My Love Is Your Love

Whitney.

I don’t even know where to start. I can say that she had a smile that makes me smile. A voice that gives me goosebumps. A spirit that can’t be held by any speaker or TV screen. A beauty that was obviously deeper than the skin.

I’m no bandwagon jumper. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston. My mom loved her pre-Bodyguard, 80’s hits best. My grandma watched The Bodyguard at least once a month for years (in part because she thought Kevin Costner was the FINEST thing back then and she SWEARS if Whitney didn’t love Bobby, she would have been with him instead).

I read “Waiting to Exhale” as a precocious child. As an adult, I own a meager 15 or so DVDs and I count the cinematic version, starring Whitney, as one of them.

As a pre-teen, I sung in the church choir. One of my favorite songs to sing around the holidays was Whitney’s “Who Would Imagine A King.” I love the lyrics…”Mommies and daddies always believe, that their little angels are special indeed. And they can grow up to be aaaaanything, but who would imagine A KING?”

At home, Christmas is never complete until Whitney’s rendition of “Joy to the World” comes on WDAS. It feels me with joy and makes me want to worship something crazy.

My favorite Whitney album is “My Love Is Your Love.” The title song always made me think about my mom. As an adult, it has added meaning that is equally special.

So, when my aunt sent me a text that simply said “Whitney Houston died,” I started seeing double. I scrolled my phone over to Twitter for confirmation and my heart dropped. That night, I shared Whitney memories with everyone else, and in doing so, the reality of the situation felt surreal.

It was two nights later as I wound down from a rather easy, pleasant day at work that I burst into tears. And I just laid on my bed and cried. It was a good cry — the kind that cleanses and soothes all at the same time.

I was good after that — until the end of her funeral yesterday. When the pallbearers hoisted Whitney’s casket onto their shoulders, my eyes filled right up. I guess on the inside, I felt a little of what Ray J felt. Once her body passed him by, he just looked back and the expression on his face said “Are you serious?!? Will I really never see her again?” That’s how I felt.

That’s the feeling you get when you see a loved-one wheeled away or lowered into the ground. You know that’s it forever. And that is much to bear. Much. So yes, I am a Whitney Houston fan and I will be for the rest of my life. But I am also apart of her extended family. And I wish her safe travels on her way to paradise.

I am not in any position to judge any decision she made during the course of her life. I am truly angered by people who have dwelled on her trials and tribulations. In general, I can’t stand holier-than-thou people. We have all fallen short of the glory of God.

As New Jersey governor Chris Christie said after being criticized for ordering all flags flown at half-mast in Whitney’s honor,  “There but for the grace of God go I.” And it’s true. You can be up today, and down tomorrow. Alive today, and dead tomorrow. Remember that before you judge.

I will say that Whitney has been described on the number of specials that have aired this week as having a heart of gold, a generous nature, and a down-to-Earth way that made all those around her feel comfortable and loved. This comes as no surprise to me. I have no doubts that someone as genuine as she will have any trouble getting into heaven.

In any case, I know that Whitney would want me to stay focused on the positive, continue to love, maintain a strong relationship with God, and to live my life with bold courage, a resolute spirit and an open heart.

Thank you, Whitney. Your anointed voice and the example you set by loving effortlessly will be with me forever.

Jam-Packed Peppers

So, in efforts to step out the box a smidge, I decided to try a new recipe. This recipe does require a bit of prep before cooking, so make sure you have about 30 mins. to spare. What I like about this dish is that there is room for change to suit individual tastes and it hits every category in the food pyramid (sans fats, oils and sugar) for maximum nutritional benefit.

What You’ll Need

  • 6 bell peppers
  • olive oil
  • butter or margarine
  • red onion
  • mushrooms
  • diced fresh or canned tomato
  • any kind of tomato sauce you’d like (1 1/2 jars)
  • garlic powder or crushed garlic
  • oregano
  • basil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ground meat (preferably turkey, but use beef if you’re into that)
  • rice (I like jasmine or basmati for this dish, but brown or white rice will work, too)
  • one egg
  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • shredded cheddar cheese

What To Do

Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds and membranes. Chop edible part of tops and set aside. Rinse peppers under cold water. Place peppers in a large pot; cover with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain peppers and set aside.Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Sauté chopped green pepper (from tops), mushrooms and chopped onion for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, basil,  salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg with a little salt and pepper, ketchup and mustard. Next time I am going to try Worcestershire sauce instead of ketchup and mustard. Gently stir to blend; add ground meat, cooked rice, and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix well.

Stuff the bottom third of the peppers with meat mixture and then pour the tomato mixture into the pepper. Add more meat mixture. Place the peppers in a 3-quart baking dish. The peppers may need to lean against each other to stay upright — it doesn’t hurt anything. Top off remaining tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 350° for 60 to 70 minutes. Top stuffed peppers with a little shredded Cheddar cheese about 5 minutes before peppers are done; bake until cheese is melted.

Recipe for stuff pepper will probably serve 6. I was full after one.

How To Eat

Dig in! Some people will probably avoid the pepper altogether but after I ate what was inside, I did pull apart the pepper a bit with my fork and ate about one-third of it. Yum!

Places to Try: Smith Commons and Tuscana West

So, I don’t get out much. But the last couple weekends, I’ve been able to venture out and enjoy some of what D.C. has to offer. I tried out two new places that I’ve never been before — not because I’m an explorative visionary but because that’s where my friends took me. Either way, I recommend both venues for a good time:

Smith Commons

Up until a couple of years ago, H St. NE was nothing to write home about…unless you were a journalist writing a news story about urban decay or crime. However, the neighborhood has always been filled by great residents who take pride in and love their community. With revitalization efforts, the feel of the community is now matched by looks. Although many residents complain that gentrification is pushing them out of their neighborhood, and their concerns are valid, businesses like Smith Commons has brought jobs, capital and vibrant life to the H St. Corridor.

Smith Commons blends the restaurant, bar and club scene with warmth and class. The staff is friendly and has a camaraderie with their regulars. One bartender even noted that while he’d seen my friend, Carmen, once before — I was a first-timer. The drinks come at a reasonable price, especially since they are as tasty as they are potent. The crowd is mixed — expect to see all colors and hear a varied genres of music within a half-hour’s time. The first floor is definitely about dining and chatting. Once you head up the steps, the chatting continues but you will have to talk louder because the music is in full effect.

I wouldn’t say this is the place to go if you want to work up a sweat and back it up all night, but the vibe is unique in that everyone is clearly flowing with the music in an obvious way that doesn’t include too many moves being busted. As a foodie, I am ashamed to say that I didn’t order any food because I had already eaten. But I did scan all the tables around me and every dish I saw looked yummy. No worries, I will be back to partake and an update shall follow!

Tuscana West

During the day and on most evenings, Tuscana West is a romantico ristorante italiano. On Saturday nights, however, it’s apparently a poppin’ nightclub. Now, most of the clubs I go to are in the general area of Tuscana West (I St./McPherson Square) but I’d never heard of this place until an hour before I walked through the doors. I didn’t know what to expect. My unfamiliarity automatically led me to presume lameness. As soon as I crossed the threshold, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

The club is spacious with a few bars and ample dance room. VIP tables are available and the decor can be described as colorful, modern chic with a hint of romance. Like Smith Commons, the crowd is mixed but I heard all the current hip-hop hits thanks to DJ Quicksilva. If you aren’t from the D.C. area, let me acquaint you with this deejay — he’s hot. He has a radio show. He was a Pepsi deejay. He can mix. He gets the party going. The end. So I danced and danced and danced. And drank and drank and drank. All that being said, I will be going back to take in more details and see if my first experience was a fluke or if this really is a go-to for a great time.

The Grey — Not As Dull As The Color

So I saw Liam Neeson’s latest, “The Grey,” and I must say — it’s my kind of movie. Lots of action accompanied by rich dialogue that gets the viewer thinking about life. This is a rare mix so naturally, I was in cinematic heaven. “The Grey” is a movie some people may not be able to appreciate. The setting bounces between the Alaskan wilderness (read: snow + forest) and Neeson’s flashbacks to a crowded pub and the serene bedroom he once shared with his sweetheart. The plot, at first glance, is just as monochromatic. But as the characters fight against bitter cold, hopelessness and ravenous wolves the size of wooly mammoths, you’ll watch them discover more than the uncharted terrain can offer.