Posted in Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Reflections

From One Candle

“Those candle flames were like the lives of men. So fragile. So deadly. Left alone, they lit and warmed. Let run rampant, they would destroy the very things they were meant to illuminate. Embryonic bonfires, each bearing a seed of destruction so potent it could tumble cities and dash kings to their knees.” Brandon Sanderson

With constant power outages in the midst of the heavy rains (the latter being an affirmation of the monsoon season getting into it’s full swing); light and electricity, the essentials for daily living are often more “drained out” than available. Which is why, the alternative measures, ranging from generators to inverters, emergency lanterns and the like are made available to continue the daily life, uninterrupted, hassle free and comfortable, be it home, neighbourhood, office or an institute. Yet when the alternatives too run out after continuous long hours or even days of power outages, the two essentials to fall back on are the “sun-rays” and the “candle”. No matter how technologically advanced one becomes, at the end of the night, it’s the candle that throws some light; especially during power outages.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Anne Frank

The fascination in watching the flames of the candle flicker never dies out with time. The light as well as the direction of the flame, the shadow and patterns it casts are few of the many reasons why candles are still around. Most is the warmth reflected by a candle. At times, candles remind one of people in general. The spread of warmth and sharing of light makes the most aloof person glow and lights up the inner happiness. At the same time, when misused, lit wrong or without proper safety measures and precautions, candles have the capacity to light ablaze destroying everything in the process. The potential and power of a candle, like people, can never be underestimated. The more one grows optimism and love within; the more light is shared and like candles; warmth, happiness and joy is spread about. Even if one candle is lit, it can make a big difference in the world around it.

“Each time a person passes by you and you say ‘hello’, imagine that person turning into a candle. The more positivity, love and light you reflect, the more light is mirrored your way. Sharing beautiful hellos is the quickest way to earn spiritual brownie points. You should start seeing hellos as small declarations of faith. Every time you say hello to a stranger, your heart acknowledges over and over again that we are all family.” Suzy Kassem

And People Went Out Like Candles

Sometimes, there is a longing in the evening,
But there is no soul near …
So people went out like candles …
They broke like pencils …

And they need just a little –
Support without prickly phrases,
Love is sensitive and trust in God …
And compassion for kind eyes …

Heartbreak was not noticed …
We are in a hurry about our business …
And people went out like candles …
They broke like pencils …

We do not need advice,
When longing is in the soul …
We need a drop of light in our heart,
When there is a hand in our hand …

A meeting with a loved one –
Saving the human soul …
People shone like candles …
They sharpened like pencils …

-Irina Samarin-Labyrinth
(Translated to English. Source: vk.com)

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Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Pickles, Beyond the “Pickled Peppers”

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
-“Peter Piper” Lyrics (Roud Folk Song Index number 1945)

With a preschool child in the family, the tunes of nursery rhymes runs through out most of the time. Consequently the well-known alliteration tongue-twister English rhyme was a challenge for both the child and the parents, especially the latter.

Interestingly although John Harris (1756-1846) had published the earliest version of this tongue twister in Peter Piper’s Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation (London,1813); this rhyme was apparently known at least a generation earlier. The subject of the rhyme as asserted by few authors was Pierre Poivre, an eighteenth-century French horticulturalist and government administrator of Mauritius, who once investigated the Seychelles’ potential for spice cultivation.

Following the train of words and thoughts, “pickles” was the food-based research over the weekend. The food preparation technique of “pickling” is the process of preserving or extending the lifespan of food by either anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar or vinaigrette. Typically changing the texture, taste and flavour, there are a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, meats, fish (and even eggs) which can be pickled and varying methods to chose from. Preserving perishable foods for months, the pH of pickles are maintained at 4.6 or less, which kills most bacteria. Additional antimicrobial herbs and spices like mustard seeds, garlic, cinnamon or cloves, may be added. The flavours of the final product of “pickle” depends mainly on the acidity or salinity of the solution, the temperature of fermentation, and the exclusion of oxygen. Although used in moderation for the fear of acidity and spiciness linked to carcinogenic properties, pickles have been a part of the food culture from the beginning.

