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

W for “Water”

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.”  Lao Tzu

“Leave No One Behind”

On the occasion of the World Water Day, an annual UN observance day (March 22nd) marking the importance of freshwater, one is faced with the grave fact of the “rising scarcity” of the freshwater resources. Initially commemorated in 1993 by the United Nations, the theme changes every year, with the theme for 2019 being “Leave No One Behind”. The water crisis to be tackled this year, addresses why marginalized groups like women, children, refugees, disabled and indigenous people are often overlooked in their accessibility to save drinking water.

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” Leonardo da Vinci

Being a part of the global network and progressive species on earth, preserving the natural resources as well as attaining universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are in line with the target of the development goals across the world as outlined by the UN. While today, a variety of events ranging from educational, theatrical, musical, funding campaigns or lobbying are done to generate awareness and advocate sustainable management of freshwater resources; the realistic truth is that everyday is “water conservation day”. As they often say, habits made young are hard to break, advocating proper and conservative use of water should be initiated at family, school and community level. For conservation and preservation never happens overnight, but is always an ongoing process.

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Jacques Yves Cousteau

The alarming misuse and wastage of natural resources is still at its’ peak. The sooner we reform, reuse, reduce and recycle; the longer we will be able to still avail benefits from what nature has provided us. Freshwater (2.5–2.75%) is needed for survival, more than saline water (around 97%). Thus conservation is mandatory by the hour. Else despite the presence of water, there would be not a drop to drink easy.

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” Loren Eiseley

“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
From “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834) “
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Part II)

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.” Laura Gilpin

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Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Green, Blue and Irish

“May your heart be light and happy, may your smile be big and wide, and may your pockets always have a coin or two inside!”- Irish Proverb

Although the Lá Fhéile Pádraig, “the Day of the Festival of Patrick”, or more commonly known as St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish cultural and religious celebration was observed worldwide on 17 March, (the traditional death date of Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461)), celebrations are still afoot at most restaurants. One of the official Christian feast day, the day commemorates Saint Patrick, the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, celebrating the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. While going “green” coloured marks St. Patrick’s Day (although the Order of St. Patrick, an Anglo-Irish chivalric order (1783) adopted blue as its colour), indulging in Irish cuisine would be an added bonus, besides savouring the difference in flavours and style.

“Only Irish Coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, sugar, caffeine and fat.” Alex Levine

As a part of the celebrations, representative traditional Irish dishes like Irish stew, bacon and cabbage (with potatoes), boxty (potato pancake), coddle (sausage, bacon, and potato), colcannon, drisheen (a type of black pudding) or goody (A dessert dish made by boiling bread in milk with sugar and spices.) and gur cake have been on the menu in select restaurants and cafes. Yet the best of all, Irish Coffee, Irish Whiskey and Irish beer have been one of the favourite for many. For a weekend or weekday break from the routine cuisine, “going Irish” would be a welcome change.

“Bless us with good food, the gift of gab and hearty laughter. May the love and joy we share, be with us ever after!” Irish Kitchen Prayer

The Irish has evolved over the ancient times, largely based on the cereals and dairy products with meat cooked fresh, stewed (at times flavoured with honey) or used “purple berries” to colour the meal. Largely the cuisine has been modified by the English conquest in early 17th century followed by the migration of the Irish to the Americas. With the development of technology and media, Irish recipes gained its’ own level of global popularity. For the cuisine experimenter, trying out the barmbrack (leavened bread with sultanas and raisins) with colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage) or the traditional Irish stew (of lamb or mutton with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and seasoning) with gur cake (a confectionery made of a dark brown paste, containing a mixture of cake or bread crumbs, dried fruits (sultana raisins etc.) with a sweetener, put as a thick filling between two layers of thin pastry. Not to forget, the Irish Coffee or beer as a go along.

However basic and simple the Irish cuisine may sound, they never fail to please the taste buds with the different flavours. As the Irish often say, “Bíonn blas ar an mbeagán” (Bee-on bloss err on myah-gon) translated as “Though a small amount, it’s tasty.”

