Cheeni, Raleigh, NC Indian-American Restaurant

I have been following the Indian-American grab-and-go restaurant Cheeni based inside the YMCA in downtown Raleigh, NC on social media for a bit and their food looks delicious. They specialize in chai, coffee and tiffin.

Today they posted that they have been presented with an opportunity to expand into a full-kitchen and second space, also in Raleigh. This new space will allow them to partner with the YMCA to teach classes that will make people employable: Barista Training, Baking, ServSafe classes, etc. Their goal is to raise $40,000 to help cover their operating expenses.

If you’d like to support their efforts you can visit their website here. They are offering subscription food packages of Cookies, Chai and Biryani to raise money for their venture. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Images via Cheeni’s instagram

Seed Starting Schedule, When To Plant Seedlings To Get The Best Results

One of the most important factors that leads to success when starting seeds is timing. You really need to set aside time (a weekend, a week) to plan out when your seeds need to go in the ground, or if you need to start them indoors. All seeds have this information on the back. You first need to determine when your average last frost date is which you can do by looking it up on tools such as The Farmers Almanac website (or you can find it in the physical copy too which also includes moon phases, an ancient practice of timing your plantings to the ebbs and flows of the moon). It’s also helpful to have a calculator that adds and subtracts weeks as well since that is a big part of the planning as well.

Here in Central North Carolina that date is approximately April 6th give or take some days. The date moves as the planet warms up and it is important to watch the weather to see if a freeze is slated for the next week or two closer to that date.

Because it can be such a time-intensive task I created a guide below for the seeds that are sold in the Gather Goods Co online shop. Below you will see when to plant them either indoors or outdoors. Some plants like zinnia flowers and cosmos can be planted directly in the garden after the first frost but also started ahead, other seeds prefer one or the other.

The following seeds in the Gather Goods Co online shop can be started outdoors directly in the soil / garden on the following schedule:

8-10 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means January 26 – February 9th:

Rembrandt Snapdragons – Long Blooming Flowers that have tall stems and an unusual flower shape
Brilliant Beet Blend – Gorgeous deep red-hued vegetables that are fun to grow

Early Spring (as soon as the soil can be worked), in Central NC that means as early as Valentine’s Day, maybe earlier:

Sugar Magnolia Snap Peas – a sweet pea that is delicious raw as it is cooked. It is great in salads or eaten straight off the vine. Kids love these snap peas for their taste and accessibility.
Radiant Radish Mix – a mixture of radish varieties. Radishes have a slightly spicy flavor and are also good when added to a salad.
Breadseed Poppy Mix – super pretty and dainty early blooming flowers. These are perfect if you are itching for Spring blooms as soon as possible.

4 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means March 9th:

Ultimate Salad Bowl Mix – a variety of different colored lettuces that can be sown throughout the season for greens throughout the growing season.

The following seeds in the Gather Goods Co online shop can be started outdoors directly in the soil / garden on the following schedule:

After Last Frost, in Central NC that means April 6th:

Tiger Paw Aster
Phoenix Nasturtium – An Edible Flower!
State Fair Zinnia – Big Blooming Flowers All Season
Sea Shells Cosmos – Another Great Cut Flower Pick With a Double Petal
Snapdragon Mix – An Assorted Mix of Snapdragons. A Favorite Cut Flower.
Velvet Queen Sunflower – A Deep Red Sunflower
Coral Fountain Amaranth – An Interesting Texture for Any Bouquet

Double Red Sweet Corn – Beautiful and Delicious
Red Swan Bean – Red Colored Beans
Dark Star Zucchini – Because Zucchini is a garden staple
Emerite Pole Beans – An abundantly producing green bean
Honey Drop Cherry Tomato – A sweet cherry tomato similar to SunGold
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin – An pretty and edible pumpkin
Danvers Carrots

The following seeds in the Gather Goods Co online shop should be started indoors (though some can also be sown outdoors – see above):

8-10 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means January 26 – February 9th:

Rembrandt Snapdragons
Paul Robeson Tomatoes

6-8 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means February 9th – February 23rd:

Tiger Paw Asters
Snapdragon Mix
Bumble Bee Cherry Tomato

4-6 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means February 23-March 9th:

Honeydrop Cherry Tomato
Purple Tomatillo – A vining plant with a fruit that is perfect in salsa and guacamole

3-4 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means March 9-March 16th:

State Fair Zinnia
Strawflower – dries really beautifully

2-3 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means March 16-March 23rd:

Dark Star Zucchini
Honeynut Squash

Seed Starting Schedule for Central North Carolina

You can find all of these seed varieties in the Gather Goods Co online shop here.

