Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, poetry, Quotes, Random Thoughts

Little…but Add Up

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” George Eliot

After the long two hour commute was dragged to three hours by being held up in the traffic, the mental list of “things to do” kept on going longer than the usual. Consequently while walking into home after doing the daily grocery shopping, instead of the expected mess in the kitchen, it was a pleasant surprise to witness the orderliness at the domestic front. With my “better half” in charge, the kids had instructed me to put my feet and to enjoy the hot steaming cup of Joe. Though eventually the domestic front had to be tackled, the few minutes of silence and solitude improved the frame of mind.

“The small things of life were often so much bigger than the great things . . . the trivial pleasure like cooking, one’s home, little poems especially sad ones, solitary walks, funny things seen and overheard.” Barbara Pym

One never realizes the importance of the little events of the day that stay etched in the mind. The recollections turn up at the most unusual moments. For the inner strength during difficult moments, the support when the temporary setbacks mount up and the drive to go ahead, all have few of their rots in the little moments of life, which now become among the treasured memories of happiness to give comfort and light for the rainy days.

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Little Things
Mary Dawson Hughes

It really is the little things
That mean the most of all…
The “let me help you with that” things
That may seem very small
The “I’ll be glad to do it” things
That make your cares much lighter,
The “laugh with me, it’s funny” things
That make your outlook brighter…

The “never mind the trouble” things,
The “yes, I understand,”
The interest and encouragement
In everything you’ve planned
It really is the little things,
The friendly word or smile,
That add such happiness to life
And make it more worth while.

Posted in Daily, Life, Stories Around the World

Plant the Right Seed

To stick to one’s own internal policy is never easy, especially in the modern world where the temptations are too strong and the lure to be “the important one” quite potent. Which is why when any event or project happens; versions vary a lot, the outcome goes tangentially way off the expected on the downward spiral and tensions cause plenty unrest. In short, somewhere along the way of growth, success, achievement and modernism; the core principles of integrity, respect, honour, kindness and humaneness have been lost. While each one pursues their own versions of truth; eventually the masks will fall off and the bare bones of evidences will expose themselves. By then, if the path travelled is on the right grounds, one can safely move ahead with integrity and above all, peace of mind.

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” Spencer Johnson

“The emperor grew old in one eastern country and realized that it was time to choose a successor. But instead of nominating a successor from among one of his assistants or his heirs, he decided to choose something else. All the young people who only lived in the empire, he asked to come together in one day. When everyone gathered together, the emperor addressed the young people with these words: “I am already old, it’s time for me to resign. We need to choose the next emperor. I decided to choose one of you. ”
The children of the emperor were shocked! But the emperor continued. “Today I am going to give each of you one seed. These are seeds of very special plants. I want you to sow the seeds, pour water on them, and a year later, starting today, you must return here to grow from these seeds. Then I will compare the plants you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor! ”

One young man named Ling was also at the emperor’s reception that day, and he, like the others, received the seeds. He went home and anxiously told his mother about everything that had happened in the palace. Mama Ling helped the young man pick up the pot and soil for the plant, he sowed the seed and poured it. Every day he watered him, looked after him and watched if the sprouts appeared. After about three weeks, other young people started talking about their seeds and plants, which began to grow. Ling continued to check his seed, but nothing grew. It took another 3 weeks, then 4 weeks, then 5 weeks … However, nothing grew in Ling’s pot. While all the other young people were talking about their plants, about how fast they grow, Ling didn’t have anything, and he felt like a loser. Half a year has passed, but even a tiny sprout did not appear in Ling’s pot. With bitterness in his heart, he was forced to admit to himself that he had ruined his seed. However, Ling said nothing to his friends. He simply continued to wait, in the depths of his soul hoping that his seed would grow.

Finally, the year ended, and young people from all over the empire brought their plants to the emperor for testing. At first Ling told his mother that he was not going to carry an empty pot to the palace. But his mother advised the young man to be honest, to tell how everything happened, and although Ling felt devastated, in his heart he knew that his mother was right. He took his empty pot and went to the palace. Coming to the emperor, Ling was amazed at the variety of plants grown by other young people. They were beautiful, varied in shape and size. Ling put the empty pot on the floor and everyone started laughing at him. Some felt sorry for him, and they simply said: “Hey, well, that I tried.” Then the emperor entered the hall and greeted the young people. Ling tried to hide behind the backs of others.

