"The cooked seed" by Anchee Min is another great book that has found its way to me and not the other way round. I picked the book from the Oxfam shelf not because I recognized her name but because of the book's title .... and then because of the book's cover. A part of me was intrigued by the sad expression and silent determination of that face! It shouted out to me that it was a face that would tell many stories. I was hooked ..I knew that I wanted to read her story, I knew that her words would resonate with me on many levels. And I was right.
It came as a surprise that Anchee is already a very successful writer and that I hadn't heard about her until now knowing the way I search the web for inspirational figures. Thanks to Amazon, two more of her books are already on their way to me ... Empress Orchid and The last Empress.
Follow your heart - an alien concept for Romanians and Chinese during the Communist times
The moment I opened the book and began to absorb the reality for her of growing up during the cruelty of the Cultural Revolution in China my mind started to drift into the past, mine and hers, trying to connect the two worlds of China and Romania.
In Ceausescu's time, the commercial relationships between Romania and China were strong and although there was not a constant flood of Chinese products onto our market, from time to time we were able to queue for hours to buy Chinese toothpaste MAXAM ( I will never forget the lovely minty aroma and taste), milk chocolates in a coin shape, cotton T shirts, lots of miniature porcelain statues (some portraying Chinese deities who I had no real knowledge of at that time ... now I know it was Kuan Yin)............
We are much more than we think we are.
At school I remember learning a lot about Chinese dynasties, about their art, some things about their geography but I certainly don't remember being aware of what the daily life of Chinese people was like. I remember also the international trade shows (once a year in Bucharest) when the Chinese stands were the talk of all of us - always mesmerizing colours, shiny ornaments, colourful leaflets (because the magazines and newspapers in Romania were all black and white at that time) .... plus we, the children, were always offered the luxury of sweets.
"The cooked seed" talks about the impact of an insane regime on the life of its people .. the way it distorted and corrupted the minds of the many, the non stop brainwashing, a systematic destruction of the self, extreme humiliation and transformation of the individual into nothing but a tool owned and used by the system as it pleased.
Like in all totalitarian regimes, some people dare to try and escape ...some succeed ... others don't. In "The cooked seed" the reader follows Anchee to America where only her determination and immense resilience help her to overcome ... rape, exhaustion, divorce, a long journey to learn English, endless deprivations. In spite of this she learned how to succeed in a completely different culture despite the bitter hardships and endless setbacks.
An inspiring life? It reminded me that even my life in Romania could have been worse. So, you bet! Transformational? Much more! A must read? YES, YES, YES. Remember, it's "The cooked seed", buy it.
Coffee shops are part of my life. I love trying new places and taking in their own particular identities, their individual atmospheres, their choice of coffee beans, the rhythms of their music tracks and most of all the enticing sweet stuff that one can eat while slowly sipping the coffee. One thing I've noticed is the real lack of choice if you don't want to buy a big, expensive slice of cake (and in the UK they are quite big ....sometimes generosity that is not really needed) or a pack of cookies or plain biscuits. I usually end up asking for a few teaspoons of raspberry jam or any other jam they can find low down below the counter (a sign for many giggles)
For me, as much for my palate and my waistline as for my purse, I would much rather have 2 or 3 small sweet balls like those in my image below.
First of all they take only a few minutes to prepare and you can serve them to your friends when they come for coffee and ...... they can be lovely snacks as well.
The idea came to me last week when I tasted an "energy ball" in one of the newest coffee shops in town. I immediately asked for the recipe ......and of course received a very firm "no way" from the proud owner of the coffee shop and their chef. Nevermind ... this made me think and I decided to experiment a bit with the ingredients I had in my cupboard. The result for me is delightful ......and I will not keep my recipe a secret so here it is ....
For my own delicious raw energy sweets:
1 TBsp chia seeds
2 TBsp honey
1 tsp sesame seeds
3 TBsp milled flaxseed with bio-cultures and vitamin D (this is what I have used but there are lots of combinations of flaxseeds with other ingredients - have a look at the LINWOODS website)
1 TBsp almond butter (or cheshew butter or peanut butter)
2 TBsp desicated coconut flakes
You don't need to respect the recipe to every coma and dot. There are no such things as mistakes, only different results, so taste the combination as you go along and see what more it needs ... trust your taste buds, they are always reliable. Feel free, for example, to add some chopped dry cranberries, dates, apricots, walnuts ........ the combinations are endless.
What you do is mix all of these ingredients in a little bowl, put the mix in the fridge for 30 minutes then put the kettle on and start rolling the mix into small sweet balls.
Then take your lovely coffee and a little plate of your hand made raw sweets onto your terasa and ........ start writing your book ...... and dream of doing other new things - like making digital image creations ! The one below is of the Queens Hotel on the sea front in Eastbourne dressed up to the nines on my magic night by me
Books ... find me .. not the other way round. I know that .. i feel that ... There is also something that tells me what type of book to read and when. I do believe that there is always a time to read a particular book and not the other just as there is a time to paint and there is a time to contemplate. Some books wait years on the shelves to be open, others like the one I am going to talk about today ... don't wait at all ... are immediately opened and read ... almost without a break.
