Thursday, May 9, 2013

Good Eats and Meets 4th Food Tour – Cotswold/Sherwood Forest

Well, I admit it.

Even as a die-hard foodie and a Good Eats and Meets member for nearly three years, I missed the other three MeetAnd3 food tours. Richard Gruica, founder and head foodie at GEAM will have to forgive me for that oversight. But I couldn't miss the one held this past Tuesday night in the Cotswold (Sherwood Forest) area of Charlotte. First of all, the tour took place less than 15 minutes from my house. Secondly, for $20.00 (early bird RSVP charge), you couldn't beat that deal with a Groupon!

Seriously, you get to go to, eat in and experience the ambiance of three local food-related venues, mingle with other Charlotte foodies while getting history, local lore and food trivia from Richard, our resident wonder. After starting GEAM in 2007, his Meetup repertoire has expanded over the years to include groups in Columbia, Atlanta and Miami to name a few other hot spots. His Charlotte group has over 3500 members alone. Adding Ciara Caron, formerly of Dishcrawl, to the food tour hosting team has only enhanced what is already an innovative and cool idea.

Basically, MeetAnd3 involves picking a community where three "hidden" spots are highlighted. Tuesday’s list served up Leroy Fox, The SecretChocolatier, and newbie, Block and Grinder who has already started building quite a bit of buzz around town.

black plate with two mac and cheese bites, a chicken strip, fried zucchini, caprese salad and two dipping sauces.
Sample plate from Leroy Fox. 
The night began with Leroy Fox, a neighborhood fave, which is destined to become your favorite family pub if it isn't already. I showed up with a friend and her six month old babe (new foodie being broken in as we speak!) and we were welcomed and accommodated wonderfully! Hats off to Rich, who kept the presentation brief and the craft beer samples flowing! I had to write fast as he kept coming by with great offering after another.

I sampled everything from the heartier and darker OldeMecklenburg Brewery’s Copper to an almost fruity, sweet noted Jam Session from NODA. My best bud who doesn't even like beer drank that one, so chalk that up as a win! Other samples, like Bad Penny from Raleigh's Big Boss and Higher Ground from Birdsong rounded out the tight delivery. As a newbie to craft beer in a craft beer-laden town, I was in sample heaven, especially grateful for Rich’s patient explanations.

Our food sample included their famous fried chicken strips, fried zucchini, mac and cheese bites, and a light caprese salad. I can’t tell you which I loved more, but yes, the chicken is all that you hear it to be; tender, juicy with a perfect crispy breading that left me definitely wanting more. It was served with a creamy chicken gravy and a sharp and spicy dipping sauce that was easily my favorite. We will not even begin to say how perfect the mac and cheese bites were. Where others versions of this I've had were either overdone on the breading or lost the creaminess of the mac and cheese to overcooking, Leroy Fox found the perfect balance and these were excellent. We also ordered a round of pretzel bites, which my bestie devoured and said she would get again. All in all, a great time there.

Round black place piled high with pieces of blueberry chili flavored chocolate bark.
Blueberry Chili Chocolate Bark
Next up was The Secret Chocolatier. To my shame, I have followed this choco-family on Facebook since they were still over in Atherton’s Market but had yet to visit their retail store located near Providence and Sharon Amity Roads. This was my loss, for once you get inside this quaint but bright establishment set up by Bill and Karen Dietz, you may not want to leave. Why? Well, if you look around, all you see is a dizzying array of confections that boggle the mind, with names like Cardamon Crunch, Blueberry Chili Chocolate Bark and Dark Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt. I spied chocolate drizzled macaroons wrapped up sweetly on the counter with bright ribbons near a smart row of jars filled with local and much loved Cloister Honey. Getting to go into the kitchen in the back and meet Robin Cordia, daughter of the creator of this chocolate oasis, was a special treat. There, we sipped on their smooth and delicious liquid chocolate drink cooled down especially for us, as she narrated the history and love they all put into their creations. Her other half, Andy, who handles more of the business end, was quick to let me know that they are happy to accommodate their customers if there are special requests. And, please don’t compare their chocolate drink to any hot or cold chocolate drink you've ever had previously. There is a richness here that speaks chiefly to the quality that they pour into all their confections, cakes and specialty candies every day. You can guess where I will be going for Mother’s Day.

