Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pining away

My daughter found a magazine with a  pinecone craft, so she picked up an unopened one fallen from a neighbor's genuine pine tree (now that I can identify those) - we realized, this is where pine nuts come from!

A little bit of browsing later, we tried heating the cone on the gas stove (fail), followed by the oven at 170, then 250, then 350 degrees. About 20 minutes in, the aroma of pine wafted around the kitchen, and the cone blossomed in the oven. Bits of a sticky sap dripped onto the baking sheet.

We removed and cooled the cone, and tapped and banged the cone on the sheet - releasing fluttery wings with a dark end attached - the pine nut! We removed the wing and kept the dark seed. Each was much smaller than the store-bought kind, and getting the meat inside proved difficult - teeth worked, but smashing ended up with pine nut dust. A new appreciation for store-bought pine nuts!

We also found that the sticky sap hardened - it dawned on me that this is pine rosin. Yes, the stuff prized by string orchestra musicians worldwide. 

When we are done banging our pinecone and getting the last few pine nuts (we were able to recover about 50 from a single pinecone), we'll be filling them with sunflower or peanut butter and coating with seeds to make a bird feeder. We might plant a few of these "nuts," feed some to birds, and keep the rest to eat. The shells are traditionally powdered or made into a tincture in Russia, so perhaps we will try that, too.

So many uses for the humble pinecone. 

Friday, August 19, 2016


Part of being mindful is just watching. I see myself watching my kids. I see the receipt I forgot to say no to. I see myself crumpling it up and putting it in the recycle bin.

I pause. I remember the receipt is coated with BPA. I see myself pick it up and put it in the trash bin. I resolve to avoid more receipts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mindful anger

I got angry. My daughter was tired and cranky, and we were both hungry. We got home and found the driveway blocked, both yards covered with leaves and a big mess back there, along with the fact that the tree trimmers were not supposed to arrive yet.

I yelled. I railed at the world. Halfway through, I caught myself - here, this is anger. I'm really angry. I'm feeling it. This is me angry - a tightness in my chest, shoulders hunched, neck tight, brow furrowed, breath forced. Breathe - this is definitely less big a deal than the weight I give it now, but I'm not ready. I am enjoying my anger, this feeling of indignation, of "how could they?!"

Then I get perspective. Someone says, you know, those are nice guys, just talk to them. Someone says, don't yell at me. My daughter looks on in awe, wondering what is next. I sigh, I drift back down to earth. It's ok. It will be okay. It was okay. Here, now, we can get through this.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Jetlag and mindfulness

After travel, I lie awake in bed, unable to sleep.

This is jetlag - I tell myself, if I don't sleep now, I will nap during the day and the cycle won't end. The kids and my schedules will be off. I fear the chaos that may come.

Then I see, allow our bodies to rest. Even here in bed in the middle of the night, I can remember to be mindful. This is a good time to meditate as long as I want in bed, a time to sit and reflect, to just be aware of the busy-ness about me, to breathe and enjoy the silence of the night.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Mindful while sick

It is very difficult to be mindful while ill. Especially the congested sore throaty kind. With kids. On a plane. In the middle of the night.

Still, it offers an opportunity to rest, drink all the water I want and need, meditate, and not worry about the kids so much.

Avoiding the extra plastic is difficult as well, with all the disposables on board. We brought our water bottles to use, and some cloths to wipe hands, but the rest is as it is. Flying itself is the least green of travel choices, so we will offset this trip and plant some trees, then avoid air travel for a while!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Mindfulness and the recycling bin

Each place has its own recycling system, but most differ from the United States - separate everything seems to be a motto. When recycling is separated well, it is less contaminated, meaning more can actually be recycled when sorting happens.

So if you have just been dumping everything into your bin straight after use, give it a mindful once-over. I'm going to gently rinse my ice cream boxes, scrape out peanut butter jars, bag my paper bits, and generally be a little more careful about what goes in the blue bin. This makes a good opportunity to see what is coming in and going out as well. The family will have to play along, too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mindful cooking

We try to eat organically grown foods, buy locally grown produce, and avoid overly processed items. I'm not above the treats and sweets, however. Still, there is a joy in cooking.

The key to mindful cooking, a teacher recently told me, is preparation. Get all your ingredients ready. For us that might mean gathering garden vegetables and herbs together, or going shopping at the farmers market. Spend time chopping all the vegetables (I do mine Sunday night with conversation! Kids can help!). Decide what you will make - simple one-pot meals, rice dishes, stews, soups and lots of no-cook sides are good to please all palates. Prep ingredients by measuring them out into bowls in advance.

Now you can get to cooking. Breathe, put love into it. I like to sometimes have calming music, but it's not necessary. I pour and mix, I listen to it sizzle, smell the aromas, look at the colors, stir, feel the heat, sometimes taste. I try to stay present instead of daydreaming.

Sometimes I use the oven. The kids press the light button to take a peek. Sometimes we cook in the solar oven - they watch the shadows and turn it. Sometimes we use a rice cooker or toaster oven or dehydrator or waffle iron or cake pop maker or some other fascinating device.

Usually, we cook on the gas stove. Electric or something else might be more eco-friendly, but for now this works well. The kids come and pull up a chair to stand on. They pour in the premeasured ingredients. They stir and sprinkle, drizzle and saute. They inhale, they lick fingers. We ooh over the bubbles, aah over aromas, mmm over sips. We dance while we wait, or they go play while I stand and breathe and the water gets ready to boil, the sauce simmers, the rice cooks.

Finally, with a flourish, the stove is turned off. Dinner is served.