Posted in Daily, Personal Musings, Photography Art, poetry, Random Thoughts

Peril of the Chase

An unexpected turn of events lead to an intense manhunt for the “hardware store”. Unfortunately the regular route was marred by pieces of fallen trees, repair barriers on the road as well as plenty of water logged areas, all courtesy of the rains due to the cyclonic effect. While driving around, we had reached back to the starting point not once, but twice. Whether the told directions were wrong or our Google guide was sifting us through the varied routs, all we knew was that we were in a big circle. Eventually we did find the shop, to get the distilled water for the invertor; but being caught in that loop was one of the nightmare we wished that wouldn’t repeat.

“The thing I’m most afraid of is me. Of not knowing what I’m going to do. Of not knowing what I’m doing right now.” Haruki Murakami

Ironically we do chase a lot of circles in life. Some of the chases may seem meaningful then, bu then lose their appeal as one gets closer. Other circles entice one, but one gets mired in their trap, sinking faster than quicksand. Some circles are those that lead us downhill with it’s subtle turns; driving ourselves to the breaking point. Whether the latter is the end-point or not; only circumstances, time and ourselves can tell. Yet the best circles are wherein we have a little of the best things of life, in doses such that we get to sweat it out as well as enjoy the feel of life. The catch is in what one defines as the “things to achieve in life”.

“Oh what we find, when we stop searching. Oh what we feel, when we stop forcing. Oh what we receive, when we stop fearing. Oh what we become, when we just love.” Creig Crippen

All of us have a chase to do or encounter. While some hunts are worth all the effort, other mayn’t be so. The trick is knowing when to stop, review and reconsider. Doing so will help to redirect oneself, especially when the path is way off the intended course or causes more grief and sorrows, that the flickers of happiness that we want at the least. As life always says that she isn’t made of glitter alone. The pretty things lie in her simplicity and her riches are aplenty for all.

As we cry and chase the baubles, one should make sure that if the price of it is worth the effort or not. For these meaningless novelties may fade away, losing their charm and luster; leaving behind a void made of nothing but emptiness. To be caught is such a bind, is devastating not just to the mind and heart, but also to the soul. On the other hand, when one stops by the road once in a while to just see, feel and observe, the joys of living as such are ascertained and experienced for sure. And the chase for the latter is what brings those special smile on the faces around us as well as in the soul. The question lies in what are we waiting for, and the answers lies with us alone.

Of The Boy and Butterfly

Behold, how eager this our little boy
Is for a butterfly, as if all joy,
All profits, honours, yea, and lasting pleasures,
Were wrapped up in her, or the richest treasures
Found in her would be bundled up together,
When all her all is lighter than a feather.

He halloos, runs, and cries out, ‘Here, boys, here!’
Nor doth he brambles or the nettles fear:
He stumbles at the molehills, up he gets,
And runs again, as one bereft of wits;
And all his labour and his large outcry
Is only for a silly butterfly.

Comparison

This little boy an emblem is of those
Whose hearts are wholly at the world’s dispose.
The butterfly doth represent to me
The world’s best things at best but fading be.
All are but painted nothings and false joys,
Like this poor butterfly to these our boys.

His running through nettles, thorns, and briers,
To gratify his boyish fond desires,
His tumbling over molehills to attain
His end, namely, his butterfly to gain,
Doth plainly show what hazards some men run
To get what will be lost as soon as won
.

-John Bunyan

Posted in Food, Stories Around the World

Of Iced, Sweet and Tannin

Approaching the mid-rays of the summer, there is something about the lure of a sip from the chilled glass. Whether the drink be of the canned variety, or the iced feel of Java or the lighter tones of crushed infused leaves, that sip brings out a volume of emotions from within. The best part is the memories of childhood that come along with it. Also the fact that one can switch from the java to tannins anytime, with each recipe being different with every make, results in one reaching out for that glass. Learning the stories behind the iced tea, opens a whole new chapter in the kitchen experimentation.

