giant drops in energy. I’ve been tracking Kris Carr’s work. She just posted this 3 minute video about how to make a green juice. She was diagnosed 11 years ago with an inoperable stage IV cancer and revolutionized her approach to eating.  Ten years in, her tumors are shrinking and she has a vibrant life and business.  This video which is 4 minutes and 49 seconds long shares the story of her healing. It’s heartening if you have cancer or know someone that does. It made me want to think about juicing. I’ve used Kris Carr’s work as an inspiration and started sampling by Googling juicing recipes with whatever ingredients were in my fridge.  Consider subscribing to Kris’ emails or follow her on Facebook.  And to get started, this is my favorite easy one page website that I found through Google thanks to Seattle Squeeze. I also like that there are pictures of vegetables and fruit which you can scroll over and learn about each one’s health benefits. Three tips within this tip: A) Try to only use one fruit ingredient with the veggies so you don’t overdo the sugar and experience that high, then energy drop; B) Keep Eating. Toss a few nuts or other source of protein in your mouth at some point. Healthy carbs are fine too; C) The Breville Juice Fountain has worked well for me.

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If you are what you eat, why not eat awesome? –Paul Jarvis

3. Keep the Yoga Mat out of Your Food. Subway was using a dough conditioner in their bread that is illegal in Singapore and should be illegal here. According to the Forbes article titled: “What is the Yoga Mat Chemical and Why is it in Your Food?” it’s also used in products at Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Marie Calendar’s and more. The point of this tip is to educate yourself about what goes into your mouth. It’s not to get preachy, it’s just an invitation to pay attention. I am passionate about food: cooking it, writing about it and eating it. I like to eat foods that are actually food, not something created in a laboratory. There’s a chemical in Pepperidge Farm Goldfish which has been designed to trigger your brain to eat more. (Reminds me a wee bit of Dollhouse, for all you Joss Whedon fans.)  Where to begin? Two people (with very different styles) are blazing a trail of truth and holding corporations and the government accountable. One is Vani Hari a.k.a. Food Babe. I recommend subscribing to her mailing list or following her on Facebook. She just shared a helpful guide to the healthiest breads on the market. The other is Robyn O’Brien. Again, think about checking out her website and Facebook page. The point of learning about this and taking action, whether it’s buying something without harmful chemicals or tweeting a politician, is that we are actually changing the marketplace by creating a demand for healthy foods. The same foods by the same companies in Western Europe do not contain chemicals. Are we special in the U.S. that we’ve been gifted this option? The week that Food Babe released an investigation of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (yes, I grew up on the blue box too), profits went up by 14% for the company that makes Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese, a healthy alternative to Kraft. You have power over your body, and influence on the health of your family and, even the future of our the planet starting with your grocery list. If you don’t know where to start, you can try this healthy pantry makeover or think about purchasing Paul Jarvis’ gorgeous e-book Eat Awesome for whatever amount of money you’d like. You set the price. I paid $8.88 because it’s my lucky number. You can pay less or more. It’s your choice!

4. Drink bottled water in moderation. We all drink it. It’s worth considering using a Brita filter when you think that a recent study reported by Fox News found nearly 25,000 chemicals in bottled water. Here’s a highlight: “Good hydration is important, and sometimes, there aren’t other options. As a healthy adult, the occasional sip from the “toxic fountain” of bottled water won’t kill you. However, small children, women of child-bearing age, and pregnant women are at greater risk of poor outcomes when exposed to these chemicals. Effects can include stunted growth, early puberty, premature birth, infertility and early menopause – just to name a few. The remaining population should still exercise caution, as more and more research is discovering that these chemical can also trigger diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer.”  If you choose bottled water because it’s healthy, check out these 7 Myths busted.

5. Try one week of freedom. I love cheese. I love milk. I love bread. I love meat. I’ve been toying with a week without dairy, then another week I try to reduce my gluten intake. Another week I’ve focused on other forms of protein than meat. I watch how my body reacts. And then I adjust. I’ve been shocked to see how much better I feel by reducing dairy. I’m not anti-dairy. I love Greek yogurt, I worship at the feet of Manchego and milk in my coffee is a no-brainer. This Debunking Dairy article was the first one that I read that made want to test the idea of reducing the amount of dairy I consume. I took a break and made my own almond milk and was fine. (Take one cup of almonds, two cups of water and soak for 1-2 days, dump in a blender with 1 optional teaspoon of vanilla extract and strain. Drink within a couple of days.) In my exploration of a gluten-free life, I made a gluten-free 4-Pepper Posole yesterday. By coincidence, Jennifer Fugo, a classmate of mine from Marie Forleo’s B-School just published The Savvy Gluten-Free Shopper: How to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank. I promised my Facebook friends to blog the posole recipe so here goes:

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Rebecca’s 4-Pepper Posole

Quantities are estimated. I used mostly organic and have created hyperlinks to the brands that I used. Sauté these chopped ingredients in 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium to low heat: ¼ cup white onion, two long celery stalks, 3 inches of the tail of a poblano pepper, one jalapeño pepper, ¼ red pepper (seeds removed from all), one chipotle pepper (chopped) in adobo sauce.  Add one tablespoon of the adobo sauce and two big cloves of minced garlic. Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, grind pepper generously and add three light shakes of ground cumin. Stir and let sizzle.  Chop a chicken breast into small squares or strips, keep the strips short if you choose that. Add to the sauté mixture and let the chicken cook a little in the spices and oil. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil if you need it.