“There are three constants in life . . . change, choice and principles.” Stephen Covey

“Well done! What magnificent plants, trees and flowers you have grown, ”said the emperor,“ Today one of you will be appointed emperor! ”Suddenly, in the depths of the hall, the emperor noticed Ling and his empty pot. He ordered the guard to lead him forward. Ling was terrified. “The emperor knows that I am a loser!” – he thought. “Maybe he will order me to be executed?” The guards brought Ling forward, and the emperor asked him his name. “My name is Ling,” he answered timidly. Everyone laughed. The emperor asked everyone to calm down, and then looked at Ling, and declared: “Here is your new emperor! His name is Ling! ”

Ling could not believe his ears. After all, he could not even grow his seed. How could he have been chosen by the new emperor?

Then the emperor said: “Exactly a year ago, I distributed the seeds to all those present here. I ordered you to take the seeds, plant them, water them, and come back to me today. But I gave you all the boiled seeds that could not germinate. All of you, with the exception of Ling, brought me trees, plants and flowers. When you realized that the seed would not grow, you replaced the seed that I gave you. Ling was the only one whose courage and honesty was enough to bring me a pot with my seed. That is why he will be the new emperor! ”

“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Nelson Mandela

Posted in Daily, Life, poetry, Quotes, Random Thoughts

Silent to Listen

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.” Leonora Carrington

With rising rays bringing forth the day, when the world around is absent of the daily noise from the street, appliances and speech; the music of nature can be heard. From the distant chirping of the birds to the quiet flutter of the leaves, fall of the coloured leaves and the fleeing swish of the patio curtains by the wandering breeze; all highlight how many things can be heard when the fruitless chatter ceases and one learns to listen.

“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.” Gustave Flaubert

Reflecting back, there may be many instances when one may have lost out on not really listening. Missed notes during meetings or sessions, wrong information imparted, silent indicators to the tenuousness of relationships and worse, misinterpretations as a consequence of the impatience attached to listening and the constant hurry. On the other hand, there have been occasions wherein one keeps silent when the right words would have been necessary to set things right. The pans on the balance may swing on either side.

Yet many are on the chase, than learning to listen, learn from the silence and live the dream. As one ages, the realization that the constant run may cause one to miss out on what has been there along the road. By the time, one realizes that we do need to stop at the right rest points to rejuvenate; the path travelled may have gone too far away from the right course. While the old bones try to remap their course and regain the silence to refresh; the younger ones should learn to appreciate their silent sources at hand, which help one to grow, rejuvenate and learn from the yesteryear.

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” Lao Tzu

Learn To Be Quiet
You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
– Franz Kafka

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Splash of White

“I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee.” Carly Simon

For coffee connoisseurs around the globe, knowing the exact coffee-lingo is a must. Following the dictum of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, coffee lingo too changes as per place. Be it the espresso macchiato or the Caffè macchiato (not the latte macchiato) or the “café pingado”, all routes lead to another coffee concoction.

Known as espresso macchiato or Caffè macchiato (latter in Italy), it is essentially an espresso coffee drink with a small amount of milk (usually foamed) in it. The origin of this drink could be possibly attributed to the baristas which needed to show their serving waiters the difference between an espresso and the effect to it after a little bit of milk was added to it. The purpose was to just mark or stain the espresso. In Italian, macchiato means “stained” or “spotted” so the literal translation of caffè macchiato is “stained” or “marked coffee.” Moving over to the Portuguese version of this drink where it is renamed as “café pingado” literally translated to coffee with a drop. Although in Mexico, it is called a cortada, the latter terminology mayn’t be used in other countries as it meant for another coffee beverage with a higher amount of milk in it as compared to the macchinato.

“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.” Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

As compared with any other similar coffee drink with milk, the caffè macchiato has the highest ratio of espresso to milk. The key to a perfect macchiato lies in getting the quantities right. As the name suggests, this coffee should contain just a splash of milk, which is added to pure espresso. The traditional macchiato is about one and a quarter ounce that is one ounce of espresso with a small amount (around one to two teaspoons) of milk, the latter is mostly steamed with slight foam so there is a visible mark. The purpose of the milk is to enhance in moderation (rather than being overwhelming), preserving the bold flavour and the taste of the coffee while adding a delicate touch of sweetness (as an alternative to added sugar).

