November 7, 2018

“Success is due less to ability than to zeal.”
~ Charles Buxton

Statue can be found here


Several years ago, I wrote a short post about the exclamation “yay!”.  A conversation I had with a yoga therapy client this morning inspired me to share those thoughts on this joyful word again today.

I had been sampling various yoga classes around town as part of a continuing education yoga course I was taking.  One of the classes I attended was held early on a Saturday morning, in a local park, under the shade of a big, beautiful tree. The park was surrounded on all sides with jasmine, which infused the air with a heavenly scent.  It was a beautiful way to start the morning.

This particular class was Kundalini Yoga, a style that focuses on breathing techniques and postures designed to direct the flow of energy up the spine, as well as the singing and speaking of mantras.

A mantra is a sound, a word or a collection of words whose repetition is intended to create a transformation.  According to Vedic tradition, mantras are sound manifesting spirit into matter and can be heard underlying everything in nature.  The most recognizable mantra of Om or Aum is said to represent the infinite universal consciousness.  The word mantra is Sanskrit and consists of two parts: man, which is the root of the Sanskrit word for mind, and tra, which is the root of the word meaning instrument.  Therefore, the word mantra can be defined as “an instrument of the mind”.  The repetition of various mantras is said to help transform, not only one’s individual mind, but also the expression of the Universal Mind.

We began that morning’s class by repeating “Om” together as we sat under the big tree.  The teacher led us through various movements.  After a particularly challenging sequence, we all collectively took a deep breath and, as we exhaled, the teacher smiled and exclaimed, “Yay!”

As a former cheerleader, I am someone who frequently expresses moments of joy and enthusiasm with the word, “Yay!”  I sometimes worry that my frequent use of this exclamation might make me appear silly and unsophisticated, but I can’t help it; the word just bursts forth from the center of my being when I am feeling exuberant.

When I heard this yoga teacher proclaiming her joy with the word “Yay!”, it suddenly occurred to me that Yay is more than just a word.  It is a primordial sound vibration that rises up from the center of our beings.  “Yay!” cannot be silenced.  It bubbles up to the surface of our physical bodies from those energetic centers that process joy.

As I lay quietly on my mat for the final pose of the morning, staring up at the big, beautiful tree providing us all with oxygen, protection and shade, I thought of the simple blessings of that moment: fresh air, food in the fridge, gas in the car and yoga in the park.  I smiled and silently repeated my mantra over and over and over again, “Yay!”


These tasty, nutrition-packed Chocolate Hemp Protein Cookies will have you exclaiming “Yay!” with each bite.

Chocolate Hemp Protein Cookies
These yummy and nutritious cookies make a tasty snack or on-the-go breakfast item.  You can find hemp protein powder in the nutrition supplements section at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or online.  Semolina flour is a high protein flour with more texture (it’s what makes the bottom of some pizza crusts crunchy).  Flax meal can also be found in the baking section of Whole Foods or the breakfast foods section at Trader Joe’s.


1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled a bit (I used salted)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
Seeds scraped from 1/2-inch piece of vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup hemp protein powder
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup flax meal
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/4 cup raw, whole almonds
Scant 1/4 cup roasted coconut chips or coconut flakes


Preheat oven to 375°F

Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a medium bowl, beat butter with sugar and beat in egg until mixture is well-combined and lightened.  Stir in vanilla.  Set aside.

In another medium bowl, whisk together hemp powder, semolina flour, flax meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to bowl with we ingredients.  Add chocolate chips/chunks, almonds and coconut.  Stir until just combined.

Divide mixture into 8 mounds. Drop mounds onto baking sheets about an inch apart.  Flatten slightly with a fork.  Bake 9 to 11 minutes.  Let cool a minute and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 8 cookies (approximately 6 grams of protein and 217 calories per cookie)

Bars Variation
Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan and press mixture into pan.  Press to form an even surface.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes.  Cut into 6 or 8 wedges.

6 wedges = approximately 8 grams protein and 290 calories
8 wedges = approximately 6 grams protein and 217 calories


Don’t Boo 🎃

October 23, 2018

“Do not complain.  Don’t hashtag.  Don’t get anxious.  Don’t retreat.  Don’t binge on whatever it is you’re bingeing on.  Don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment.  Don’t put your head in the sand.  Don’t boo.  Vote.  Vote.”
~ President Barack Obama

As Abraham Lincoln so eloquently stated it in 1863, our government is one “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  Every election we get the opportunity to review, interview and hire or fire those who represent us in our town halls, city councils, state capitals and Washington D.C.  If we citizens don’t bother to vote, we are letting someone else make those decisions for us.  We are letting someone else decide how to spend our tax dollars.  By relinquishing our vote we are surrendering our power and our voice to those whose interests may not align with our own.

O.k., so hopefully I am preaching to the choir and everyone reading this post has already registered and intends to vote in the upcoming election.  Your sample ballot has arrived and you’ve glanced through the national, state and local races, the (insert scream emoji) judicial races and (insert double scream emojis) state measures/propositions.  It’s all so overwhelming; so you add it to your pile of things to do and go back to binge-watching Deadwood.

Don’t get spooked by your sample ballot.

Let Voter’s Edge help provide you with the information and tools you need to make an informed decision.  Voter’s Edge is currently covering federal, state and local elections in California, Illinois, and New York.  If you live and vote in California, simply go to the link above and enter your zip code (address is optional).  Your ballot will come up, with all of the races and propositions.  I like to click the links for “Compare candidates” to see candidates’ information side by side. You can also just explore one candidate at a time.  Each category links to info on Priorities, Experience, Education; Who supports and endorses them; Who gave money to the campaign and more.  Similar information is available on Judicial candidates, as well as the State Measures/Propositions.  Once in a while a candidate will have some missing info.  In that case, DuckDuckGo or Google is your friend.

Voter’s Edge makes it easy and kind of fun to research and decide who and what to vote for.  Set aside an hour or so and check it out.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Don’t “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” a possible future Supreme Court Justice.  Put at least as much time into choosing who you hire to represent and make decisions on behalf of you and your loved ones as you would into picking your next binge-fest or reading Yelp restaurant reviews.

