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)

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Posted in Family and Society, Life, Musique, Stories Around the World

Of Summers and Picnics

Although “eating outdoors” may have been a part of civilization since the beginning, the concept of enjoying a picturesque relaxed lunch were in fad post French revolution (1789) when the royal parks were opened to the French public. This concept saw a gradual evolution with hunting parties, Renaissance era country feasts and Victorian garden parties, especially the latter as grand occasions complete with tables, chairs, linens, crystals, catering and gourmet food to top it. Known as “pique-nique” (France, 1794) then, this event turned out to be a social calendar earmarked occasion, catching the trend across Europe and became officially known as “picnic”.

The tales of Robin Hood are one of the first accounts of picnicking when Robin with his band of Merry Men would dine informally under the shelter of trees. The concept of “picnicking” once started had caught on with picnic societies, long picnics as well as “picnic fashion” and “themed social picnics” being created. With International Picnic Day today (June 18th) and to get the most reluctant picnic goers out there, here are a few picnic trivia around the world to get one started.

To have a superb picnics with cushions, rugs and furniture, one would have to go to Turkey, where the trend was initiated. Along with comfort, games and string lighting; a potluck-style selection of stuffed veggies, grilled meats and desserts are often brought. Towards nightfall, picnics still going on turn into bonfires complete with music, dancing and raki (Turkish licorice-flavored alcohol).

Enjoying the National Picnic Week held each June in Britain, it would be incomplete without the Scotch Egg. One of the most iconic picnic foods created towards the late 18th century, these fried sausage-wrapped boiled eggs were easy to be eaten on the road. Other choices like pasta salad, fish and chips, potato salad, deviled eggs, cheese, brownies, cookies, sandwiches, subs and many more form form the huge list of picnic foods which taste good when served cold.

Picnics in the French outdoors especially Bastille Day involves fine dining especially as far as wines are concerned. Plastic cups spoil the flavour and aroma of wine with fresh air. On a personal front, keeping plastic to a minimum and enjoying reusable Tupperware will make the outdoor dining more enjoyable and nature safe.

To enjoy Christmas picnics, the Argentinian beaches would be good place to start. Holidays outdoors are celebrated complete with roasted or barbecued turkey or goat. Going north, Americans enjoy picnics specially on the Fourth of July where along with competitive races, three legged races and other picnic games; speed eating contests of pies, watermelons, burgers and the like have become the major “game attraction”.

While cherry blossoms or “hanami” announce the Japanese picnicking season; the Italians prefer Easter Monday, known as Angel’s Monday or Pasquetta as picnic time. One of the most iconic picnics was the Pan-European Picnic (August 19, 1989) where picnics were held with hundreds of East Germans grabbed the opportunity to cross into Austria. Weeks later Hungary had opened the border, the Iron Curtain had been breached, and on 9th November the Berlin Wall came down. While croquet, soccer, and badminton are common picnic games; kubb is a regular game in Denmark, Finland and Sweden. This lawn game is a mix between bowling and chess, where players attempt to knock over wooden blocks called kubbs with wooden batons.

With the great outdoor weather, it would be remiss to lose out on the opportunity to go back to childhood, capture the bliss of the summer skies and comfort food, while finding peace in the midst of nature. The only catch is to enjoy, being nature safe and eco-friendly. As the best things of life are captured by moments and memories; the essence to living is to make more and enjoy them too.

“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic

Every teddy bear who’s been good is sure of a treat today
There’s lots of marvellous things to eat and wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees where nobody sees they’ll hide and seek as long as they please

That’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic “

….The Teddy Bear’s Picnic by Henry Hall

Posted in Daily, Food, Musique, Stories Around the World

Evolution of the “Accidental Fudge”

“Sandra turned to the page with the title “Toklas’ Hashich Fudge.” The original hashish brownies. ‘Peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, stone dates, dried figs, shelled almonds, peanuts,… A bunch of canibus sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts… it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient…” – Allegra Goodman, The Cookbook Collector

Like most of the “delectable sweet pleasures of the palate “, this sugar candy made flavoured with choclate, fruits, nuts and other flavours; had hot or cold has made its’ own mark in the sweet world. These days, various flavours of “fudge” are made, giving them a vibrant as well as visual appeal to the eyes and the palate.

