August 20, 2014
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
~ Anatole France
As I sit writing this week’s post, my cat Folsterman relaxes on top of the desk, next to my computer. He likes to rest his paw on top of my left arm as I type. He occasionally looks up into my eyes and meows.
I have had Folster and his sister, Sofia, as part of my family since they were just one day old.
Twelve years ago, I had just pulled into the grocery store parking lot when I noticed a shopping cart, empty except for a small shoe box sitting inside. Something told me to look in that shoe box before I went in to shop. My instincts were correct. Inside the box were four tiny, just-born kittens, apparently abandoned without their mother. I took the kittens to the local emergency pet hospital, where the on-duty veterinarian examined them and told me that they were about one day old. She gave me some kitten formula and showed me how to feed them with a bottle, then how to wipe their little backsides with a warm, wet cotton ball afterwards. Apparently, the mother cat does this with her tongue to help the kittens go to the bathroom after eating.
The next several weeks were filled with bottle feeding (each kitten had to have a separate bottle, every two hours, at the correct temperature), cleaning them and trying to keep them warm. One kitten died in my arms within the first three days, possibly because he had no mama cat to snuggle up to and he got too cold. After this heartbreak, I had to create make-shift incubators to keep the remaining kittens warm.
I successfully kept alive the remaining three and taught them to eat solid food, use their litter box and become fine, upstanding feline citizens. I found a home for one of them. The remaining two, Sofia and Folsterman (Folster, for short), have lived with me ever since.
As they have had a human mom since all but day one of their lives, they imitate me in many ways. They like to watch television; they reach out to pet me like I do them; they are quite talkative. Sofia likes to sleep with her head on the pillow and her body under the covers, like her mom. When I am not feeling well, Folster sits next to me. He also chases intruders out of the yard.
I was watching a football game the other night when I noticed Folster doing something strange. He had taken a mouthful of his food from his bowl in the kitchen and carried it in his mouth, bringing it all the way into the living room and depositing it next to the couch, where he proceeded to eat it. I couldn’t figure out his reason for doing this at first. Then, it hit me. I laughed out loud, realizing that he was going to the kitchen, getting his dinner and bringing it to eat in front of the TV, just like he sees me do almost every night.
When people hear my story of finding and raising these kitties, they often remark, “They sure are lucky that you found them.”
I have woken up each day with Sofia and Folster, shared my life with them, snuggled with them and grown with them for twelve wonderful years. They are family.
I am the lucky one.
Folster loves cheese, but not just any cheese. He prefers sharp cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Manchego. We have the same tastes. Cheddar Cheese Chips are tasty, cheesy, easy-to-make snacks for human cheese lovers to enjoy and perhaps share with their animal friends.
Cheddar Cheese Chips
These can be made with good Parmesan cheese as well as sharp cheddar. Serve as a tasty garnish with salads, soups, etc.
You will need:
8 0z of freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Using one rounded tablespoon for each chip, make little piles of grated cheese in the pan, using a spatula to lightly flatten and shape the cheese into 2 to 3 inch rounds. Cook until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes) then flip carefully with the spatula and cook other side. Do not leave the pan unattended. The cheese can smoke if it starts to burn and set off your smoke alarm.
Drain chips on paper towels and store in a covered container.
Makes 24 chips
August 12, 2014
A note about this week’s post:
I wrote this week’s blog post yesterday afternoon. Just before posting, I read about the death of actor/comedian Robin Williams from an apparent suicide. He had recently been suffering from severe depression and had struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse for many years. I lost a dear friend to these same struggles several years ago. At the time of his death, he had many friends and family members who cared about him and were trying to help him get better. In spite of the love that surrounded him, my friend felt hopeless and ended his life with an overdose at the age of 23. I wish with all of my heart that he could have stuck around long enough to recover – that he could have made it through the long, dark night to see the light of dawn – that he could have made just one more call for help.
If you are having thoughts of suicide or if you believe that someone you love might be at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.
“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy… all these are undoubtedly great virtues… But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?”
~ C.G. Jung
Too often we are the most demanding, the most critical and the least forgiving of ourselves. We feel it is a virtue to look for the positive in others. However, if we do the same while looking in the mirror or looking within, we see this as a lack of humility. In so doing, we turn any attempt at self-acceptance into yet another criticism. The virtue of compassion that we are encouraged to feel for our fellow humans, animals or plants, is too often seen as a character flaw when applied to the self. We are told to forgive the transgressions of others, yet somehow we expect ourselves to be perfect and, when we prove to be fallible and human, we are usually our own harshest critics.