Do your part to make this a government of you, by you, and for you.  Vote.


No matter your politics or party, let President Barack Obama’s non-partisan response to the Top 7 Excuses for Not Voting get you up off the couch and headed to the polls.  Vote November 6th and take a friend with you!


Pumpkin Pie Fry Bread is a sweet and seasonal take on a Native American staple.

Pumpkin Pie Fry Bread
Fry bread has long been a staple of Native American cuisine.  This slightly sweet and lightly spicy pumpkin variation is delicious all by itself as a snack or breakfast treat (try it spread with Trader Joe’s new Maple Butter).  Drizzle with melted chocolate or dust with powdered sugar for a dessert.  You could also use it as a sweet base for savory toppings, such as Thanksgiving dinner leftovers or tacos.

4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more to shape dough)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
3/4 cup Turbinado or brown sugar
1 large egg
1 (15 oz) can organic pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (whole or 2%)
Sunflower oil for frying
(enough to reach 1 inch from bottom of pan)

Possible toppings (optional):
Powdered sugar
Chocolate syrup
Maple butter
Cooked turkey or chicken
Taco toppings: meat, beans, cheese, avocado, etc.


In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spice.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat egg and sugar together until combined and lightened in color.  Stir in pumpkin and vanilla.  Add to bowl with dry ingredients and stir together with milk.  Mix thoroughly, scraping sides with a spatula to incorporate all of the dry ingredients.

Heat 1 inch of oil to 350°F over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or deep-sided skillet.*

Put some flour on a plate.  Pinch a (between a tennis ball and golf ball-sized) ball of dough with floured hands and flatten, stretch and press into a 4 to 6-inch disc (dust with more flour if dough sticks).  It’s o.k. if you have a tear or two in the disc, no need for perfection.  Carefully lower flat disc into oil and fry, turning once with tongs, until puffed in places and golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes.  Do not leave frying dough unattended, as it can burn quickly.  Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining dough.  best served hot or warm.

Let any remaining fry bread cool and then wrap well in a zip bag and freeze.  Reheat in toaster oven.

Makes about 16 pieces

*If you don’t have an oil thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by placing the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil.  If bubbles sizzle around it, oil is ready.  Alternatively, you can add a kernel of unpopped corn when you fill the pan with the oil.  When the corn pops, remove and fry – the oil is ready.


America the Flavorful

September 20, 2018

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
~ Thomas Merton

Paul Abbas/P.A. Boards


Having grown up in a city that was located just a few miles from a popular surf spot, the culture and music associated with surfing were an influential part of my youth.  In 1994, when the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece of a movie, Pulp Fiction, flashed across the screen to the tune of Dick Dale’s rendition of “Misirlou”, the surf rock guitar sounds of the classic instrumental were already familiar to me.

Not long ago, I came upon a YouTube clip of modern day musicians in Japan performing the tune on traditional Japanese instruments.  As I watched and listened, I noticed something that hadn’t occurred to me in listening to the surf guitar versions: a distinctly Greek/Armenian flavor.

I studied belly dancing in my late teens and 20s and my teacher had introduced her students to the music of John Bilezikjian, a master oud player.  Years later, a surf guitar classic being played on traditional Japanese instruments was taking me back to the days when I would sit next to my record player and practice playing my finger cymbals to Tsifteteli rhythms.  I decided to do some research.

It only took a few clicks to discover that the song “Misirlou” had Eastern Mediterranean origins, as did the man who made it an American rock classic.  The King of Surf Guitar, as Dick Dale has come to be known, was first inspired by an uncle who played the oud.

Dick Dale’s birth name was Richard Anthony Monsour.  His paternal grandfather was from Beirut.  Dale’s father was born in Boston, Massachusetts (as was Dale), but spent much of his childhood in Lebanon.  Both Dale and his father grew up speaking Arabic.  One of Dale’s early musical influences was his uncle, an oud player, who taught him tarabaki drumming.  In a 2006 interview, Dale talked about playing with his uncle at a popular Lebanese nightspot in Boston while their relatives belly danced.  When the family moved to El Segundo, California (adjacent to the town where I grew up), Dale took up surfing and, eventually, the guitar.

At a local show in 1960, a 10-year-old boy walked up to Dick Dale and asked him a typical 10-year-old-boy type of question: could he play an entire song on one guitar string?  Dale assured him that, if the kid returned the next day, he’d fulfill his request.  He then spent the entire night trying to think of a composition that would work.  Finally, his youthful memories provided him with the solution.  “Misirlou” was a traditional tune his uncle had often played.  Dale made it rock n’ roll by playing it super fast, and his signature song was born.

In a beautifully poetic twist, surf culture has found its way to Lebanon in recent years.  The photo of a young surfer waxing her board at the top of this post was taken in Beirut, where Dick Dale’s grandfather was born before immigrating to the United States.

Considering the tasty musical gift that Lebanon has given us by way of Dick Dale and the classically Californian surf guitar genre, it’s only fitting that we return the flavor.


Here is Dick Dale’s version of Misirlou, from the 1963 film A Swingin’ Affair:

Here is the classic version, from a 1927 recording:

Finally, here is the more recent Japanese version that inspired my discovery:

Green Chile Beef Sliders are mini burgers with a distinctly Southwestern Flavor.

Green Chile Beef Sliders
Sliders are mini-hamburgers.  You can serve one or two as an appetizer, or more for a meal. 

Here in the Southwest, Hatch green chilies, a New Mexico specialty, can still be found in a well-stocked produce section.  I like to roast and freeze a few to use throughout the year.  If you can’t find them fresh, or you live outside the region, you can also find them canned any time of year, which works fine for this recipe. 

Hearst Ranch beef is in season now.  If you’ve ever driven up PCH to Big Sur, you’ve seen the cattle grazing freely in the hills near the highway.  Eel River Ranch beef is another 100% grass-fed, humanely raised variety from Humboldt County.  You can also click on the link for the Eat Wild site up and to the right of this page, under the heading “Elaborations”, to find humanely raised, pastured or grass-fed beef near you.  Click on the link, then click on your state within the map shown.  Scroll down the list of sources with descriptions of each ranch.

