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In praise of morning birds

Every morning, when the windows of my house are raised, I remember how much of a gift it is to be alive together.

In praise of morning birds
Photo by Mark Olsen on Unsplash
gray and white bird on tree branch during daytime

On the day I heard my grandmother laugh so deep and so precious it made my stomach quake, I am sitting on the edge of my wooden kitchen table, staring out the window as the sun beats against the seals. The morning is hot, a bit of the southern stuffiness that happens in Georgia during the summer months, and the wind blows pages out of order as they sit on the table. Just a few moments ago, I am pouring my coffee into my dinner mug, setting it on the table, raising the windows a bit so that the warm breeze can enter my house. Ten minutes later, the red mug that I got from the bookstore some months ago is empty, the contents of the cup have warmed my insides. I close my ends. I take three long, deep breaths in. I take three long, deep breaths out.

And I hear the sound of morning birds.


I have made it a practice of late to raise the windows in the morning time to be greeted by their song. The chirping, swift, sharp and high-pitched echoes from one bird to another. For a few seconds, I pause, gazing upward from the green grass to the trees that sway in the distance. For a few seconds, I pause long enough to notice that no one bird interrupts the others. Each bird, one by one, makes a noise and then another and then another. My grandmother told me that when birds sing, if you listen close enough, you can tell that their melodies are never drawn out. It doesn’t take much to be heard, I guess. In one simple sound, overheard through the glass window, their presence is felt in my world. There is no pressure. There is no stage. There is no timeline. There is only a small animal doing what it has been created to do, reminding me that in life, I too take up space and whatever space I crave in this world is enough to make another pause and pay attention.

This reminds me, strangely enough, of the times as children where we would be in the church on Sunday mornings. For us, children of the black rural South, Sunday mornings were much like Friday nights around time. See, on Friday, the days the town would shut down because of high school football games in the fall, hardly anything moved. As the football time made their way to the altar between the lines, the miracle was the fact that under these lights even the most public of failure demanded intentional presence. Mothers, fathers, cousins and friends would make their way to the bleachers to experience what could only be called “baptism”—experience being enveloped by the simple yet powerful gaze of the body’s movement under pressure. That moment, much like Sundays at church, feels divine and sacred, I guess. Or maybe that’s too much. I do know that from a child, both Fridays and Sundays made such an impression that I too ran up and down the field; I too ran up and down the church.

I don’t think I know the age of birds or even if, from their perspective, their songs are sung again and again, but I do know that every morning, when the windows of my house are raised, I remember how much of a gift it is be alive together.

woman in red white and blue plaid shirt smoking cigarettePhoto by NATHAN MULLET on Unsplash

I called my grandmother a few days ago and asked her if she remembered the time she, sitting on the porch a few weeks ago, told me about the solace she has found by being wrapped in the silence. Every morning, like me or me like her, she makes her coffee, says her prayers, read her Bible and then sits on the porch. “Do you like think or you just sit,” I asked her, wondering if we were more alike than I remembered. “I just sit,” she said. “I remember how as kids, we would just love to come on the porch and sit and listen to the birds.” I asked her if she still does this. She said yes. “I love it,” she told me. “Ohhhhhh, I do.”

A few months ago, after having sat on the porch for years with my grandaddy, sharing laughs and coffee along with the sound of birds and the cool South Carolina breeze that would touch their cheeks, grandma said her final goodbyes to him. That moment too was wrapped in silence. Grandaddy had dementia. Every time I saw him, at least for the last few years, he repeated the same story over and over, again and again, until I got proficient at telling the story to him before he started talking. “There was El Paso, Texas,” I would say. “And then there was the poetry,” I would say. “And then …. Let me see …” At that moment, he would laugh, pop me three times in my chest with the black side of his hand, before giving me the type of hug that was gestured by one minute of heavy laughter. “You on the good foot,” he would ask, mimicking James Brown the best way he could. “Of course grandaddy,” I would say. “You already know.”

That morning, the morning coronavirus made his heart beat faster than my legs ever ran on the football field or across the floors of the church, and then ultimately making it beat so hard that it finally gave way to a singular line, grandma looked at his body, clothed in the white gown with blue streaks, through the glass barrier. She could not touch him. She could not kiss him. She could not touch the top of his head nor grasps the depths of his feet. The next time that would happen: the day of the funeral. I’ll never forget that day or the sound or the picture of her rough hands touching him and sitting as still as the trees that surround their house. I’ll never forget it.

