Thursday, November 15, 2012


Deepavali, or Diwali, or Divali - however you say it, it's arguably the best Indian festival. New clothes, fireworks, lamps, colorful rangoli designs, family and friends - it combines some of the most enjoyable aspects of any holiday.

And the food.... Sweets galore! Boxes of homemade goodies. Salty snacks. Food fit for wedding, or even a king.

I was inspired - what a great opportunity to use some of my CSA produce, and make some delectable somethings. Just don't get carried away...

Too late. Here's the menu (leftovers anyone?). I marked the ones I made vegan with V.

Divali marundhu - literally "Divali medicine" this black paste is a concoction of herbs, ghee/vegan-butter and jaggery (super-raw sugar) said to counteract the ill-effects of the rest of the day's overindulgence! V

Rice - a staple. Plain brown, white, and some mixed in with yogurt and seasoning.

Appalam - also known as paapad, a crispy chip-like thing made of lentils or rice flour. V

Sambar - a liquid curry with dal, tamarind, and spices. I added red daikon cubes from the box. V

Rasam - another liquid curry served over rice, made with tamarind, tomatoes, spices, and dal. I added some pineapple guava pulp from a neighbor's tree. V

Kootu - a liquid vegetable with dal. This was moving dal and Indian mustard greens from the farmer's market. V

Cabbage - another CSA find, this was lightly sautéed with a few FM grapes. V

Potatoes - FM yellow, red, new, sweet, all mixed and oven-roasted with turmeric and salt and pepper. V

Thohaiyal - a paste made with mixed dals, tamarind, coconut, and in this case Indian store ridge gourd (peel and all), made as a chutney or to mix in rice. V

Pachadi - usually made with mangos, this chutney-like dish combines sweet, salty, sour, and spicy. No mangos, but tart apples from the box did nicely. V

Vadai - puffy little savory donuts made with lentil flour, deep fried. Yum.

Payasam - a liquid sweet of milk, sucanat, cardamom, and semiya (rice vermicelli). I used sucanat or jaggery for all my sweets this Divali.

Halva - a rich, sticky sweet made with flour, oil, sucanat, raisins, nuts. This one included a friend's soft Hachiya persimmons. V

Burfi - crisp squares of pure decadence, this is the fudge of India. These were sucanat and frozen sweetened coconut. V

Peda - another treat, these are made with milk, boiled down to thickness, with ghee and sucanat. I added the box's kobucha squash.

Add a little spicy pickle and the menu's complete!
Happy Deepavali to all!


Deepavali, or Diwali, or Divali - however you say it, it's arguably the best Indian festival. New clothes, fireworks, lamps, colorful rangoli designs, family and friends - it combines some of the most enjoyable aspects of any holiday.

And the food.... Sweets galore! Boxes of homemade goodies. Salty snacks. Food fit for wedding, or even a king.

I was inspired - what a great opportunity to use some of my CSA produce, and make some delectable somethings. Just don't get carried away...

Too late. Here's the menu (leftovers anyone?)

Divali marundhu - literally "Divali medicine" this black paste is a concoction of herbs, ghee/vegan-butter and jaggery (super-raw sugar) said to counteract the ill-effects of the rest of the day's overindulgence!

Rice - a staple. Plain brown, white, and some mixed in with yogurt and seasoning.

Appalam - also known as paapad, a crispy chip-like thing made of lentils or rice flour.

Sambar - a liquid curry with dal, tamarind, and spices. I added red daikon cubes from the box.

Rasam - another liquid curry served over rice, made with tamarind, tomatoes, spices, and dal. I added some pineapple guava pulp from a neighbor's tree.

Kootu - a liquid vegetable with dal. This was moving dal and Indian mustard greens from the farmer's market.

Cabbage - another CSA find, this was lightly sautéed with a few FM grapes.

Potatoes - FM yellow, red, new, sweet, all mixed and oven-roasted with turmeric and salt and pepper.

Thohaiyal - a paste made with mixed dals, tamarind, coconut, and in this case Indian store ridge gourd (peel and all), made as a chutney or to mix in rice.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Under 35 Project

Shambala Publications, long known for its detailed articles on all things related to Buddhism, meditation, and more has started publishing articles by young authors, what they call the Under 35 Project (though it's not quite so limited). Young people contemplate as well, and their views are recorded in a series of delightful articles with a wide range.

If you're a young person starting or well on your way in meditation, please make a contribution.