1 lb ground pastured/grass-fed beef (85% or 90% fat)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 & 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vinegar

2 tablespoons diced roasted green chilies
2 green onions, cleaned, trimmed and finely chopped

To serve:
10 mini buns or rolls

Desired condiments:
Mayo and/or mustard
Cheddar, Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
Sliced cherry tomato
Pickle slices

Mix beef, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, salt, vinegar, green chilies and onions in a medium bowl.  You may find it easiest to mix using clean hands.  Cover and chill for 15 minutes.

To easily form the sliders, rinse your hands in cold water.  Divide the mixture into tenths and shape each portion into a 2 & 1/2-inch disk.  Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat, lightly coated in olive oil (about 1 tablespoon).  Fry the sliders on both sides to desired doneness: About 3 minutes per side for a pink center and 4 minutes per side for cooked through.  If making cheese sliders, add cheese after turning.  Drain and serve immediately with buns or rolls and desired condiments.

Makes 10 sliders

Cat Music

August 14, 2018

“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life – music and cats.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

Did you know that living with a cat can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than one third?  Those of us who have cats as family members can attest to the calming and comforting nature of having a feline companion in the house, but this conclusion was the result of research presented in 2008 at a meeting of the American Stroke Association, by scientists at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Research Center.  The study looked at 4,435 adults between ages 30 and 75, half of whom owned a cat.  Over a 20-year period, those who never owned a cat had a 40% greater risk of death by heart attack and a 30% higher risk of death by stroke.  Even when researchers accounted for other known triggers for heart disease, such as smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes, cat owners still had a greatly reduced chance of developing strokes or heart attacks.  A follow-up study in 2009 confirmed a link between cat companionship and a lower risk of death from heart disease and strokes.

These results indicated that having a cat helps to relieve stress and anxiety, which would protect against heart disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing the heart rate.  I can attest that my cats, Sofia and Folster, have been an invaluable source of comfort and joy for me, especially during stressful times.  In fact, just the simple sound of one of my cats purring can bring a smile to my face and help me to release the worries of the day.

Which is why I like to return the favor by playing music for them.  A musician friend of mine shares his piano compositions with me from time to time.  I had noticed that when played, the musical recordings often inspired my cats to relax, purr and sleep peacefully.

So, when I came upon an article about a classical cellist named David Teie, who had composed music scientifically designed to appeal to cats, I was intrigued.

Mr. Teie (who happens to be allergic to cats) is an accomplished cellist, composer and researcher, who has played with the National Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, and others.  He began writing music for animals in 2003, based on his theory that we respond to music that resembles sounds our developing brains receive in the womb.  For humans, that means that our mother’s resting pulse is a similar pace to the music we find relaxing, and that our favorite instruments, such as the violin, would have a similar range as her voice.  According to Teie’s theory, animals would have slightly different pitches and sounds that would soothe them, depending on their specific voice range and pulse.  His first test of that theory was made with the University of Wisconsin using music he wrote for a colony of monkeys.  The study confirmed his theory and was published in the scientific journal Biology Letters in 2010.

This led Teie to create music that would appeal to cats.  He studied the waveforms of cat purrs in detail and created a new instrument on his computer to mimic the opening and closing of a cat’s vocal cords.  As if working on a feline version of the experimental sounds on the Sgt. Pepper album, Mr. Teie pieced together kitten mewing sounds he duplicated on a violin and raised the pitch to a cat’s preferred listening range, two octaves higher than the average human music.  Eventually, he figured out a way to compose music that would appeal to both cats and humans and Music for Cats was the result.

I first found a YouTube example of a selection from Music for Cats, titled “Katy Moss Catwalk”.  It’s a lovely piece, gentle and calming, which I played for my cats before bed one night.  I enjoyed the piece very much, but the effect on my kitties was profound.  They had been antsy and agitated and, upon hearing the tune, with its purr-like vibration and bird-like whistles, immediately curled up and began to close their eyes and relax.  I found myself playing it regularly to help them settle down, sometimes asking “Do you wanna listen to the kitty music?” (If you are a cat person, my question to them will seem completely normal).

I decided to purchase the CD for myself and for several of my cat-people friends and family.  My cats and I listen often to the various compositions, which I find soothing and relaxing as well.  The most startling reaction was by a friend’s cat who, when we put the music in the CD player, walked slowly towards the stereo, staring intently the entire way, then stood up on his hind legs and put his nose up against the speaker, as if to greet it.  Having investigated to his satisfaction, he walked over to the couch, curled up and promptly took a snooze.

I have embedded the YouTube of “Katey Moss Catwalk” below, so you can listen for yourself.  If you would like to know more about Music for Cats, you can find more info and ways to purchase by clicking here at musicforcats.com


No ice-cream maker? No problem!  When it comes to cool and creamy treats, Waffle Cone Semifreddo is the cat’s meow.

Waffle Cone Semifreddo
(AKA – Italian-Americone Dream Ice Cream)
If you’re a fan of Ben & Jerry’s Colbert-inspired ice cream flavor “Americone Dream”, you’ll love this creamy, Italian-style frozen treat, filled with chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces.  I used Trader Joe’s new Old Fashioned Waffle Cones for this recipe.  Best of all, no ice cream machine is needed to make this.  It’s a delicious slice of creamy, crunchy-sweet comfort food on a hot day/night, and also makes for an elegant finale to a summer meal.

2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs or 6 yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup crushed waffle cone pieces
(about 2 cones, crushed)
Heaping 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Optional: caramel sauce, to serve (recipe follows)

You will need two 8″ x 4″ x 2 1/2″ loaf pans, plastic wrap and foil.


First, prepare chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces:
Crush waffle cones between plastic wrap or in a plastic zip bag until pieces are in approximately 1/4 inch chunks.  Set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chunks at 20 second intervals, stirring between each, just until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Add waffle cone pieces to bowl with chocolate and stir until pieces are fully coated.  Spread chocolate-covered cone pieces out in a layer on a plate.  Cover with foil and put in freezer to harden.

Make the semi-freddo:

Whisk the eggs with the sugar in a medium bowl until well-combined and lightened in color.

