Santa Fe Quinoa

For the past few months, I’ve been pretty particular about what foods I eat. I didn’t want to go on a diet, because I didn’t think it’d last, so I just changed everything. What I eat, what I drink, how often I sleep, physical activity, hair products, body products, everything. I’ve completely changed the way I take care of myself, and meal prepping is a small piece of that change. Now, to the recipe.

Quinoa is not for the faint at heart. The texture is something much different than what I’m used to, and it took some getting used to, but I can honestly say I enjoy playing around with recipes. I’ve been craving tacos lately, I don’t know why, but I had to do something about it.

First, the quinoa needs to be washed. It has a soap-like residue called saponin, which can cause a pretty bitter taste. The easiest way to do so, is to put it in a large bowl, whisk, and rinse. That is of course unless you have a small enough strainer. Either is fine! I generally do this the day before cooking, and allow the seeds to dry overnight in the fridge. It isn’t necessary, though. You can get right to it.

Ingredients

1 C quinoa

1 C black beans (mine were dry and cooked earlier in the week, canned is fine)

3 C Shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1 C diced tomatoes (these were fresh, 1 can should do the trick)

1/2 chopped onion

1/2 chopped green bell pepper

salt, pepper, cayenne, parsley, taco seasoning, and garlic powder

Instructions

Cook the quinoa stovetop. No oil. No water. No nothin’. Just allow it to cook to a crunch that you deem satisfying. It will start popping like popcorn, keep an eye on it. I cooked mine for about 5 minutes on medium. Put these to the side.

In a pan mix seasonings, onion, bell pepper, black beans, and tomatoes. Add about a cup of water, and allow it to simmer for 8-10mins. In the picture attached, I put them on the plate separately for a visual, it is fine to cook them together. DO NOT overcook the beans. They’ll get mushy.

In a separate skillet, add a tbsp of EVOO, a dash of black pepper, and your shrimp. Make sure they are fully cooked.

Mix EVERYTHING in a bowl, and top with a bit of lime juice. This can be eaten in the bowl as is, or spooned onto a whole wheat tortilla. I had the bowl and was more than satisfied.

If this is your first time reading a recipe of mine, please don’t be frustrated with my lack of detail. I think it’s important not to take away the magic of cooking with meticulous recipes. HAVE FUN WITH IT. Mix it up. Enjoy. Please give feedback if you try this recipe and any recommendations are welcomed. If you have questions, please feel free to ask!

Thanks for reading.

I love you.

 

Meet Aries.

I know it may seem a bit juvenile for me to introduce my dog in the “Meet A Friend” collection, but he has done things in my life that I’ve failed to put into words-until now.

On March 15, 2016 I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. It was easily the best thing to have happened to me. For years, I’ve struggled with understanding my body and why my reproductive system just didn’t seem to be healthy. I’ve had countless doctor’s appointments, with numerous specialists, and spent thousands of dollars on “trial treatments.” I’d finally gotten a semi-concrete answer for my pain, so I was satisfied. Simultaneously, my doctor found an alarming amount of cancer cells from a cervical biopsy. I didn’t tell my family until about 6 months after beginning treated, and by then, I was having to re-learn the value of self. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know, or that I didn’t think they could handle it, I was just too scared to say it aloud.

I was in a relationship, one that I don’t regret, but he was not prepared to carry this sort of burden. I soon found out that I’d tested positive for HPV, so I told him. It seemed like every visit to the doctor came with a bag of bad news, and I was sick of sharing it, but I knew it was my responsibility. I’d broken my virginity that year. I felt safe having unprotected sex with him because I trusted him. I was sure he’d be my husband, and it’s like I set aside what I knew to be true about sex outside of marriage. I took a risk. Luckily, HPV can easily be treated, when caught in time because it’s a virus, not a disease. This was not the case for me. The infectious cells had multiplied at a pace I wasn’t aware of, and those were the now cancer cells, I was fighting.

I know you may be asking, what could this possibly have to do with a dog, but I promise I’m getting there. On more than one occasion, he (my ex) made it very clear that I was becoming “too much” and that he “wasn’t used to seeing me this way.” We separated for more reasons than that one, but I think that one hurt the most. I don’t blame him for any of this. I don’t see him as the enemy. I have no hatred in my heart. I will always love him, but it was necessary that I realized the beauty in letting go. I was not as strong or rational as I’d been in the past. I was sensitive and easily broken. I was fragile. I was afraid. I was damaged goods. Eventually, the only emotions I felt were loneliness and perseverance. I may have been lots to handle, but I needed to be handled, and he was not the man for the job. I was determined to submit my brokenness to someone, and I finally told my mother. The way she held me is a moment I often re-live in my head. I have never wept like that in my life. I vividly remember yelling “He took so much from me, but motherhood?!” I said this because with the treatment and surgeries I was scheduling, infertility was the biggest risk factor. I remember her responding with, “Don’t you let hate fester. This will not break you, Renae.” I fell asleep in her lap, on the floor, in the living room.