You can read mine here:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

4-year checkup

A visit to the doctor:

Eye test - hearts, moons, rectangles, stars, hands - 20/30 (normal for this age)
Clothes off
First blood pressure cuff: 100/64
Weight: 39.2 lbs
Height: 44 inches (3' 8" - BMI ~50%, Doctor Nader says "it's better to be lower")
Hearing with headphones and beeps: "good listener!"
Standing and jumping on alternate legs - "strong legs"
2 shots :'( followed by the treasure box :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rehydrating dried-out bread, Tea rusk or biscotti

I love tea rusks. My family in India used to dip them in tea, but I just liked snacking on them. Turns out they're not really vegan, nor are they as healthy as they seem! So when I found myself with a french baguette that turned rock solid, I went looking for answers.

Step 1: Rehydrate the bread. If you have any really dry, hard-as-rock bread, you can bring it back to life. I used to spend time trying to microwave it into softness, but try the oven instead for good results. If you're softening bread to make rusks see below to save heating time and energy:

Rehydrating Bread

Run water over the bread (or pour water so that all sides are covered). Place in oven and bake at 250-300 degrees F for 5 minutes. Check for softness. If still hard, cover with water again and bake an additional 3 minutes. Cut into desired size slices immediately.

To soften slices further, sprinkle them with water and bake again a few minutes. Store with fruit peels or a slice of bread to keep them soft.

Step 2: Now that the bread is in beautiful rusk-size slices, it can be ruskified! I like the recipe below because it'svegan, simple, uses bread you already have, and is endlessly modifiable into your own personal rusk creation (chili-lemon rusk anyone?) Recipe adapted from Show Me the Curry.

Vegan Tea Rusk
french baguette, buns, or stale bread
earth balance or other vegan buttery spread
raw sugar or maple syrup

Preheat oven to 275F. (use part of the preheating time to rehydrate your bread, see above).

Cut bread into desired size pieces.

Spread a thin layer of earth balance on one side of each slice. Sprinkle with a light coating of sugar or syrup.

Arrange on two trays (or one) and bake for 30 minutes. Swap trays top to bottom. Bake another 30 minutes, until well done and dry.

Remove and cool, then store in an air tight container. Use them for dipping in your tea (or coffee)!

Variations: sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or other spices. Long slices with a dash of almond extract make a vegan biscotti!

Slow cooker Chili

My friend Jill came up with a deceptively complex chili, full of nuance and flavor, that suits infants, children, and grownups alike (wow). The sweet potato adds a special something. Her simple recipe, without measurements because you can make it to taste:

Cubed sweet potato
Dried beans (black or red)
Onion, minced
Tomatoes, chopped (or a can)
Cumin, powdered (optional)
Paprika (optional)
salt and pepper

Put everything in the slow cooker. Cover with water and then some. Cook on low overnight or high for 3 hours until thickened and soft.

I made this recently with (guess what?) corn and bell peppers and potatoes. Yum.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

JOT #40: Homemade tahini (for kale chips!)

It's been a while since I made kale chips, so when I saw the vendor at the farmer's market who carries the cheap but perfect curly kale, I grabbed two bunches.

I was ready to crisp them up when I remembered: I'm out of tahini. A quick search later turned up this recipe at Cinnamon Spice and everything nice (lots of good recipes there). I couldn't help but make it with the large jar of sesame seeds I seem to have accumulated.

It's simple - 1 cup sesame seeds (I used white, you could use black for a really cool color), toasted until golden brown, food processed (you could blend or grind or crush with a mortar and pestle) with 2 tablespoons or more of oil. I used sesame to help retain the flavor, but you could use olive (traditional) or some other oil. You'll have to grind finely and it still stays coarse compared to store tahini, but it's oh-so-flavorful.

Add that to the Green Goddess dressing and make your chips!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Power's out!

The power going out is a great way to focus on what's essential and important. Last week, the power went out in the morning. After the initial "what will I do without the internet!" panic, I realized several things, with a start:

- I had to conserve cell phone and laptop power
- My landline phone needs to be plugged in to work
- The clock I rely on, the microwave, was off. I had to read an analog clock that...also runs on batteries.
- I couldn't find my emergency radio at first. And I had no AA batteries for it.
- Lots of things wouldn't work: the alarm clock, the tv, the electric kettle, the rice cooker, the toaster, the ceiling and floor fans, the bathroom fan, the chargers, and even the spark on the gas stove.
- It's no use having lots of food in the house if you can't cook it.
- I have a fridge and freezer full of food that might go bad very soon.
- I don't have a car to use during the day