Over medium heat, warm the milk in a small, heavy sauce pan (do not boil).  When the milk just begins to bubble a little, pour the milk very slowly into the egg/sugar mixture, whisking constantly.  Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat slowly until thickened, stirring constantly (mixture will be the consistency of runny pudding).  Stir in the vanilla. Let cool to room temperature.  Cover and chill in fridge for a few hours.

Line loaf pans with plastic wrap.  Set aside.

Remove custard from fridge and chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces from freezer.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks.  Gently fold whipped cream and chocolate-covered waffle cone pieces into the custard until completely combined.  Pour into plastic-lined loaf pans.  Cover with plastic wrap, then foil.  Freeze at least four hours.

To serve:
Remove pans from fridge (or one, depending on how many you are serving at a time).  Remove foil and peel off plastic wrap from top.  Invert semi-freddo out of pan and onto a serving plate and peel plastic from sides.  Cut into slices and serve.

Optional: you can top each slice with purchased or homemade caramel sauce (recipe below).

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Homemade Caramel Glaze

6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the butter, sugars and cream to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Let boil 1 minute without stirring.  Turn off heat and let cool completely, if using for ice cream topping.  For cakes, you can pour it on warm, if desired.  Store in a covered container in fridge.



July 3, 2018

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”
~ Douglas Adams

As more and more news comes to light about how tech companies have collected and sold the private data, profiles and histories of their users to advertisers (including hostile foreign governments) many people are looking for ways to limit the collection and selling of their personal information.

Facebook helped Cambridge Analytica and others develop psychological profiles of its users, based on their likes, clicks, habits, location, etc.  The BBC just reported that Google now admits that Gmail users who have connected third-party apps to their accounts may have unwittingly given the human staff of those applications permission to read their personal email messages.  Google’s search engine routinely tracks what you search and combines that information with your activities on their other products (YouTube, Gmail, etc.) in order to make the advertising they sell more effectively aimed at you personally.

On any free social media (and on some that we pay for, if we give permission for it) we are not the customers; we are the product.  Companies like Facebook and Google are selling our information to their actual customers: advertisers.  Worse, thanks to the personal information the tech giants supply to them, these advertisers are able to appeal to us subconsciously and mask their advertisements as news or pose as social media posts.  Sometimes the goal is to persuade you to buy a soft drink or see a movie.  However, some advertisers have a more sinister aim: to push hate and conflict, trigger emotional reactions and amplify conspiracy theories that benefit a particular group, be it corporate, criminal or political.

I myself am not on any social media.  Still, I utilize multiple Google products.  Until recently, like most people, I had come to use the brand name “Google” as a verb to describe searching on the internet.  In fact, the Google search page was my home page when I opened my web browser (which is not Google Chrome, by the way).  That was before I discovered DuckDuckGo!

One day, fed up with hearing about the latest privacy intrusions by tech companies and equally fed up by how ubiquitous Google products had become, I did a search for alternate search engines.  DuckDuckGo was one of the results.  I was happy to read that this company does not track its users’ online activity and search history.  They don’t record your IP address or attach cookies to follow you around the web. If you click on a site, that site won’t be told what search terms you used to find them.

Ok, I thought to myself, then how do they make money?

I did some more research and found that DuckDuckGo makes money on ads based on some of the key words you use for a particular search, but only in that moment.  For instance, if you type in “Flights to Italy” you may get 2 or 3 results clearly marked “ad” for travel sites.  They also make money through online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay.  If you search for something, a clearly marked ad for Amazon may come up for that term.  If you click on the ad and buy something, a code gets sent to Amazon to let them know that a particular item was purchased as a result of a DuckDuckGo search, and then DuckDuckGo receives a commission on the sale.  What does not get recorded, is any information that would personally identify you, such as your search terms, browser or IP address.

Using this model, DuckDuckGo generates profits in the millions, rather than billions (like Google and Facebook).  As a result, they don’t have to worry about the ethical or legal conflicts that come up with tracking users.

There are some inconveniences; since they don’t track you or your search habits, you won’t get auto-filled results or suggestions to your searches.  You will need to be more specific if you want specific results.  I got used to it pretty quickly.  I like that I can specify the region I want to search, instead of having them do it for me.  I also prefer the clean layout of their results page and the fact that I get less superfluous answers.

I have made DuckDuckGo my home page on all of my browsers now.  And I have stopped using the word “Google” as a verb.

Here is a link, if you would like to try it yourself: DuckDuckGo

Happy Independence Day!


Whether you are waking up to a day of work, get out the vote efforts, protest, taking care of family, organizing or simply taking a break from current events to curl up into a ball, I am re-posting this recipe from the 3rd year of the Philosopher’s Spoon; because, now more than ever, a nutritious comfort food like Cheesecake for Breakfast checks all the boxes…

Cheesecake for Breakfast
Don’t let the naughty-sounding name fool you, this no-bake recipe contains whole-grain cereal, nutritious walnuts, fresh fruit and yogurt.  Stored in the freezer, these mini-cheesecakes are a super-tasty on-the-go breakfast that’s worth getting up for.  I used Trader Joe’s Toasted Oatmeal Flakes in the crust.


3/4 cup finely crushed whole grain cereal flakes
3/4 cup ground walnuts*
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons organic maple syrup
2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup organic sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk Greek-style yogurt (vanilla or banana flavor)
6 oz fresh organic raspberries or blueberries
1 small banana, sliced

*Walnut pieces can be easily ground by placing them in a plastic baggy and crushing them with a rolling pin or mallet.


Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, mix together crushed cereal flakes, ground walnuts, melted butter and maple syrup.  Divide mixture among muffin cups and press into bottom of each cupcake liner to form a crust.  Place in freezer to firm.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer on low speed, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add yogurt and continue beating until combined and smooth.

Remove crusts from freezer.  Divide cream cheese mixture among muffin cups.  Top cheese mixture with berries and banana slices.  Cover muffin pan with plastic, then foil, and freeze at least one hour before serving.

Store cheesecakes in freezer.  Thaw about 30 minutes at room temperature for a cool breakfast on a hot summer morning.

