Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Personal Musings, poetry, Quotes, Reflections

Transition: From Old to New

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on.” Hal Borland

Approaching the last day of this year, flashbacks are imminent and although the proportions may vary by marked degrees, both happiness, contentment laced with sorrows and regrets cloud the mind. As the New Year celebrations swing into full force, there is an underlying feeling of “expectations of something new” in the mind. Yet when the first day of the next year turns out to be something of the normal or later as the month returns to the normal tune; one has the tendency to be swamped by the “absence of something” which is of course our expectations. Despite having the fun and partying to ring in the year, eventually when things return back to the usual; one often wonders what all the partying and revelry drew in. On one hand, we we do celebrate the new, yet on the other hand; the newness wears off, too quickly at times.

“Develop An Attitude Of Gratitude This Year, And Give Thanks For Everything That Happens To You, Knowing That Every Step Forward Is A Step Toward Achieving Something Bigger And Better Than Your Current Situation.” Brian Tracy

The beauty of the new year lies in welcoming the coming days with grace, gratitude, love, thoughtfulness and kindness. Celebrations have always been a part of our days since the formation of societies and building of civilizations. Yet it is when we lose sight of the ground that we fall too hard into the monotonous tone of the usual. Even though we partake in the fun of the New Year, recalling to mind the Grace and Blessings of the year gone, helps us to start the fresh year with new perspectives, hope and dreams.

– What happens in the world? – And just winter.
– Just winter, you think? – I guess.
After all, I myself, as I am able,
lay traces in your early sleeping homes.
– What is behind all this? – And it will be January.
– It will be January, do you think? – Yes, I think.
I’ve been reading this white book for a long time,
this old snowman with pictures of a blizzard.
– What is all this over? – It will be April.
– It will be April, are you sure? – Yes, I am sure.
I have already heard, and this rumor is checked by me,
as if in a grove the flute was ringing today.
– What follows from this? – It is necessary to live,
sew sundresses and light dresses from calico.
– Do you think all this will be worn?
– I believe that all this should be sewn.
It should be sewn, because, no matter how blizzard or circling,
its bondage and opal are short-lived.
So allow me, in honor of the New Year’s ball,
to offer your hand to the dance, madam, to you!
The silver month, the ball with the candle inside
and the carnival masks – in a circle, in a circle.
The waltz begins. Give, madam, a hand,
and – one-two-three, one-two-three,
one-two-three, one-two-three! ..

Yuri Levitansky

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Posted in Life, Personal Musings, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Notion to Concept : Resolutions

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been. Rainer Maria Rilke

With the year coming to a close, the most frequently asked question and the most discussed topic, besides the plans for the new year, are if one has made any new resolutions for the next year. The tradition of “New Year’s Resolutions” simply translates into a list of resolves to change the undesired characteristics, traits or behaviour, as well as to accomplish one’s list of personal goals, wishes or dreams. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t technically a new age phenomenon or a modern trend.

“Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.” Neil Gaiman

As far as history has traced to approximately 4000 years ago, early Babylonians made promises to their gods at the beginning of each year to return the borrowed and pay their dues. Similar trend was seen among the Romans as well. Fast forwarding to the medieval era, knights re-affirmed their commitment to chivalry every year by taking the “peacock vow” at end of the Christmas season. There are many religious parallels especially in Judaism, the Lent season where one has to reflect on one’s wrongdoings and make amends.

“Move out of you comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” Brian Tracy

Yet the trend caught on especially at the end of the Great Depression where more people began to make New Year Resolutions. While research has shown that resolution made during the new year were more likely to succeed, each one has their own story and version of events. All said, if we decide to make them keeping them short, simple, targeted and realistic, will make the resolutions happen. For being human we need to look forward to something each day and resolutions give the hope that things do change when we try.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, And next year’s words await another voice.” T.S. Eliot

Posted in Life, Quotes, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Feed which Wolf

The two wolves

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather answered: “The one I feed.”

For those of us who are avid readers of cartoons, comic strips and the “kids fun pages” in the newspaper, may have heard of the famous line, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” These words I first came across when I read Popeye, the Sailor. The truth we become what we feed ourselves. Our actions echo what our thoughts dwell in. The behaviour and our outlook reflects the character that lives as a result of what we think and believe in.

Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you. Joel Osteen

In our lives we come across many situations and people. With the unpredictable nature of time, if we react to everything then we end up being buried in a quagmire of bad thoughts and emotions. Instead on dealing with unpleasantness, glean off the bad parts and only retain the better sections. Let the words enter through one ear and exit the other, bypassing the cortical cells which store the memories and words. To an extent while we can’t control what others say to us, what we can control is our reaction to it. Retain the better parts, for those will sustain us. If the bad parts hold no truth, then leave it. Yet if they are mistakes on our part, it’s easier to accept our faults when genuine and then move in. For staying stuck in a rut, is no way to live life.

