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Writing Shy, A Pain in My Neck, Think Local First & Jambalaya

I know I have been away longer than usual… I have had writing-shyness for some reason that I do not fully understand. It isn’t exactly writer’s block since I am not really a writer and I have lots of things to talk about. It is more like this: sometimes when I get to the page where I write this blog, I get a little overwhelmed, and I just can’t start. When I do start it flows ok and I forget all about it, though once in a while simply starting is too much, so I don’t. I know it is partly because I feel very busy and with the economy now effecting (and affecting) our finances (it didn’t seem to at first) I get to feeling anxious and conflicted: I am never doing enough, I can always do better, and yet I sometimes feel overwhelmed and in need of a break. I steal time hear and there… read a few pages just for pleasure, go to a movie alone (I love that and it is such a rare treat!) or, like last night, get together with someone I love for a couple of hours.

Mom and I schedule time together once a month to connect, just the two of us, and catch up. We have always met somewhere, usually a restaurant, and we sit for 2-3 hours and talk. This week I asked her to come to the house, as I could not think of a place that I would rather be. She had asked me to bring home some fresh rolls for her dinner with friends the next day, though due to a conspiracy against me (technology sucks sometimes) I did not get in to the cafe yesterday, I worked on the computer all day long. So at 2 I started some dough and made the rolls for her, which happily reminded me how easy making bread is, and how satisfyingly it fulfills me. The smell of the yeast is so comforting, and the process of kneading is meditative for me. I feel creative and since I was making them for someone else, nurturing. It is pure pleasure and I don’t do it very often at home. When mom got here I pulled out the makings for a jambalaya and we worked together as we talked. There is very little that is more satisfying to me than cooking with loved ones. It embodies the spirit of community and hearkens back to a time that we remember, if only cellularly. Mom peeled shrimp while I chopped veggies and added them to the pot. I opened the wine (some for the pot, some for us!) and she stirred the pot. It turned out soupier than it should have: too much liquid, not enough rice. It tastes great! We had one of those warm rolls and with it and finished that bottle of wine. We played with the kitties and laughed and talked and now I feel a bit more energized.

One of the things mom pointed out to me was that in my last blog entry I talked about snorkeling, and my neck. When I wrote that I did not connect the fact that my neck had been stiff and sore since the end of December. It got so bad at one point that the spasms kept me from even sleeping at night. Dad had gone with mom to So Cal for 3 weeks so he wasn’t around to help it (the best massage therapist around!) so I suffered. A lot. When they got back I saw dad 4 times in one week, so he did one almost full massage, with most of the focus on my neck, shoulders, & back, a couple days later he did some concentrated energy work on my neck and shoulders, then he did a full body massage that was pure heaven. The last appointment I had he did more energy work and really pinpointed the worst spot in my neck and the next morning I woke up and did not cry out in pain for the first time in a month! I realized it after I had been working for about an hour (I get up and hit the computer around 5 these days… sleeping in to 5 is fabulous!) and I am so grateful that dad is so good with those healing hands. There is still a tiny tinge spot in there and I know we will get it with another massage. You should get one, they are fabulous!

So now there is so much to tell you about and I will weed it down a bit and try to stay more timely in writing the blog! I think there are a few more of you out there reading it, which gives me a little thrill. Perhaps because if you aren’t reading it then I am talking to myself, which I am very good at and don’t need much practice. First of all, I have been told that my “Local Food” column was published in the paper today. The ‘What’s Up’ section of all the local papers for the county has it, though it is not online. I wrote it a month ago, I hope I still like it! It is very exciting to be spreading the word of local food out there so I really hope someone reads it. I was appointed to an ‘at large’ spot on Kitsap County’s new Food & Farm Policy Council 2 weeks ago and I join 13 others in making Kitsap a fantastic place to grow, purchase, cook and eat local foods. I have always loved making up my own rules and now I get to help do that for the whole county! How cool is that!

I did a really fun thing last week by attending Kim Ricketts book event at the Palace Ballroom in Seattle. The author was Gretchen Rubin, who found out that very day that her latest book hit #1 on the NY Times best seller list! The book is called ‘The Happiness Project’ and am happy to report that it is not frivolous by any means. Ms. Rubin spent a year researching and living her project and she shares her experiences with the rest of us so that we can start our own project. It was never that she was an unhappy person, more that she believed she could be open to having more ‘happiness’, more contentment and satisfaction with her life, so she focused her intent in that area. I am starting a happiness project for anyone who wants to join in on it! We can meet at the cafe at first, and as the project grows we can move it around. Anyone out there want to create more happiness in their lives? Drop me an email at monica@waterfrontbakery.com. If you want to take me to a Kim Ricketts book event I am all for it! There are a few coming up that I am very interested in!

I need to get going as I have a quick meeting this morning with one of the Port Commissioners to talk about the revitalization of Old Town. It is a preliminary meeting where I will ask for help and/or guidance from the Port with the economic development of Old Town. We are suffering and it does not look to be improving any time soon. My friend Skip gave me some wonderful ideas for Old Town and I am going to see what we can do to get them to come to fruition. I am instigating this because I don’t have time to actually run with the whole thing myself and if I have learned anything these past few years it is that asking for help and delegating are keys to success!

Plus I am brining some lamb shanks so I can prep them up for braising on Monday. Braised lamb shanks and polenta will be the comfort meal next week and they have been so popular that I am increasing the frequency from once a month, to every other week. We have some fab new wines for Valentine’s day and for the Winter/Spring transition-we are focusing on WA/OR wines this time, along with our Italian favorites, and we have a great selection for the tasting coming up. I hope we will see you there!

I am going to write up the guidelines for making the jambalya style dish I made last night. I will tell you to use less liquid than I did, though you can always add more later if you want to!

olive oil
1 1/2-2 onions, chopped (depending on size)
celery heart and a stalk or two, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1-2 red peppers, chopped
1 TBS garlic
S&P
Creole seasoning blend
smoked paprika (I used bittersweet)
1-2 cups red wine
2 cups rice (I use brown or thai red; if you use white hold back one cup broth until you know if you need it)
4 cups chicken broth (if you need more liquid you can add broth or plain water later)
28 oz can tomatoes
flat leaf parsley
1 package Hempler’s andouille sausage (made in Ferndale)
1 lb raw shrimp (32-40’s), peel/devein them

Heat the olive oil and add the chopped veg to it as you finish them. Stir it, add the seasonings through paprika and cook for about 10 minutes on med low (gas) or medium (electric) heat.

Add the wine and let it reduce by about half. Stir in the rice for about 3 minutes and then add the broth, tomatoes and parsley. Let it go about 8 minutes, then stir in the sausage. (You can also use chicken, or any other meat in combination here) and let it cook until the rice is done. Stir it every few minutes and add hot liquid if you need to.

Toss the shrimp in at the end, it will only take a couple of minutes to cook them and you are done. There is not alot of spicy heat to this, so if you like alot of heat you should add cayenne (1/2 tsp) at the beginning, and then you can add hot sauce to taste at the end. I just add my own hot sauce since mom and Mark don’t like it as spicy as I do.

YUM! This pot will last us a couple of days and we love leftovers!