I am a firm believer in making a “good things list” as an exercise in gratitude and recognition of the blessings that surround us. It is equally important to find gratitude for that which is within us.
Make an “I Love You Because” list for yourself and update it regularly.
List all of your special talents, the things you do best. Find ways to use your unique abilities to help others as well as yourself.
Pick one thing each day that is beautiful about you, either a physical quality or something else, and give thanks for it.
Tell yourself “I love you” at least once per day. Even if you are uncomfortable doing this, even if it feels silly or you feel you are not being sincere, say it daily to yourself anyway until you feel it in your heart. If you cannot express your love sincerely to the person with whom you are closest (you!), how do you expect to be believed when you express your love to another?
Make a list of all your accomplishments over the years, the things you’ve overcome and the ways you have learned from your mistakes and grown. Keep this as a reminder that, in order to succeed, one must be willing to risk failure and that failure is how we learn. Each failure then becomes another accomplishment on the road to achieving your goals.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
~ John Steinbeck
Treat yourself to Spiced Fig Lassi, a twist on the traditional yogurt-based drink from India.
Spiced Fig Lassi
This delicious version of the Indian blended drink is made with yogurt, heart-healthy figs and spices. Served chilled, it makes a yummy on-the-go breakfast, midday snack or a cooling accompaniment to hot and spicy foods. For the best flavor, choose very ripe figs for this recipe.
2 cups fresh ripe figs
1/4 cup organic sugar
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger root
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of allspice
Peel and chop figs and add to blender with the sugar. Puree until mostly smooth. Add yogurt and spices. Blend until well mixed and very smooth.
Makes about 4 cups
August 4, 2014
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
The term “moving toward a new horizon” is used to describe a journey to new ways of thinking, living or being, usually indicating an improvement in one’s current situation or a change of things for the better. However, if you are the planet Pluto (oops, I mean “icy dwarf planet”), the new horizon is moving toward you.
The New Horizons space probe was launched by NASA in 2006 in order to study Pluto, its five known moons (Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra) and objects within the Kuiper belt (a region of our Solar System that extends beyond the planets). On its way, New Horizons, the first probe to travel to Pluto, has already journeyed over the storms and around the moons of Jupiter. Flying by Jupiter also assisted the probe by providing a mid-course gravitational assist (kind of like using Jupiter’s gravity as a sling-shot to propel New Horizons on to Pluto).
New Horizons will encounter Pluto on July 14, 2015 and the probe has had to make six course corrections along the way, the most recent a couple of weeks ago.
When we as individuals are moving toward a desired goal, in search of a new horizon, things don’t always go smoothly. More often than not, one encounters unexpected delays, unanticipated roadblocks and unplanned-for circumstances. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Those difficulties, big and small, test our desire and resolve. They often help to steer us down an ultimately better path, even if, at first, we experience frustration or disappointment.
If you are trying to do something new, to make a change for the better or bring a new idea into being, remember to keep your eyes on the prize. If you are forging a new path, the way will not be well-worn and smooth by nature of its very newness. You should expect bumps in the road and, like the New Horizons spacecraft, make the necessary corrections and keep going. One day at a time, put one foot in front of the other; do something every day to move yourself forward toward your goal and eventually, the new horizon will find its way to you.
Wake up your taste buds with this vegetarian version of the classic Southern-style gravy made with coffee.
Mushroom Red Eye Gravy
This veggie version of Red Eye Gravy is super flavorful. Serve for brunch over polenta, grits or mashed potatoes. I stirred mine into 2 cups of cooked quinoa and it was amazing! Omnivores can try it over steak, as both coffee and mushrooms compliment the flavor of beef. Be sure to look for the Fair Trade Certified symbol on your coffee. See the link to Fair Trade USA at the right, under Elaborations, for more info on Fair Trade.
2 & 1/2 tablespoons butter
8 oz of cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup water
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a medium-sized sauté pan, over medium high heat, melt butter and add mushrooms, stirring constantly until mushrooms release their liquid. Add the smoked paprika and a pinch of salt. Add coffee and stir to incorporate mushrooms and butter and deglaze the pan. Stir in the water and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, to reduce (gravy will be thin). Taste and add salt and black pepper to your liking.
Makes about 1 & 1/2 cups (with mushrooms)
July 25, 2014
“Stop acting so small. You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.
I teach a morning yoga class at a lovely swim club in the nearby foothills. Every week I like to introduce the students to a new mudra. Mudras are what I like to call “hand yoga”. They are gestures of the hands, often used as a part of yogic meditation, that symbolize and encourage various mental, spiritual and energetic states and are said to help manifest these states into physical reality.