Years ago in Romania, before 1989 we used to queue for many hours to buy the latest international novel ... Shogun, Gone with the wind ...... yes queue and many times the stock finished right in front of you. Such was life!
Intuition - because the colours come to be … in their own order :)
In England I am really lucky ...... lucky with the fantastic second hand book shops where you can find absolute jewels at a fraction of the price and the charity shops where one can find books again at - sometimes - ridiculously low prices.
This is how I came across "Supernatural" by Graham Hancock ... ... what attracted me was first of all the cover :) with a beautiful intuitive painting on it (I found out later that it was by a Peruvian artist Pablo Amaringo) and the words ... "Supernatural; of or relating to things that cannot be explained according to natural laws".
I feel more and more that science is very far from being IT ... it it way too much a black or white type of approach ...i just feel that there is so much more in between those barriers ... and the partnership between science and intuition is the "ground" where miracles happen.
"The hypothesis is that it was this democratisation of altered states of consciousness, the possibility for the entire community to share in the life changing visions and encounters that had previously been limited to a very few (shamans), that brought new, more open, more creative, more innovative, more flexible, more intuitive and frankly more intelligent ways of thinking to a point of critical mass in society after society and ushered in the single most decisive shift ever to have occurred in human evolution. " - Graham Hancock
Could it be, as shamans in the Amazon repeatedly assert, that the plants really do open a channel of communication to supernatural realms and teachers. "
Graham Hancock takes you on a journey ... one that starts 35,000 years ago with the art caves in France, Australia, Spain, South Africa, following by extraordinary experiences among the shamans in the Amazon area, the Maya civilisation, continuing with fascinating stories about fairies, gnomes, aliens, exciting interviews with neuroscientists, anthropologists, and so so much more. He really does the work of a passionate detective, travelling not only physically but spiritually all around the world not only in nowadays times but also in times long gone.
This book with make you feel alive, it will make you think, it will help you push the invisible barriers of the so called reality.
Explore is one of my favourite words ... on the same level with curiosity and passion. It really is. Winter in the UK is very seldom all about smiles, snow flakes, snow man, joy and laughter. On the contrary .. it is most of the time a cocktail of strong wind, heavy oh so heavy rain, gray colours, gloom, deserted streets, darkness ....
I remember a few years ago when I was commuting to London ... i remember not quite noticing the daylight for at least 4 months per year... leaving at 6.30am and coming back at 7 pm was no joke. I'm honestly not surprised by the high rates of depression among the population.
But I am not going to write about those years today but about art and ... cooking. Both of them bring colour to my life and both help me maintain a smile most of the days.
About 10 days ago I've started to combine acrylic inks with alcohol based inks, oil pastels, scrapbooking paper, spray paints, textile paints, stencils and I cannot tell you how many hours of pure enjoyment followed. The last few years when painting started to play a bigger and bigger role in my life I've realized that my creative voice gets stronger and stronger when .... I FOLLOW NO RULES, when .... i add all sorts of mixed media materials in random ways. This is when the fear of making mistakes goes for a stroll.
The painting EXPLORE (see below) is one example:
Cooking is another area where I love experimenting and playing with colourful ingredients. I've discovered Kale not a long time ago. It is not a common vegetable in my country of origin and it took me a while to buy it here and look for some recipes. I was so thrilled with the result that i would like to share the recipe with you. Here is is
Kale and roasted pumpkin with peanut chili sauce
250 g of roasted pumpkin or boiled potatoes
300 g of raw curly kale
1-2 garlic cloves
1 red chili (not mandatory)
2-3 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp dark say sauce
1-2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp 5 spice powder
Put the kale in a large bowl and tear the leaves unto small bits. Put them in a boiling water for 3 minutes, then remove it from the water and set it aside.
Put the chopped garlic, chili, peanut butter, sow sauce, honey, 5 spice powder and 4 tbsp water in a small bowl and mix well.
In a pan add one Tbsp of sunflower oil, kale, pumpkin and the mixture above. Toss them well and add the chopped coriander.
Hmmm that's about it really. The whole process lasts maximum 30 minutes.
"There are 2 kinds of people - one kind you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final self ... you know you can expect no more surprises from it .. the other kind keep moving, changing .... and making new trysts with life and the motion of it keeps them young." - Robert Fulghum
Stories ...... we all love them ...... children and adults .. .... stories have layers ... it's up to you where you want to stop ... many times, your soul processes old memories, lets go of the past , helps you enjoy life more, see life ... in colour.
As part of the National Storytelling week 2014 i want to share with you as story I really , really like ... a story that speaks to me on quite a few levels and I am sure you will enjoy it as well. Much to my delight when i read the story, I knew imediately which painting to post next to it ... it is called ... Little Elf and ... i painted it some months ago.