Sláinte (Pronounced Slawn-che, Health! (Cheers)) !!!

Posted in Daily, Life, Personal Musings, Quotes, Reflections

Beauty Around Us

Recently as we were browsing for a gift for new home owners in the neighbourhood, the choices were based on whether to get a gift for its’ usefulness or for decorative purpose. Going through the choices for both, one would be struck on how has changed to match the beauty, aesthetics, colours and background of the new era; to the extent that most of our homes can be labelled “ancient”. Today the sense of style and beauty evolves at a fast rate, so that new of today is “old of tomorrow”, not “next month”.

“Walking in the mountains helps me unwind, but it also reminds me in a painful way that the real beauty in life is nature and animals, and that the human race, in all its arrogance, is intent on destroying it.” Sylvie Guillem

No matter how old we grow or how modern we become, nature in her elements never fails to make us appreciate the true beauty of life. From time to time when we stop with surprise at her magnificent marvels; we never fail to appreciate her wonder. The churning waves, the coloured hue of maple leaves, the first snow, the shining of the sun on frost, the changing shapes and white of the clouds, the colors of the sky are just few of the many artistic marvels of nature.

“I appreciate simplicity, true beauty that lasts over time, and a little wit and eclecticism that make life more fun.” Elliott Erwitt

We all are immersed in beauty for the world is unbearably beautiful; just that we don’t pay enough attention to it. True beauty is the world created for us. People with their lively nature of laughing eyes, songs and honest laughter, small children running about with joy and fun, birds chirping in the morning; all these are few of the many things that we miss or take for granted daily. Everything that is beautiful and wonderful is realized when we pay attention. For the artist is not the one who can draw, the artist is the one who is able to notice the beauty of the surrounding world.

“I think that it’s when we step out of the road, step outside the box, become our own person, and we walk fearlessly down paths other people wouldn’t look at, that true progress comes. And sometimes true beauty as well.” JohnMcAfee

Posted in Daily, Food

Beyond the “C”

What connects Camellia sinensis, Coffea seeds, Kola nuts as well as the yaupon holly leaves, Amazonian holly guayusa leaves. The common factor is a simple but bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid compound popularly consumed globally as “Caffeine”. The growing role of “caffeine” related beverages is evidenced by the celebration of March as the National Caffeine Awareness Month” by foodimentarians globally.

Like the two sides of a coin, caffeine has its’ own merits and demerits. Primarily playing its’ role as a central nervous stimulant as well as inhibitor of two major enzymes, phophodiesterase and adenosine; caffeine of coffee, tea as well as the medically available pure form has its’ indicated uses and merits.

From treating to preventing major diseases in neonates (like bronchopulmonary dysplasia, apnea of prematurity) as well aiding asthmatics in reducing their exacerbation; caffeine aids in reducing fatigue, drowsiness and improving coordination and reaction time. Imagine the endless night shifts, cramming before exams, pulling all nighters before the term exams in university and aiding to stay awake during classes after late night events; caffeine was always a life saver. In moderation, caffeine aids in reducing depressive symptoms as well as suicide idealizations.

“It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.” Ernest Hemingway

Not just students or night shift workers, for the gym goers, caffeine helps in improving their endurance, aids weight loss as well as increase the training or exercise volume. Moderate consumption of caffeine reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s risk, neuroprotective for Parkinson’s patients, reduces liver fibrosis and cirrhosis as well decreases risk of throat, mouth, colon and skin cancer.

On the other hand, more than 400 milligrams of caffeine intake has been associated with health risks ( Health Canada limitations) while toxic doses are in the range of ten grams or more of caffeine (50 -100 coffee cups with 80-175 mgs of caffeine per cup). Adverse effects of caffeine have a physical as well as psychological manifestation. In the former group would include raised blood pressure, headaches, increase gastrointestinal motility, increase bone loss in postmenopausal women, stained teeth, increased eye pressure in glaucoma patients, loss of essential minerals like iron and calcium as well as decreasing collagen synthesis i.e. more wrinkles.