- I was very grateful for having a gas stove to cook lunch, and a lighter (though I realized I was out of matches)
- I was grateful for having a solar oven to cook rice, or other things if needed.
- I was glad I had the utilities phone number in a file somewhere
- I was glad I'd stocked up on bulk foods just in case.
- I was glad I had an emergency radio, and a candle, a flashlight with working batteries, and a cell phone
- and I was super happy and relieved when the power came back on at noon

Things I'll be doing now:
- get some matches
- figure out how to get water out of my water heater
- put the utility phone numbers in my cell phone and write them down
- find an old-fashioned phone
- buy some extra AA batteries
- get a solar or crank phone charger
- stock up with an emergency kit

What will you do?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Homemade Tomato Juice, Tomato Sauce, and Tomato Chutney

It's tomato season! I love tomatoes - they're cheery and red, and come in every shape and size and color, from the perfectly round cherries that can be popped into a mouth and fill it with pungent juice to the knobby irregular heirlooms, like fleshy gnomes in the garden.

So I buy up boxes of farm tomatoes (the store kind now taste like cardboard to me). The price of an organic tomato drops by half when you buy 20 pounds of it. And what to do with all this red bounty? As much as possible, eat your tomatoes fresh, or in salads, or in soups and other dishes. And then you can...

  • Make a nearly-instant pasta sauce with a little olive oil, some herbs (basil or oregano work well, fresh or dried),salt, pepper and some halved cherry tomatoes all sauteed for exactly 1 minute.
  • Make some tomato sauce: cook down a potful of washed whole tomatoes and let them simmer, partly covered, lightly salted, and seasoned with herbs or whatever you like in your sauce. Pass through a food mill if you'd like to remove seeds and skins. Pour into glass jars and store in the freezer (or can, if you wish).
  • Make a tomato chutney: heat a dash of oil, add mustard seeds, turmeric, chili powder, salt, and chopped tomatoes. Stir stir stir until it is a thick, spicy chutney (Stir further until most of the water is gone, make it spicier, add a bit more oil, and it's hot tomato pickle). Pour into jars and store in the fridge or freezer.
  • Make tomato powder: dry extra tomato skins (say from a food mill) in the sun until fully brittle, then powder and use the highly flavored powder for seasoning and bright orange color. Store airtight at room temperature.
  • Make tomato jam: cook tomatoes with sugar and a tiny dash of chili powder for a bright, unusual jam that's phenomenal with things sweet or savory (or by the spoonful).
  • Make sun-dried tomatoes by drying halved tomatoes in the sun or on a baking sheet in the oven or in a dehydrator.
  • OR you can make tomato juice.

Most tomato juice recipes call for celery and carrots and other things I don't keep on hand. This is a very quick simple version, heavily modified from this one, and takes no time at all:

Speedy Tomato Juice

4 large heirloom tomatoes (about 2lbs)

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

1-2 tbsp maple syrup, to taste

water (optional)

Chop the tomatoes and cook until they are all mushy and soupy. Pass through a food mill (if you don't have one, blend and then strain the juice through cheesecloth and press until all the liquid is through). Add salt and maple syrup to taste. Chill in refridgerator until cold. Dilute with water to desired strength (optional). Enjoy!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

JOT #39: homemade lipbalm or lipstick or lip stain

I've been putting off buying a tube of lipstick, which I planned to buy from 100% pure, made entirely of plant ingredients. However, I only use it for very special occasions (like weddings!), and there is still the issue of packaging and shipping, and I can't resist trying making something at home. It brings me back to high school days - mixing old bits of lipstick into petroleum jelly to make lip balms.

Here's the modern, vegan, eco-friendly version, modified from this very simple, clear tutorial:
grate about 1 tbsp soy wax into a stainless steel bowl
add 1/2-1 tbsp jojoba or almond or castor oil
add 1 tbsp coconut oil
add 1 tsp beet or cranberry juice (I used beet - or skip the color for clear balm)
a few drops of almond extract (or vanilla)

Stir together, and then melt on a very very low heat or over a double boiler (set the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water). When melted and well-mixed, pour into a small container.

Put on your lips with fingers or a brush for a very shiny shine and amazing moisturizing. The result is subtle enough for me to consider wearing lip balm every day!

Warning: no preservatives (see link above - "real" lipstick often contains toxic carcinogens and beetle juice)! keep tightly closed. Soy wax tends to melt more easily than beeswax, so you may wish to reduce the amount of the liquid color or almond oil for a harder lipstick/balm.