Surprisingly iced tea was initially made as a medicinal drink. As the drink gained popularity beyond this, varied experimentation with different herbs and varieties of tea leaves were tried. With the combination of ice, tea and sugar doing wonders, the slow evolution of sweet tea began; though it was more of an item of luxury during the initial period. Tracing back to late 1870s wherein the oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea was published, the base was of green tea as the latter was the most popular tea leaves being used then. With the WWII and the availability of only black tea in the market; flavours were switched and then on it just stayed.

[1861]
“Balm and Burrage Tea
These, as well as all other medicinal herbs, may easily be cultivated in a corner of your garden…Take a balm and burrage a small handful each, put this into a jug, pour in upon the herbs a quart of boiling water, allow the tea to stand for ten minutes, and then strain it off into another jug, and let it become cold. This cooling drink is recommended as a beverage for persons whose system has become heated for any cause.” —A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Charles Elme Francatelli, London [1861] (p. 92) [Note: Mr. Francatelli was the head chef for Queen Victoria. He is often credited for introducing many popular Victorian food dishes and trends.]

Graduating from the simple iced tea, one of the cultural iced teas which may be tried at the home kitchen is the Thai Iced tea. Also known as “cha yen”, this drink is made from strongly brewed black tea, laced with condensed milk and sugar and served chilled. To give the creamy taste and look, evaporated milk, coconut milk or even whole milk may be poured over the iced tea For the “cha dem ya” (Dark Thai iced tea) the milk is out and the iced tea is sweetened with sugar alone. To get the “cha manao” (Lime Thai iced tea), the flavourings of lime and ice maybe added..

“Unlike water or wine or even Coca-Cola, sweet tea means something. It is a tell, a tradition. Sweet tea isn’t a drink, really. It’s culture in a glass.” Allison Glock

To get a kick in the evening hours, sweet iced tea can be had as a punch mixed with liquor with a dash of cream and mint julep for the flavour. Or one could try out he Tortuga cocktail, home to the Haitian island Tortuga. Made primarily from iced tea sweetened with brown sugar, it is garnished by cinnamon and a lime wedge. Though an alternate recipe of the Tortuga cocktail involves Cuban rum, curacao and creme de cacao for an additional flavour.

With each blend having a story of own to be told; trying out different varieties brings various cultures across the globe to the kitchen. Little wonder why then, there are two pitchers kept chilled, round the clock. With a new twist to the old known recipes, that pitcher is always a welcome surprise for the summer heat.

Posted in Family and Society, Life, poetry, Reflections

After the Stay

Switching by-lanes while on the long awaited drive to the office, courtesy of the slow lock-down restrictions being eased; the traffic queues were no longer an impatient. To see various expressions through the eyes, behind the masks, movement across the roads as well as the small flow of people, the feeling of belonging to a social structure was there. One never realizes how relevant each minute of our life is, unless we have been deprived of the routine. While the lock-down had seen the start of new routines, techniques and ventures; it has also opened up a whole new meaning to being complete from within.

“What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.” Anne Frank

Staying in a place, and trying to phase out the schedule between work and home was no mean feat. Bringing the benefit of being closer as a family, exploring new interests or simply picking where one had left off like a project started years ago, brought back the essence of family and helped to re tune ourselves. On the other hand, the camaraderie at the work place, the weekly meet-up between local friends and interacting with the local townsfolk were some events which weren’t the same, even when done through video-conferencing or through social media. Fact is, those were some of the things sorely missed.

Human Interactions. It is what makes each of our days special and complete. As we hear and watch the experiences of others, we learn not just a lot about them, but also open up a fresh insight into ourselves and things to ponder about. While the past few weeks have been a time of finding oneself, setting new challenges as well as getting back in touch with ourselves; donning the masks and learning to blend in with the situation and re-enter society within the limits of the new guidelines teaches us how fragile and precious each second of the day is.