As far as origins are traced, “pickles” or similar forms had made their appearance as early as 2400 BC with archaeological evidence from the area of Mohenjo Daro civilization (Tigris Valley) of northwest Indian Subcontinent. From being Cleopatra’s prized beauty secrets or in popular writings, “pickles” were the earliest foods considered as a necessity for long sea voyages, road travels, for soldiers or simply to preserve food for the harsh seasons or periods of time.

Though “pickle” had early roots, from an etymology point, this late Middle English word (c.1400) came probably from the Middle Dutch of pekel or East Frisian päkel or German pökel, all meaning “brine”. Going further beyond, the word is of uncertain origin or original meaning.

Pickles aren’t limited to being salty or spicy alone, they can be sweet, sour, hot or a combination of them. Each area has their own method of pickling, most handed down from one generation to the next, as a family tradition. South Asian pickles (popularly known as achar or achaar in most areas, term of ?Persian origins) are varied in their making, include seasonal vegetables, fruits and meats, generally mixed with salt, spices and vegetable oils; set to mature in a moistureless medium. Moving on to Southeast Asia (Singapore, Indonesian and Malaysian) pickles, or “acar” were typically made of cucumber, carrot, bird’s eye chilies, shallots, papaya and pineapple; seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt. Further east, Koreans have kimchi while the Japanese pickled plums and daikon.

Whereas in the Middle East pickles from peppers, olives to lemons; while in mst of Western Asia pickles (called torshi in Persian, tursu in Turkish and mekhallel in Arabic) are commonly made from turnips, peppers, carrots, green olives, cucumbers, cabbage, green tomatoes, lemons and cauliflower. Eastern Europeans introduced various forms of lacto-fermented cabbage, known as sauerkraut. In Russia, the leftover brine (called rassol in Russian) is used for cooking traditional soups, like shchi, rassolnik and solyanka. When the English and the Europeans had arrived in the Americas; they brought their method for creating sweet pickles with vinegar, sugar and spiced syrup. Pickled cucumbers (most often referred to simply as “pickles”), olives and sauerkraut are most commonly seen in the United States and Canada.

Combining all these methods, “pickling” is indeed an art, with each area, region, country or community having their own special technique of making them. Little wonder that although the National Pickle Day is celebrated by foodimentarians ( primarily in US) on November 14th, the National Pickle Month (July) is indeed to explore and recreate these “global” pickles dishes. With rain on and off, there’s nothing more creative than “recreating historical foods” diverse and variant in their own style.\

Posted in Christian, Daily, Family and Society, Musique, Reflections, Uncategorized

Through Uncertain Times

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom

As I was stacking up the old newspapers for recycling; amidst them was last year’s calendar. With the accompanying monthly pictures being beautiful, I hadn’t discarded it but kept it aside to cut them out. With the pending task being accomplished, I leafed through the months and the tiny notes along the dates. “School reopening”, doctors’ appointment, “sports’ dates”, local functions aref ew of the many red or green inked circles that were scattered through the year.

“For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33

Looking back, I felt blessed by His Grace and the countless ways He had kept watch over us and the daily happenings. At times, the feeling of wonder strikes as one realizes long after the difficult situations were over, how God had stood over our lives, guiding us with His Hand and by His Word. The relocation to a new place of work, new school year, family weddings and many more; all the big events within the family were felt big and difficult in those days; but went smooth largely due to His Grace and Blessings.