Radical Love in the Face of Extreme Emotion

So last night before bed I did something weird… In response to all the violence at the Capitol, all the negative feelings and bafflement at what is currently happening, I played out a little exercise in my head. I decided that instead of projecting all my frustration, my negative feelings, my confusion and upset, and energy toward those emotions I would instead try to reverse it radically toward positivity.

So, I tried to imagine these people who feel so different than me as little kids who were upset, but that was too difficult and not really helping, so I started thinking of them as just a person reacting to constant bullying and being told over and over that they are wrong, and so instead of making better choices they just keep leaning into the worst because what’s in it for them to change at this point? But then, I thought what if I just loved them despite and because of their insane choices and actions? What if the world is so full of toxic energy that it needs to be rebalanced with more positive energy? What if no one is sending “positive vibes” toward and to them and that to start to neutralize that toxicity, there needs to be more love. I’m positive at this point I’ve lost some of you. That’s fine. Still, for those who are still reading, I’ll continue down this path further.

For the past year, there’s a parenting trick that I’ve been implementing with my teenage daughter. And yes, I am 100% THAT mom which I am okay with. My daughter is full of big emotions, she is fiercely independent, and like any growing, angst-ridden, hormonally-charged but not fully developed human, life can feel really hard at times. She can fly off the handle in weird ways at weird times overreacting to the littlest thing despite also being the kindest, most empathetic, emotionally mature teenager at the same time. I know that every parent of a growing child can relate to these maddening paradigms and parenting challenges.

Anyway, she’s never been a cuddler but like anyone needs physical touch so I have to devise sneaky ways to get that in, like squashing together on the couch during movie night. I know that when she is in a confused emotional rage that she needs it then too, maybe even more so. So when she starts spouting insanity and flipping her lid I’ve implemented the worst of all “punishments”, a 20-second hug (which is a really long time) followed by eye contact and each saying “I love you” to one another. Horrible but awesome, right? She knows that if she goes insane, I’m coming for her. She resists it at first but then melts into it and then her emotions feel more accessible to her, she can start to process what she is feeling, we can talk about it together, we can diffuse the situation.

I believe in body autonomy. I am only advocating for this if ground rules have been agreed upon ahead of time (not during a heightened emotional tug of war). Yes, it will probably cause your child to roll their eyes severely at you being “extra” and annoying and “the worst mom in the whole world” but then they might at times also tell you that you are the best mom like mine does at times too.

Why the 20-second hug? Well, research shows that when it is done between loved ones, it is proven to lower reactivity to stressful events and that each of us needs between 5 and 8 hugs a day to be happier. And why the eye contact? Because research says it creates a “calming, connected state of being” as well.

So, back to my positive visioning exercise, before drifting off to bed, I started imagining the faces that I had been seeing in articles, the faces of these people who confuse and upset me with their opposite values, who seem to be acting out in a crazy rage and I imagined hugging them for 20-seconds until they melted into it. Then I imagined looking them in their eyes and telling them “I love you”.

Crazy, right? But leaning into more positive feelings and love did make me feel a little better. What if that’s what we need to do to both remind ourselves that each of us is only human but also to re-balance all the stifling pressure of hostile emotions at present?

I’m absolutely advocating for change, advocating for taking agency and ownership and using your voice and I am 100% not okay with what is currently happening. This is in no way suggesting that all these hippie-dippie feel-good exercises replace accountability. Still, when it feels like the world is focused on anger, confusion, and resentment, what harm could it do? What’s the harm in trying especially if it makes me feel more compassionate overall? Maybe in some alternate universe or even this one, those energy waves reach them and help to disarm the insanity even if by only a micro-level. Who knows? I’m open to the possibility.

And there is another thing I say to my daughter that applies here: I’ve taught her that when she goes temporarily emotionally insane and bursts out into anger over seemingly nothing that she is afraid of something but maybe she doesn’t know what. That when each of us reacts this way at times they are like a “bull in a china shop” breaking everything around them because they are spooked. I ask her to consider “what is she afraid of”?

So, to this, I wonder what are the people who are making audacious, overwhelming, anarchistic choices that make no common sense afraid of? And to me, it feels that the answer is that they are probably afraid of change, that they are probably reacting to a sense of unfairness in their own lives, a shift in power dynamics that don’t benefit them anymore or haven’t for a long time so they are trying to reclaim it at any cost. They are afraid of losing control. Ironic right?

As Newton discovered “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So what would happen if we reacted in a different way?

What is A Vision Board & How To Make One

A vision board is simply a visual collage of inspiration that you have collected and put together into a new assemblage. The goal of a vision board is to tap into your most intuitive self and let your feelings and the things that you are naturally attracted to resonate with you and remind you of a part of yourself that is not always easy to access.