The verb manifest, defined as “to make evident”, probably originated as a combination of manus, the Latin for “hand”, combined with festus, for “struck”. So, striking a pose with your hand, as in forming the gesture of a mudra, is the physical expression of the etymological roots of a word that describes bringing an idea into being.
This week I demonstrated the Kubera mudra, which symbolizes the manifestation of abundance. Google “Kubera mudra” and you will see that most people use this gesture to attain wealth or other personal desires. However, I believe this mudra is most effectively and beneficially used to acknowledge the seemingly limitless abundance already present in our lives.
I like to form the Kubera Mudra by holding one hand with the fingers pointing up and one with the fingers aiming downward, to symbolize both giving and receiving abundance. We must be willing to both give and receive in order to make ourselves a conduit of the ecstatic plenty that is the Universe.
Abundance is all around us. According to a 2011 study published in the journal PLOS Biology, Earth is home to 8.7 million species of plants, animals and fungi. Of those 8.7 million, 86% of the earthbound species and 91% of those living in the ocean have yet to be classified. In addition, there are even more species of bacteria and archaea, possibly 5 x 10 to the 30th power. To give you an idea of how big that number is, imagine a stack of pennies a trillion light years high.
And that is just the forms of life found on our own planet.
According to astronomers, our Milky Way galaxy alone contains up to 400 billion stars and 8.8 billion habitable, Earth-sized planets. There are probably more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Multiply the number of stars in our galaxy by the number of galaxies in the Universe and you get one septillion stars. That is a 1 followed by 24 zeros. And that does not include the part of the Universe we cannot see.
Abundance is also within us. A 2013 study estimates that our bodies each contain about 37.2 trillion human cells. In addition, each of us is home to trillions more microbial cells.
So, both within you and around you are seemingly infinite expressions of life.
Meditate on this endless bounty the next time you feel a sense of limitation.
Exotic flavors bring an abundance of deliciousness to Tandoori-spiced Chicken Burgers with Turmeric-Ginger Slaw.
Tandoori-spiced Chicken Burgers with Turmeric Ginger Slaw
Fresh turmeric is my new fave spice. Look for it in your produce section.
1 lb ground organic free-range chicken
7-8 saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon of water
2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 clove of fresh garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
Seeds from one cardamom pod, smashed
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Turmeric Ginger Slaw (recipe follows)
Warm naan bread
Combine ingredients (including saffron water) in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Form into patties and fry in a bit of oil over medium-high heat or cook on an outdoor grill until cooked through. Alternatively, you can skip forming the meat into patties and cook the chicken in a pan as you would for taco meat.
Serve over warm naan bread and top with Turmeric Ginger Slaw (recipe follows).
Serves 3 to 4
Turmeric Ginger Slaw
This spicy and refreshing slaw is yummy all by itself.
Two 2-inch pieces of fresh ginger
Two 2 & 1/2 -inch pieces of fresh turmeric
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
2 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons organic sugar
1/4 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste
Peel and slice ginger and turmeric into very thin matchstick-sized slices. Combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well and serve. You can also serve this salad chilled, as a side.
July 17, 2014
“Make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light…”
~From the Prayer of St. Francis
In the 1987 movie, Roxanne, the lead character is taking an evening walk and stops to buy the newspaper. He takes one look at the news of the day, screams in horror and then deposits another coin in order to put the newspaper he has just purchased back inside the vending machine.
There are some days when the news makes one want to hide away from the world like a religious hermit, contemplating nothing but his own navel.
With all of the good there is in the world, with all the compassion that can be found within the human heart, with all of the progress that continues to be made toward human rights and healing, there are some days when events threaten to overwhelm us with anger or sadness or hopelessness.
Unlike the hermit, who prefers solitude over pain and experience, some choose to dive head first into conflict with weapons or with words. It can be tempting, when the loudest voices are preaching anger and hate, sometimes understandably, sometimes unjustifiably, to lash out in response or defense. But hate cannot be vanquished with further hate and anger added to anger produces only more anger.
Adding your voice to an argument merely increases the volume, and running away from the world does nothing to help those left behind. Are these the only choices for one who wishes, at the risk of sounding cliché, to “change the world”?
The definition of the word neutralize is given by the Oxford English Dictionary as:
“To render something ineffective or harmless by applying an opposite force or effect.”