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” Martin Luther

Many a time, some of the changes in life may be forced. An unforeseen work related transfer, opportunity to pursue higher studies, ill health and the like. Though decisions are made, they mayn’t work out. Yet once we place it in His Hands and be prepared to do things as they come; then things start falling into place and happening at the right time. Eventually when the obstacle had been crossed, one realizes the true magnificence of His Grace, His Power and His Love. Man being man mayn’t foresee many things. How much more better it would be ], when we put everything in His Hands, put in our efforts and await His Will to show us the way.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“….I am one of those who are determined to go to the end.
I will not slow down the pace, I will not look back, but I will praise Christ.
I will not give up, do not shut up,
Do not weaken and do not burn.
I will not finish praying, with Christ I stand.

I am one of those who firmly decided to go to the end.
I can not stop, do not buy, do not hold.
And when He comes to pick up his own, he will recognize me,
Because I am one of those who have come to the end.

And if the salt loses its power that will replace it?
And lit a candle, do not put it under a vessel.
Here I am before You, use me for Your glory
On earth, Jesus, let Thy will be done

Olga Yatsenko ( few lines of Poetry/lyrics of “Till the End”, translated to English)

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

From Sundae to “Cones”

With the Ice cream month of July, coming to a near end; indulging in the various combinations and food innovations with ice cream being a primary ingredient is a must. Although summer was never an excuse to indulge in the delights of ice cream, the latter is a good enough reason to beat the intermittent summer heat as well as the monsoon blues.

“Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt.” Judith Olney

Going creative to serve and enjoy ice cream was what lead to the origin of the ice cream sundae as well as the ice cream cone. Regarding the legends leading to the creation of the ice cream sundae, the frequent underlining factor was that, it was a variation of the popular ice cream soda. Made towards the 20th century, one factor that played a role in it’s creation was the banning of soda on Sundays in Illionis. Quite soon, it’s popularity took over with ice cream sundae becoming the weekend semi-official confection. As accounted by the Ice Cream Trade Journal (1909) along with plain or French sundae, other exotic varieties were listed like Robin Hood sundae, Cocoa Caramel sundae, Black Hawk sundae, Angel Cake sundae, Cinnamon Peak sundae, Opera sundae, Fleur D’Orange sundae, Tally-Ho Sundae, Bismarck and George Washington sundaes, to list a few.

Besides the ice cream, partially what lures some, is the fascinating cone that comes with it. The soft crunchiness adds to the flavours of the ice cream. The ice cream cone, poke (Ireland and Scotland) or cornet is usually made of a wafer similar in texture to a waffle, as a dry pastry which enables ice cream to be had held in the hand. From wafer (or cake) cones, waffle cones to sugar cones, there are different types of ice cream cone; styled also as pretzel cones, chocolate-coated cones or even double wafer cones. From the regular conical, pointed base to flat shaped base, cones can be shaped as the latter to stay upright by self.

As early as 1825, edible cones were mentioned in the French cookbooks with Archambault’s description of rolling a cone from little waffles. Towards the 19th century, English cook A.B.Marshall’s (1888) recipe for “Cornet with Cream” said that “the cornets were made with almonds and baked in the oven, not pressed between irons”. While edible cones were patented independently by two Italian entrepreneurs(1902-03), the fashion of the ice cream cone had gained momentum at the St. Louis World’s Fair (1904). There Arnold Fornachou, a concessionaire who was running an ice cream booth had ran short on paper cups. Buying waffles from Ernest Hamwi, a waffle vendor nearby; Fornachou rolled the waffles into cones to hold the ice cream.

Although this was the most widely circulated story, much dispute is still laid as to where ice-cream cones became mainstream. Credit for the ice cream cone was also claimed by Abe Doumar and the Doumar family can also claim credit for the ice cream cone. Likewise Doumar had also created rolled up the waffles with a scoop of ice cream on top. He began by selling the cones at the St. Louis Exposition which became an instant success. In fact he had set up the Doumar’s Drive In, Norfolk, Virginia (1907). Even today it operates at the same location established initially, making it a Hampton Roads landmark.