At the ripe age of 25, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and Stage 1A Cervical Cancer.

The school year seemed to drag, but as an educator, I had to put on my “poker face” and serve. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. My students knew something was up, and they refused to take “I’m fine” as an answer any longer. The thing about Endo, is that it causes a kind of pain that I don’t think I can adequately put into words. There were days in class when I’d have to walk out, sit on the floor in the hallway, take deep breaths, then reconvene. I remember one of my Senior girls catching me outside on the concrete beside the building, in a ball. She said, “Queen, whatever it is, let me hold you” and I cried. I could not stop crying. It wasn’t a snotty, snorting kinda cry, though. It’s like the tears just fell while I sat there in a blank stare. I felt so inadequate as a leader, mentor, and teacher, but that was the first time in a while that I didn’t feel like a burden. I never told that baby what was wrong. I got up, told her I loved her, and went to my next class. When I talk about my bond with my students, it’s so much more than being their teacher. This was the day after my doctor suggested a full hysterectomy. I hadn’t missed work the day before, because I refused to miss out on that little bit of joy. A hysterectomy meant no kids, no family, no motherhood, and I was broken. If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know how badly I long to be a mother. You know about the adoption process that came back void. You know about the fostering. You know I’ve tried.. I found myself reading Galatians, where Isaiah 54:1 was referenced, it said,

For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!For the children of the desolate one will be more    than those of the one who has a husband.”

I decided then, that being barren would never define me, nor would being a mother. I, instead, loved my students as if they were mine. We decided that instead of a hysterectomy, a Myomectomy may do the trick. This would remove the non-cancerous fibroids that had formed, once I’d treated the cancerous cells. This would also increase my chances of fertility. I haven’t made a concrete decision. I’ve mainly been focused on taking care of my body, as is, but I have an appointment this March and we’ll see.

Still wondering where Aries comes in? Here he is!

a year ago, my doctor recommended I see a therapist, just to help navigate through my emotions. He knew that I’d broken up with my boyfriend and he knew how close I was with my moms, but he also knew how prideful I am with my feelings. It’s crazy how necessary mental health is, and how often we cower away from it (that’s a blog for another day). I’d decided “I was fine” and carried on. Soon after I made that dumb decision, a co-worker of mine posted a picture of this long-legged, gray, something or another dog that she’d found. She had 3 huge babies of her own, and couldn’t see herself keeping him. I waited. I prayed. I wrote. I legitimately thought about whether or not I was in a place mentally to care for that creature. I decided I wasn’t, but he would be the driving force behind my getting there.

I adopted Aries Paul Lewis at two months. He was gentle. He was afraid. He was nervous about yet another new home, and person he’d have to trust. I had a connection with him that still blows my mind. On days when the pain brought me to my knees, he’d lay his head underneath mine while I cried. On days when the bleeding just wouldn’t stop, he sat on my feet in the bathroom while I screamed. On days when I couldn’t walk, he’d let kme hold on to him while I crawled to the other side of my apartment. On days when I couldn’t get up out of bed because my pelvis had swollen and my bladder refused to release, he curled up against me and let me lie on his back. What I thought was just a dog being overbearing, was a friend being my protector. I still have some hard days. I still have days when it’s more comfortable to sleep on the floor, and on those days, I text my mama, and curl up with my best friend.

My cancer has since subsided, and I’m down to only about 6% cancer cells. I haven’t tested positive for ANYTHING in over a year. I have no tumors. I have no bleeding, and I thank God for that daily. It sounds silly, but I felt “dirty” and now, I feel like I got my freedom back. Unfortunately, the only treatment for Endometriosis is surgical procedures and pain relievers. I’ve had 2/3 conservative surgeries which is the removal of endometrial tissue. I can honestly say, I have never felt better. I’ve changed my lifestyle. I’ve changed the criteria for people I allow in my life. I’ve changed the way I see perseverance, and I’m thankful for the people who have walked with me through those changes. This sickness took a toll on many of my friendships, because I’d grown exhausted with talking about the pain. It taught me who would and could stick around. It also taught me the uselessness in complaining. It taught me so much. I still have days when the pain can become unbearable, but I’m learning that it comes with the territory.

