"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

october table . . .

leaves from the front and back gardens

leaves from the front and back gardens

Instead of buying bunches of flowers at the Farmers’ Market today, I remembered a very simple arrangement I saw years ago at a Zen retreat in Western Massachusetts where leaves and pods from the garden were arranged on a bare wooden table.

Here’s my version from our garden today. Feels so good to clear off the entire table and clean the curly maple surface! Almost like taking a deep breath and clearing the air in our lungs and in the visual space around us!



‘being taoist’ . . .

the rock signifying "yin-yang" which I found on the beach . . . and "buddha babes" laughing about life . . . plus love remembrances from C.

the rock signifying “yin-yang” which I found on the beach . . . and “buddha babes” laughing about life . . . plus love remembrances from C.

A few weeks ago, I was in a bookstore called ‘Taproot’ and came across a hardbound copy of the “I-Ching” called “The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth” by Hua-Ching Ni. As a student of the I-Ching for over twenty-five years, I was intrigued and came home to purchase a used copy of the book.

It arrived a few days ago. And during the interim time, I also ordered a book on Amazon called “Being Taoist – Wisdom for Living a Balanced Life” by Eva Wong. It arrived yesterday and I read a few chapters last night before going to bed early. Made all the sense in the world to me and I also relayed some of these ideas to G. this morning and as I will sum up herewith:

Everyone is born with life energy. How we use it throughout our lives accounts for how long it lasts. If we strive for fame and fortune comparing ourselves to others; or rail against what life’s vicissitudes puts us through with anger, rage and vengence; if we live with envy of our neighbors and resent what we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we do have; and if we take it out on ourselves by overeating, being slothful, indulging in excesses, physical and otherwise, we use up our life energy without knowing it. We perpetuate this never-ending struggle upon ourselves. Everyday, without knowing it.

Instead, if we know that we can live simply and with moderation in all things: eat well but stop before we are full, drink lukewarm water when we are thirsty, walk when we have been sitting too long; sit when we are tired and get enough sleep, our life energy will be conserved and we will be at peace and experience contentment. This is the simple truth about longevity and quality of life.

Well, I thought – this kind of balance is within our own intentions and actions. When we overreact, are frustrated and disappointed, we’re using life energy more than we have to. When we strive for or resent what others may have but we feel we don’t have but want, we are using life energy more than we have to.

I’m old enough to know how lucky I have been to end up where I am now, having gone through lots of turmoil in the past. Leaving it all behind me now, I feel no need to “fix” what is unfixable and to leave those matters to others. And I drop them without rancor or regret. It’s just gone. Not worth any life energy to speak of, it seems to me, and certainly not worth talking about anymore.

Although I was born in China and am innately Asian in my outlook on life – thus the study of Taoism and the I-Ching – I also grew up in America and am aware of the bilateral way of Western thinking: “it is or it isn’t;” “it’s yes or no;” “it’s black or white;” “they’re wrong and I’m right.” But Taoism is not bilateral. It’s holistic and a way of eschewing or taking off this hairshirt of conflict: “right or wrong and that’s the only outcome.”

We don’t have to figure it out. We can choose at this very moment to discard all these “shoulds” “have-nots” and “unfixable disappointments” in one fell swoop – and thereby choose to preserve our life energy in a better way ~ starting now, in this very moment.

At least, that makes a lot of sense to me. Plus I feel so much better!



ramen bowls for dinner! . . .


For the past weeks, I’ve been making bone broth in my new Instant Pot and also reading about how to make appetizing ramen one-bowl suppers. So today, I’m combining what I’ve made and learned for our first try at a customized ramen bowl for dinner. Here’s what I have to start with:

  • a lovely piece of char-sui pork (barbecued) from the Asian market that I’ll heat up in the broth before slicing and serving;
  • a container of bone broth to which I’ll add a scant spoonful of dashi powder and a spoonful of Ohsawa soy sauce for the “ramen soup base”;
  • fresh Chinese spinach – unlike Western spinach (see photo) – which I will stir fry, drain and cut up before placing with the other ingredients on the bowl;
  • 6-minute jumbo eggs with yolks that are still slightly runny, braised in a red-cooked sauce (soy, sherry, sugar) and cut in half just before serving;
  • fresh Chinese noodles from the Asian market – boiled ahead of time, rinsed and drained before adding to the ramen broth

I happen to have all of these ingredients on hand to prepare ahead of time and assemble to make our noodle bowls for dinner.

