An embarrassment of riches…including kohlrabi in the produce box

When Friday rolls around I’m ready to tie up dozens of loose ends. Typically I have places to go and appointments to keep. But not today! I have the entire day to dig in at home — freedom.

Breathing lighter is the only order of the day.

I have had an awareness in my mind for many weeks. Abundance! I’m keenly aware we have more than we need, more than we can use, more than many, if not most,  and certainly more than enough.

Moving into the new year I’ll have more to share on this realization as it is definitely affecting how I feel about future decision-making, but today, it involves food!

Sometimes I’m almost smothered by an embarrassment of riches.

To illustrate that thought I refer to last Saturday.

While up to my neck in baking, the kitchen a glorious mess of chocolate, powdered sugar, and assorted nuts and candies, Jay returned home with our weekly produce box.

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I routinely take a photo of the fruit and veggies we’re provided each week through aptly named Abundant Harvest.  I love revealing the treasure of seasonal colors and discovering what’s been included, often finding a vegetable or two I’ve not previously prepared.

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While the kitchen was a baking mess I was also trying to cram the contents into my average-sized–and FULL–refrigerator, thoroughly confirming–we have so MUCH.

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So while focusing on abundance, it was also a good week to enjoy the successes from a local radio-thon supporting one of my favorite charities.

It’s the back story of Caterina’s Club I so enjoy!

Chef Bruno Serato, owner of the historic, award-winning Anaheim White House Restaurant, has always had a strong philanthropic direction, but in 2005 he took his mother, Caterina, to visit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Anaheim. She noticed a child eating a bag of chips for his dinner, and asked her son to prepare a pasta meal for the child.

They ended up feeding 75 hungry children that night, and that one act sparked a huge endeavor that continues to grow. More than 500,000 meals have been served to date, and each year the operation expands to provide for even more.

My favorite talk radio station, raised $151,119 and 21,375 pounds of pasta/sauce–so far this week.

All of this warm pasta goodness is the result of one woman’s insistence that her son go back into the kitchen and share what they had available! How great is that?

I love this story because it emphasizes the way ordinary individuals can be used for good simply by generously sharing their personal abundance.

So how do I conclude this story? I can’t come up with a smooth transition to an ending, so let’s go back to my abundant box of fruit and vegetables.

I have enjoyed my first tastes of kohlrabi! It is also called a German turnip and I assumed it would be similar in taste to other root vegetables.

Kohlrabi

But after reading that it could be enjoyed raw, I was really intrigued. I sliced it very thin with some added raw red onion, added a little high quality olive oil and sea salt and it was wonderful!

How have I gone my whole life and never enjoyed this alien-looking treat!

And headed into some more weekend baking, although as I told you in my last post, calories don’t count this time of year, I do need to continue to eat well and balanced. I really do feel better when I eat kohlrabi and its friends in abundance, minimizing the treats.

But you do what makes you happiest this time of year! Tis the season to indulge a little, I think. I promise I’m not watching!

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends.

And whatever you’re doing, do breathe lighter.

Instead of holiday stress, how about another focus? Giving.

It’s a crazy time of year. I don’t know how it is that I think we can manage to add in extra social events, baking and other creative activities, shopping for gifts that are meaningful and not just packages to wrap and at the same time maintain balance. What’s balanced about any of this?

Sometimes there really is just too much of a good thing.

An idiom for this time of year is “An embarrassment of riches.”  It’s clear to me, ABUNDANTLY clear to me, that I have everything I need. Yet by the end of December, I will have more.

I once taught Sunday School to a room full of wriggly three-year olds. When I think about abundance I often recall the lead teacher sitting in her chair in front of the little faces and calling volunteers to come up and stand beside her to recite a Bible verse or phrase. One very elementary concept passed on to preschoolers was to “Share what you have.”

Just that simple. Share. And I think of that often, frequently inspired by the selflessness of others.

Last week I was harping on outrageous behaviors I found appalling. I promised that I wasn’t going to continue focusing on circumstances that don’t uplift, but instead share about people I find spread encouragement and hope.

So I’m sharing a few that inspire me.

I first learned about Bruno Serato and Caterina’s Club through my favorite morning radio show. KFI-AM hosts a yearly fundraiser to support this wonderful charity.