Technically, fudge is made by mixing sugar, butter and milk, heating it to the soft-ball stage and then beating the mixture while it cools down to get a smooth, creamy consistency with fruits, nuts, chocolate, caramel, candies and other flavoring agents being added either inside or on top. Yet the true origins of “fudge” can’t be exactly traced, though it’s believed to have been originated and gained popularity in late 19th century America. However popular belief among food historians was that the first batch was an accidental “fudged” batch of caramels; hence the name “fudge”.

 

A letter in the archives of Vasser College (1921) written by Emelyn Battersby Hartridge reveals the first documentation of “fudge”. Emelyn wrote that her schoolmate’s cousin made fudge in Baltimore (1886) and sold it for 40 cents a pound. This was the first known sale of fudge. In 1888, Miss Hartridge asked for the fudge recipe, and made 30 pounds of fudge for the Vassar Senior Auction. The recipe was very popular at the school from that point forward. The diary of another student mentions making “fudges” in 1892.

What is it that we love the best,
Of all the candies east or west,
Although to make them is a pest?
Fudges. **

 

An 1893 letter from another Vassar College student describes “fudges” as containing sugar, chocolate, milk and butter. “Fudges at Vassar” was a recipe printed in The Sun (1895) describing the confections as “Vassar chocolates”, which comprises of sugar, milk, butter and vanilla extract. Fudge became a new confection after word spread to other women’s colleges of the tasty delight. Later, Smith and Wellesley schools each developed their own recipe for fudge. Later fudge-making evolved a variety of flavors and additives as it grew beyond its popularity at colleges.

What perches us upon a chair
To stir a sauce-pan held in air,
Which, tipping, pours upon our hair —
Fudges. **

While the first recipe specified butter, milk and sugar, today, American fudge often differs with whipped cream instead of butter and the addition of chocolate flavouring. There are different types of similar recipes to “fudge” across the globe with the Indian “Barfi”, Polish “Krówki” ( Polish fudge, semi-soft milk toffee candies), the Italian “Penuche” which is a fudge-like candy made from brown sugar, butter, milk and vanilla flavouring; as well as the Scottish “Tablet” (taiblet in Scots). Tablet is a medium-hard, sugary confection made from sugar, condensed milk and butter, brought boiled to a soft-ball stage and allowed to crystallise. It is often flavoured with vanilla or whisky, and sometimes has nut pieces in it.

The versatility of fudge is that it can be had alone cold, or served on top of sundaes,  ice cream and even cakes as hot fudge. With various assortment, variety and fun in the process of fudge making; little wonder then that “a set of ditties”  (**) were made by the college girls during and for the “fudge making process”. On the occasion of National Fudge Day (June 16th), it would be time for some fun, rhymes and sweet cooking for all the “home kitchen chefs” or tasting for the food connoisseurs.

What needs more stirring than oat-mush,
And more still when we’re in a rush,
But what’s e’en sweeter than a “crush”?
Fudges.

What subtle odor doth recall,
To artless minds that “long-owed call,”
On the sweet maiden up the hall?
Fudges. **

 

Posted in Daily, Food, Musique, Stories Around the World

“Rocky Road” When On the Go

“I am not plain, or average or – God forbid – vanilla. I am peanut butter rocky road with multicolored sprinkles, hot fudge and a cherry on top.” Wendy Mass

Imagine a sewing scissors, ice cream and the whole house to oneself. As per one source, when William Dreyer of Oakland, California ( March 1929) had eyed these items on a spring day; he had cut up some walnuts and marshmallows and added them to his chocolate ice cream; similar to his friend Joseph Edy’s chocolate candy creation with walnuts and marshmallows. Later walnuts were replaced by pieces of toasted almonds. Variations of this combination with add on of nuts, whole or diced and even flavoured marshmallows with chocolate ice cream ( no choclate chips in the original one) had led to the creation of “rocky road ice cream”.