Note:  You can store these for a few days in the refrigerator, instead of the freezer.  If you do so, omit the banana slices, as they will discolor.

Makes 12 breakfast cheesecakes



June 11, 2018

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

When I first saw the quote above, it struck me as the perfect advice for those graduating from college.  As this is the time of year when most graduates are celebrating, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now.

The problem for me has been the general chaos and information overload that pervades current events, and the stress and confusion that seeps into the daily lives of myself and my friends, clients and family members, even for those who don’t pay close attention to the news cycle.  Just when I think things have calmed down enough for my readers to enjoy a nice, pleasant blog post, it seems another mass shooting or natural disaster or untimely death is reported.  These come on top of the current domestic and world political concerns (insert scream emoji).

Then, today, it occurred to me that this quote applies to more of my fellow humans than just those marking the milestone of college graduation.  We all have questions, throughout our lives, but especially in times such as these.  Sometimes, no matter how much we wish for things to be resolved, for questions to be answered, for wounds to be healed, for the scales of justice to balance, we must surrender to the limited viewpoint from our location in space and time.

“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance.  Forgive yourself for not being at peace.  The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace.”
~ Eckhart Tolle

Think back over your life lived thus far and recall times past when personal or world events seemed unsettled.  The answers almost always do come, but usually when you stop asking.  Wrongs get righted, but not according to your timetable.  Often you don’t get what you desire, but eventually, something better – an outcome that you couldn’t have imagined when your heart first made the wish.

When I feel unsettled and overwhelmed by world events, I try to remember the following: Do what you can to be a conduit of love and light in the world.  Fight the good fights on behalf of those less fortunate or less able.  Change the things you can and leave the rest to forces of good more powerful than yourself.  The answers will come.  Then there will be new questions.


A laurel wreath has been a symbol of victory and honor since ancient times.  In Italy, university graduates receive a laurel wreath to wear on their heads for the remainder of the day after the ceremony.  Bay Laurel Lemonade makes for a unique and refreshing commemorative beverage to serve at a graduation celebration.

Bay Laurel Lemonade
A simple bay leaf syrup combines with fresh lemon juice to give this sweet, tangy lemonade a slightly herbal twist.  The bay leaf flavor is subtle, making this beverage both a sophisticated thirst-quencher and a crowd-pleaser.

You will want to use the bay leaves native to the Mediterranean, probably originating from Turkey  (Laurus nobilis) for this recipe.  Do not use what is known as California bay leaves (Umbellularia), as they have a stronger flavor and can cause headaches for some people.


Bay Leaf Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
2 cups fresh lemon juice (about 10 lemons)
Zest of two lemons
6 cups cold filtered or spring water
Variation: substitute sparkling water for half or all of the water*


First, make Bay Leaf Simple Syrup (recipe below).  You will need to make this and chill at least 30 minutes before making lemonade.

To make lemonade:
Remove syrup from fridge.

In a large bowl, stir together lemon juice, zest, chilled syrup and 6 cups cold water and pour into large pitcher.  Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour (and up to 1 week).  Serve over ice.

*Note: You can also make the lemonade as directed and fill a glass with half lemonade/half sparkling water for a lighter version.

Bay Leaf Simple Syrup

1 & 1/4 cups organic sugar
1 & 1/4 cups filtered or spring water
6 bay leaves, lightly crumbled (Turkish)

To make syrup:
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; simmer 3 minutes.

Turn off heat and let steep for about 30 minutes.  Strain syrup through a fine mesh sieve and transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid.  Cover, let come to room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to use.


A brief bit of lemonade-themed laughter:



Look Up!

May 4, 2018

“Few people have the imagination for reality.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The other day, as I was heading out for an afternoon walk, I glanced across the street toward the nearby neighborhood park and noticed some picnic tables arranged for a child’s birthday party.  There were balloons and decorations tied to several tables, one topped with wrapped gifts and one with cake, soft drinks, plates and cups, ready to be enjoyed.  The outdoor party was set up next to the sandboxes, basketball court and swing set, presumably so the kids and adults could enjoy a day in the park as they celebrated the occasion together.  Parked nearby was a large mobile WiFi hotspot vehicle, painted with characters from the world of gaming, presumably there so the kids could also play video games if they wanted to.  It was a perfect California spring day and, from a distance, it looked like a lovely party.

On my way home I walked right by the park.  As I approached the kids party area I noticed something strange.  To my left I could see that the picnic tables with balloons and cake and presents were empty – like a ghost town, as was the playground.  To my right was parked the WiFi hotspot vehicle.  I glanced inside and saw that it was full of children and adults, sitting packed like sardines in a can, shoulder to shoulder, each staring intently down into their respective devices and scrolling and clicking fervently.

When the attendees post pictures from the event on their various social media accounts, I imagine that the photos will depict the few brief moments when everything looked like a normal and fabulous kids party – one that those who did not attend would be sorry they missed – and not the sad, robotic scene that I witnessed.

Aside from encouraging humans to socially imprison themselves within the walls of a tiny screen, the overuse of technology can also have a detrimental effect on the brains of both children and adults.  Something as simple as how we make a list or take a note can affect our memories and how we process information.

According to a 2014 article in the journal Psychological Science by researchers at Princeton and UCLA, research from three different studies has shown that adult students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than those who took notes longhand.  In addition, a 2012 study by a psychologist at Indiana University showed that Children who drew letters freehand exhibited increased activity in three areas of the brain that are activated by adults when they read and write.  The kids who typed the same letters showed no such effect.

Our modern technology has the potential to be used for both instructive and destructive purposes.  It can have the effect of widening our perspectives or limiting them to the view from a tiny screen.  We can seek out our own sources of information or let them be fed to us via an algorithm.  We are human beings and we still have choices as to what we consume, how much we consume and how we spend our days and nights.

Thank you for reading this blog post, which was written and is being read thanks to modern technology.  Now, look up, go find a blank piece of paper and a pencil or pen, and write a list of things you haven’t done in awhile that don’t involve being hunched over a screen.  Do at least one of them this week.


Super Easy Grissini are handmade crunchy breadsticks using ready-made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s.