Slowly reentering back into the routine, the changes brought on will stay; but they have also taught us a lot about being human. Which is why, to be gracious and being kind should be always a part of our innate nature. And as we try to do so, we heal within and start off each bend in the road, with courage and stength with the promise of an experience worth our while in the world that we live in.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Dan Millman

And People Stayed Home

And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and stopped
and listened deeper
someone meditated
someone prayed
someone danced
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended

and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves.

Kathleen O’Meara (1839–1888)
(This poem was written by an Irish-French Catholic writer, Kathleen O’Meara (Dublin 1839 – Paris 1888), who also wrote under the pen name of Grace Ramsay, and is to be found in her novel Iza’s Story, set against the background of the Polish struggle against the occupation and partition of their country in various stages by Russia, Austria and Prussia from 1772 onwards. She compares the Polish-Russian situation to the Irish-British situation. For the present, this poem when set against the background of present makes way for a thought provoking read.)

Posted in Christian, Family and Society, Reflections

Remedy of a Kind

An unfortunate accidental brush with the hot skillet, lead to a speedy escape to the cabinet in the washroom, wherein the hunt was on for the red capped tube among the toiletries. After washing with running water and applying a thick salve of toothpaste, the sting from the burn had significantly come down. Giving an internal whisper of thanks, that tube of toothpaste had become a lifesaver of sorts. This ready remedy had saved a trip to the town clinic.

“The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Prone to making mistakes, some of our errors are due to lack of sight or erratic movements, often termed as “being clumsy”. Though sometimes, those mistakes are quite painful to bear and deal with it. Each of us at some point throughout our lives have felt pain. When the pain is physical, we reach for that salve; yet when the pain becomes more of an emotional or inner turmoil, to lessen the pain is no easy feat. One needs plenty of courage, inner strength and time to heal through those wounds.

Every now and then, sin infects each of us. It may leave a stinger behind as it’s mark or cause the rash of inner unrest and troubled thoughts which may precipitate in a couple of days. Facing the after-effects of the latter makes us enter the slow though vicious cycle of pain and grief. Pain of this sort, happens on two fronts. First is when we bring it forth onto those around us and second is when we bear the effect of it, as a consequence of actions, which have happened towards us whether they be direct or indirect. Either way, we deal with the pain and disease of sin, causing it or bearing the brunt.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” (Ephesians 1:7)

Surprisingly the balm for this sort of problems are always found in His Word. As the Scriptures teach us, the vicious cycle and effect of sin, isn’t easy to break. It tends to leave the burn behind, making the pain and their reminders affect us then on. By the gift of His Love and power of His Grace, we get healed from the effects of sin. Though for this to happen, one should learn to identify the burn of the sin. When we believe in His Word, the sickness brought on from sin and its vices, are removed by His Healing Power and the restlessness within is squelched. To experience the healing salve, we tend to identify the pain and the fact that it’s there. Then we address the problems.

While the pain may recede by the power of His Love in a couple of days; other situations it may take weeks to months to heal from it completely. Whether it may take a lifetime to learn to recognize the burns, teat and address them; the need to do has to arise from within. For His Love always awaits us. It is we who need to start on that hunt for the remedy, as we chose to treat the pain by the power of His Grace and His Mercy. But taking the first step, lies in our hands alone. Unless one does so, the experiences and the richness of life then on, will not be an experience of reality but a much awaited and anticipated dwam of sorts.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Posted in Food

An Oven, a Mug and Basics

Being in the downsides of having a craving of the “cacao plus” variety and no delivery options at hand, the need of the hour is to get resourceful in seconds. That’s when the old microwavable coffee sugar, a scoop of flour, sugar, baking soda and chocolate work wonders for the soul.

Of the many works of the ancient civilizations, especially in the culinary arena, which has been imbibed into the various indigenous cuisines and culture over the ages, perfected over the passage of time, is the dessert of “cake”. As the early records say of unleavened cakes, the last few centuries have created a huge and pleasant culinary surprises with the advent of baking soda. With assistance from modern technology, the cake making as come down to the bare minimum, with a shot of cake being ready in a matter of minutes.

