Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Twist in the “Cup”

Quiet mornings are high on the wish-list these days, so when the weekend rolls over; the lure of the peace is strengthened by a hearty cuppa. With the new trend of butter to bulletproof coffee, yours truly did a couple of twist after intense research and experimentation to give a different flavour to each weekend of the month. As the new saying may be like something new, something old and then an extra something borrowed (not blue) gives a new vibe for the coming week.

Coming to coffee trend across the continents, the Austrian Kaisemelange can keep one guessing the ingredients. Traditionally made by mixing the egg yolk and honey, and adding strong black coffee while stirring gradually; the flavours give a different meaning for the day. Doing it at home, it took quite a number of tries to get all the proportions in sync.

On the other hand, the traditional Finnish “Kaffeost” combines the cheese to the coffee. Into the birch burl carved mug, a cube of cheese (originally juustoleipä from reindeer milk, leipäjuusto or juusto; recipe variations mention about bread cheese) is placed at the bottom and boiling black coffee is poured into it. As the coffee is being sipped, the softened chunks can be spooned out or left behind as dregs. This coffee flavoured cheese and the nutty buttery coffee flavour, gives off a dessert-ish vibe and especially enrich the morning routine.

“Like a symphony, coffee’s power rests in the hands of a few individuals who orchestrate its appeal. So much can go wrong during the journey from soil to cup that when everything goes right, it is nothing short of brilliant! After all, coffee doesn’t lie. It can’t. Every sip is proof of the artistry – technical as well as human – that went into its creation.” Howard Schultz

Going across to the next continent, the traditional Malaysian “Ipoh White Coffee” is made by roasting the coffee beans with margarine and no added sugar. Roasting the beans with wheat, sugar and margarine gives the other popular Malaysian ‘black’ coffee roast (Kopi-O). Coming to the Indian kitchen, the ever popular spice rack holds a special position there. Which is why the Mexican Café de Olla was on the “to try” list. Made traditionally in the earthen clay pot, the basic ingredients include ground coffee, cinnamon and piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar or dark brown sugar); served with optional ingredients like orange peel, anise, and clove to spice it up. pot brewed coffee with raw sugar and spices. The coffee is prepared in a stainless steel saucepan with water, brown sugar, cinnamon and dark roasted ground coffee and served in a cup with an orange peel.

All in all, the different “coffee trends” around the globe makes for an interesting experience, whether it be in the popular cafe or in the comfort of our kitchen. Each “cuppa joe” has its’ own special story, to share, experience and relish in; a voyage even in the these times.

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

“A”-Way we Go

With the sudden chill in the air, announcing the arrival of early winter showers; the sodden steps of the porch bore the evidence of the persistent rain overnight. Surprisingly the small backyard kitchen area wasn’t covered by wet pools; more likely that the winds of rain didn’t go that way. While wiping out the excess water from the porch steps; it brought to mind the directions that we go in our lives.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

Different people, different lives and situations and of course, winds that blow in varying directions and at odd times. Comparing life to a ship a sea is a familiar analogy that even non-avid readers (or as mildly known as keen newspaper readers) are familiar with. As always the analogy states, it’s about the outcome of how we get to the other side or the destination. It is the captain who mans the ship and sets the sails or the motor in motion, steering it, to reach the shore safe.

Switching the focus into each of our ships that we are a part of, the facts lie in not just how we steers but also in who guides us and gives us the inner courage and the will to forge ahead. In other words, who gives us the peace and calmness to the mind, heart and soul within each of us. That is the answer that one always seeks for. While a part of it lies in His abundant Grace and His Love, another part of the answers is what makes us whole. A part of it is the emotion of love, humaneness and kindness that binds together as a family, a unit, as friends or neighbours or makes the network or own social circle a welcome place to be in. Into the last month of the year, finding the will to steer and prepare ourselves to write or start off another segments in the life that we live.

The Set of the Sails
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That decides the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As they voyage along through life;
‘Tis the will of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Personal Musings, Quotes

Start of the End

Into the first few days of the last month of the year, brings out a fresh leash of hope to many. A yearning that the uncertainty and surprises (not of the nice variety) that this year had brought about, would come to an end. A wish that things would be happening for the better, from hence on. Bringing about this season of hope, the Advent, is also a journey to hold still, reach within and find the true self. It is a time to refrain from the hustle and bustle of the routine; take off for a few moments and spend time with those or for those, who really matter and need it. It is a time to ponder, wonder and say Grace for those tiny little miracles that happened along the way, known or unknown to the self, or even if known so, only in retrospection.