Super Easy Grissini
These tasty breadsticks are super easy to make using purchased ready-to-use pizza dough.  Trader Joe’s has plain, wheat and garlic-herb varieties.  I used the plain.  You can make the breadsticks without any extras, or you can add sesame seeds, dried herbs or cracked pepper.  I used some of Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend that a friend had given me. 

If you can find semolina flour to use for rolling out, it will give an authentic texture and flavor to the breadsticks.  All-purpose flour will work in a pinch, though.  Bob’s Red Mill makes a nice semolina flour.  It’s available at Whole Foods and other well-stocked grocery stores.

1 (16 oz) pkg of Trader Joe’s plain refrigerated pizza dough
Extra virgin olive oil, for rolling out
Semolina flour or all-purpose flour, for rolling out

For optional variations:
Trader Joe’s “Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend”
Or your choice of:
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, crumbled dried rosemary or dried thyme
(You will need about 1 tablespoon or less)

Parchment paper
Plastic wrap
Baking tray (2 or 3 if you have them available)
Rolling pin
Pizza cutter

Take pizza dough out of the fridge and let sit on counter in package at room temperature for 30 minutes:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with some semolina flour or all-purpose flour.  Empty dough from bag onto flour-lined parchment and form into a roundish shape.  Brush or lightly rub a layer of olive oil over surface of dough.  Turn dough over (making sure to sprinkle some flour underneath) and rub olive oil on that side as well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes:

Form grissini:
Remove plastic.  Press or roll out dough to an 8″ x 10″ rectangle, using additional semolina or AP flour as needed:

You can proceed to the next step if you are making plain breadsticks.  If you want to make a variation, sprinkle the surface lightly with seeds or herbs and press lightly into dough.  You could also cut your dough in half and make one flavored and one plain, if you’re not sure.  Note: the Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend has garlic and onion and sea salt in it as well, so sprinkle lightly for a mild flavor, heavier for a strong and salty, garlic and onion flavor.

Move the parchment with the rolled dough off of the baking tray and line the tray with fresh parchment.  Position the parchment with the dough so that the rectangle is in front of you with the long sides parallel to you.  Using the pizza cutter, cut a finger-width piece of dough off from one of the short ends.  Using additional semolina or AP flour as needed, gently stretch and twist the piece of dough or roll along the tray under flat fingers to form a long stick, almost the length of the baking pan.  Don’t worry about it being perfect-looking.  A rustic shape is part of the charm.  If your piece stretches too long, simply fold it over and twist it back together into a shorter stick.  Place the rolled stick onto the freshly-lined baking tray. Continue with the rest of the dough.  Cover 2 or 3 trays with parchment, if you have them, or you can place formed sticks onto sheets of parchment and place onto tray after you remove already baked breaksticks to cool.

Cover formed breadsticks with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to puff while you preheat the oven.

Preheat oven to 400°F

Remove plastic from tray.  Bake the breadsticks for 14 to 18 minutes or until golden and crisp.  The thinness/thickness of the sticks will determine cooking time.  Check them every 5 minutes and rotate pan if necessary to cook evenly.

Remove from oven and carefully move paper with breadsticks to a rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container (Note: if you put them into a zip bag they will get soft – still tasty, but not crisp).  Eat within 2 or 3 days.


A More Perfect Re-Union

March 31, 2018

“I’ll tell you how the Sun rose –
A Ribbon at a time…..
~ Emily Dickinson

Most of us recall the image of Humpty Dumpty from the classic nursery rhyme by Mother Goose.  An egg man, in defiance of his fragility, sits precariously at the top of a wall.  He ultimately looses his balance and falls to the ground, the egg’s delicate shell cracked open, revealing his vulnerable liquid center.  The local King kindly sends his soldiers and horses to fix Humpty, but they are unable to put his shell back together and restore him to his former united self.

Perhaps in focusing on Humpty’s broken shell, the soldiers missed the source of his inner strength, a golden center.  The King should have put his artists on the job.  They might have succeeded in restoring the egg man, using the centuries-old Japanese art known as Kintsugi.

Kintsugi, which translates to “golden joinery”, or Kintsukuroi, meaning “golden repair”, is the art of fixing broken ceramics and pottery by joining the fragments together again using a special lacquer, which is then dusted with gold, silver or platinum.  This method of repair results in ribbons of shimmering gold running through an object, highlighting where it was broken and transforming the memory of the break into a new expression of beauty.  Kintsukuroi can result in a repaired object that is more beautiful than it had been in its original, unbroken state.  The effect is so appealing that some artists purposely brake objects in order to use the technique.  This golden repair reunites what is broken in a beautifully transformative way: healing and elevating, but not erasing.

Each spring nature renews itself.  That which was thought dead awakens to a new, more beautiful expression.  The story of Easter describes a resurrection from death into an everlasting life, not forgetting the pain of the previous one, but embracing it as part of the miracle.  The idea of Kintsugi/Kintsukuroi, instead of masking imperfections, mistakes and damage, paints them golden and shouts to the heavens “Hallelujah! We are still here and more beautiful than ever, not in spite of our flaws, but because of them!”  The outer self, what we present to the world, is merely the casing for the golden and eternal center within us, which we can draw on infinitely when our earthly shell reveals its imperfections.

“Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes… Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end.  What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind.  Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”
~ Henry Miller

Happy season of renewal!  Rise up and go forward.  We will mend our broken places and transform the scars into ribbons of beautiful strength.


Transform left-over Easter eggs into a tasty golden-yellow treat for a springtime luncheon, picnic or snack with Turmeric and Ginger Pickled Eggs.

Turmeric and Ginger Pickled Eggs
These pretty yellow eggs make a delicious and eye-catching appetizer for a spring lunch and are a perfect way to use up hard-boiled eggs after Easter.  The flavor is tangy, sweet and lightly salty with delicate hints of turmeric and ginger.

You will need a quart-sized mason jar with lid for these.  They take 24 to 48 hours to pickle. I let mine pickle for 44 hours to get the color in the photo above.  If you’d prefer a paler yellow, let them pickle for less time. 

