mulberryshoots

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

“hope springs eternal. . .!”

the "mama" shoot, now growing multiple leaves!

the “mama” shoot, now growing multiple leaves!

Here’s an “against all odds” kind of post.
We had a money plant that was over eight feet tall, grown from a shoot we bought at the grocery store that grew on the kitchen windowsill. Then it collapsed for some reason and we were told by a plant expert to CUT IT OFF down to about four feet.

new shoots 2No leaves or branches left. A bare stump of a trunk. I kept it barely watered since the radical surgery taken last March (2015) and it lay dormant until and about ten days ago. I looked at it and saw, miraculously, that there was fresh growth coming out of a couple of “eyes” on the bare trunk.

one of four more "baby shoots" coming along. . .

one of four more “baby shoots” coming along. . .

Since then, the “shoots” are lengthening every day (about an eighth of an inch per day.)

 Now if that isn’t a sign of hope and renewal, I don’t know what is!
What do they say about perseverance?  “Love Conquers All,” “Hope Springs Eternal,” and most of all, “NEVER GIVE UP!”
POSTSCRIPT:  June 18, 2016
Here are three photos taken 12 hours apart in the last 36 hours showing exponential growth. To the adages quoted above, one more comes to mind this morning which is:  “Its Never Too Late!”
It also occurred to me this morning how encouraging this truism might also apply to us humans as well as the plant kingdom. Right?
DSCN9726
DSCN9749leaves Sat. June 18 6-30 a.m.
 GROWTH since June 18th:
photo taken june 23rd

photo taken june 23rd

photo taken june 26th

photo taken june 26th

it’s almost summer! . . .

it's almost summer! . . .

it’s almost summer! . . .

Now that we’re approaching Memorial Day, we’ve “fired up the Barbie!” as they say in Australia & New Zealand. Ours is a modest cast iron hibachi like the Japanese use because we prefer cooking over real charcoal briquets and wood-chips to cook and flavor our food.

Recently, I’ve marinated some flank steak (yesterday) and chicken thighs (today) to grill on the hibachi. After breakfast today, I “butterflied” the chicken pieces by cutting all around the thigh bone so that the meat is flattened out, more surface area to soak up the marinade and easier to ensure that they are cooked through without burning the outside while the inside is still too pink.

The marinade is the same for both the flank steak and the chicken: About a half cup of Korean barbecue sauce that you can find at asian markets; 3 fat cloves of crushed garlic, slivers of fresh ginger root and 3 scallions, washed and sliced.

flank steak marinade ingredients

flank steak marinade ingredients

The meat fits conveniently into a sturdy sandwich bag along with the marinade and I squish it around so all of it is evenly distributed. Then I pop it into the fridge until about an half hour before I’m ready to grill – about the time I start the coals and give them plenty of time for the fire to calm down – not too hot but a steady cooking heat.

Here’s a photo of the “butterflied” raw chicken thighs:

"butterflied" chicken thighs

“butterflied” chicken thighs

chicken, marinating

chicken, marinating

 

And the piece of resistance – the chicken browning on the charcoal grill (below).

 

Bon Appetit!

chicken browning on the charcoal grill hibachi! Yum!

chicken browning on the charcoal grill hibachi! Yum!

 

 

 

 

musical miracles on a Sunday morning!

Marie Sibylla Merian - botanical engraving (c. 1705)

Marie Sibylla Merian – botanical engraving (c. 1705)

Just a quick note about how miraculous (that’s the only word for it) the technological world we live in is that allows us to access art, artists and beautiful music on a Sunday morning at home.

Here’s my little tale: this a.m. I was browsing concert schedules for ones that we might want to go to this summer. Happened upon a French pianist I had never heard of: Lise de la Salle, on the Rockport Chamber Music Festival website.

And while we’re unable to attend her concert on June 18th due to a heavy schedule, I looked up her recordings on I-Tunes. For a 24 year old, she has EIGHT albums that comprise a huge repertoire including Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Liszt, Prokoviev, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovitch and more. Looked her up on her website and discovered she concertizes mostly in Europe including the prestigious Verbier Festival in August, 2016.