"The almost tragic story of a tender Elf" - by John Bradshow
Once upon a time there was a tender little elf. He was a very happy elf. He was bright and curious and knew the secrets of life. For example, he knew that love was a choice; that love involved hard work; that love was the only way. He knew that he could do magic things and that his unique form of magic was called ... creativity. The little elf knew hat as long as he truly created, there would be no violence. And he knew the grateast secret of all - that he was somehting rather than nothing. He knew he was being and that being was everything. This was called he secred of "I AMness". The creator of all elves was the Great I AM. The Great I AM always was and always will be. No one knew how or why this was true. The Great I AM was totally loving and creative.
Another most important secret was the secret of balance. The secret of balance meant that all life is a marriage of opposites. There is no life without physical death; no joy without sorrow; no pleasure without pain; no light without darkness; no sound without silence; no good without bad. True healt is a form of wholeness. And wholeness is holiness. The great secret of creativity was to balance a wild creative unfocused energy with a form that allows that energy to be.
One day our tender elf, whose name by the way was Joni, was given another secret. This secret scared him a little. The secret was that he had a mission he must do before he could create forever. He had to share his secrets with a ferocious tribe of non-elves. You see, elf life was so good and wonderful that the secret of that wonder needed to be shared with those who didn't know anything about the wonderment. Goodness always wants to share itself. Each elf was assigned to one family of the ferocious non-elf tribe. The non-elf tribe was called Snamuh. The Snamuh knew no secrets. They often squandered their beings. They worked endlessly and seemed to feel alive only when they were doing something. Some elves referred to them as DOs. They also killed one another and engaged in war. Sometimes at sporting evetns and music oncerts they trampled one another to death.
Joni entered his Snamuh family on June 29th, 1933 at 3.05 AM. He had no idea what was in store for him. He didn't know that he would have to use every ounce of his creativity in order to tell his secrets.
When he was born, he was given the Snamuh name of Farquahar. His mother was a beautiful 19 year old princess who was ravished by a need to perform. She had a strange curse on her. The curse was a neon build that rested in the middle of her forehead. Whenever she tried to play, have fun, or just be, the light blinked on and a voice said, "Do your duty". She could never just do nothing and be. Farquhar's father was a short but handsome kind. He also carried a curse. He was haunted by his wicked witch mother, Harriet. She lived on his left shoulder.
Anytime he tried to just be, she screamed and yelled. Harriet was always telling him to do something.
In order for Farquahar to tell his parents and others his secrets, they needed to be quiet and stop doing long enough to see and hear him. This they could not ; his mom because of the neon bulb, and his dad because of Harriet. From the moment he was born, Farquhar was all alone. Since he has the body of a Snamuh, he also had the feelings of a Snamuh. And because of his abandonment, he felt furious, deeply frustrated and hurt.
Here he was a tender elf who knew the great secrets of I AM and no one would listen to him. What he had to say was life giving but his parents were so busy doing there duty, they could not learn from him. in fact, his parents were so confused, they thought that it was their job to teach Farquhar to do his duty. Anytime he failed to do what they thought was his proper duty, they punished him. Sometimes they ignored him by putting him in his room. Sometimes they hit him or screamed at him. In fact, Farquahar hated the screaming the worse. He could take the isolation and the hitting was over with quickly; but the screaming and endless telling him about his duty went so deep that it even threatened his elf soul. Now, you cannot kill an elf's soul, because it is part of the Great I AM; but it can be so badly wounded that it seems like it isn't there anymore. This is what happened to Farquhar. In order to survive, he stopped trying to show his mother and father his secrets and instead pleased them by performing and doing his duty.
His mom and dad were very unhappy Snamuhs . (Actually most Snamuhs are unhappy unless they learn the secret of the elves)
Farquahar's dad was so tormented by Harriet that he used all his energy to find a magic potion that took away all his feelings. But the magic was not creativity. It actually took away his creativity. Farquahar's dad became like a "walking dead man". After a while, he stopped even coming home. Farquahar's Snamuh heart was broken. You see, every Snamuh needs both his father's and his mother'slove in order to let the elf in him tell his secrets.
Farquahar was overwhelmed by his father's abandonment. And, since his father could no longer help his mother, her neon bulb blinked more intensely. Consequently, Farquhar was yelled at and cajoled even more. By the time he reached his 12th birthday, he'd forgotten he wa an elf. A few years later, he learned about the magic forgotten he was an elf. A few years laer, he learned about the magic potion that his father used to kill Harriet's voice. At 14 he started using it often. While in the hospital he heard an inner voice urging him to wake up. The voice that moved him to wake up was the " being" voice of his elf soul. For you to see, no matter how bad it gets, the elf voice will always call a Snamuh to celebrate his being. Joni never gave up, he never stopped trying to save Farquar. If you're a Snamuh and you're reading this, please remember this; You have an elf sould in you that is alwyas trying to call you to your being.
When Farquhar was lying in the hospital, he finally heard Joni's voice. That made all the difference. "