Use super-fresh eggs from happy hens, such as Vital Farms pastured eggs, or eggs from a local hen house.  Eggs from pastured hens contain up to 20 times more omega-3 acids than factory hens.  Click on the Eat Wild Website link to find a farm near you that carries pastured eggs.  Vital Farms eggs are carried at most Whole Foods.  Both links can be found up and to the right of this post, under “Elaborations”.


1 cup sliced carrots
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 & 1/2-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 & 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan Pink salt)
1 tablespoon organic sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (a bit more, if needed)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Optional: 1 small fresh chile, diced fine
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 hard-cooked eggs, cooled and peeled (see tips below)

Add the carrots, garlic and sliced fresh turmeric or ground turmeric with the water to a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Make sure you have 1 cup of cooking water remaining in the pan.  Add more water if necessary.

After the veggies have finished cooking, while the liquid is still warm, add salt, sugar and vinegar and stir to dissolve.  Add the ginger, parsley, chile (if using) and peppercorns.  Stir to combine.

In a clean, quart-sized mason jar with lid, layer eggs and veggies until jar is filled.  Pour liquid over to cover.  If there is not enough liquid to cover, you can top it off with a bit more vinegar.  Seal jar with the lid and give a gentle shake to mix contents.

Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, gently shaking jar occasionally.

To serve:
Cut eggs in half to highlight the pretty color.  Serve with some of the veggies, along with crackers, chips or bread or on top of butter lettuce or other salad greens.  You can also mix diced pickled eggs with some mayo for an instant, eye-catching egg salad.

Serves 4 to 8

Tips for boiling eggs:  place in a single layer, without crowding, inside a cold saucepan.  Add water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Immediately turn off heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Drain and then rinse with cold water until cool.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To peel cold eggs:  crack hard-boiled eggs once on the fat end of the egg.  This will be where the “air pocket” is located.  Begin peeling from there and continue until egg is completely peeled.

A Vroom with a View

March 13, 2018

“We are now cruising at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.”
~ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy



In case you missed the historic February 6th flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and the launch of Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, “driven” by a dummy astronaut named “Starman” to the tune of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”, Space X has just released a short video of the inspirational event:

With all of the chaos and uncertainty flooding the daily news cycle, this monumental achievement by Musk and the folks at SpaceX reminds us that there are still amazing things to be achieved and plenty of reasons to keep hope alive.

For several hours after the launch, the vehicle broadcast live views of various positions on the car, my favorite of which peeks from behind the driver to show the view ahead of our beautiful blue home planet Earth.  The SpaceX YouTube channel shows a replay of the 4 hour recording:

Watching the Starman, casually cruising around the Earth, his left hand resting on the door of the super-cool red roadster and his right hand on the steering wheel, reminds me of the importance of perspective.  Far above the Earth, away from the daily noise and chaos and pettiness, the triumphs and the tragedies, the hopes and fears, one sees the quiet and constant beauty of our unique home planet.  The view from above is amazing.

The perspective of time is equally important.  This beautiful five-petaled flower was created by the geometric dance made by the relative positions of Earth and Venus over an 8-year period:

The mathematically gorgeous pattern illustrated above was inspired by John Martineau’s book A Little Book of Coincidence, which illustrates the orbital movements of planets and their geometric relationships.  More planets and patterns can be found here: Dances of the Planets.

The view can also be beautiful and inspiring at the level of the very small.  These are microscopic crystal flowers grown by engineers at Harvard University.  They are thinner than a strand of hair and too small for a bumblebee to see:

More photos and story can be found here: ‘Nanogardens’ Sprout Up on the Surface of a Penny.


So, when you feel overwhelmed by the pace of absurdity and uncertainty, don’t panic; change your perspective. A little bit of distance in time or space can reveal magical possibilities.


In honor of Pi Day, here is a recipe for 360° of deliciousness in Ancient Roman-Style Sausage Patties.

Ancient Roman-Style Sausage Patties
I based this flavorful, sophisticated sausage – peppery, herbal and smokey – on an ancient Roman recipe that was brought back to Rome by soldiers who had served in Lucania, which was located in what is now Southern Italy.  Having ancestral origins from both Sicily and Rome, I was curious to taste what my forebears may have enjoyed.  I have adapted the ancient version of the recipe with modern ingredients and to make without smoking or the need for casing.  I prefer my sausage without casing anyway, as it is often tough, and I usually remove it before cooking.  Because these are formed into patties, and cooked immediately instead of smoked and aged, they can be made with a minimum of effort and enjoyed right away.

Ancient Romans used a form of fish sauce called Garum to flavor this sausage.  That might sound weird to some of you, but this ingredient adds that extra “umami” dimension to the flavor and is not fishy-tasting at all.  The Roman garum sauce was different than the fish sauces found in modern Asian cooking. I have approximated the flavor of the ancient recipe by using a combination of balsamic glaze, dried oregano and Red Boat Fish Sauce, which is a very high-quality sauce.  It is made of salted black anchovies from Archipelago, with no additives and aged for over a year in traditional wood barrels.  You can find Red Boat Fish Sauce at Whole Foods, specialty stores and online.  Balsamic glaze is thicker and sweeter than balsamic vinegar.  You can find balsamic glaze at your local well-stocked grocer, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and online.


1 lb ground pork or chicken
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried savory
2 bay leaves, crushed (leaf part only – throw out stems)
1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon finely-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely-chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons Red Boat Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon salt
Olive oil to cook (1-2 tablespoons)

Toast the pine nuts:
Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 375°F, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown (5 to 10 minutes).  Let cool.  Add cooled nuts to a small plastic zip bag and crush well using a rolling pin.

In a medium bowl, add crushed pine nuts.  Add remaining ingredients, except for the olive oil, and mix together well, using a large fork.  Cover bowl and chill mixture for 30 minutes.

Wash and rinse your hands in cold water.  Divide the sausage mixture into ten portions and shape each into a 2 & 1/2-inch disk.

Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat, lightly coated in olive oil.  Fry the sausage patties on each side until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.  Sausage patties can be fully cooked, cooled, wrapped and frozen for reheating in a toaster oven or microwave.

Makes 10 sausage patties


A Rose By Every Other Name

February 13, 2018

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts,
the depths of their hearts
where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach,
the core of their reality,
the person that each one is
in God’s eyes.