Aries has played a vital role learning what it means to love myself. He taught me how to, even when I didn’t think I deserved it. I call him my best friend and people laugh. I sing happy birthday and people laugh. I make him waffles for breakfast and people laugh. The laughing is fine, because I’m fully aware of how ridiculous I can get, LOL,  but please understand that this dog played a major role in saving me from myself. So, again, meet Aries.

He’s my best friend.

Thank you for reading, I love you.

Whole Wheat Waffles.

Well, I got a waffle maker for Christmas..actually, it was my mom’s and I permanently borrowed it while visiting for the holidays.

I’ve been trying to think of tasty and convenient foods to have for breakfast on the way to, or at work. Well, this is not one of those breakfasts. Waffles are intended to be savored people, so these are a part of our Saturday morning ritual.

Aries, my dog, is fairly spoiled, so I generally try to find recipes that can become puppy-friendly. With all that being said, here’s the recipe:

Dry ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Dash of salt, for my measurement obsessed (1/4 teaspoon)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground flax seed ( not necessary, simply preference)

Wet ingredients:

1 1/2 cup almond milk ( I’m lactose intolerant so this is pretty gentle on me, use the milk you’d prefer)

1 egg

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Be sure to mix the dry and wet separately. I recommend beating the eggs for at LEAST 2 minutes. I’m obsessed with fluffy waffles and after a few failed attempts, that’s what got it done!

When combining, avoid mixing the batter too much. It will create a kind of density that will make the waffles TOUGH and defeat the purpose of working those biceps with egg beating.

Be sure to warm your waffle maker completely.

I usually chop up half of a banana, add a dollop of Greek yogurt, agave, and whatever toppings I want for the day!

I could be much more specific with this recipe, but I think my favorite part of cooking is making the recipe your OWN! Play with it! Please feel free to share your results!

P.s. If it’s for your canine kid, avoid adding flax! He loves bananas, so I cook those inside of his! I freeze them overnight, and he gets 1/4 as a treat no more than twice a day.

THEY ARE A PERFECT SUB FOR RAW HIDE AND CHEW BONES!

Until next time!

I love you.

Today, I Cried.

This is not some rouse to get you to read my blog. Today, for the first time in a long time, I uncontrollably cried.

Here’s how it started:

Last night, around 10pm, I was overwhelmed with insecurity. I felt like I was an embarrassment to a pretty close friend, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt small and irrelevant. I ended up praying until I fell asleep, woke up around 4:30, prayed more, and got ready for work. Now, that insecurity manifested itself into something much more than I’d thought it was. All day at work today, I doubted my ability to serve my students, and work alongside my co-workers. I doubted my own growth and the growth process of my students because of me. Simply put, in less than 12 hours, I’d completely lost confidence in myself and my abilities. At this point, it had nothing to do with the initial hurt, but the fact that all of these underlying feelings even existed. I hated that I still had feelings like those toward myself, and felt like a hypocrite. I teach my babies to be bold, brash, and confident in who they are and who they’re becoming. In my head, I saw the opposite in myself. It was during my 6th hour class, now if you’re a teacher, you know that sixth hour periods generally pack some punch:

  • They’re my largest (27)
  • Most of them are athletes (they don’t sit down)
  • They just left lunch (psychotic)
  • They have 1,573 stories (from lunch)

Now, don’t get it twisted, I LOVE them, they bring me LIFE, but they equally wear me out. I was fighting for them to focus, and I caught myself getting super frustrated. I’d never struggled before, yes, taken a different approach, but not STRUGGLED. I sat in a corner behind my desk and prayed. At this point they were all doing their Bellringer assignment, so most of them didn’t notice. I just asked God to give me some sort of peace and strength. I asked Him to help me serve my kids. I got up, and continued the lesson.

Here’s how it ended:

Terek Warren, a former Senior of mine- and of course one of my babies- came knocking at the door and when my baby opened it enough to see him, I ran out. LOL. I gave him the biggest hug (because I hadn’t seen him since he left for college) and told him I loved him. He proceeded to say, “Ms. Solomon, I’m fareal teachin my roommates how to write essays! Like my grades are so good! Thank you…” I started weeping. Y’all, he was so confused and legit had no idea what to do with me. I explained to him what my night was like, what my day had been like, and the current frustrations in class. He told me he loved me and to “push through, they’ll see.” I continued to cry LOL. I went back in class and the kids said you miss him that much? I responded with, “I needed him more than he knew.” I had a long talk with my class about how my love for them will never waiver. No matter how angry I get. No matter how lazy they get. No matter how lonely I feel at school. I will never compromise my love. It was so pathetic, authentic, and sweet.