Post the era of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Dreyer and Edy gave the flavor its current name “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.” Another claim to this creation was by Fentons Creamery, Oakland who stated that Dreyer based his recipe on a Rocky Road-style ice cream flavor invented there by George Farren. The latter had blended his own Rocky Road-style candy bar into ice cream which Dreyer had modified.

“I hope your only rocky road is chocolate.” Amanda Mosher

While in Australia (1853), the “rocky road” was created. Rocky road was a type of cake made up of milk chocolate and marshmallow which is usually served in individual portions such as a cupcake or brownie. With exact origins debatable, the rocky road was created as a way to sell confectionery which had lost it’s flavour during the long trip from Europe and was mixed with locally-grown nuts and cheap chocolate to enhance the taste. As per this account, the name “rocky road” comes from the rocky road that travelers had to take to reach the gold fields. Although, many companies based in the Americas have laid claim to this creation as well.

Rocky road has it’s own variations as per the local flavour. With the traditional Australian rocky road being made of glace cherries, milk chocolate (sometimes dark or white chocolate), desiccated coconut, nuts (mostly peanuts) and marshmallow; Bahrain’s rocky road has milk chocolate, Nutella and pistachios. Moving west ward bound, the traditional British Rocky Road (1971) contains dried fruit, biscuit, milk chocolate ( rarely substituted by dark or white chocolate) with a light dusting of icing sugar over it.

Regardless of the type of Rocky road, whether as store bought or homemade cake, brownies, ice cream or served as topping over coffee, hot chocolate, sundaes or other sweet combinations; missing out on this delight before the summer comes to an end would be sinful. With foodimentarians celebrating tomorrow as National Rocky Road Day ( June 2nd); it would be fun, creative as well as a palatal delight to indulge in this delectable dessert for a change.

“I hear those ice cream bells and I start to drool,
Keep a couple quarts in my locker at school
Yeah, but chocolate’s gettin’ old,
And vanilla just leaves me cold,
There’s just one flavor good enough for me, yeah me,
Don’t gimme no crummy taste spoon, I know what I need, baby
I love rocky road,
So won’t you go and buy a half gallon baby
I love rocky road,
So have another triple scoop with me, OW!”

Lyrics of “I Love Rocky Road” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (1983)

Posted in Daily, Food, Musique

The Muffin Man

Do [or “Oh, do”] you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane?

Yes [or “Oh, yes”], I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane.
(Source: Opie and P. Opie, The Singing Game (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 379-82))

One of the traditional nursery rhymes of English origin, “the muffin man” was recorded around the early nineteenth century as confirmed by British manuscripts circa 1820. Towards the mid-nineteenth century the rhyme as well as the game had spread over to other countries with regional variations in the lyrics as well as the game altering as a forfeit game, guessing game and a dancing game. Whichever style it may be in, as long as the children have fun, it doesn’t matter.

Interestingly, the muffins in the song were based on the English muffins, not the sweeter American cupcake shaped variety. The muffin is an individual-sized, baked product which refers to two distinct items, a part-raised flatbread or a cupcake-like quick-bread. The former i.e. the flatbread version is of British or European origin dating from at least the early 18th century or even earlier. While the latter i.e. the quick bread muffins originated in North America during the 19th century. Like all bread related products, muffins were an evolution over time with human ingenuity, local ingredients, sudden requirements, cultural expectations laced with technological advancement as well as creative baking styles.

I believe the world to be a muffin pan, and there certainly are a lot of muffins here. Aaron Funk

As far as the origins of the word “muffin” goes, it can be traced to old French word “moufflet” applied to bread meaning soft, or even Low German word “muffe” meaning cake. Initially it started off as small yeast cakes light textured roll, round and flat and commonly enjoyed during winter when they are slit, tasted, buttered and served hot with tea or jam. What initially started off as a basic recipe, towards the twentieth century, they varied from the type of flour (white, graham, rye and corn) to add-ons’ from handful of chopped dates or raisins to the base being of bran, blueberry, corn, apple, oatmeal as well as being bigger in size.