Back to I-Tunes, I listened to a bunch of samples from her albums, purchased 3 for 99 cents each and made a playlist on my Library after they were downloaded. Found Youtube clips of these pieces and posted on my Facebook page to share this wonderful music on a quiet Sunday morning (both G. and I were very impressed with the clarity and musical depth of her playing.)

THEN, I looked up the IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project) website where you can search for music scores and found Rachmaninoff’s (Rocky) 2nd Etude Tableaux Op. 39, No.2 which I downloaded and printed in about 7 minutes time.

I’m planning to sightread it today and am looking forward to learning this piece. In my high school days, I played another Rocky Etude Tableaux but not as beautifully poignant as this one.

All of this new music (audible and legible) has materialized from virtually nowhere (except the Internet) and it’s not even 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning – thanks to the instant access available to us on our laptops.

WOW! Aren’t we lucky?!

(big & chewy) ginger-molasses cookies . . .

ginger molasses cookies title

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a recipe and photos of some crispy, thin gingersnap cookies. They were good (enough) and we enjoyed them but the other day, I picked up ONE gigantic ginger-molasses cookie sprinkled with sugar at Idylwylde Farm. G. and I split it and we thought it was one of the best things we’ve ever eaten. It was moist, chewy and full of flavor.

We’re having a visit here this afternoon, playing some piano music and so I thought there might be enough time to try making these large ginger-molasses cookies to have with tea.ginger molasses cookies 1

Here’s the recipe that I found online that I’m going to try – I added a little more of the spices and thought of one inclusion that might make them interesting: chopped up candied ginger (a la chocolate chips in cookie batter) which might give the cookies a little more “zing”. One thing I might try next time is to substitute light brown sugar for the granulated sugar.

a "six-pack" of large ginger-molasses cookies . . .

a “six-pack” of large ginger-molasses cookies . . .

 

 

“fava bean linguine” . . .

fava bean linguine with garlic butter and parsley. . .

fava bean linguine with garlic butter and parsley. . .

Last night, we made it to Idylwilde Farm just before it closed at 7:30 p.m. I wanted to stop there because they carry fresh fava beans when they’re in season. Sure enough, there they were in their fat pods. I’ve made them before so I’m familiar with the double-peeling process.

First you harvest the beans from the fat pods that you paid so much for and then throw them away. There are three or four beans in a fat, fluffy pod. Then you parboil the beans and peel off the white covering to reveal the brilliant green beans inside. All that work results in about a half handful of succulent bright green beans (see both photos below.)

empty pods on the left, fava beans in shells on right

empty pods on the left, fava beans in shells on right

fava beans in the cup; white shells on the right!

fava beans in the cup; white shells on the right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight, I thought I’d heat the peeled fava beans gently in some unsalted butter, minced garlic and fresh parsley until just right – and then toss some cooked spinach/chive linguine noodles with the beans. Then add chopped fresh basil, along with a robust grating of fresh parmesan cheese on top. A squeeze of fresh lemon mixed in.

ingredients: fava beans, fresh garlic, basil, parsley, lemon & Trader Joe's spinach-chive linguine. . .

ingredients: fava beans, fresh garlic, basil, parsley, lemon & Trader Joe’s spinach-chive linguine. . .

A simple watercress/lettuce salad with a classic vinaigrette and coarse ground pepper finishes off the meal.

 

 

“utopia in my own backyard” . . . (or at least in my pantry!)

a flexible glass tube flower vase "lost" and now "found" . . .

a flexible glass tube flower vase “lost” and now “found” . . .

I’ve been doing a massive Spring cleaning out of my pantry. It is a nice-sized room that adjoins our living space and also serves as a passageway of sorts to our back deck where we grill and have planters of kitchen herbs for three seasons of the year. When the weather is pretty mild, we basically keep the doors open and enjoy the additional view and extension of our living space. The trouble is that the “view” in the pantry wasn’t much of one, mostly foodstuffs tossed in there, looking more like a disheveled storage room than anything else (after all, it’s a pantry, right?)