“I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream.” Heywood Broun

To complete the ice cream experience; mixing the different styles of ice cream soda, sundae, toppings, flavours served in waffles or cones would add to the fun as well as palatable experimentation, bringing delight not just to the taste cravings or as comfort food, but also as an artistic rendering to the eye. After all ice cream lifts not just the taste cravings but the mood as a whole experience, which is what a part of life is about.

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Quotes, Reflections, Stories Around the World

Circles, Time and Again…

“I drop kindness pebbles in still water everyday, and I watch the effect they have on other people’s lives. My favorite kindness pebbles are compliments. Drop a compliment and watch the ripple affect that it has in your life.” John A Passaro

Amidst the melee of living the modern life, very often one never stops to think of the far reaching impact of one’s actions, words and thoughts. Little does one realize that when one is really happy, it blooms from within silently triggering the “blooming effect” in those around them. Similarly with kindness. A single kind thought stems the anger or unrest growing within. That stemmed unrest is instead transformed to kind words, starting off a chain reaction that may or mayn’t end with the initiator. Although it mayn’t end in a full circle, the peaceful and mental calm that kindness leaves behind is worth the effort taken to practise a little bit of kindness daily.

“Don’t look to others to give you happiness. Grow it within yourself and share it with the world around you. Bets are, if you give a bit of your happiness to the world, it will begin a ripple effect, and who knows how many other people you can help. It’s never too late to decide that your happiness (or whatever it is that you want) is yours to create and not the other way around.” Leigh Hershkovich

Time and time again, the existence of few laws of life that withstands the test of time has been proven. Among them, is the law of kindness; which like the ripples of a pebble dropped into water has consequences far reaching even after the initial ripple has faded away. The more one practises creating the “good ripples”, the more one experiences life to its’ fullest with the best moments that the latter offers.

“The help we give to others creates the ripple of good feeling we give to ourselves.” Gina Greenlee

Once in a woman’s apartment a cactus bloomed. Prior to this, it was four years old, stuck on the windowsill, like a gloomy and unshaven janitor and suddenly such a surprise. In pleasant thoughts about a blooming cactus, she accidentally stepped on the foot of a gloomy man in the subway. She didn’t scream her remark as usual with an offended look. But smiled:
“Do not be angry with me, please, I had nothing to hold on to; if you like, you can step on my foot and we will be quits.” The grim man swallowed what he was going to voice about her. Then he went to his station and bought a newspaper. Instead of haggling the saleswoman, confused with the calculation of delivery or calling her stupid, he said to her: ” It’s okay, count again, I am not good at math either early in the morning.”
The saleswoman, who did not expect such a response, was deeply moved and gave free of charge two old magazines and a whole pile of old newspapers to an old man, a pensioner who was a regular customer, fond of reading but buying only one cheap newspaper every day.

A contented old man went home with an armful of newspapers and magazines. Having met a neighbor from the upper floor, he didn’t give her a daily talk on the topic: “your child is stomping around the apartment like an elephant and is preventing rest, it is necessary to bring up better”, but he looked and said: “Your daughter has grown. I don’t understand whom she is more like you or her father, but she will definitely be a fine lady.” The neighbor took the child to the garden, went to work at the reception and did not shout at the senseless grandmother who had signed up for an appointment with the doctor for yesterday, but came today. Instead she said,” Come on, don’t be upset, I also sometimes forget my schedule. You can sit for a minute, and I will check with the doctor the visit for now.” Having received an appointment, the grandmother did not demand that she be given a very effective, but inexpensive medicine that can instantly help cure the disease; threatening in case of refusal to write complaints to all public bodies or media but sighed and said: – “I am not completely out of my mind. I understand that old age cannot be cured, but can you forgive me, doctor, for dragging myself to you all the time. ”