Some of us are naturally more intuitive than others but all of us spend a lot of our days consuming other people’s content and reading words, and trying to make sense of the things we are taking in. And for all of us our intuition can get buried when we are stressed and overwhelmed. Though we take in a lot of stimulation and process a lot of thoughts, we are less often curating our own worlds based on the things that move us deeply.

Some people believe that creating a vision board will help you to manifest your dreams and wishes and while I will leave that up to you to decide, it is undoubtedly true that when we see the things that move us and are reminded of them, we are more likely to pursue them and seek them out for ourselves and bring them into our lives.

I like to go about making a vision board loosely and not overthink it. My vision boards are oftentimes filled with colors and textures and sometimes words, but mostly they evoke a feeling. Seeing a finished piece with all these things that feel good in one place will make you feel more aligned with yourself. Somehow the act of curating visuals in this way feels like a roadmap back to yourself. It unlocks an intuitive appreciation in a way that is hard to articulate, that exists more on a visceral level. And even if all of this sounds too esoteric for you, it is a relaxing and enjoyable activity to start a new year and a good way to get out of your head if you’re stressed and overwhelmed with the news and just the state of things in general.

To make a vision board all you need are old magazines or visuals, a glue stick or tape (or any way to attach the images you cut out to the paper), scissors, and a piece of paper or poster board (or cardboard – use what you have on hand). Once you’ve cut out an assortment of imagery, words, textures, colors, etc. that inspire you, repaste them onto one piece of paper or poster board collage style. Don’t overthink it, just feel, just do, just use your hands and see what emerges.

If you don’t have access to supplies and want to create a digital version, Pinterest is a great resource as well as the graphics program Canva. I still prefer to do this exercise by hand as I think the tactile making process is more satisfying.

There are various ways people use vision boards and you could create more intentional ones as well related to specific goals: finances, your home, etc, but for me the exercise is as much about tapping into the intuitive as it is about “seeing” the future.

When you are done, stick the vision board somewhere where you will see it often and be reminded of what you are drawn to. Alternatively, or additionally, you could take a picture with your phone and save it as your phone or desktop wallpaper.

That’s it, super easy. You are done with this very low threshold activity, you have made your first vision board! You are now one step closer to manifesting a more aligned future or at the very least having created a craft that is contemplative and soothing.

This is a great activity to do with a group of friends. The pictures above are from the beginning of last year when we were able to congregate together at Gather Goods Co in-person but this idea could easily be replicated virtually. Just grab your friends, some snacks, some magazines, and gab and collage at the same time. And, if you do decide to host your own virtual vision board party, send me pictures or tag me on Instagram. I’d love to see!

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

When Silence Is Betrayal – Why It is Important To Speak Up About What Matters To Us And Make The World A Safer Place

I shared these thoughts about last night’s events of the storming of the Capitol on my personal facebook page this morning but felt that it was worth sharing them here too:

My friend Ahmed put it eloquently: “But the ones that deserve the most blame are the ones who voted for him. Every single one of you knew this would happen and knew this group of violent extremists would be brought out front, and you were fine with it. We told you this would happen, that this is what he’s really about, and you were still fine with it.” This gets to the root of my feelings about the election, that no matter what else, voting for Trump is/was saying that this rhetoric, this culture, this POV is not just accepted but literally endorsed.

And while the people who stormed the Capitol with their wooden gallows and confederate flags may have been outliers, they are still representative of the party as a whole being willing to not just accept but incite this thinking. 147 representatives (almost all white men) STILL voted to overturn the election results even after and probably because of yesterday’s actions. If the people storming the Capitol were outliers, these representatives believe they should be the voice of the party, regardless.

I believe a third party or a new Republican Party is necessary for our democracy to sustain itself and that without it, this extreme, theatrical, violent, and domineering ideology will only escalate. To associate yourself with it in its current form is both shocking and disturbing. It was before and it is even more so now. If you believe otherwise and are willing to own up to your vote, message me privately, but as it stands, I can’t see any other perspective, and that’s frankly saying a lot from me.

Courage means being willing to look at our own blind spots and values and stand up for what’s right. It means having to draw some hard lines in the sand and pick some values over others as more important right now in this current moment and for the future health of others. It means breaking away from things that are broken and wrong and using your sphere of influence to accept, acknowledge and admit to yourself and others that you were wrong, and that you are willing to change, that you are willing to make hard choices for the betterment of the world and not just for yourself.

History repeats itself. We have a violent and disturbing past to use as a guide but even in our sordid past, this has never happened before. At what point will standing up for what’s right be too little too late? Our leaders must be held accountable. We as individuals must be held accountable. As Martin Luther King, Jr said “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”