Dump one 14-oz can of chopped tomatoes into the pot. And a 32-oz carton of chicken broth. Add a 29-oz can of strained Mexican-style hominy. (Note: the chipotle and hominy links are for the visual. Try to find them at your grocer as amazon’s stated prices are too high.) Cover, raise the heat and bring to a gentle boil. Then reduce the heat and let simmer until chicken in fully cooked. Probably only 15-20 minutes more. It’s nice if the celery, for example, still has some “bite-back” and isn’t mushy.  Serve with thinly sliced radishes, fresh cilantro, shredded white cabbage. Add these items to your taste in the bowl, then squeeze fresh lime on top. Corn tortillas or fresh tortilla chips on the side will determine whether you want to add more salt to the posole.

Make it vegan: substitute vegetable broth and sauté cubed extra firm tofu in 3 tablespoons of adobo sauce from the chipotle peppers.

Enjoy!

Remember: it’s your body. Love it wisely.

Un abrazo,

The Dabbler

A Girl Undone by Firelight

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A girl undone by firelight

walks to the edge of the floor

Reading verse of a faith so pious

prayers sweat blood from her pores

cerebellum searching

answers

explanations

a man called Ignatius

Why does this red dress feel so good?

This hat measure 22 3/4?

When did I learn flamenco?

Flying was a dream along the shoreline

racing seagulls in miniature

Baby Jaxon hears me sing this little light of mine

Sister sees healing in the alphabet

sent through Dixie cups

a string

rhythm flows

from the edge of sleep

your mind knows not

let your soul tell it so

Miss Maggie

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                           For Rawle

Red punch mustache

hot water cornbread

Miss Maggie B.

You put the pins in my pinstripes

for you I walked down

              down

                          down the law school road

for you I traveled 150 miles from Freestone to Houston

because the mailman just wouldn’t do

must pay your bills on time live and in person

Miss Maggie B.

if only you were here

you’d make me fetch my own switch for adding a “B”

wrapped in red sitting amidst your sisters

you know my secrets from the days I balanced on your knees

feeling the force of your magic

Miss Maggie

Lead me

Lead me

You knew the numbers, the ledgers, the ins and outs of Teague High School cafeteria

humbly 30 years long

eyes wet say goodbye

rested gently in the church you founded

brick by brick

PT, your love built the home for my soul and yours

Miss Maggie B,

Please keep teaching me

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3 Women. 3 Birthdays. 3 Poems.

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A Case of You

  for Tindi

Transcendental Cuarenta

Liberte in flamenco feet

Never undone by the journey, always watching

building files on what’s next

you know there’s a washing coming

moving the garden, it’s tilled, it’s sown

no groundnuts here, just truth nestled in Neema’s kisses

and a wondrous globetrot

Queensland, Sydney

a reverential you

fingers up receiving the vibrations

monkey washing potoatoes on the other side

and you in Lavington

effervescent

clouds propel spirals, flight and

a case of you

eyes closed

a case of me

back on Gresham

healing wounded hearts in slumber

gotta be

Touching Earth

 for Megan

There is Cazenovia in your veins

mixed with the silt of clay from a wood-burning kiln

let this be a year of glorious lessons learned

like that Starbucks guy with his coffee soda

you are all that is true

in generosity and gratitude

from the 12,000 pumpkin pies in your Quaker school years

to the love in Faraday and Cardozo

Your poppa watches from the stars scattered above mulberry bushes

wishing you a return to all that is born in your fingers

making cups, home for wasabi

a centering of your soul

Corny Love

    for Heather

you and your egg salad

you and your Excel spreadsheets

you have never known love like this before

(Yes, I want to send you the 1980 YouTube Stephanie Mills video to commemorate a love for Lucas Micah)

a LYLAS friendship crosses a decade

all those clear plans

those grassy Naperville squares buttressed by Hawkeyes and iceburg lettuce

maybe some romaine

you mock my arugula, kale, radicchio

‘Grass! It’s all grass!’

I embrace the woman who can make me laugh like no other

purple polka dotted pumpkin eaters

holding helping those who cannot help themselves

you dearest, need celebration

for your wisdom

and your love of that which you know

and that which you don’t: jicama, jojoba