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes

From a psychological viewpoint, increase caffeine can lead to addiction, mood swings, dependency, anxiety disorders, tremors as well as irritability and sleep less nights. For the pregnant women, balancing the daily intake to two or less cups of coffee ( less than 200mg ) helps to reduce the caffeine induced pregnancy complications.

Caffeine consumption, highly depends on the way and reason we take it. From a simple homemade coffee to the “calorie laden coke” (laced with additional compounds) or the simple morning and evening ritual of tea, caffeine intake can be regulated. The more carefully we regulate the caffeine intake, the longer we can enjoy the merits than be affected by their demerits.

“Adventure in life is good; consistency in coffee even better.” Justina Chen, North of Beautiful

Posted in Daily, Food

The “Snack” Cravings

“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” Anne Lamott

No matter how old we grow, there’s always time to grab a snack in between, either when still or on the go. Remember the childhood treat of “cookies or biscuits and milk”, “vada with chai” or “fritters after school” and so on, with the best being around the “midnight ice-cream or chocolate teat”. As time moved on and we grew up, “snacking” became a must especially during college, university and struggling between jobs when cooking a full meal was a rarity. Slowly as the years evolved, being healthy declined and we got out of shape, “snacking” became a struggle for the mind and body between “should I or should I not.”

“Some people wonder why they can’t have faith for healing. They feed their body three hot meals a day, and their spirit one cold snack a week.” F. F. Bosworth

From childhood and school days, the focus has been on having three healthy meals a day; the occasional decline in the sugar levels as well as the temptation of the taste buds prompted the occasional snack. On a scientific note, research has recommended that “small snacks” does indeed life up the metabolism, boosting mental work and triggers satiety. On the other hand, as we overdo it; the scales tip and we find ourselves in a continuous cycle of frustration and over-snacking.

“Everyone I know is looking for solace and a tasty snack.” Maira Kalman

Yet the balance between “healthy and unhealthy snacking” is very fine. Keeping all snacks portion controlled, mixed range and on balanced nutrient density helps us to continue snacking on “legal celery sticks and granola bars” as well as the “delicious cheesy pretzels and chocolate rich gooey globs of goodness” for some occasions. Sticking to “wise snacking”, varied options and balancing between both, keeps the interlude between the three meals interesting not just for the palate but creativity, mind, mood, emotions, body and soul; making “happy snacking” a trend.

“All of life is a continuous state of wonder interrupted by bedtime and light snacks.” Joyce Rachelle

Posted in Daily, Food, Personal Musings

All in Moderation

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates

One of the most conflicting emotions that often run in the mind, especially the woman’s mind is whether one is fat or thin ? To be honest, fat is essential to diet and all products or diets that state to eliminate fat is dangerous. Besides being good energy sources and cushioning the internal body organs, certain fats are essential to the brain cells, nerves as well as to fight infection and inflammation. The key lies in moderation and to recognize the bad fats namely “trans-fat” and “saturated fats”. Besides these highlights to look for in the food labels, remember that the more processed, the more sparingly we should eat it. Yet that doesn’t mean we have to avoid the occasional splurge once in a while, not daily.

“These small things – nutrition, place, climate, recreation, the whole casuistry of selfishness – are inconceivably more important than everything one has taken to be important so far.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

When the USDA declared January as the “fat free living month”, it was a little weird decision to make as we can’t live without fats. Yet we can regulate the fat intake especially the bad types. Unfortunately weight loss, fad diets and abstinence from fat doesn’t solve our problems unless we find out what makes us unhappy or dissatisfied or triggers the emotional eating binge.

“Weight loss is not the key to your dreams. The truth is there is no lock and the door is flimsy.” Golda Poretsky

We are all beautiful the way we are. Healthy doesn’t mean thin sized nor does it mean running between the goalposts of diet and binge eating. The easiest way to healthy eating is to be mentally happy and enjoy the food. Food serves to sustain and to revel in the tastes offered, but too much of anything honey or salt spoils the beauty.

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

Notion to Concept : Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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