Here are some photos along the way ~

chinese spinach and fresh chinese noodles

chinese spinach and fresh chinese noodles

Chinese spinach (raw and cooked) to add to the ramen bowl



Char sui pork (barbecued) from the Asian market & braised 6 minute eggs




freshly cooked Chinese noodles

freshly cooked Chinese noodles

penultimate ramen bowls . . .

penultimate ramen bowls . . .

constant change . . .

my miniature maidenhair fern plant on the kitchen counter. . .

my miniature maidenhair fern plant on the kitchen counter. . .

The only predictable thing in life is change. Many of us don’t like it. Some of us welcome it. I’m one of the latter.

Maybe because while observing life’s vicissitudes I see patterns that I didn’t notice before. Or, reading books that offer limited points of view that are either-or, black-and-white or some other bilateral nonsense – such as a) if you don’t like it; b) leave.

Being Asian, a student of Taoist thought and reading the I-Ching, Or Book of Changes,  I’ve been introduced to holistic thinking that isn’t bilateral or even 3-Dimensional. It’s not as simple as Western either-or approaches to everything and I highly recommend it as an alternative way to live one’s life. I know it has profoundly impacted my own for the past twenty-five years.

The other day, I consulted the I-Ching about what outcome there might be regarding a family situation that I’m experiencing and I laughed out loud when the line it gave me was number 5 in the Hexagram #12 called “Standstill.” Here it is:
“Standstill is giving way.  Good fortune for the great (wo)man. ‘What if it should fail, what if it should fail? In this way s(he) ties it to a cluster of mulberry shoots.”

The time undergoes a change. The right man/woman, able to restore order, has arrived. Hence ‘Good fortune.’ But such periods of transition are the very times in which we must fear and tremble. Success is assured only through greatest caution, which asks always, “what if it should fail?” When a mulberry bush is cut down, a number of unusually strong shoots sprout from the roots. Hence the image of tying something to a cluster of mulberry shoots is used to symbolize the way of making success certain. Confucius says about this line:

Danger arises when a (wo)man feels secure in h(er) position. Destruction threatens when a wo(man) seeks to preserve h(er) worldly estate. Confusion develops when a (wo)man does not forget danger in h(er) security, nor ruin when (s)he is well established, nor confusion when h(er) affairs are in order. In this way (s)he gains personal safety and is able to protect the empire.”

I guess that says it all. The Universe is here for us to learn from if only we will pay attention to it before it is too late. This reading from the I-Ching has also relieved my feelings of disappointment and replaced them with a neutrality about what the future might bring. And that, my friends, is a really big deal!


a pair of ‘mums’ . . .

a pair of 'mums' in our kitchen . . .

a pair of ‘mums’ in our kitchen . . .

Finally, we’re getting a few days of rain this week. After a summer of dry, hot weather, it’s a real shift to grey days with intermittent rain.

I like it.

It makes me think about what is truly meaningful in one’s life . . . And it’s pretty simple it seems:

A home that is a haven from the vagaries of the external world.

Meals that are easy to prepare and enjoyable to share with someone you love every night for dinner.

Not watching the news on television when the harpiness of it all gets to be too much.

Not chasing after what’s unavailable or can’t be changed – not in the past and not in the present either.

Being content with who we are and what we have – and being thankful for it all.

A couple of chrysanthemums from my favorite florist that cost me $2 a stem.




ramen bowls?. . .

Okay, so we’ve all cooked a packet of ramen when we’re hungry and on the run. I particularly like the brand, “Sapporo Ichiban” which you can even find in the local grocery store (Shaw’s) nowadays. That little aluminum foil full of flavoring spices though, was pretty salty.

On the other side of the coin, there are those of us old enough to have seen and enjoyed that Japanese movie about making ramen noodle broth called “Tampopo” where the entire film seems to be made up of shenanigans instigated to discover the secret recipe for making the best broth for the noodle bowls.

Today, I received a cookbook called “Simply Ramen” from Amazon.The author is a Californian fourth-generation Japanese cook named Amy Kimoto-Kahn, who is also a Mom to three kids one finds out later. The photography of noodle nests on the flyleaves augurs well for the rest of the book.

I have a lot of cookbooks already, especially Japanese food, and so was a little dubious when I first opened the book. A pleasant surprise! Not only are the photos appetizing and gorgeous to look at; the book itself is organized in the most helpful way possible:

First chapters on how to make five core soup broths. And these aren’t just a handful of ingredients either. They’re hard core authentic recipes from Japan cookery schools and the like.