So, I cried today, and I think I needed to in order to be reminded that I need to be broken  more than I’d ever admit. My students NEEDED to see me broken. They needed to see me struggle. They needed to see ME. I try my hardest to be authentically Ms. Solomon, but there’s something magically real about a teardrop. Dear educators, let them see you be you! I understand professionalism. I understand boundaries. I understand authority, but my students have a love for me now, that I didn’t think could be established in 55mins.  I’m thankful for them.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Istanbul, Turkey.

 

My goal with the “Travel” page on my blog is to give you all an insight on the things I see and experience when I leave home. About two years ago I felt a yearning to see more of the world, but not just see it, experience it and impact it. This was my very first of what I hope will be many international trips. Throughout the blog, I have attached links that apply to pieces of the culture, CLICK AWAY.

My friend Sultan and I met my Junior year in college and it was love at first sight. She ignited a sort of joy that not many people have. She was so sweet and sincere with the woman she was; such a gentle spirit. After being friends for about 2 years, we wept at the thought of her returning home. I promised her that as soon as I was financially able, I would visit her. 4 years after she left, I graduated college, got into my career, and jumped on a plane to Istanbul.

Not only was this trip my first international one, but it was my first time flying. MY FIRST FLIGHT WAS 14R HOURS. Who does that? Apparently, I do. In addition to that, my plane was scheduled to leave the day after there was an outrageous terrorist attack on the Ataturk Airport that took the lives of 41 people. Good thing that wasn’t mine, right? WRONG. I was petrified. My mama was hell bent on me staying home. My friends threatened to steal my passport. Needless to say, it was not looking like I’d see my friend. After crying in my closet like a small toddler, I found myself talking to God about the power of fear. Everyone had decided on MY future, because of their own fear, and I’d slowly started to give in. I had one day. One day to decide whether or not I’d take this life altering trip to the other side of the world or let fear dictate my life decisions. After hours at the cross, I packed my bags, and left.

There were guards everywhere. I wasn’t able to walk through the airport without seeing at least ONE M16. I was terrified, and my phone was dying. I eventually met up with Su, and we were on our way.

I’ve attached images of my most impactful experiences at the bottom of this post, but they are nowhere near everything I saw and felt in the 1 week of visiting. I’ll try to be as concise as possible with my description of each, but if any of you are interested in an in depth explanation PLEASE feel free to comment. I never get tired of talking about it. The culture was so rich and my emotions were ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Before I begin, I feel the need to add that this molded my spiritual walk in ways that scared me to my knees. I had never been in a pl ace where my words held ZERO value. Nobody could understand me, I was unable to express myself, and I felt that my autonomy had been stripped away. For the first time in a long time- I was fully reliant on God, and it was a liberating and frustrating feeling. I had to submit my pride and STILL teach my friend about Christ because on many occasions, He commanded it. Those emotions instilled in me a passion for traveling and teaching, not only English, but God’s truth.

Well, let’s begin:

The Coffee: It took about 30mins to brew that small pot of coffee pictured. It was a delicacy to be prepared by the women of the house for the men as a part of Ramadan. I love cooking, so I was honored when they asked me to do it, but petrified when they told me if the men didn’t enjoy it, they would send it back. I was also taught that in Turkish culture, men could DIVORCE their wives if they were unable to prepare it to their liking…uh….BYE. I was stunned, but they were accustomed to it and Su’s father and Brother-in-law were there so clearly they’d been doing something right. I’m not sure if they really enjoyed it, or didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but they finished their cups and what was in the pot. There are MANY other Turkish traditions and old myths linked to their coffee. I’ve attached a link here.

The Corn: I know you’re probably like, “Why is this fool posting a picture of corn like it’s not in America?” Well, it was special, because I picked and husked it, LOL. So yes, it deserves its own feature. We sat on a blanket on the floor, separated it, and barbecued it outside. We, being the women.

 The Mall: After dinner, we all piled up in the car and went to an outlet mall nearby. The prices were to die for, lol. Mainly because the American dollar was worth three times more than their currency. I felt rich, to say the least. We also visited the Mall of Turkey (Sultan and I) Where I spent about $200, as 600 Turkish bills… it was wild.

The Ferry: I’m standing in front of the ferry that took us on a 30 minute ride to Heybaliada Island in Istanbul. It was absolutely beautiful. I sat next to a girl named Ann, and she shared her cookies because she could hear my stomach growling. I used Google translate to tell her I loved her LOL.

The Language: Sultan’s baby sister took it upon herself to teach me about 20 Turkish phrases to help me as we traveled. It was very seldom I left Su’s side, but in the event I did, I was a bit more confident while encountering natives. She was only 15, and we basically became bestfriends.

Turkish Engagement Party: When I posted this picture on Facebook, most people assumed it was a wedding. It was actually an engagement party. There was easily about 300 people there. We were in a 3-story complex with an outside area. The party consisted of celebrating the couple by watching them dance, then joining in. There was no meal or drinks, just dancing. It was precious. There is so much that goes into Turkish matrimony, so click the link to get a more in depth look!

The Blue Mosque: Last, but certainly not least, I’ve included a picture of us standing at a fountain in front of the Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. I didn’t have my Hijab on in the picture, but we both were pretty covered the evening we entered. There were THOUSANDS of people there for worship and celebration of Ramadan. It was breathtaking. We sat in the grass and ate a light supper before entering and there was life ALL around us.

I think I covered each of the pictures, and I hope I gave you just a small glance of what Istanbul did to my heart. I recommend visiting, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it alone. There are programs that offer Turkish tours for prices from $300-$1,000 depending on preference and desire. Thankfully, I have a sister who is a native, but I think that’d be a pretty legit vacation spot.

Until next time!

I love you.

 

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The Year of Growth.

I’ll go ahead and get right to it. I haven’t posted in about a year, and the last time I did, it was a short poem about an exhaustive break-up. I made the conscious decision never to go back to that place. I decided that I would start fresh emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and bloggally. (I know that’s not a word) LOL.

Last year was, in short, one of the most devastating and exhilarating ones I’ve ever had. I felt pain that I didn’t know existed and experienced freedom I didn’t know was inside of me. I could meticulously break it down, and tell you my lowest and highest points, but this isn’t my diary, and I think that until told otherwise, I will be conscious about keeping certain things between myself and God.

With that, I wasn’t sure what the topic of this blog would be, but as I tried to narrow it down to 3-4 ideas, I found that GROWTH was a recurring theme. I’ve been talking about growth all year, and today I went ahead and looked up the formal definition:

“the process of increasing in physical size.”

I was pissed. I mean I knew that growing had something to do with size, but I think the idea of growth has been much more than “increasing in physical size” in my personal life. I decided to define it for myself, because choosing another word would be too easy.

“the process of refining; flourishing.”

The question is, how do we do that? As people, how do we intentionally put ourselves in a position to become more refined and full with beauty? How do we make the necessary changes in our lives in order to become who we are intended to be? I think we’re supposed to just do it. I often hear people say, “easier said than done,” when I advise them to do things they may not want to do, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. The action isn’t always the hard part, it’s the emotional effect of those actions that are hard to handle. DO IT. Break off the relationships that bring all glory to anyone but God. Do away with the self-hate that you’ve justified for as long as you’ve known you didn’t love yourself fully. Remove yourself from people. Remove yourself from things. Put yourself in a position to hurt a little, that lack of comfort may be the push you need. There is nothing wrong with breaking down in order to rebuild.

Growth is a constant and it is imperative that we never think we’ve finished. There is always room for progress, and my past relationships taught me that I am often tempted to stop my growing process for the sake of someone else’s. For years I thought that was love. For years I thought that’s what true sacrifice was supposed to look and feel like. I thought that in order for me to completely and fully serve the people around me- I had to accept them destroying my personal peace. Lies. I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago, and the author stated,

“Fear and anxieties create this world where the only thing that exists is myself and the threat to the thing that I love..”

I wasn’t sure how that related to my life until now. There was an underlying fear that I may not have been loving intensely enough, and that fear convinced me that the only thing that existed was Shakiyla, and whatever was hurting the people I cared for. In that state of being- I lived a life of combat. Every day my sole purpose was to defeat the threat, in hopes that I’d come out alive. It was exhausting. It was impossible. I had a God-complex. I wanted to be the savior of all people I held dear, and in that pursuit, I died.

I say all of this to say, love is a call for sacrifice, forgiveness, and an unconditional presence in the lives of broken people (us). At some point, though, we have to stop and reflect on whether or not we are actually loving and being loved. We have to be sure that we aren’t sacrificing and being broken down for the sake of loyalty to someone/something that isn’t grounded in true love. It’s a complex thing; love. I think that the more we slow down in an attempt to understand it, the better we’ll get at expressing it.

I’m growing. I have forgiven people who ruined all that I thought made me who I am, and I have grown to love the woman I’ve become. I am walking in obedience. I am protected. I am growing.

Feel free to comment, and share.

I love you.

Untitled ..

I never felt burdened by loving you. 

It was all so organic; it worked as if it were created to. 

We became woven into each other’s beings and together we’d grown into our own personification of peace. 

Your destruction of that is a reminder that hurt yields power, but your desire to mend it proves that TRUE love prevails. 

What happens when it’s too late?