“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” Pope Benedict XVI

Whether one celebrates Advent or not, the last few leaves or columns on the calendar, do highlight the fact that this year is drawing to a close. At the end of the day, whether the coffers or the belly be full, what really matters is whether we have the happiness and joy to hold within our hearts and souls. And above all, how many smiles are seen around.

As we all have reached the end of the year, with the longing of new beginnings for the season of promise comes upon each one of us. Bringing this season closer to our hearts and soul, starts by being true to our own self. In doing so, one not only gets to embrace their happiness, but throws off rays of hope for those around them. For it’s these small lights that bring out the beauty of the dark skies.

“Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny.…Space is still filled with the noise of destruction and annihilation, the shouts of self-assurance and arrogance, the weeping of despair and helplessness. But round about the horizon the eternal realities stand silent in their age-old longing. There shines on them already the first mild light of the radiant fulfillment to come. From afar sound the first notes as of pipes and voices, not yet discernable as a song or melody. It is all far off still, and only just announced and foretold. But it is happening, today.” Alfred Delp

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Reflections

Step to Start

One of the biggest drawbacks of the present day is the mass confusion and uncertainty attached to it. Nearing the end of the year, as the leaves of the calendar come off and the thickness goes down, the gnawing thoughts inside awakens again, “Oh what a mess of the year”. Reflecting on this one aspect is true that this year was totally off all expectations and hassled man; yet on the another hand this year helped one to refocus and find themselves.

“Most times, the way isn’t clear, but you want to start anyway. It is in starting with the first step that other steps become clearer.” Israelmore Ayivor

Finding ourselves doesn’t start off with a loud clap and bang. It starts off in the quiet moments where one shuts off the noise around them, and seek answers to within or just lie still. One of the gifts of the humane nature, is that the mind has unbelievable strength of its’ own. Each person has many facets of their character. Using them or donning them on, comes when the time is right or the when the mind ascertains it. Those who learn to do so, eventually survive the downpour and learn to appreciate the tiny blessings that come along with it. Each person has their own treasure trove of surprises; using them to better the day is what makes the whole difference in the world.

Another part to finding ourselves is to learn to switch off the irrelevant chatter around the self. Plain listening to the numerous conversations around oneself or pointless chatter, doesn’t serve any real purpose, unless one learns to tune in and out at the right points. Knowing which points are right or not; that happens only by experience, through own eyes or of those around us.

“…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

No one can move ahead by staying on that spots. Even a baby starts off on all fours, in tiny shuffles or large leaps, but they go ahead and explore. Caution is needed, but also hope, faith and the belief that there is always something better to do, especially using our own talents. More than talk, go ahead and start off. True that when the going gets tough, take a pause but wilt not. For the days are still there, for the year to end. And as always said “better now than never”. For the world needs those tiny steps of today, to make the difference in the tomorrows that come.

The Room of Ancient Keys
by Elena Mikhalkova

Grandma once gave me a tip:

During difficult times,
you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future,
not even what might happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Take off the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see?

You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow
bigger and bigger.
And time will come
when you can think about the future
without crying.
Good morning.

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Personal Musings, Stories Around the World

Spring, after the Torrent

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” Martha Washington

Many a time, as the sun sets, we drag our feet over the threshold, wondering when will they ever be a day, when there would be a spring in our step. Then again, on other days, there’s a spring to our step. Or the warmth enters the soul and fresh hope surges after a fresh cup of joe or a warm pot of tea, light chatter with family or friends and a couple of memories or moments. Little do we realize that, through all this, it is the “way we go about things” that makes all the difference in the world, especially as one encounters the unexpected hassles in the curse of the day.

“Crow asked the pot : How come you are able to give sweet and cold water when you yourself is made out of mud which had to go through very high temperature and burnt to be transformed into clay pot?
Pot’s reply : My character is to remain cool as a clay in all circumstances
even though I had to face high temperature to become a pot .”

Each of us have our own test of fire. Some we were able to temper down, some we got off with a few minor or even major scalds to burns. Yet at the end of the day, we survive because of the fire that beats within us. Our essentiality is what defines who we are, what we do and how we do it. Circumstances come and go, they change according to a design of their own and swing to the direction of the wind. Despite all this, a large role of the outcome is played in how we go about things, based on our own disposition, mentality and will.

Know who we are. Then reconnect with ourselves, the Faith that guides us as well as draw our strength from those who wish us well. As always said, “it is the test of fire that makes us strong”, but the fire can be conquered depending on how one fans out the flames. As the fire strengthens us, keeping our own composure with an inner strength and humaneness is what brings a spring to the step, hope within, warm happy thoughts within as well as to see through the situation by the time tomorrow comes by.