For coffee cognoscente attention to details are required for the preferred coffee. While an average cappuccino has an 1:2 ratio and latte has a 1:3 ratio of espresso to milk, the average size espresso macchiato has a 2:1 ratio. To prepare the drink at home or in a semi-professional barista set-up, a single shot of espresso is poured into a demitasse (a small espresso cup) and then a splash of hot milk is added. Few recipes suggest adding 1–2 teaspoons (approx. 5 to 10 grams) of milk heated to 140 to 150°F (60–66°C). Heating the milk so, would introduce steam into the milk causing the fats to expand and develop a layer of little bubbles like a “micro-foam.” This is most often done using an espresso machine and a steam wand.

For a change, as the autumn showers run by and the cold wintry winds approaching soon, the scent and flavours of coffee maybe enjoyed the “macchiato” way. As any javaphile would agree, those little beans can liven up the day at any hour or moment of time.

“To espresso or to latte, that is the question…whether ’tis tastier on the palate to choose white mocha over plain…or to take a cup to go. Or a mug to stay, or extra cream, or have nothing, and by opposing the endless choice, end one’s heartache.” Jasper Fforde

   

      

Posted in Daily, Life, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes

Colours Across the Path

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Being in the tropics, the time of fall isn’t as colourful as the temperate areas. Though the winds and the rain against the mosaic of colours still mark the season of autumn. Collecting the leaves for my toddler’s scrapbook is never a job too tedious or tiring. Coming across each leaf with their own shape and colours, even though dead, each leaf has their own beauty and story to say.

“If only humans could die like the autumn leaves, with a splash of beauty and the promise of another season.” Shana Chartier

Each leaf has a story of their origin through spring, summer and travel across the wind. Each leaf may have seen the good and the bad. Some leaves may have been the vibrant green placed amongst the fragrance of flowers, while others may have been subject to the town air, of dust and grime. Despite the changes, they follow their course and change their tunes as per the season. No leaf stays the same. Like us, each leaf is subject to change and tune their travel as per the requirement of the elements, never losing out on their initial spark. Little wonder then, that even towards the end of their journey and back to being a part of the earth; they colour the lives around them, bringing joy to the faces and lives around them.

“Leaves grow old gracefully, bring such joy in their last lingering days. How vibrant and bright is their final flurry of life.” Karen Gibbs

An Autumn Leaf
Immanual Joseph

Yesterday, I was the mist of the waterfall
Tomorrow I will be a raindrop
Racing toward my destiny
But today I am the cloud
Floating amidst the mountain peaks
The hangman’s noose is empty
For I am life
I cannot be destroyed
The winds of adversity
Buffet and mould me
Yet I float free
I am freedom
The bird that flits happily
Among olive trees
I am the wind of the evergreen glades
I am boundless
Without secrets, without fear
I am love
The red ferns on mossy grass
I am Now
This hour, eternity
I know no beginning or end
I cannot be destroyed.

“The last dead leaves of fall crackled underfoot, winter-crisp.” Neil Gaiman

Posted in Christian, Daily, poetry, Reflections

Reach Out and Pray

“Trust the unknown to His Hands of the Known”

During the days when things go wrong, such that one feels that the whole world is conspiring against them; it is certain words or emotions that echo through the mind preserving the sanctity and peace. Lost adrift in the rising tide, the options are stark. Cry for help, reach out for the help, cry and splash around in the water drowning in the process or remember HIS Words and pray for HIS Help to hold on to and find a way out.

As one tries to find a wave in the sea to ride along and get back the bearings; reaching out for His Known Hand may be what makes the difference in catching the wave, which helps one to reach the shore safely.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11)

A Plea To The Lord
Rosemary Ammar

I woke up on Monday and looked up at the sky
With a pain in my heart and tears in my eyes
I said “Lord, please help me, I don’t know what to do.
I lost my job, I need some help, I have no one but you.”

The Lord looked down upon me with sadness in his eyes.
“The world is in a sorry state and I apologize.
For all the pain it’s caused you, there’s just one thing I’ll say:
“It’s okay to cry my child, but don’t forget to pray.”

I woke up on Tuesday and looked up at the sky
With a pain in my heart and tears in my eyes
I said “Lord please help me, I don’t know what to do.
The food is scarce, the kids are sick, I have no one but you.