And the doctor walking home in the evening, suddenly remembered his grandmother and felt sorry for her. He suddenly thought that life in its usual rush flies by, and, giving in to a sudden impulse, stopped at the nearest supermarket, bought a bouquet of flowers, a cake with cream roses and went the other way. He drove up to a house, climbed to the third floor and knocked on the door. “I’ve been thinking, about time and you. I bought you a cake, but I accidentally put my briefcase on it. I hope this is not a bad thing, because it will not affect the taste. I also bought you flowers, but they also got a little crushed by the same portfolio. Maybe they can be saved ?” “That will be alright,” the woman replied, “we will reanimate them. And I have news. Just imagine, I woke up today, I looked at the window, and my cactus has bloomed. See? ” (Source: vk.com, translated to English)

“Our power lies in our small daily choices, one after another, to create eternal ripples of a life well lived.” Mollie Marti

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Life, Quotes, Reflections, Stories Around the World

“Just Some Time”

“Love your family. Spend time, be kind & serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised & today is short.” Unknown

Even after long hours at work and tackling the chores at home; the only thing that satisfies my children is time spent with them alone. From reading to them, simply sitting together in the lawn or watching the traffic together from the bench; all they want is time spent without any activities, gadgets, interference or constraints at that moment. The younger they are, they crave for such moments.

“Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.” Regina Brett

Although lifestyle today offers innumerable comforts, one thing that still is never sufficient is time. The root struggle in handling time is dividing it between work, family and for self. Being a family, as far as children are concerned, no amount of gadgets, toys, books or cartoons can substitute their bonding time with siblings and parents. Constant negligence and lack of the latter can lead to dependence on the former, which can have lasting implications on the education, personality as well as psychological traits of the child.

“ At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, a parent.” Barbara Bush

Looking back to our childhood from the present today, the memories of fun, trips and experiences with parents, siblings, cousins, family and friends is what makes the hard and unhappy moments of today better. Besides these childhood memories and experiences to an extent, are what shaped us to the person of today. On reflecting, what matters more than worldly good or presents as well as gifts, is quality time with loved ones.

“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” Abigail Van Buren

The acts of today, reflects in the future of tomorrow. No matter how busy working parents or guardians are, spending just ten minutes with their children makes all the difference in the world to them. Children always light up the adult lives, with their innocence, joyous nature and selfless thinking. The change in their behaviour and attitude is a reflection of the love that they perceive. Too much or too little of love, care and attention is dangerous. Remembering our childhood moments and experiences will aid us in making the childhood of our own children memorable.

“ Your children can be around you all day, but if you don’t spend quality time with them and you don’t pay attention to them and talk to them and listen to them, it doesn’t matter that they’re just around you.” Brandy Norwood

Once, a man returned home late from work, as always, tired and twitching, and saw that a five-year-old son was waiting for him at the door. “Dad, how much do you get? ” “That is none of your business!,” the father was indignant.”Why do you need it? “
– I just want to know. Please tell me how much you get per hour?
– Well, 100 rubles. Why?
“Dad …” the son looked up at him with very serious eyes. Dad, can you borrow me 50?
“You asked only so that I could give you money for some stupid toy?”, he shouted. “Immediately march to your room and go to bed! You can not be such an egoist! I work all day, I get tired, and you behave yourself so stupidly.”
The kid quietly went to his room and closed the door behind him. And his father continued to stand in the doorway and get angry at his son’s requests. But after a while he calmed down and began to reason sensibly: “Maybe he really needs to buy something very important.” When he entered the nursery, his son was already in bed.
– You are not sleeping, son? – he asked.
– No, Dad. Just lying down, answered the boy.
“I seem to be too rude to you,” said the father. “I had a hard day, and I just broke. Forgive me. Here, hold the money you asked for.”
The boy sat up in bed and smiled.
– Oh, father, thanks! he exclaimed happily.