We’re now on our second day of taking things out in order to give away what we won’t be using and reorganizing it so that storage will be more practical and the room more presentable. The funny thing is that we have unearthed a number of “finds” – that is, things we wished we had (like the cute little glass flexible vase in the photo above) and rediscovered things that meant a lot to us – like some McCoy pottery bowls that show their age but are wonderful, nevertheless.

McCoy pottery bowls. . .

McCoy pottery bowls. . .

So, the saying that “utopia is in your own backyard” comes to mind while also wondering what to do with the huge sack of rice saved in case of a disaster.

To dress up the pantry space, I thought I might experiment with some pieces of vintage Japanese indigo blue/white fabric plus some blue wood-block printed “Tree of Life” cotton from India. We’ll see how that works out when the sticky-back velcro tape arrives tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, it’s comforting and discomfiting at the same time to realize that I haven’t changed much over the years: there are duplicates of the things that I love (Le Creuset, vintage copper, pottery bowls, ruffled quiche pans) and also things that I completely forgot about! Like the little flexible glass tube vase that I cleaned out and which now holds the remnants of Mother’s Day bouquets that my daughters sent me last weekend.

This whole cleaning out process reminds me of a French phrase:

“les plus de choses changent plus elles restent les mêmes” (the more things change, the more they stay the same!”

 

carrot-orange cake . . . and music too!

carrot-orange cake with cream cheese frosting. . .

carrot-orange cake with cream cheese frosting. . .

For years, I’ve made this carrot-orange cake because it’s a favorite with my family. It’s a little different from a straight carrot cake recipe because it includes orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice (navel oranges) in both the cake batter and in the cream cheese frosting recipes.

By trial and error, I’ve discovered that hand-grating the carrots (washed but unpeeled) on a box grater works the best because the grated shavings are light enough to stay suspended in the cake batter. One year, I used a Cuisinart to “grate” the carrots and they turned out to be too finely ground – and sank heavily into the bottom of the cake! This hand-grating on the hole side of the box grater takes awhile and is the most laborious part of the recipe but it’s really worth it.

The other tweaks that I’ve made to this classic recipe (mine was from Bon Appetit,) are using golden raisins instead of dark brown ones, slightly heaping teaspoons of cinnamon and ground ginger, slightly more than half a teaspoon of nutmeg. And gently folding in the grated carrots and golden raisins at the end in an up-and-down motion with a rubber spatula (similar to folding beaten egg whites into a souffle.) carrot cake 1

For the frosting, I use two packages of Philadelphia regular cream cheese (not non-fat) and ONE stick of unsalted butter rather than two. I also only add as much confectioners sugar (one heaping cup rather than five cups) as the frosting will taste slightly sweet, but not as (overly) sweet as what the recipe calls for. Fresh orange juice and grated orange zest liven up the frosting as well.  Instead of cutting the cake horizontally as the recipe suggests, and because it is such a dense, moist cake, I frost it right in the pan just as it is. A small square serving of frosted cake goes a long way!

It is baking now and smells divine. This carrot orange cake will be shared with my 97-year old mother-in-law who lives across the street, a few friends to whom I’ll take some tomorrow – and the rest will be shared with those who are close by.

Oh, and by the way, an old friend who’s a pianist recommended Leon Fleisher’s 1987 recording of Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto conducted by George Szell (“listen to the longest, most fabulous diminuendo that goes on forever at the end of the second movement!”) Seems like a good pairing to me: eating homemade carrot-orange cake with cream cheese frosting while listening to Leon Fleisher playing the “Emperor” in his heyday! Doesn’t get much better than that!

And happy mother’s day too!

 

 

 

“awakening” . . .

tulips and narcissus from the farmers market in Northampton . . .

tulips and narcissus from the farmers market in Northampton . . .