The week dragged by thru Saturday and things seemed worse each day.
I remembered what the Lord said: “It’s okay to cry, but pray”
So I cried and prayed, I cried and prayed, with no relief in sight.
And I went to bed exhausted but couldn’t sleep that night.

I woke up on Sunday and looked up at the sky
With pain in my heart and tears in my eyes
I said “Lord I’ve had enough and I’m about to break
I think I might just end it all, for everybody’s sake.”

“I’ve not deserted you my child, I’ve counted every tear
Your burdens, although heavy, are not more than you can bear
Soon the sun will warm your face and make you smile again
So rest a little easier and trust in me till then.”

Then the Lord reached down and held me in his arms
With a gentle hand he wiped my tears and spoke these words so calm
“My child I love you dearly and have heard you pray your best
But there is no crying on Sunday, it is the day of rest.

I’ve heard you cry, I’ve heard you pray and I will not desert you
Your faith in Me will get you through these tragedies that hurt you.
So rest today and worry not and leave the rest to me
If you do that, I can promise you, the best is yet to be.”

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

As Basic as Bread

One of the after-effects of mixing flour, water and yeast which was later baked had resulted in the preparation of the one of the most staple foods had across different countries of the globe. With the dawn of civilization and agriculture leavened (or in certain areas the unleavened form) bread has become a part of the local cuisine and culture, such that existence without it for a couple of days would be quite unthinkable.

Etymology tracing the roots, the word “bread” originally meant “broken piece” or “morsel”, as evidenced by the appearance of West Frisian brea, Dutch brood, German Brot, Swedish bröd, Norwegian and Danish brød; all a part of the Gemanic languages which had transferred few of it’s roots to the Middle and Modern English. Although “hlaf” was the old English name for bread (hlaifs in Gothic: modern English loaf).

One of the earliest prepared foods, archaeological evidence shows starch residue on rocks. Possibly roots of certain plants (possibly cattails and ferns)were pounded on these rocks for their starch extract, then placed over a fire and cooked, which would be the earliest primitive form of flatbread. With the rise of agriculture ( Neolithic Age) and cultivation of certain plants, cereal may have then been the mainstay of bread making.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” James Beard

Leavening of the bread in the early years may have happened through multiple sources. One possibility would be that leaving the uncooked dough exposed to air for sometime would result in the airborne yeast spores falling in. Another fact is that many yeast spores are naturally found on the surface of cereal grains, so if any dough is left to rest, it may leaven naturally. Records of Pliny the Elder report that the Gauls and Iberians used barm (the foam skimmed from beer) to produce “a lighter kind of bread than other peoples” such as barm cake. Other parts of the ancient world used their knowledge of wine to find a source of yeast, either by making a paste composed of grape juice and flour that was allowed to begin fermenting or wheat bran steeped in wine. Another common source of leavening was to retain a piece of dough from the previous day to use as a form of sourdough starter.

Modern methods of bread making was initiated by the Chorleywood bread process (1961) which uses the intense mechanical working of dough to dramatically reduce the fermentation period and the time taken to produce a loaf. Mostle used on a factory scale, this resulted in bread being easily available on a large scale and in the commercial market.

Alternative to the regular wheat bread, bread may be made from other wheat species like spelt, emmer, einkorn and kamut or made from non-wheat cereals like rye, barley, corn, oats, sorghum, millet and rice have been used to make bread. Although only rye bread can be made exclusive of wheat, others may need a little of wheat flour for binding process. Although for the purpose of preparing gluten-free breads, ground flours from various alternatives like almonds, rice, sorghum, corn, legumes (like besan), tubers (cassava) maybe used. As these flours mayn’t hold their shape as they rise and hence may be dense without the aeration, additives such as corn starch, eggs, xanthan gum and the like are used to compensate for the lack of gluten.

From sliced bread to sourdough loaves, there are a variety of breads being made pertaining to each locality and region like the yeast based anadama bread, hoppers, Scottish bannock, cottage loaf, Austrian kifli, Spanish mollete or the Swiss Zopf to mention a few. There is nothing more satisfying than making own bread once in a while. From the regular bread to short bread, the choice of recipes and methods are plenty. Giving the sweet tooth a rest, it would be an interesting experience to give bread baking a try, may be adding a more individual, experimental and creative touch to it.

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight… [Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating