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"Carrying chi way too farUnless you've been visiting Mars lately, you know that the latest thing in both home and workplace decorating is feng shui, an ancient Chinese system for arranging your surroundings to create balance and harmony in your life. If you get your feng shui right, you'll live with good chi; put your furniture in the wrong place or get the colors wrong and ouch!, bad chi. According to Chinese philosophy, chi is the life force that is everywhere in the universe. Good chi heals, makes life positive, boosts sex drive, instills confidence, makes life pleasant; bad chi creates discord, bratty kids, divorce, bad work attitudes and probably keeps you from being all that you can be. Since it's April, which means thoughts of spring cleaning, I thought I'd at least look into making some changes in the house based on the principles of feng shui. Perhaps it would even improve my attitude about housework, which I consider one of the most useless, mindless, time-consuming but unfortunately necessary of all human endeavors. Only when I can no longer tolerate the untidiness will I do whatever is necessary to restore order and cleanliness, so I thought it possible that we were attracting bad chi because of my bad housework vibes. After all, I reasoned, it can't hurt and just might help. There are a number of suggestions for creating good chi, such as rearranging your furniture in certain ways, repainting your walls with a strong vibrant color such as green, the color of wealth, or purple, the color of mysticism and power. Use mirrors to widen and change your view, trickling water to give a feeling of relaxation and calm, and plants to create a connection with life and bring the outdoors to your indoors.Well, I tried, really I did, but even the mention of green walls turned John purple and when I rearranged the furniture, we both felt constantly as though we were visitors in someone else's house. The big mirrors were a hit and they certainly do change the view, but I'm already out of sorts trying to keep them clean, and the next grandchild who leaves smeary handprints across those mirrors is going to get her feng shui put straight in a hurry. As for the trickling water, a couple of coats of paint (but not green or purple) should cover the water stains, right? So now I'm reduced to counting on plants to fix up my chi. I've always had plants around, lots of them, and they seem to thrive in spite of my benign neglect, so perhaps that part is working. I'll let you know after I throw out the Boston Fern that keeps dropping little brown bits all over the floor and which got so big and unruly I can't water it anymore.Recently, however, something happened that changed my entire attitude about feng shui. Anyone who knows me or who has read this column over the years knows how I feel about ironing, the most #%&@, thankless, tedious bit of all housework. So you can imagine the state of my chi the day I read that Rowenta, maker of one of the world's finest (and most expensive) irons, now includes with each new iron a little brochure entitled The Feng Shui of Ironing. Yes, that's what I said, The Feng Shui of Ironing for crying out loud! It got worse. I quote: ...A wrinkle is actually 'tension' in the fabric. Releasing the tension by removing the wrinkle improves the flow of chi.I'm happy to say that my tension was relieved and the flow of my chi greatly improved the very moment I threw out the iron. RecipesIf there's one room in your house where you need to have good chi, it's the kitchen. I do believe that anger, discord, tension and resentment can flow into whatever you're preparing, often causing dishes to go wrong, food to burn unexpectedly and flavors to turn bitter or bland. If you find yourself banging the pots around, slamming cupboard doors and yelling at the kids to get in here and help, it might be better to walk into another room, pick up the phone and order a pizza, then get out your iron and release the tension by removing some wrinkles. Sure, and if you believe that...Anyway, here are a couple of easy, light springtime recipes that can't help but improve the flow of good chi when you put them on the table.Lemony Poppyseed Muffins3 1/2 cups flour1 T. baking powder1/2 t. baking soda1/2 t. salt1 1/2 cups sugarGrated rind of 2 lemons1 cup milk1/4 cup lemon juice2 eggs1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter1/4 to 1/2 cup poppyseed (to your preference)Lemony syrup1/2 cup sugar3/4 cup waterRind of 1 lemon1/4 cup lemon juiceMake syrup: Combine sugar, water, lemon rind and juice in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cover and boil over medium heat for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar; stir well. In a small bowl, combine lemon rind, milk, lemon juice and eggs. Stir well. Add egg mixture and melted butter and poppyseed to dry ingredients. Stir quickly, just enough to combine.Pour batter into 18 greased muffin cups, filling almost to top. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven about 20 minutes, until rounded and golden. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. While muffins are still warm, use a thin skewer or fork with long, thin tines to poke holes in each muffin, almost all the way through. Spoon some of the syrup over the muffins, letting it run into the holes, then spooning on a bit more. Serve while still warm, or allow to cool completely (the syrup will set up a bit). Roasted Tomato Seafood Soup20 plum tomatoes4 T. olive oil1 T. chopped fresh basil leaves1 T. chopped fresh tarragon leaves1 T. chopped fresh cilantro1 qt. chicken stockSalt and freshly ground pepper to taste1 t. each cumin and coriander powder18 shrimp, peeled and deveined, if necessary18 scallopsPeel the tomatoes (dip in boiling water, then slip off skin). Cut in halves, rub halves with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, tarragon and parsley. Place tomato halves in a pan and roast in a 250 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove tomatoes from oven and puree in food processor or food mill. Place tomato puree in a stock pot, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt, pepper, coriander and cumin; reduce to a simmer.In a saute pan, heat a bit more olive oil and in it sear the scallops and shrimp, cooking just until barely done (do not overcook; shrimp should just curl and turn pink; scallops should just turn opaque). Serve immediately: Place 3 shrimp and 3 scallops in six warmed bowls; ladle hot soup over shrimp/scallops and top with avocado slices and/or corn tortilla strips and cilantro sprigs. "