As difficult as it can be some days to answer hate with love, anger with compassion, despair with hope and darkness with light, as tough as it is to focus on solutions in the midst of strife, to do so is the only way to heal our own hearts and, in doing so, begin to heal the heart of the world.
Let it begin with you. Make yourself an instrument of peace.
Transform powdered green tea into something sweet with Matcha Latte Ice Cream.
Matcha Latte Ice Cream
A tablespoon of matcha green tea powder added to a basic ice cream recipe turns fine green tea into a sweet summer treat.
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder
2 cups cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Heat milk in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Do not boil.
Whisk together sugar and eggs in a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Slowly pour the hot milk into the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly as you pour, until all the milk is poured and mixture is combined.
Return mixture to pan and heat slowly, over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens (consistency will be like runny pudding). Do not boil. Let cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, whisk matcha powder into cream until completely blended. Add matcha cream and vanilla to cooled custard mixture and stir to combine well.
Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Process in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes about one quart.
July 9, 2014
“The effort of art is to keep what is interesting in existence, to recreate it in the eternal.”
~ George Santayana
Welcome to the first post on the new home for The Philosopher’s Spoon Blog!
If you have been following the blog recently, you know that a few weeks ago I discovered that the hosting service I had been using since the start of The Philosopher’s Spoon Blog in 2010 would soon be discontinued. I had to quickly find a new host and rebuild the blog at its new home. I know the appearance of the blog is slightly different and will take some getting used to, but I think this new look is a good reminder that, although change can be uncomfortable at times, it can also be inspirational. The road-blocks life puts in our way often guide us down a path not traveled, offering us new perspectives, opportunities and ideas. And, on that note…
If something old is no longer working, don’t discard it, make something new out of it!
When Compact Disc (CD) audio recordings came on the scene in the 80s, they quickly took over as the format of choice for the music industry and most of the listening public. The die-hard fans of vinyl were reduced to record collectors, club DJs and turntable artists. “Vinyl is dead” proclaimed the media and the public proceeded to repurchase their entire record collections on CD.
Skip ahead to today. Digital downloads, like those offered by iTunes, have taken over as the format of choice. CDs have been declared “dead”, as more and more music listeners are streaming and downloading music to their smartphones and computers.
Enter London musician Alexander Kolkowski. In a beautiful example of karmic irony, he is re-engineering old CDs so that they play like 45 rpm vinyl records. Using a modified version of a 1950s home recording device called the Wilcox-Gay Recordette, Kolkowski cuts grooves into the CD’s surface, making it playable on a turntable. By connecting an input device to the Recordette, such as a microphone, Kolkowski can record any sound or voice onto the CD.
The recording process works via an electronic signal that the modified Wilcox-Gay Recordette sends from the input device to a needle at the end of an arm, which then cuts sound grooves onto the CD. It’s like an old-fashioned record player in reverse: the arm and needle of the turntable are carving the sounds into the record, instead of playing it back (however, the original content of the CD becomes unreadable in the process).
This makes discarded CDs into blank canvases on which to create and preserve sound art. Kolkowski has been touring Europe, recording spontaneous spoken word, music and electronic performances using his new technique. Said the musician, “It’s transforming a disposable media storage device made for cloned copying into a one-of-a-kind cult object.”
Kolkowski’s CD-Recycled 45 rpm project is repurposing CDs into records for free while on the road. He has even recorded marriage proposals: “People bring a CD and I give them one in return.” The CD project is one of many the musician/artist is doing on retooling, recycling and recreating sound devices, including installations at the Science Museum and the Royal College of Music in London.
So don’t be so quick to throw out something that seems obsolete. At some point, everything old becomes new again.
Put a new spin on your usual pie with Sunny Side Up Pizza.
Sunny Side Up Pizza
Fried eggs, cheese and chives dress up a ready-to-top pizza crust for a delicious brunch, lunch or dinner.
1 (10-inch) ready to top packaged pizza crust
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shredded organic mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
3 to 4 organic eggs
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional: 2 to 3 pieces of crispy-cooked bacon, crumbled
Preheat oven (according to package directions for crust)
Rub olive oil over surface of pizza crust. Sprinkle cheeses over surface evenly. Sprinkle chives over surface evenly.
Bake according to package directions for crust.
While pizza cooks, fry eggs sunny side up (runny), over medium or over hard, according to your taste. Season with pepper.
Pull pizza from oven when cheese is browned and bubbly and crust is golden (I like to cook mine halfway on a tray and then move directly to rack to crisp the crust).
Top pizza with cooked egg and, if desired, crumbled bacon. Serve hot.
Serves one person as a meal, two as an appetizer.