Bruno is owner of the Anaheim White House Restaurant. Bruno and his mother, Caterina, were aware of the “motel children” in the area. More than 2,000 children live in motels in Anaheim, very close to the fantasy world of Disneyland. Many of these children spend their after school hours at the local Boys & Girls Club, then return to a motel room with their families and not enough food to eat. Caterina encouraged Bruno to begin feeding the children, and Caterina’s Club now feeds thousands of meals a year to hungry boys and girls.

Bruno was one of the finalists in CNN’s Heroes 2011-“Everyday People Changing the World.”

KFI-AM’s 16-hour fundraiser at the Anaheim White House restaurant collected $135,781 this year and more than 10,000 pounds of pasta and sauce. My very small donation is part of that large sum…every little bit counts. Bruno is one “ordinary” man doing extraordinary things.

Then there are the super stars.

Kobe Bryant is a big deal in Los Angeles. If you follow basketball you know his name, or notoriety, I’m quite sure. He has a bad boy reputation that is impossible to ignore. But Kobe is doing good things, too.

Kobe has committed himself to the issue of homelessness, with particular emphasis on Los Angeles. To read more, including a brief video, click HERE.  I think you might enjoy the video, but I also want to call your attention to the website, takepart.com

Take Part dot com is a source for reading socially relevant news, opinion and information, intended to inspire people to find ways to join others and contribute. It’s partnered with leading organizations and  people committed to making a difference in hundreds of ways. Videos, news clips and celebrity interviews make it interesting, lively and interactive. Topics include food, environment, wildlife, social justice, education, health and culture. Bottom line for me? It’s cool.

Then I was on a walk this week and marveled at a neighbor’s generous and creative way to collect toys for “Spark of Love,” an ABC7 and Southern California Firefighters annual toy drive collecting for children and teens in five large Southern California counties.

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I was impressed, and I’ll be there with my unwrapped gift. I like Santa, too, you know.

And I have a tradition I’d like to share.

World Ark

Are you familiar with Heifer, International? Heifer is a global nonprofit dedicated to ending poverty and hunger in a sustainable way. Operating since 1944, the organization gives out gifts of livestock, seeds and trees in more than 125 countries around the world.

When Sophia turned three I took the catalogue to show her and did my best to tell her about how selecting one of the animals to send to a family in another country would provide milk or wool for food and clothing. I avoided the word “meat.” We are city-dwellers, after all.

That year in her first preschool experience she’d dictated for the Thanksgiving bulletin board, “I am thankful for pigs.” We don’t know why. But I jumped on the chance to suggest we give a baby pig to a family. She was barely three and fortunately did not question the “milk or wool” connection.

She did later tell her parents that we had bought a pet for children in other countries who don’t have pets.

Then last year the animal of choice was a lamb. That was relatively easy. Sophia and Karina have never eaten lamb, but they have seen sheep shorn at the Los Angeles County Fair. Again, we are city dwellers.

So this year Karina is helping make decisions. I took the catalogue to their home this week and we went through each page. It’s harder now that we have competing ideas and my budget requires consensus.

We solved that with an accumulation of smaller donations.

I suppose that I’m not doing my part in teaching the girls about how this program actually works, but I’m not going to be the one to tell them that bunnies are food. I wonder what they are really thinking when we purchase a “gift of rabbits.” I think if questioned we’ll focus on the manure produced for organic gardening. They have helped us clean Pinky’s cage many times.

And they want to send Chicks. A “gift of chicks” is only $20.00 to Heifer International, and yet a starter flock of chicks is a gift of abundance. A good hen can lay more than 200 eggs a year. $20.00!

Their final choice was “a gift of honeybees.” They were concerned that the bees would sting the recipient, but they were fascinated with the whole idea of bees being that important. $30 purchases the “bee package” which includes the box, hive and training in the latest beekeeping techniques. The bees will pollinate the crops on a family’s farm, potentially doubling fruit and vegetable yields, as well as increasing a family’s income through the sale of honey, wax and pollen.

I know the girls don’t completely understand the concept of what we are doing. After quite a bit of explanation I still had to repeat that “No, they won’t have to fit in our car because…”–but we’re building on something here. You can teach a child to be compassionate. You must teach a child to think about others. We really are born into the world thinking we are the center of it all.

And this holiday season, I focus a lot of attention on MY family, MY friends, MY-self. But it’s important to think a little outside of that small number. And to “share what I have.” Even in small gifts of bees and chicks.

Isn’t it nice to focus on something positive?

And it’s Friday…are you ready for your exhale?

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