Then, the noodles and how to make them from scratch (I plan to use fresh wonton noodles from the Asian market in town – boiled first, rinsed and then slipped into the rich soup broth. )

Then, the condiments and how to prepare them: I especially liked the teriyaki marinated soft-boiled eggs that you cut in half and put on top of the ramen bowls when you’re ready to serve. Sauteeing fresh bamboo shoots with a teriyaki type seasoning sounded good too.

Then, recipes for each category of ramen bowls to try out: “pork ramen,” “beef ramen,” “seafood ramen,” “vegetable ramen” etc.

After perusing the book for awhile, I began to think about what kind of combinations I might try first. The first modification I thought of was that instead of using a slow cooker to make the broth for ten hours, that my new Instant Pot would be a much faster and handier piece of equipment to use to make broth for ramen. The ingredients and cooking steps were pretty similar to what I’ve been doing to make bone broth too.

I then searched online for other authentic ramen broth recipes and came upon David Chang’s Momofuku (yeah!) recipe for making HIS ramen broth. (Come to think of it, I have his cookbook in my bookcase and I’m going to dig it out later.) But in this online brief which he wrote for the first issue of “Lucky Peach,” Chang goes through how his cooks modified his original ramen broth to exclude pork bones and to grind up dried shitake mushrooms instead of using whole ones to save storage room and cost.

One aspect he covered though that was a little confusing to me was making “tare” – which turns out to be the seasoning/enriching sauce if you will, that is added to the broth when ready to serve it in the bowls filled with broth. I didn’t recall seeing that in Amy’s book above.

Chang makes this separately with a chicken back, soy, mirin and sake and he roasts the chicken first too. Lots of time for this version. Anyhow, back to the broth, he adds some smoky ham or bacon from a vendor that we don’t have access to so I’m wondering if that might be a piece of smoked ham hock?

I already have chicken bones/wings in the freezer that I was saving up to make a batch of bone broth – I’ll add some pork bones, dashi, ground shitake mushrooms, scallions and roasted chicken parts plus some chicken broth and run it through the Instant Pot for 75 minutes (same amount of time as making bone broth) and see how it turns out. I’ll have to figure out what to do to make the tare later.

Boy, these recipes take a lot of ingredients and time, don’t they?  But there’s nothing that substitutes for good homemade stock. Whether it’s for bone broth or for ramen noodle bowl broth, though, the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker is going to beat the band for making homemade broth in less than a fifth of the amount of time of slow cookers or on the stove!

I’ll let you know how it turns out this weekend. Want to try making it too?

Now that the weather’s getting cooler, it’s really tempting to make the base broth for noodle bowls and top it with slices of barbecued char sui (pork,) fresh Chinese spinach, seasoned bamboo shoots and soft boiled eggs sliced in half on top. Or how about soft-boiled teriyaki-marinated duck eggs? Yum!

beet greens galore . . . and more!

today's bounty from the Northampton Tuesday Farmer's Market! . . .

today’s bounty from the Northampton Tuesday Farmer’s Market! . . .

After staying close to home most of the summer, I took a drive out to Northampton today and visited the Tuesday Farmers’ Market. The sky cleared as I drove and by the time the market opened, the sun was out, it was dry and fairly cool.

When the bell tinkled to allow people to start selling at 1:30 p.m., I was ready to pay for my gorgeous vegetables from this one stand: an assortment of beautiful beets, a small eggplant, three shallots, a sturdy english cucumber and three tomatoes. I paid for them and then walked across the courtyard to buy a dozen eggs, an assortment of arucauna pale blue green eggs and other organic beauties.

That’s all I bought, skirting the booth laden with fresh-baked breads and avoiding the temptation of buying them or some tarts for dessert all of which sadly contain gluten and tons of sugar!

Once home, I decided to roast the washed beets, covered with aluminum foil in a layer of spring water along with oven-fried chicken thighs that I had rinsed, dried, sprinkled with flour, dipped in beaten egg and rolled in seasoned Panko crumbs. In a 400 degree oven, I figured the chicken and the beets would both take about an hour to bake/roast with our dinner hour planned for a little before six o’clock. (The chicken came out 15 minutes earlier and the beets stayed in fifteen minutes longer!)

As I cleaned up the kitchen counter, I was about ready to chuck the beet greens into the refuse bag when I decided to wash them well under running cold faucet and cut off the stems. That left the greens which I cut into thirds.

beet greens before parboiling. . .

beet greens before parboiling. . .

Looked up a couple of beet green recipes online which had the same formula: toast two cloves of garlic in olive oil, add par-boiled greens, sprinkle with red pepper flakes, squeeze a little lemon on top and serve.