I realized that if my thoughts immediately affect my body, I should be careful about what I think. Now if I get angry, I ask myself why I feel that way. If I can find the source of my anger, I can turn that negative energy into something positive. Yoko Ono

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Winter, Soup and Holidays

“What a marvelous resource soup is for the thrifty cook – it solves the ham-bone and lamb-bone problems, the everlasting Thanksgiving turkey, the extra vegetables.” Julia Child

With the season’s celebrations underway, one of the ideal ways to put the extra meat and vegetables to good use is to make them into soup. From the clear soups ( bouillon, consomme) to thick (purees, bisques, veloutes) soups are a consistent favourite with many. Its origins can be traced back to the Roman Era as evidenced by use of the middle English word “soup” from the Old French “soupe” which in turn is derived from “suppa” of Late Latin of Germanic roots. Additionally evidence of existence of soup can be found to as early as 20,000 BC with the discovery of the technique of “boiling” and waterproof jars. Yet since then, soup has been revolutionized to the traditions, customs, flavours, taste as well as style of the local cuisine to the extent that soup is not simply a starter or appetizer but also eaten as dessert or with fruit, as well as being served hot or cold.

“Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics; and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.” Marge Kennedy

Come December with the cold and snow, there’s nothing more apt than having pepper pot soup. This soup made from scraps meat and peppercorn had gained mass popularity during the Revolutionary War days in Colonial America. As the legend goes, during the battle of Valley Forge in an exceptionally cold harsh winter of 1777-78, food was often scarce and conditions deplorable. The soldiers were low on food and Christopher Ludwick, a baker general of the Continental Army, gathered whatever food he could scrounge together to feed the cold and frail soldiers. Gathering scraps of tripe, meat, and some peppercorn, he mixed the ingredients together with some other seasonings and created the hot, thick, and spicy soup we now know as pepper pot soup. It quickly became known as “the soup that won the war” as the soup gave the soldiers the warmth and strength that they needed to push the enemies back through the harsh winter weather.

It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it. M. F. K. Fisher

From the Belgian Waterzool to the Russian Solyanka, Vietnamese Pho, Partan bree of Scotland; each country, place and local cuisine have their own version of soup of meat and vegetables. Whichever name it may be by, essentially soups ward off the wintry chill satisfying not just the palate and hunger, but also keep us simply warm, comfortable and nice.

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Balancing the Scale

Post Christmas and as a part of the year end festive, some of us may discover that a new wardrobe might come in order if the continue on the path of festive eating. The whole point of holidays is to have fun and enjoy. Yet the post-holiday guilt is disheartening and clings onto to our conscience, taunting us with every bite we take, unless we learn to numb it or have a back up plan in place to keep us still healthy and fit. There are a few tips and tricks that I plan to put into place before the guilt strikes with a fury.

Don’t dig your grave with your own knife and fork. ~English proverb

Remember the old dictum for healthy eating, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a peasant. While it may be difficult putting this into daily practice, there are ways around it. For holidays try proportioning the meals as well as desserts; then we would be able to stick to the rule.

The key of having fun with food and controlling our portions is to experiment a bit as well as sit down to mindful eating. Even though you are alone for lunch or dinner, instead of mindless snacking or eating from the fridge, set the table for a meal for one and enjoy your food with plenty of light and proper cutlery. When the whole family is in, set the table and sit down for a proper meal.

While many of us hit the gym or workout during the week, instead of over indulging over the weekends, plan ahead for your weekend parties, trips and drives so as to downsize the calorie intake before the celebratory eating phase.

I definitely try to eat a healthy diet, but I am the first person to say I love unhealthy food. I would never tell you I don’t. I love fried chicken or mac and cheese. Do I order them all the time when I’m out at restaurants? No, though I do have one splurge meal a week. Rachel Nichols

Mix up the healthy and unhealthy foods. For instance try having fried chicken with one serving of rice or bread, adding some colour to the plate with greens or other vegetables. Another mix-up would be having the pizza homemade with a healthy topping of vegetables, meat as well as cheese but limit the portions. Enjoy the large serving of homemade desserts but then remove any added sugars ( especially in tea, coffee and juices) for the rest of the day, limit the remaining portion of carbohydrates and go more for protein and cellulose rich foods to feel full.

Mindless eating whether we are eating to finish off and not waste food, or even munching while talking nineteen to the dozen kills the taste of food and delight of eating. Instead sit down at a place and eat quietly. Even when in a group, occasional comments may be passed but mindless chatter ceases when we concentrate and eat. In this case I try to take a leaf from my toddler’s book of chewing. Ideally when we chew our dense foods thirty times, we discover that the little portion was enough.

Homemade fries, potato wedges and fried snacks are way better than always getting them delivered. Even though the holiday season is in full swing, try not to make too much.

If nature had intended our skeletons to be visible it would have put them on the outside of our bodies. Elmer Rice

When food is delivered, first lay them on your plate and then pack up the rest away. Once when we settle done to eat, the chances of getting up and adding on are slim when we have already packed away the extras.

With all the excess food delivered and leftovers from the party, outings or fellowship meets and neighbourhood dinners, distribute them among neighbours and friends or even better, donate them to the nearby orphanage, old age or retirement home or even the homeless shelters.