Thus began the journey of the cakes. Interestingly the original “shots of cake” was baked as a cupcake in coffee cups, as “mini testers” to determine whether the oven temperature was right for a large batch. Though this trend had changed with the invention of the thermostats and temperature regulators for the oven, these mini testers took shape as the modern cupcakes, bringing in their own fleet into the kitchen. With creativity on the rise and the dawn of the “microwave era” resulted in the “mugs of cake of today”.

The microwave based “cake-in-a-mug” simply needs the flour, sugar, seasonings, baking powder along with butter or oil (some even use cream) in the right amounts. With the temperature heating up, the cake just fluffs out; being a perfect touch to have a piece of cake while on the go. The nest part is that a single ingredient to change the flavour is enough. From the essence of vanilla to cinnamon or honey, each cup can have it’s own special zing.

With the minimum requirement being that of a microwave at hand and basic ingredients, this recipe is a must for those days when the thought of cake flits in the mind. For the experimenters, this would be a lifesaver when the unexpected request of cake for dessert sets in. With this, there can be another header for that “book of kitchen experiments” to be enjoyed now and then, eventually handed over to the next generations making life beautiful with the sweet taste of such moments.

“Spice Cake in a Cup Ingredients: 4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar 2 teaspoons of spice-cinnamon or ginger (whichever you prefer) 1/8 of a teaspoon of baking powder 1 medium-sized egg white – lightly-beaten 3 tablespoons of either milk or soy-milk 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil 1/4 of a teaspoon of vanilla extract Directions: You will need 1 microwavable coffee cup Mix-together the flour, spice, sugar, & baking powder in the coffee cup. Now mix-in the egg white. Add the milk, vanilla & oil and mix-well Place the cup into a microwave set on HIGH & cook for about 2&1/2 minutes. (The cake should be done when it stops rising and sets)” ― Coleen Montgomery, Cake in a Cup, Mug Cake, Cake in a Jar and Pie in a Jar Recipe Cookbook. Collection of 60+ Recipes

Posted in Daily, Personal Musings, poetry, Random Thoughts

Nest of Own

Over the past two days, there have been sudden bouts of stillness in the house. With a few pairs of small feet running around in the house, such an event makes any parent or guardian, anticipating a surprise of any manner around the corner. Which is maybe why, after a couple of similar episodes, yours truly decided to tip toe and follow the trail. Catching up onto the excited whispering and quiet voices, these little eyes were found trained onto the far side of the barn. After a stern couple of “Shhh!!”, the secret was out. They have been watching a pair of spotted nutcrackers build their nest. As they were surprises and exclamations over this activity, the mind wandered over to their exuberant joy as seen through their eyes.

“Early summer days are a jubilee time for birds. In the fields, around the house, in the barn, in the woods, in the swamp – everywhere love and songs and nests and eggs.” E. B. White

Watching these simple activities reminds one of the safe havens and the joys that we find in our own homes. While the early years of our lives, saw us being sheltered and protected within the cocoons of our home, family or even neighbourhood; the years after a decade and beyond saw ourselves slowly exploring the outside world. Somewhere along the way, we all had left our own nests to make new ones. The initial days saw the streak of adventure and excitement come to the forefront, later on it was the survivalist instinct that helped us keeping on building our nest, finding our own niche in life. Along the way, when the going gets tough; we went back to our old nests to get back on track with our feet on ground. When the home of then wasn’t there now, memories of the best years of our lives is what got us through this all.

Each of us need our nests or homes to find our spaces, rejuvenate and regain our strength after a tough journey or even to celebrate from the successful venture. In finding our homes, each of us brace ourselves through the storms. For the lure of these safe havens, is what gets us through the perceived unfortunate events of the time.

Building our own homes doesn’t include the material comforts alone, but also to encompass the feeling of love and kindness within it. To experiences the feeling of home, is one of the greatest treasures that life offers man. In order to do so, one should brace ourselves and watch the world around us; move ahead and take time to breathe and enjoy the simple gifts that each day offers one.