Yesterday, I picked up a book I had reserved at the library last week called “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle. I had seen it years ago but hadn’t been able to read it all at the time.

It seems that now, every paragraph and chapter seems relevant to my life. He talks about how we sometimes see ourselves in a life-role as a parent and that the role may overtake us rather than allowing us to be who we truly are underneath. He also speaks to carrying a “pain-body” around which we are unaware of, which may result in perpetuating past pain in cycles within the present. The Ego is responsible for much of the pain that we experience and learning how to think about it and how it influences our behavior is also illuminating.

Here’s one segment which encapsulates how to be in the Now and not mind what happens.

Not Minding What Happens: J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, . . . surprised his audience by asking, “Do you want to know my secret?” Finally, after all these years, the master would give them the key to understanding. “This is my secret,” he said. “I don’t mind what happens.” He did not elaborate and perhaps his audience were even more perplexed than before. The implications of this simple statement, however, are profound.

When I don’t mind what happens, what does that imply? It implies that internally I am in alignment with what happens. “What happens,” of course, refers to the suchness of this moment, which always already is as it is. It refers to content, the form that this moment–the only moment there ever is–takes. To be in alignment with what is means to be in a relationship with inner nonresistance with what happens. It means not to label it as good or bad, but to let it be. Does this mean you can longer take action to bring about change in your life? On the contrary. When the basis for your actions is inner alignment with the present moment, your actions become empowered by the intelligence of Life itself.” 

Sound heavy? Maybe. But, if you read this book and are able to reflect on the author’s observations, it might make more sense and fall into place in your own consciousness.

In any case, I have found it to be reassuring  – to know Presence of yourself in the moment we are in and not minding what happens – rather than struggling mentally with just about everything else our ego might come up with.

“help is on the way”. . .

a hopi yei rainbow man made into a pendant. . .

a hopi yei rainbow man made into a pendant. . .

In the I-Ching, the book suggests entities like the “Helpers” and the “Sage” to whom one can ask for help. This sounds like a simple thing – and for me, one which I have found to be a powerful source of inspiration in difficult times. All it takes is to ask them for help, be open to what occurs/evolves and to thank them when you receive the help that you asked for. Often, an approach will appear that I would never have thought of on my own – and it also feels perfect at the same time.

Along these lines, I was reminded by someone I met recently about the power of the Native American culture and its Spirit World (the Circle of Life.) Years ago when I visited Sedona, Arizona, I read about spirit symbols such as the Yei rainbow man. He embodies a Spirit World helper and appears in various forms in paintings, weavings and in jewelry. Here is an illustration of a Hopi rainbow man made into a pendant.

It is comforting to me that we are not alone in this world to try to solve all our problems by ourselves. How could we? Humans tend to complicate things, it seems to me, while the Universe simplifies things. And asking for help may be the simplest one of all.

“Help is on the way” is not just a platitude for me but an occurrence that enriches my life almost every day. I am very thankful!

an antidote to depression . . .

majestic elm trees by the Mississippi River

majestic elm trees by the Mississippi River

Was feeling a bit blue this morning and went out to do some errands. While I was in Barnes & Noble, a local hangout of sorts, I picked up a copy of a magazine, “Psychology Today” and read an article called, “It’s Not All About You!”

It struck a chord, I admit sheepishly and this particular passage about cognitive therapy sounded like perfect pitch to me:

“. . . cognitive behaviorial therapy is about, yes, examining your thoughts, but also learning to take them less seriously, to look at how they might be inaccurate or silly or useless, to stop taking what happens around you so personally, to realize it’s not all about you.”

So, maybe thinking (ruminating/brooding) about what ails us, and spending lots of money talking to a therapist about it so that we can change how we think about it (don’t take things personally and don’t try to change what you can’t) might work for lots of people. But what else?

By getting out in Nature and really seeing beauty around us, appreciating and experiencing awe for all that the Universe provides for us little beings on earth – that’s not that hard to do and puts us in our place at the same too. Plus, it’s free!~

Sounds good to me!

 

 

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