I’ll also never forget that afternoon, the house smelling like perfume, chicken, sweet potato pie and grief, the moments grandma and I shared on the porch. We didn’t say much. We just sat there. Together. Cars lined the concrete road, dirt and rocks mixed; loud voices were heard faintly through the shut door. Her hands rested in her lap. She still had on the two-piece suit she wore to the funeral. Blue, with a white blouse, the pink flower resting on the left side of her chest.

The dawn chorus is said to be the song of blackbirds, robins, Eurasian wrens and chaffinches. It is said to mark the magical beginnings of a new day. It is said that it is an explosion of life bursting out of the Earth that makes the heart leap. It is said that whether you are in the city or in the country that you can hear this sound. It is said that this sound is most noticeable in spring.

crowd of people inside room dancing while watching person singingPhoto by James Barr on Unsplash

Well, grandma said when she sits on the porch every morning, she hears less and less birds singing. I guess she meant that with grandaddy being gone, the birds are lot less happy like her and that like Toni Morrison’s Shalimar in "Song of Solomon," grandaddy has learned how to fly and has found his rest. I guess when she said that less birds are around and then started talking about climates changing, she was talking about our lack of pausing to care for the Earth and noticing how things so precious aren’t around anymore. I guess she was saying that we too are like the birds, we have survived so much and have found a way to greet each other in the morning with something that makes the heart softer. I guess she didn’t mean any of that, but to remind me the power of our presence together in grief: it weds what we lost to what we remember and lets us know that so much love remains.

The birds of the morning turn a song into a memory, an ordinary porch into an altar. What else can we give to one another in these moments of sadness but something that reminds each other that there are two of us here? What else can we give to one another but the assurance that stories don’t always when bad things happen?

The birds greeted me this morning. My windows were up. Grandma sat on the porch. We sipped coffee together.

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O Organics make eating organic affordable

True

Friendsgiving might have started as a novel alternative to Thanksgiving, but today it’s an American holiday in its own right.

For many, especially millennials and Gen Zers, Friendsgiving offers an opportunity to get creative with their celebrations without being obligated to outdated, even problematic traditions or having to break the bank.

However, some of us might not want to go to the extreme of only having pizza and beer. What if there were a way to balance the decadence of a traditional Thanksgiving meal while still keeping it easy and laid-back? And could we make it healthy too?

As it turns out, we can.

Here’s a super simple breakdown of what your next Friendsgiving prep could look like. An appetizer, salad, side, entree, and dessert. All done in an hour—even quicker if you assign certain dishes to different partygoers. #spreadsheetsrule

But wait, it gets better—all of these meals can be made organic at an affordable price, using O Organics® at Albertsons. O Organics helps shoppers find quality ingredients at reasonable prices every day of the year. Friendsgiving is no different.

Without further ado, let’s get cooking!

Appetizer: Charcuterie Board


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Nothing quite hits like the fancy, grown-up version of Lunchables. Crackers, meats, cheeses, and various fancy toppings that can be combined in endless ways. The easiest form of culinary creativity there is.

You already know how to make one of these bad boys, but here’s a basic template if you’re needing a dose of inspo:

Meats: Some tasty choices here are salami, prosciutto, sausage, etc. I made a smaller-scale board and decided to go with salami. If you or your friends aren’t a fan of pork, sliced turkey or smoked salmon are some yummy alternatives.

Cheese: The possibilities are endless here. You can even opt for a dairy-free cheese option!

Bread or Crackers: Artfully arranged. Speedily snacked upon. Some O Organics options here and here.

Fillers: this is where the charcuterie really shines. Fill in the spaces with splashes of color and flavor. Be sure to go for both savory and sweet. That means olives, sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, nuts, and a vibrant array of fresh or dried fruit. A yummy fruit spread doesn’t hurt either.

Time: 5 min

Salad: Squash And Feta Salad

Ingredients:

(3-4 servings)

1 small red onion (O Organics sells them in a bag)

1 bag O Organics frozen Butternut Squash

6 cups fresh O Organics spinach, arugula, kale, or whatever salad green you like

1/4 cup O Organics pecans

1/4 cup O Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil

O Organics Lemon and Olive Oil Salad Dressing

CrumbledO Organics Goat Cheese

Salt and pepper

Chop some onions. Sautee them in olive oil. Add a bag of frozen squash. Dress some salad greens with dressing. Add the onions and squash. Top with pecans, cheese, salt and pepper. Badda bing badda boom.