Sounded pretty straightforward to me. My variation on that classic recipe was to parboil the greens first and then saute them in garlic and olive oil. Then, I added a sprinkle of Japanese Marukan seasoned gourmet vinegar and an accompanying sprinkle of maple syrup. Mixed the sweet/sour tastes with the greens and served them hot in a bowl. Yum! The dish had very mellow flavors and would be a great way to cook swiss chard too. I think that parboiling the greens first was an essential step. You couldn’t have a huge pan of fresh greens and expect it to cook down enough to add other seasonings. I drained it well and then gave the greens a couple of chops with a knife before I sauteed it with garlic et al. as described above.

Hey, the beet greens that almost got thrown away smelled like the star of the show! Here’s tonight’s dinner!

oven-fried chicken thighs . . .

oven-fried chicken thighs . . .

oven roasted beets with a little butter . . .

oven roasted beets with a little butter . . .






beet greens ready to eat

beet greens ready to eat



For the rest of the week, I’m planning to use the a) shallots with some thickly sliced mushrooms to go with swedish meatball stroganoff with noodles tomorrow night and  b) a small eggplant parmesan for two with mozzarella, fresh chopped tomatoes and hand-grated parmesan cheese. The organic eggs will be soft-boiled for breakfast or made into an omelet with grated Irish cheddar cheese and sauteed baby spinach & shallots later in the week for a quick supper. The cucumber will come in handy added to romaine/kale salads.

Pretty nice food for less than $12 for the veggies and $6 for the eggs, right?




looking for fulfillment? . . .


In our generation, we read books like “Looking for Mr. Goodbar,” “Catcher in the Rye,” or “On the Road” while we were growing up, looking for what our purpose in life might be.

In today’s Sunday New York Times was an article that describes a course offered at Stanford University called “Designing Your Life.” Instead of prescriptive rules that you should follow, its approach is to guide you through a way of thinking about process as experimental and experiential ~ and that it’s okay to fail along the way to finding what floats your boat in life. It gives permission to make mistakes too.

I haven’t read it yet because it will be released on Tuesday, September 22nd, but I’ve pre-ordered it on Amazon. And I’m also thinking about giving a copy at Christmas to my granddaughter and others in my extended family who might find something useful in the search for themselves.

We could all use a little of this, couldn’t we?

farmers’ market ‘gold’ . . .


On Saturday mornings, I like to go to the farmer’s market in town because even though there aren’t that many participants, Fivefork Farms, a CSA flower farm from Upton, MA. serves as the anchor, drawing lots of customers from our town and nearby places. And I like to go to chat with Grace and her Dad while picking out some flowers to adorn the kitchen table for the week.

Today, I found this wonderful Fall bouquet of mixed flowers . . . AND walked by a new vendor from a Jersey cow farm in Lunenberg, MA. who had a few bins of freshly made BUTTER from grass-fed Jersey cows. I commented that I had never seen butter offered before and the fellow said they usually sell all of it to a local bakery and had a few bins left that he brought to the market.

Wow! – what a wonderful find! Having fresh filet of sole and asparagus for dinner tonight too! – with lemon (fresh!) butter!



miracle . . .

a "little lady" miniature maidenhair fern that arrived yesterday . . .

a “little lady” miniature maidenhair fern that arrived yesterday . . .

Well, even if you were tired of reading so many posts about making bone broth recently, here’s an update. I was discouraged on Monday morning when I weighed myself as a baseline before starting the mini-fasting regimen. It seems I’d gained about seven pounds from earlier in the year due to stress-related reasons, I think.

Anyhow, that was on Monday. Today is Thursday. I’ve been having warm bone broth for two meals, breakfast and lunch. Some tamari almonds as a snack. For dinner, I’ve been eating light hi-protein and vegetable meals. Nothing after seven p.m.

Today on Thursday, I stepped on the scale and looked down. Stepped off it and then came back fifteen minutes later. Yep, I’ve lost FIVE POUNDS in less than four days.

P-L-U-S, I will confess that I cheated a few times because of high stress levels due to stuff you don’t even want to know about and had some Magnum chocolate almond ice cream bars from the freezer too.

STILL LOST WEIGHT! I’m (really) psyched!

FYI, Dr. Kellyann’s 21 day diet claims you’ll lose fifteen pounds and four inches if you fast two days a week for the three weeks you’re following the plan. That’s about five pounds a week, right? Truly amazing. I wouldn’t believe it if it didn’t happen to me right here during the first week! Hope it continues!