Red circular postage stamp logo with the words Block & Grinder at the top of the circle and image of an old-fashioned meat grinder in a white circular center. The words butcher's shop - prime steaks-burgers & more are in the bottom half of the red circle.
Block & Grinder - did someone say pastrami? 
Now, this is where I have to disappoint. Baby Foodie Boy was ready for bed by then and I missed walking the few extra yards over to Block and Grinder, our latest darling in the fresh and local movement. YES, I know! How can I leave you hanging like that? I’m sorry. Babies dictate schedules sometimes. What I can tell you is that the guys at Block and Grinder believe in keeping it all in “da house.” That means your pastrami has been “brined, steamed, smoked, trimmed and cut in-house.” Your steak burger has been ground in-house. This is your local butcher and a place to eat all in one.

While I can’t relate the tour’s experience at B & G, which I am sure was superb, I am ready to hit them this weekend (must I mention again it’s Mother’s Day?). I will talk about all the corned beef and pastrami goodness in my next blog post to make up for my omission here.

Banner logo for GEAM White rectangle with four circles of different colors with the letters G, E A, M with the words good eats and meets underneath. The circle with the letter G has a fork sticking out to the left. Below that is the words eat imbibe socialize
GEAM - Good Eats and Meets - Find them on
Last words. Don’t forget to follow all these great places on Facebook and if you are local, join the Good East and Meets group . That way you will get all their latest news and the announcement of the next MeetAnd3 Food Tour. Richard has assured me more tours are on the way! Hope to see you next time! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Coconut Oils - Is It all Good for You?

As I head into a better health and food-style, there is always the battle about how to eat on a limited budget, transitioning over to better food choices. It is great to want that exotic vegetable or the limited edition artisan oil, but what is in the kitchen on a regular basis really decides whether or not you  stick to those 2013 resolutions about food and lifestyle changes.

One of the areas I reassessed recently was my cooking oils. I'd given up Crisco long ago. I hadn't seen lard in a long time, although there are those out there who think lard has gotten a bad rap. My repertoire consisted mainly of canola and olive oil, and I was definitely looking to expand that. In my travels and research, another long maligned oil emerged, touting health and cooking benefits. It was coconut oil.

Some friends had already transitioned over and used it in cooking, since it has a low smoke point, and in it's unrefined state, adds a wonderful yet delicate coconut flavor and scent. They were talking about using less salt or less oil, while imparting a richness and depth not found in canola oil or even olive.

What I found out there was definitely a food public relations makeover!

Coconut Oil is  extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocus nucifera). It is usually harvested from tropical areas, and here in the US, you can find it at most grocery and health stores. Like I said before, it's low smoke point makes it perfect for cooking and due to its high saturated fats, it resists going rancid and can last (properly stored) for up to 12 months.

Now, that is where the PR has definitely changed. Weren't we all told to avoid saturated fats? But what has emerged is most of the studies leading us away from coconut oil were dealing with partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which we definitely know is not good. So, is it the saturated fats or the partially hydrogenated oil process?

Basically, it seems the hydrogenated oil process has to go. The saturated fat in coconut oil is mostly lauric acid (getting a little techie here for a sec). Lauric acid increases the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels. So coconut oil may actually be healthy for you. Studies have shown that coconut oil can be beneficial in a diet that is geared toward weight loss and boosting the immune system.

Well, if that is what is going on, I am onboard!

Unrefined coconut oil
Coconut oil is usually sold in its unrefined, flavorful state, which is solid at room temperature. But, there is also a type of coconut oil available called Fractionated Coconut Oil that is liquid and stays that way at room temperature. It loses the extra coconut aroma, but is perfect when you don't want to add any additional flavors/scents to your foods, and its shelf life extends out to 2 years. The process is NOT anything like hydrogenation. It is also extensively used in aromatherapy, massage therapy and other medicinal arenas due to low-staining ability, ease to mix with other carrier and essential oils, and the swiftness in which the skin absorbs it.

I use coconut oil often (both the solid and liquid) to moisturize my cuticles during the winter. And, if I don't have shea butter, I use it as a base on my lips before any lipstick or gloss, so that my lips are soft and protected from the cold winter elements. Especially if you are not using an organic or natural, plant-based beauty product, always protect your face and lips with a gentle, protecting oil like coconut.

BTW, the organic, unrefined coconut oil works wonderfully mixed together with palm kernel oil and fragrant, essential oils, like lemon and jasmine. These are called "butters," and are also great for aromatherapy, soap-making and general body moisturizers. I routinely use Vanilla Coconut "butter" as a morning lotion after the shower. This has been a godsend during the colder months! (In a future post, we will talk about Whipped Body Butters that combine shea butter, coconut oil and fragrance for a DIY body care product!)