“17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
and set your heart on the right path..” (Proverbs 23:17-19)

Posted in Daily, Random Thoughts, Work

Need to Disconnect

While on the commute back home, after a necessary day of work from office, the traffic lights that go “red” are a welcome break. For that short break is the time for a quick look at the small screen and then switch the focus back on the road. Among the first few steps on stepping across the front door, is to ditch the phone along with the office folders on top of the shelf. This recent habit has paid dividends as far as getting the youngsters over their incessant and constant hungering for their time on the handheld screens of the present “mobile phones”.

Ironically the invention of the mobile phones was primarily to place a call when in motion, or simply put, the ease of access to a voice when on the move. Over the years, the technical point has developed to the ease of access to any information when on the move and not just as pones but as notepads and laptops as well. Though sometimes too much of activity and information can fry the grey cells. More of less, screen devices especially phones have become the “go=to” especially when bored.

“In his phone, Chase had found a place easier to exist in than inside his own skin. That was tragic, because inside the itchiness of our own skin is where we discover who we are. When we are bored, we ask ourselves: What do I want to do with myself?” Glennon Doyle, Untamed

No where in the books of development (at least not that I have read of), is it deemed necessary to keep children or anyone of us mentally occupied twenty-four seven. Sometimes it would be simply good to lie down and smell the grass in the garden. Or to close our eyes and drift to the quiet sounds of nature. Being still is what lets our imaginations grow and inner peace come out from within to the surface. Phones aren’t meant to keep us being busy, but to be connected to the others as and when needed. Regulating the time as per as requirement, is needed, especially as it sets the pattern for the young ones.

With the amount of online schooling, these screen-free moments are needed to bond with each other and to just find ourselves as well as to reconnect with those around us. Having being a part of both the eras, the generation with and without these “walking screens”, both are needed in optimal doses. Technology is ideal to be used in proportion. It was never meant to be antidote for the itchiness within. On the other hand, it is the “itchiness” that helps one to delve within and find their own path of self-discovery and creativity. The temporary respite for the itchiness, as offered by technology, is just that, temporary. Learning to address the restlessness with creativity is what makes us tick in the long run. So once in a while, it feels really good to switch off for a couple of hours each day. Oh the rest and respite of just being with ourselves, is worth it all.

Posted in Daily, Food

Whole and Toasted

Warm, toasted and sizzling; there’s something special about experiencing it. In fact, one of the best parts of the recipes of today, is that they can be blended to make a bit of the “old and the new”. Which is why for a quick snack, quesadillas have undergone a recent kitchen experimentation, though of a more outdoorsy nature.

Originally as per the Mexican cuisine, a “quesadilla” is a tortilla (flat circle of cooked corn masa) warmed, softened, folded in half and filled with the typical Oaxaca cheese, cooked on a comal till the cheese is melted and gooey. Usually cooked without any oil, had with green or red salsa or chopped onions; these days the fillings can be as varied as own choice. From cooked vegetables, like potatoes with chorizo, mushrooms, epazote or even different types of cooked meat (chicharron, tinga of chicken or beef or cooked pork) or even as simple as avocado or guacamole, chopped onions, tomato, serrano chiles and cilantro. In essence, a quesadilla is simply a turnover food, or a “special Mexican version of the portable pie”.

Modifying the quesadilla with pizza toppings to make the “pizzadilla” or even desert quesadilla with chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, candied fruits and the like, are just an eye-opener to the versatility and ease of turnover foods. Likewise the breakfast quesadillas are also made, using ingredients such as eggs, cheese and bacon. Trying to modify the recipe to a bit of the local Indian cuisine, the tortilla was substituted with a roti (wheat) and stuffed with paneer(Indian cottage cheese) and shredded chicken.Alternatively certain recipes substitute the wheat base with chickpea flour or even a combination of all-purpose flour and rice flour.

Making a blend of the Old World tradition and New World foods; these recipes bring not just a feeling of goodness with the meal, but also a wholesomeness to it. Somewhere along the lines, amateur food experimenters, too have added their little bit to the food culture around the world. And that brings a feeling of content, warmth and happiness, along with satitey; an experience which brings a pleasant feel to the end of any day.

[1944]
“Quesadilla (Tortilla Stuffed with Cheese)
Take fresh tortillas (bought in a Mexican store), place generous piece of Monterey cream cheese (or American cheese) in the center, and fold it over as you would a turnover. Pin top with toothpicks to hold. Place in hot, ungreased skillet and cook lightly, turing often until cheese is melted. Delicious with refried beans.” Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta [Dettners Printing House: San Francisco] October 1944 (p. 35)