If only they could see themselves as they really are.
If only we could see each other that way all the time,
there would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…
I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”
~ Thomas Merton

Sometimes, among the seemingly mundane events of the day, we find an unexpected connection.

That’s how it was for me, one evening last October, watching the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  Stephen’s guest was the comedian Russell Brand, who was on the show to promote his latest project, like every other guest.  The interview began with some light banter about small talk, followed by a surprisingly deep question and answer:

Stephen:  “Why are we here, Russell Brand?  Why do you think there is something, instead of nothing?”

Russell:  “Do you think it’s to move towards oneness?  Could the tendency be unity?  Could there be some consciousness trying to realize itself through material?”

The conversation that followed was decidedly not the standard talk show babble.  They were discussing Brand’s new book Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions.  Stephen asked him if he thought one could really have freedom from ones addictions or simply hold them at bay:

Russell:  “It depends, I suppose, on how one interprets addiction.  If you see addiction, perhaps, as a yearning to connect that our culture doesn’t know how to service, then you can have freedom from the malevolent manifestations of addiction.  If addiction is a drive to know truth or, in another lexicon, to know God, to know oneness that we are unable to medicate successfully because our culture tells us that there is no meaning, tells us that we are but material, tells us that we are individuals trapped in flesh, only here to consume, and there are some people who just can’t bear that; so they take a little heroin to unwind.”

Stephen: “Yes, that’s true, as Thomas Merton said, that ‘Ourselves we clothe, we wrap in the bandages of other people’s perceptions of us or in our appetites and pleasures and we say, “Oh, those bandages, that is ourself”, without ever looking at what’s underneath the bandage, which is a hole in our heart the size of God.'”

Stephen and Russell’s conversation and, in particular, Stephen’s paraphrase of Thomas Merton’s words, so resonated with my own spiritual philosophy, that I immediately set to googling the name of “Thomas Merton”.  I found that he was a Trappist monk, theologian and mystic, born under the sign of Aquarius, who wrote more than 70 books on spirituality, social justice, civil rights and pacifism.  I found a number of other quotes from his writings that also resonated with me, such as this one:

“It is when we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an understanding of who he is , and who we are.”

It is important to remember what connects us, rather than what divides us, especially in times such as these when social media algorithms and outrage-peddling bots and trolls continue to push our politics away from the center and our citizens apart from one another.

These are interesting times, to say the least, and I have found myself disappointed by some I had previously admired, and inspired by many that I had formerly assumed I had nothing in common with.  As a fairly true-blue liberal, I never thought that I could be moved by a speech from George W. Bush.  But one he gave on October 19, 2017 touched me deeply, especially these words:

“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty.  At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.  Argument turns too easily into animosity.  Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.  Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”

The Gods truly do have a sense of humor.  I never imagined I would connect with the words of George W. Bush, but I did.  Russell Brand, our 43rd President and Thomas Merton have all echoed my deepest belief; that we are on a journey towards connection, towards the recognition of God’s face when we look in the mirror, as well as when we look at each other.  Sri Aurobindo, a favorite philosopher of mine, wrote poetically about our origins, defining creation as:

“Existence that multiplied itself for sheer delight of being and plunged into numberless trillions of forms so that it might find itself innumerably…”

And I have no doubt that we can find our way back to civility, to camaraderie, and that one day, perhaps generations upon generations from now, we will find that recognition of the divine in ourselves and each other.  Sri Aurobindo’s quote continues:

“….Love is the keynote; Joy is the music; Power is the strain; Knowledge is the performer; the infinite All is the composer and audience.  We know only the preliminary discords, which are as fierce as the harmony shall be great; but we shall arrive surely at the fugue of the divine Beatitudes.”

Love is not always easy.  Sometimes, the most difficult relationships are the ones that teach us the most important lessons.  So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, and in the name of true love, take a moment to seek a connection, to see the humanity, as well as the divinity, in someone you disagree with.

“Love is our true destiny.  We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
~ Thomas Merton


Dust off that waffle maker that’s been sitting lonely on your top shelf.  Chocolate Brownie Waffles with Coffee Maple Syrup make a lovely breakfast or brunch treat, on Valentine’s Day or any day.

Chocolate Brownie Waffles with Coffee Maple Syrup
These delicious dark chocolate waffles taste like you’re having a brownie for breakfast.  The Coffee Maple Syrup adds a sophisticated pick me up for your morning meal.  I added blueberries to the waffles in the picture above, for extra anti-oxidant power.  Freeze any leftover waffles to heat up in your toaster oven on hurried mornings.  I like to spread a waffle or two with peanut butter for an easy, portable, high protein treat.  You can also serve them as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream on top and chocolate syrup drizzled over all. 

Note: if you haven’t used your waffle iron in awhile, plan on throwing out the first waffle; it will serve to season your waffle iron.


1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/4 cup butter, melted (still warm but not hot)
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt*
*you will want thinner Euro style yogurt for this – not Greek style

Coffee Maple Syrup (recipe follows)


In a large bowl, stir cocoa and warm melted butter together until smooth.  Stir in sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well with a fork.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt together.

Add some of the flour mixture to the large bowl with the cocoa mixture, a little at a time, alternating with some of the yogurt, mixing fully between each addition, until everything is added and mixture is fully combined.

Bake in your waffle iron, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve with Coffee Maple Syrup for breakfast or ice cream and chocolate sauce (and some strawberries or raspberries, if you like) for dessert.

Makes about 9 – 10 waffles (depending on your waffle iron).


Coffee Maple Syrup
You can double this recipe (just use a larger pan) for more syrup.

1 cup strong coffee or espresso
3 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar (packed)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small, heavy saucepan, over medium high heat, stir together coffee, maple syrup and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half (about 15 minutes).  Turn off heat and add the butter, a piece at a time, stirring to melt and combine between each addition.  Serve immediately over Chocolate Brownie Pancakes or let syrup cool, pour into a jar and store in fridge.  This makes a nice gift from your kitchen.  Make sure to let the recipient know to refrigerate the syrup and warm it before using.