Time: 10 minutes

Side: Autumn Seasoned Air Fryer “Roasted” Potatoes

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As any millennial will tell you, we love our air fryers. Nothing quite ticks all the quick, easy and healthy boxes quite like one. And if you haven’t yet had a perfectly crispy on the outside, buttery soft on the inside air fryer potato, then what are you waiting for?

Ingredients:

One 3 pound bag of O Organics red or russet potatoes—honestly any potato will do

2 Tablespoons O Organics olive oil

1 tsp Italian Seasoning

That’s it. No really.

Cut potatoes into one-inch pieces. Coat with olive oil. Sprinkle seasoning. Cook in an air fryer at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Toss the potatoes in the basket and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender and crisp.

Time: 20 minutes. TOPS.

Entree: Coconut Chicken Curry

cravingsomethinghealthy.com

Because who needs turkey? This one pot piéce de rèsistance is the very essence of Friendsgiving—unique, versatile and not without a little spice.

Being the entree, this dish calls for a few more ingredients, but is honestly not much more demanding. You’re basically looking at 15 minutes for prep, and about 30 minutes to simmer.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon O Organics olive oil

1 medium onion diced

2 teaspoons ginger minced

2 teaspoons green curry paste

2 teaspoons curry powder

2 cups O Organics Thai Style Curry Chicken Broth

1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

1 15-ounce can O Organics full-fat coconut milk

2 ½ cups O Organics cooked chicken breast

1 8.8 ounce package O Organics 7 Grains & Lentils Blend

1 16 ounce bag of O Organics frozen peas

½ teaspoon salt or to taste

Lime juice

Cilantro

Chopped O Organics cashews to garnish

Using a Dutch oven (or large pot with a lid), saute the onion and ginger in olive oil over medium heat, for about 4 minutes. Add the curry paste and curry powder and saute for one more minute.

Add the Thai Style Curry Chicken Broth and the diced sweet potato. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low and catch up with friends for 20 minutes while the dish simmers.

When the sweet potato is tender, shake the can of coconut milk well and pour it into the pot. Add the chicken, 7 Grains & Lentils Blend, and peas. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and let the curry simmer for another 10 minutes.

Congrats! You are finished. You can add salt, lime juice, cilantro, extra curry powder/paste, or garnish with roasted cashews. Each bowl is customizable.

Time: 40 min

Dessert: Holiday Kettle Corn Bark

onbetterliving.com

Of course, you can always opt for pie, but sometimes people might want to opt for something a bit more bite-sized when it comes to desserts—especially after a hefty meal. This sweet and salty finger food does the trick quite nicely.

Ingredients:

1 bag (6 oz) O Organics Kettle Corn Organic Popcorn (about 9 cups)

1 bag (10 oz) O Organics Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

8 oz white chocolate, broken into small pieces

1 cup pistachios, roasted and salted

2/3 cup O Organics Dried Cranberries

2 tbsp O Organics Organic Coconut Oil

1 tsp salt

Line a 12x17-inch baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Spread kettle corn on the lined baking sheet in one thin single layer. Put the semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Drizzle the melted chocolate evenly over kettle corn, reserving about a 1/3 cup for finishing touches. Sprinkle the pistachios and cranberries over the kettle corn evenly.

Follow the same melting instructions for the white chocolate, then drizzle evenly over the kettle corn. You can follow with any remaining semi-sweet chocolate for a layered effect. Let the kettle corn stand for 5 minutes.

Place the kettle corn bark in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden. Once the bark has hardened, break into pieces.

Time: 20 minutes.

OR…if you want to make life even easier…just grab some pints of ice cream and call it a day. No judgment here.

Time: literally a few seconds to open the freezer and grab some bowls.

And there you have—a no muss, no fuss, healthy and affordable Friendsgiving spread. Spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your chosen family.

Get to your nearest Albertsons today and find everything you need to make these yummy dishes! No Albertsons in your area? You can also find O Organics products exclusively at Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, ACME, Shaw’s, Star Market, Tom Thumb, Randalls, and Pavilions.

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The Story of Bottled Waterwww.youtube.com

Here are six facts from the video above by The Story of Stuff Project that I'll definitely remember next time I'm tempted to buy bottled water.

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via The Story of Stuff Project/YouTube


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