I’m all over the place with muffins. Carrots are great. Banana, chocolate chip, they rock, too. Shawn Mendes

Into the final month of this year, there has to be something special on the table once in a while. The beauty of muffins is that they are so quick and easy to make, particularly since the ingredients are only lightly mixed, not beaten smooth and can be made in a pressure cooker as well. Besides making a good snack while counting calories, the variety of tastes and mixes that can be experimented on are quite interesting. With today being the “National Oatmeal Muffin Day” in the west, it would be fun to give a try for some simple homemade muffins- cupcake style or the “English muffin way”.

 

Posted in Christian, Life, Musique, Photography Art

For the Light Awakens

After a late night shift, one longs for a morning of peace and quiet to sleep in. Though it is quite difficult to sleep during the mornings either because of the chaos and our circadian rhythm which goes haywire, so we end up doing chores and other miscellaneous work till we drop off from exhaustion; or because of the sunlight streaming through the windows which prevents the hours of the day turning into night.

Even though our working hours have stretched the normal boundaries of our sleep patterns, the rays of sunshine brightens the day and fosters a sense of calmness, to renew and recharge with a fresh start at another chance in life. Albeit in due course we do succumb to the tiredness and have to catch up on our sleep in order to stay refreshed, still the brightness of the day offers to make the gloomiest scene pretty and live-able. As John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Nevertheless there are some days where even the light can’t dispel the gloomy blackness. In such cases, what we fail to realize that the inner light in us, through the tiny cracks in the shields of darkness will offer a slit for the rays so that there would be a guiding light to find a way out. Should our inner light fail, the rays of light from other true sources will be able to guide us as long as we cast one’s mind to look for them. Remember the stars, even the Pole Star even in the cloudy skies occasionally they show their light. As the lines from the “Sine nomine” go,
“And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.”

Inner or overhead lights, either way unless we use them we will be standing still in the dark. The drawback is if we stay in perpetual darkness we will lose out on the wonders, songs and the joy of living.

Posted in Life, Musique, Quotes, Reflections

Real or Masked ?

One of the most widely acclaimed stage movies which was previously made as a musical is “The Phantom of the Opera (2004)”.It was originally based on Gaston Leroux’s novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra“.The setting of novel was based on the rumours that Leroux had heard about an actual Paris opera house from the time it was constructed.

However what struck me in the entire book and movie was that the story revolved around characters who were masked onstage i.e. a masquerade. In fact on going through the lyrics from “Masquerade” song enacted in the scenes of the opera, it is impossible not to wonder if our lives revolve like one huge masquerade ball.
“Masquerade!Paper faces on parade.
Masquerade!Hide your face, so the world will never find you!
Masquerade!Every face a different shade.
Masquerade!Look around,there’s another mask behind you!
Flash of mauve,Splash of puce.
Fool and king,Ghoul and goose.
Green and black,Queen and priest.
Trace of rouge,Face of beast, Faces.
Take your turn.Take a ride.
On a merry – go – round In an inhuman race…….”

At times our life resembles like a masquerade party; rich with excitement and grandiosity, filled with enigma and spectacles!! Yet the reality is that we live in a world where very often people adorn their masks as a shield to their true self. This begs the question: Who to trust ? Who to believe ? Who is who ? is it another facade, another mask to hide behind?
In fact, St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15 New International Version (NIV))

It is a sad and lonely game we play hiding the real us, masking ourselves with different masks and hiding the real authentic us. In fact, the real “us” is shadowed by the more tempting aspects of the world namely power, fame, strength, meanness and worst of all, “the people pleaser” or the doormat mask. Do we need the masks or do we don on the mask using the pretext of society ? The answer may be difficult but will echo our characters from within.