The other type of coconut oil is RBD (refined, bleached and deodorized). It can be used for cooking and is used extensively in commercial food preparation. It has no flavor or aroma, either, and I would suggest to use organic, if you go that route, although it is not as easy to find as the unrefined.

Back in the kitchen, coconut oil is perfect for sauteing, frying and works equally well with meats and vegetables. In baking, it is known to create a flaky, delicate crust in pies and a tight density that is perfect for pound cakes and other confections. It is even good enough for the pooch!

Homemade doggie treats using coconut oil. See 2nd recipe link for this!
Coconut oil is available in stores, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, online outlets like and many other small purveyors. I don't offer it yet in my online store, but locally, here in Charlotte, North Carolina, I will have both organic, unrefined oil and fractionated coconut oil available in 1lb (16 oz) containers for sale, starting March 15th. And, if anyone wants to try them, I will also have various coconut butters to sample.

So, new PR, and more studies seem to have done the trick. Coconut oil is now considered safe for moderate consumption in a healthy foodstyle, even if you are looking to lose weight and reduce cholesterol. It is also perfect for body, massage and moisturizing products. Who can beat an oil that works in the kitchen, bedroom and bath?

Readers, it's your turn! How are you using this versatile oil?

Links to more information on coconut oil:
The Surprising Health Benefits of Coconut Oil - Dr. Oz Show
Coconut Oil - MSN Healthy Living
Coconut Oil - Wikipedia ( I don't love Wiki, but love to mine their references!
Coconut Oil - Peer Reviewed Research -

NYTimes article - Links for recipes are on the left side of the article.
Top 5 Recipes for Coconut Oil - Coconut Oil

Sunday, January 27, 2013

In The Kitchen with Sidney Gaskin

I couldn't help but get excited about my Facebook friend's Youtube videos! Sidney and I know each other from...well, I can't even remember where we first came across each other on the Net, but we are definitely good Facebook friends now.

Recently, we began talking about putting together a cookbook and shared ideas about food, cooking, recipes that were important to us. I was completely in awe. Not because she knew her way around the kitchen better than me (though, she probably does!), but because, within a short hour, we covered so many areas of cooking, from spice mixes to what to have on hand in the pantry. We traversed different cultures and cuisines, and I could feel myself become more excited about the cookbook idea.

Well, I guess Sidney couldn't wait for the cookbook to materialize, because just recently, I came across two videos, called "In the Kitchen." In a quick montage of still images, Sidney shows a quick and easy recipe that she and her handsome (if I may say so myself!) son make in their home kitchen. There is great music to accompany the assortment of images as you quickly learn how to make a simple, but very tasty meal that can readily satisfy you, your children or the whole family.

The first one up was the Bacon and Egg Bundle, a wonderful breakfast treat that can be popped into the toaster or regular oven in the morning, using up leftover silver dollar pancakes.

The second video was a little more ambitious, but is so versatile that I cannot wait to try not only the savory version, but a sweet one.

Chicken Broccoli Braided Bread is definitely something for the family, and I am already thinking of how to use this recipe and adapt it for the upcoming Super Bowl. Can't you just see a filling made of pepperoni, other sausage meat and cheeses? Or make a completely Veggie Braided Bread with other veggies along with the broccoli.

Well, I am putting Sidney on blast because I want her to be a part of Foodie4Access on a regular basis. You will see her videos here, on F4As Facebook page and also F4A's Tumblr page.

And, I will keep you up-to-date about the cookbook...after I make this bread!

Now it's your turn, Readers:

What do you think? Would you like to see more "In the Kitchen" videos?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Turmeric Tea and the New Year

My decision to return to a more natural, less-processed life- and food-style is one that has been coming for a long time. I did this seven years ago with wonderful results (loss of 55lbs, cessation of diabetes symptoms and test results), but I slowly ebbed away from it. Not sure why. Just began to drift into the habits of others around me. This culminated this year with hanging around many smokers. Needless to say, there were many negative outcomes.