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.” John Burroughs

The Skylark
BY JOHN CLARE
The rolls and harrows lie at rest beside
The battered road; and spreading far and wide
Above the russet clods, the corn is seen
Sprouting its spiry points of tender green,
Where squats the hare, to terrors wide awake,
Like some brown clod the harrows failed to break.
Opening their golden caskets to the sun,
The buttercups make schoolboys eager run,
To see who shall be first to pluck the prize—
Up from their hurry, see, the skylark flies,
And o’er her half-formed nest, with happy wings
Winnows the air, till in the cloud she sings,
Then hangs a dust-spot in the sunny skies,
And drops, and drops, till in her nest she lies,
Which they unheeded passed—not dreaming then
That birds which flew so high would drop agen
To nests upon the ground, which anything
May come at to destroy. Had they the wing
Like such a bird, themselves would be too proud,
And build on nothing but a passing cloud!
As free from danger as the heavens are free
From pain and toil, there would they build and be,
And sail about the world to scenes unheard
Of and unseen—Oh, were they but a bird!
So think they, while they listen to its song,
And smile and fancy and so pass along;
While its low nest, moist with the dews of morn,
Lies safely, with the leveret, in the corn.
– John Clare

Posted in Christian, Family and Society, Personal Musings, poetry, Reflections

Through the Way

With the season getting a little busy few miles down at the my in-laws farm and relatively less helping hands, we had decided to pitch in for the next one week. Since the work-from-home mode was still in effect and on turn this week, shifting the venue of work, involved a few hassles but was done. In due process, the first venture was getting the morning chores done. From cows being milked, eggs collected for the market and goats fed fodder, time just runs on the farm. Watching the young calves get on their feet and the chicks follow their mama and accepting their first few steps into the new world, makes one realize that life has few cycles of it’s own and we shall all survive it.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Walking on the built roads and the steady worn down paths, helps one see the fields ahead. But to explore the woods, paths don’t necessary tell us all about the hidden treasures within the woods. Experiences in life are akin to the well trodden roads through the fields or the untrodden paths in the forest. Each person has their own tales of travels and survivals. What may seem trivial for one mayn’t be so for the other. Yet through all this, the common thread is that, we all will prevail.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” ( 2 Corintihians 5:7)

As read time and again through the Scriptures, what may be uncharted waters for one mayn’t be so for God. As weave our own way through my experiences in our lives, knowing that His Grace is watching our step on those untrodden paths and will catch us when we fall, is what give one the Faith to put one step in front of the other. Across all these paths and roads, known or unknown as we let Faith help us find our way, one realizes that one is never alone.

Letting His Grace and our Faith work within us, is always what takes us through all “these downs and the ups” in life. As we cross one hurdle after the other, the realization that nothing is impossible, especially when we work through Him. Though small, but highly potent Faith and history has always taught us, that we will prevail, as long as we believe.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)

There is a difference between a soaring bird,
That surrendered to the power of the air masses,
And that one, in the direction of the flying one, –
Her keen eye is fixed on the target.

Here is the first fluff spinning,
Spread wings like a string,
As if it falls on a bed
And it rests from the works.

The second is tirelessly carried,
Although the headwind does not spare.
Mighty flow, but the bird does not give up:
Contrary to obstacles flies.

There is a difference between those who are Floating
and thinks that they are moving forward,
Who have ceased to appreciate their salvation,
Whose habitation among the muddy waters –

And those who live only God every day,
Who does not surrender to storms and rains,
Who walks , but not sideways,
And the eye does not lead to the goal ahead.

Who, tired, does not go back
And does not cease to believe God,
But who multiplies prayers multiply,
To whom worldly dirt does not stick.

Who, like an eagle, does not hide in bad weather,
Whom and in a storm attracts height,
And for whom victory in God is happiness,
Who does not think his life without Christ.

There is a difference! Though inconspicuous today,
But only good will enter the granary.
Let’s draw strength in God’s Son,
Moving forward on the wings of faith!

Ermolova S.