Then he climbed under the pillow and took out some more crumpled banknotes. His father, seeing that the child already had money, became angry again. And the kid put all the money together, and carefully counted the bills, and then looked at his father again.
– Why did you ask for money if you already have it? – grumbled his father.
– Because I had not enough. But now I just have enough, – the child replied.
– Dad, there are exactly one hundred. Can I buy one hour of your time? Please come back tomorrow from work early, I want you to have dinner with us.

Moral: I just wanted to remind you that our life is too short to spend it at work. We should not allow it to flow through our fingers, and not give at least a tiny piece of it to those who really love us — our closest people. If we are not tomorrow, our company will very quickly replace us with someone else. And only for family and friends it will be a really big loss, which they will remember all their life. Think about it, because we spend much more time working than family.
Source: vk.com (translated to english)

“ I don’t think quantity time is as special as quality time with your family.”  Reba McEntire

Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Ice-cream, Soda and Evolution…

“Summer would not be summer without Ice-cream. Ice-cream is the favorite currency of love.” Puck

For my kids, summer translates into picnics, beaches, barbecues and of course, never to forget it, “the ice-cream“. Being in the National Ice cream Month (July) with the end of the week marking the National Ice cream Day (third Sunday of July), the truce between the “young ones” and their “veggies” was an ice cream a day for dessert. As a part of improvisation of the existing recipes and combinations, delving into the evolution and progress of ice cream makes for an interesting read.

Although the origins of this “summer dessert” have been rough traced back to the 4th century B.C.; the modern day versions with the wide variety of flavours as well as presentations were made feasible only by the 18th century. Early records of it’s popularity include the Roman emperor Nero (37-68 CE) who ordered ice to be brought from the mountains and combined with fruit toppings and King Tang (618-97 CE) of Shang, China who had a method of creating ice and milk concoctions. While “Ice cream” may have been likely brought to Europe from China. As legends go, when Italian duchess Catherine de’ Medici married the Duke of Orléans (1533), the French court had few Italian chefs who had recipes for flavored ices or sorbets. A century later, Charles I of England was impressed by the “frozen snow” that he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension in return for keeping the formula a secret, so that ice cream could be a royal prerogative. While there is no historical evidence to support these legends, the recipes for ices, sherbets and milk ices had evolved gradually over time and were usually served in the fashionable royal courts or in the upper class society.

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.” Don Kardong

As recipes for flavoured ices began to be published for the household cooks and ice storing became more feasible, flavoured ices were enjoyed by the middle class society. Towards the early 19th century, Augustus Jackson had created several popular ice cream flavours, packed them into tin cans and distributed them to the ice cream parlours of Philadelphia. Credited with inventing an improved method for manufacturing of ice cream, he is technically considered as the modern day father of ice cream.

Going years ahead, the Franklin’s Institute semi-centennial celebration (1874) saw the creation of the ice cream float by Robert McCay Green, Pennsylvania. The traditional account was on that particularly hot day, Mr. Green ran out of ice for the flavored drinks he was selling and used vanilla ice cream from a neighboring vendor, thereby inventing a new drink. As published by his own account in the Soda Fountain magazine (1910), states that after some experimenting (after effect of competition with nearby vendors), he had decided to combine ice cream and soda water. During the celebration, he sold vanilla ice cream with soda water and a choice of 16 flavored syrups. Although there are at least three other claimants for the invention of ice cream float, namely Sanders, Mohr and Guy; wherein the latter is said to have absentmindedly mixed ice cream and soda (1872), to his customer’s delight. However may the legends go, the combination of ice cream and soda have stayed on.

“Sometimes life is just what it is, and the best you can hope for is ice cream.”  Abbi Waxman

From being in a boxed container to served with soda, sprinkles, toppings and more, ice cream has evolved from being a simple street or roadside treat to an artistic rendering for functions. Ice cream with its’ many variants like ice lolly, Malyasian Ais kacang, Turkish dondurma, gelato, kulfi and the like; are all here to stay and evolve, changing the “sweet trends” of dessert over time.