Instead of eating straight out of the containers or box, pre-portion your snacks  and meals too, into small individual containers or bag them for a ready to eat snack.

Food feeds both the body and soul – there are clear reasons to eat a balanced diet, but there are also reasons you cling to your mom’s secret chicken noodle soup recipe when you’re sick. Michael Mina

Add spice to food when possible, for spicy food tends to make us feel full faster. Another trick that I had read and tried was to stock some red pepper flakes. When eaten early in the day, red pepper can reduce the amount of food you consumer later.

If you remember the good old saying, “Good things come in small packages”, then apply them to food and treats as well.

For those of us who love our desserts, enjoy the decadent delights in bite sizes savouring the taste and not eating in a hurry, or when doing any other work or in front of any entertainment. When we focus on the taste and flavour we realize that the little portion was enough.

If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution. Author unknown

Most importantly stay active, enjoy your food without guilt and engage in the pleasure as well as mindful eating even if they are comfort foods. A little of everything never hurts but the catch is in our definition of the extent of “little”. When we decide to eat because we are hungry is not the same when we eat for the sake of it. Being on the top of the food chain, gives us the right to decide from the pyramid of choices, but it doesn’t mean that we have to end up being a large hamper ourselves.

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Stories Around the World, Work

When the Geese Fly

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

In this season, as the year comes to an end; each one of us may be busy with our own projects, either related to home, or being on holiday mode as a group or family, neighbourhood or community gatherings especially those of Christmas and New Year as well as school celebrations, plays, parties and the like. Amidst all this, we are involved with a team of people with us being either at or near the apex or as a part of the body. In all these events we are being a part of the bigger crowd or leading one. To have a good time, not just in teamwork but enjoying our work as well, it would do us good to emulate the geese.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie

The geese teach us their lesson of teamwork with both the members as well as the leader fulfilling their roles. When we acquire a bit of their sense, we will realize we can achieve much better and save more time, effort and energy. Above all, by using the sense of a goose, we will discover than any project or task can be fun and enjoyable.

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Isaac Newton

A sense of a goose

Next Autumn, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying in a “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily, because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. If we have the sense of a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are heading the same way we are.

When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south.

Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. What message do we give when we honk from behind?

Finally – and this is important – when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of the formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies; and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their own group. If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

Posted in Daily, Food

Fruitcake Time Again !

When the Romans had shaped “the satura”, as a cake of pine nuts, barley mash, pomegranate seeds, raisins with honeyed wine “satura”, little did they imagine the evolution of their creation years in the future. Over the centuries the entire month of December has been dedicated to the creation whose origins may dated back to even before the Romans. If one hasn’t yet figured out what the above lines were about, it can be credited to the modern version of “satura”, i.e. the fruitcake.

Each year, the holiday season marks special traditions in many homes and among many communities, some which center around food while others revolving around the various customs and heritage. The fruitcake enjoys its’ own special relation with people. For some, fruitcakes bring nostalgic memories of warm kitchens, family specialties, the smell of spices in the air and the feel of Christmas baking. While for others, fruitcakes epitomize tasteless bricks or unwanted gifts that probably came from a factory kitchen rather than a homemade specialty.

“There’s a little bit of fruitcake left in everyone of us.” Jimmy Buffett

Yet the origin of the fruitcake was one of love and survival for difficult times. It was believed that the ancient Egyptians would put an early version of the fruitcake in the tombs of loved ones as means of providing food for the afterlife. The ancient Romans popularized the fruitcakes especially for the soldiers as these early fruitcakes were easy to carry and remained edible for a long time. Gradually over the years, other ingredients, such as honey, spices and preserved fruits were added. Towards the 16th century, the discovery that fruit could be preserved by soaking it in heavy concentrations of sugar (candied fruit) lead to its’ experimentation in fruitcakes especially when excess amounts were there in the kitchens.

“Friends are the fruitcake of life – some nutty, some soaked in alcohol, some sweet.” Jon Ronson

Slowly fruitcakes became layered, dense and heavy with a typical fruitcake having citrus peel, pineapples, plums, dates, pears, cherries, candied fruits and even nuts or raisins. With a long storage life and easy to preserve, fruitcakes have been popular during Victorian England especially during holidays and special occasions. This British tradition has spread over to many of its’ colonies although other countries have their own set of “fruitcakes”. From the Stollen of Germany, panforte of Italy, keks of Poland and Cozonac of Romania to light coloured or rum soaked fruitcakes, the variants are many to list. Although by convention fruitcakes are made more around December (Christmas time), they have been traditional for certain weddings especially as seen in the royal weddings.

“Reality is like a fruitcake; pretty enough to look at but with all sorts of nasty things lurking just beneath the surface.” A. Lee Martinez

Although fruitcakes can certainly be delicious, they’ve declined in popularity over the years primarily as the richness is a little too much especially with calorie counting and the arrival of other decadent delights. Despite the declining demand, fruitcakes are still a holiday tradition in many areas though not beyond that period.