With the latest illness that dampened my sense of taste and smell, I knew I had to change. The smokers are no longer in close proximity, and my desire to return to former good habits returned with a vengeance. But, there is always something new to learn!
Turmeric Tea [light yellow milky tea in a white cup]

I discovered a tea that includes a ordinary spice in our cabinets that has been the subject of many studies and continues to be on the radar in health and wellness circles. That spice is turmeric. There are many versions of the tea, but the one I use is this:

8oz almond milk (I like Vanilla)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
 (I don't have fresh right now, but I have a jar of minced ginger that keeps forever in the refrigerator! I used 1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Dash of black pepper (I have a jar that grates it from peppercorns)
1/2 tsp honey (or other sweetener) to taste

All you have to do is heat up the almond milk to near boiling, and mix in the other ingredients. I don't strain it, but if you don't like the feel of the spices, you could strain it for a smoother taste. Use the honey or other sweetener to your taste. This is as good as  or better than a homemade chai to me!

Turmeric, both fresh and dried powder form
There are many benefits to turmeric. A cousin of ginger, tt has been used for generations as a cooking spice companion to cumin in India, the West Indies and other locations. It is known in the Aurvedic and Chinese health and wellness circles as a potent anti-inflammatory and digestive aid. I am also studying aromatherapy, specifically essential oils and incense, but turmeric is often mentioned as a spice that can be used for its health properties.

But, I must discuss something that is very important. In my studies, I find so many different opinions on what works for different physical conditions. I can not give medical advice or even specific health and wellness advice. What I can do is point you toward established and well trusted links for information and remind everyone that they should always consult their doctor if they are going to add, subtract or change anything in their diet or lifestyle.

With that said, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, turmeric has been shown in studies to fight infections and some cancers, reduce inflammation and treat digestive problems. While this is encouraging, these studies have not been on humans and have concentrated on the main active substance in turmeric, curcumin, a powerful antioxidant. Curcumin fights free radicals in the body as well as lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.

Safety concerns around turmeric center around pregnant or breastfeeding women, who should not use it. Also, anyone with a history of ulcers or kidney stones should avoid turmeric as a health/wellness option. It has not been studied in children, so therefore there are no recommendations for that group as well. As a cooking spice, it is safe, but anything other than that, should be avoided by the groups mentioned.

Other areas of concern are diabetics (turmeric may lower blood sugar levels) and anyone on blood thinners (turmeric may act like a blood thinner as well) and medications to reduce stomach acid.

I know that seems a lot, but the safety of my readers is so important to me. So far, I drink one cup of turmeric tea a day. I find that any mucus in my chest and feelings of inflammation in my joints decrease soon after drinking it. Since there is also cinnamon in this tea, the effect may be enhanced, as cinnamon is also known to be an anti-inflammatory spice.

In the upcoming year, I will write more about my journey. There is so much to share! Some upcoming topics include:
  • No more flouride-laden toothpaste
  • Face and skin care from the pantry
  • Spice mixes without the preservatives
  • Natural eating on a budget 
Let me know if you try turmeric tea. Here is also a link for homemade chai tea. Enjoy!

Links for your research: 
American Cancer Society - Turmeric
University of Maryland Medical Center - Turmeric
Medline Plus - Turmeric

Reader Feedback:
What are you doing to increase health and wellness while saving money? And, if there is a food-related health and wellness subject you would like me to cover, let me know. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Foodie Reborn: The New Normal and Loving It!

Woman with eyes closed, breathing...

Yesterday on Facebook, I wrote the following:
Eating a bowl of chili for lunch. Man, it looks good! You know, losing most of my sense of taste and smell makes me appreciate so much in life. I take so much more time now to savor and experience food. I close my eyes and try to catch the slightest aroma. I chew slower and relish textures, putting the faintest tastes down to new memories. I have a new found appreciation for everything I put in my mouth.
It was a profound moment. One that at once acknowledged the changes in my life, and yet, pointed toward the future of how life is so much more interesting and precious.

Often throughout the last two months, I hesitated to write in this blog. I felt that I couldn't do anyone's restaurant or food creation justice, because of the changes I'd been through. I knew in my head that I needed to go on (see the last two entries here and there), but I just couldn't seem to convince my heart that anyone wanted to see me stumble through trying to describe things I could barely taste. I couldn't reconcile it until yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, I sat down to a bowl of my quick chili, made from a recipe I've worked on for many years. This last creation contained three types of meat; ground turkey, ground beef (20/80) and a good portion of a leftover slow-cooker roast. After two days, I knew it would be perfectly blended and as I reheated a bowl, I performed the ritual that lately has become my norm. I lifted the bowl to my nose, closed my eyes, and breathed in; first the right side and then the left. With eyes closed, I concentrated on scent alone, and I inhaled through each side independently.

I know I can smell from the right side. It is the left side that is blunted and weak. Still, I inhaled, only now with purpose. I know I am training my mind to pick up on whatever it can catch. I am like a visually-impaired person, first learning to use a white cane; relying on other senses and even an inner sense to guide me.

Only after doing this for a couple of seconds, do I begin to taste the food. Again, one side is stronger than the other. I start with the strong side but quickly include the weaker side so that the participation is complete. Closing my eyes once again, I savored the taste of the rice against the longer grain of the roast. The smooth, silky slip of French Onion Dip - a last minute sub for sour cream (which turned out to be a hit!) - descends into and in between the spicy beans and granules of ground meats. As I chew, the mixture blends together, breaks apart into different sensations and melds back again.

It is glorious!

In the past, being a foodie was something I took for granted. I had a wonderful sense of smell, inherited from my mother (she was the type to smell the gas from the stove before you opened the door!) and I enjoyed everything new and different. Where friends hesitated, I dove right into different cuisines, dishes and ethnic treats. From my teen years on, sampling the new and revisiting the tried and true was a mainstay of my life, regardless of where I lived or jobs I held. Now, with my senses dulled, I'm forced to appreciate every....single...thing, every...single...bite. Things as simply as tomato soup or a cheddar multi-grain chip or liverwurst on swirl rye and pump; nothing is taken for granted.

Pile of multi-grain chips. Savory bits of cheddar crunch!

No longer do I rush any meal. No longer am I bored at repeats of any food. If it has spent a day or two blending flavors, I stop to notice it. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply at every plate and glass before even taking a bite or a sip.

The old adage is true. What was meant to destroy me has made me stronger. An illness I thought would destroy my desire for food and its aftermath is the driving force for how I enjoy food more and more.

In about two days, I will join the local advocacy group W.E.A.N. - Charlotte for a holiday get-together at disability-friendly Cheddars restaurant in the University area of Charlotte. It will be the first restaurant/food spot review since October. I can't wait! I intend to savor every dish...and maybe even those of my dining mates! I am a foodie reborn!

Stay tuned...

Readers Turn to Share: 
What has made you stronger though you were convinced at first it wouldn't?  How has it changed your  relationship to ordinary things in life or social interactions?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cooking Is Therapy

Image created by Ops! Studio
I am sure others could write more eloquently on this subject. There are programs that use cooking as a rehabilitative program for people who are marginalized in society. There are cooking classes for children with autism. So, I know there are experts in the field of therapy who could take this and make it into a dissertation. But, my ability to focus has changed since I became ill over a month ago, so I am only going to write what I can.

Every day is a struggle for me lately. Not sure whether it was the original illness or the steroids that followed, but my cognitive skills have suffered. Not really complaining, but between that and the loss of the ability to smell and taste clearly, writing a blog about food has changed position on my priority list.

Until just about an hour ago.

Just about an hour ago, I took out all the ingredients for my Pumpkin Bread recipe. What started out as a simple recipe downloaded from a food site has turned into an annual ritual for my family, neighbors and friends. As I took everything out, I could feel my spirits rise just a bit. Then I went and sat down.

I am not one to linger on the negativity, but I felt overwhelmed. Just to do a simple recipe that I've done many times before seemed too much. After another 20 minutes went by, I returned to the kitchen and began to measure and mix my ingredients.

And, then it happened. I felt whole. Measuring the spices, mixing my dry and wet ingredients separately, pulling upon the knowledge I know is stored in my head; all this felt exhilarating!

As everything became incorporated and I poured the batter into two floured and greased glass loaf pans, the sense of accomplishment was almost palatable, and I heard the words in my mind: Cooking Is Therapy. that was all I needed to hear and know.

It may be that I will always need a taste-tester. And it is difficult to accept that for an indefinite period of time, I am without the ability to taste and smell clearly. It has rocked my little foodie world.

But, today, after sliding the pans into a 350 degree oven, I felt the desire and capacity to write about this experience; a capacity I haven't felt for nearly six weeks.

Two glass loaf pans in the oven!
I can't say whether my writing will be the same. I know two of my sense are not. Just faintly, I caught the scent of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and clove as I added them to the dry ingredients. A little stronger was the sweetness of the batter (the sense of sweetness is the only one that has returned to a decent level) and I remembered how well it went with a Spiced Cream Cheese Dip. I may have to write from memory and share only the past. But, cooking is my therapy. It is my gateway to the world and a way to continue to share and connect.

As the holidays approach, I will continue to make sweet treats for my family (my sister is supposed to ship cinnamon baking chips next week!). It is okay to talk about sweet things this time of year and if it spurs my cooking and writing, all the better! If you are not into home baking or are just looking for good sweets around Charlotte, NC, please don't forget our local bakers and confectioners. Here are some of my favorites. Please feel free to list some of your local or online favorites!

Charlotte, NC
- Nona Sweets
- Southern Cake Queen (Mobile)
- The Blushing Bakeshop
- Suarez Bakery

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Two Weeks of Highs and Lows and a New Resolve

Realizing that I have not posted in over two weeks, I have to bring you, my readers, up to date on where I am physically right now. It doesn't seem possible, and yet, so much has happened in 14-16 days. One of the most miraculous things has happen to me, and then another devastating physical setback has happened as well.

Roughly, just over two weeks, the miraculous happened. After thinking that I was completely deaf in my right ear for all of my life (I have no recollection of hearing in that ear from my childhood), I found out that while severely hard of hearing, I can hear and understand language using a hearing aid. This was a complete shock to me, because a hearing aid has never been offered as a option my whole life. I've seen specialists after specialist from New York to Baltimore and even two recommended audiologists here in Charlotte, NC, only to be turned away.

The angel in disguise of a doctor is Sean McCalvin of Beltone. He and his lovely wife, JoAnna, will never know the depths of admiration I feel for them. They run a compassionate, caring facility that is completely interested in honest, courteous service to those dealing with  hearing issues. Please Google them if you are local, and feel free to tell them I recommended you. I feel as if I made friends, not just medical partners. As I told everyone who would sit still, the event changed my life.

But, isn't life interesting? We never know what is around the corner, because the next thing coming around the bend could make life better or just a little harder. Though I never run from a challenge, it is never easy to revisit a physical setback.

Starting October 10th and culminating by the 13th, I suffered my second bout of Bell's Palsy. A quick explanation of Bell's Palsy is facial paralysis that usually affects one side of the face, stemming from inflammation to the cranial nerves. Six years ago, I dealt with right-sided paralysis (that left me with lingering vertigo), this time it was my left side. Recognizing the symptoms right away, I avoided the ER and made an appointment with my wonderful general doctor, Gregory Collins, MD. He took one look at me, asked me to smile, then prescribed the usual regimen: steroids and anti-viral medication. I have also added essential B vitamins, biotin and other supplements that can promote healing.

At this point, how can I describe my feelings and position in life right now?

When all this happened, I was on my way to creating an accepted niche for this blog, and was about to embark on creating a new non-profit for the Charlotte, NC area called Celebrate Connections. My calendar was filling up with volunteer and networking opportunities. There were new speaking and panel discussion opportunities. I looked forward to more travel, interaction and advocacy. Establishing myself as a trusted and consistent local advocate was my first and foremost goal. And, giddy with the knowledge of my ability to hear, I immediately launched an online fundraiser campaign to help me cover the cost of the hearing aid. As my goal always includes awareness and advocacy, a good friend and I concocted hearing awareness and fundraising events that would gather friends and family, but also reach out to the public.

All of which has slowed down to a crawl.

Right now, I have to keep stress to a minimum. I have to concentrate on massages, exercises and rest to promote healing of the inflamed and damaged nerves in my face. And, I have to regain my shaken sense of self.

I have never been a vain person, but I am very aware of my frozen face. Eating is not a spectator sport. Having only one eye to rely on (and that being my weaker eye) and renewed disorientation and vertigo means that someone must drive me everywhere, and accompany me up steps and down inclines. I move slowly and very deliberately.

I can't imagine going out to sample any new food spot. Literally, I can barely taste or smell anything unless it is highly seasoned and it still tastes like a 9-volt battery with seasoning. How does a foodie survive this?

Dear readers, I realize that we don't have the answers to why we go through things. I will not try to answer that question. But I tell you this much I have come to understand in these last two weeks. I understand that if I allow this to stop me, I am not fit to be an advocate. If I don't continue to write this blog, go out and speak to people and make a difference, then I have no right to say I can support and empower anyone. If I do not try to experience all I love in life, culture and food, I need to stop right now.

All support and empowerment starts within ourselves. I know on what power I draw my strength, and I ask you to bear with me while I heal. Often, I am in my bed, typing with two fingers on a very slow tablet. Today, I set the alarm and allowed myself 20 minutes to write this blog post. There are no pictures and no links. That takes longer, but I will get back to supplying extra resources and links later.

If you will bear with me, I will continue to take on my challenges. If I don't, how can I ask you to take on yours?