Want to skip the cooking? Just swipe some beet juice on your lips - the color stains them a deep red that stays.

Want a weird color? Try making lipstick with crayons instead (again a warning: those pigments could be anything!)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jeera cookies

One of my favorite guilty pleasures in the past is a box of "zeera cookies" from the Indian stores (also called jeera biscuits). It comes in a plastic box that crinkles and snaps open, and the thick round cookies are delicate - too much pressure and they might powder into your hand. They have the aroma of cumin (hence the "zeera"), but the rest of the ingredients leave much to be desired, not to mention the box.

A search for "jeera cookies" turns up lots of recipes that are salty, until I cam across this one:

I love the eggless, whole wheat aspect of them, but needed serious veganizing!

So here's my version:
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 tbsp earth balance, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 tsp baking powder
2-4 tbsp soy or other milk
1-2 tsp cumin (jeera)

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the flour, sugar, jeera, and baking powder in a bowl. Slowly add melted butter and mix with fingers until like wet sand. Add soymilk 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together in one ball. Let rest 10 minutes, then break off 1-inch balls of dough and flatten slightly. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes.

They are not crumbly and fluffy like the store-bought version, I'm sorry to say. But they do have that amazing jeera flavor, satisfy my sweet tooth with not too much sugar, and are relatively healthy to boot!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Oat pasta - all ears

In my quest to avoid buying packaged foods, a few things have happened recently:

- A 50lb bag of oats is now in my living room (thanks, Lori!)

- a half-block of real, firm tofu was just cooked into a stir-fry with broccoli and peppers:

- lots of farmer's market fruits and veggies have appeared around the house (not to mention several jars of tomato sauce in the freezer!)

The fruits disappear fast. The veggies mostly require preparation. And we're out of pasta??!

Of the pasta shapes I've made so far, included are fettuccine, pappardelle, ravioli, garganelli, capellini, and farfalle, not to mention ramen noodles and dumplings (here's a great pasta glossary for shapes). I don't have an extruder, but Little One loves smaller pastas.

In the meantime, my friend Janice posted a beautiful campanelle dish that is as pretty as it must be delicious. I'm drooling. She also gave me some zucchini, which I'd been craving.

Put that all together and we have a lovely vegetable oat orecchiete! I modified this recipe as follows:

2 cups oat flour (pulse rolled oats in blender, then measure - or sub 1/2 cup rice or other flour)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil
water as needed
1 tsp ground flax (optional)

Soak flax in 2 tbsp water if using for 5 min.
Mix flour and salt. Make a well and add oil, flax, and then water, a little at a time. I needed almost a whole cup to get nice and soft (since there are no eggs). Let sit after it comes together (oats absorb water!), then add more as needed. Make several balls, then knead each separately. Knead really really really well, about 5 minutes (this is longer than you think). I used my pasta machine to start off some of the kneading. Cover with a wet cloth and let dough rest.

Once the dough is nice and soft, roll out the dough thinly (1/8 inch) or use a pasta extruder/roller to make pasta or noodle shapes.

OR, to make orecchiette, make small snakes about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide and cut into about 1/2 inch pieces (kids can do this with a butter knife). Push your thumb through the center of the piece to make a little upside-down hat. Leave them to dry on a floured surface about 15 min, then cook until al dente (ours took about 5 min). To freeze, dry 30 minutes, then gently place in a closed container and freeze.

This was very crumbly kneading at first, and after cooking, goopy on the outside although al dente (Little One adored it that way but DH not as much) - I'd recommend substituting 1/2 cup rice flour (gluten free) or semolina to help it bind a bit better.You can also make a double batch and save half for another meal later! Do not plan on making this in the half-hour before dinner as I did :)

The sauce: zucchini sauteed in olive oil, basil, oregano, salt, and tomato sauce. Orecchiette means "little ear" so we are imagining that they are tiny ears for invisible people.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Spinach and mushroom quinoa

In preparation for my Transition meeting tonight, I needed to make a quick, but satisfying meal that would work for DH and Little One as well as for the local-food gang at the meeting. Janice suggested I use my quinoa.

Quinoa is a lovely food. At the highest protein content for any grain, it's a good substitute for vegetarians and vegans when you are craving carbs! It's also beautiful - the compact grains blossom when cooked, revealing a tiny curlique, like a seed just sprouting. The taste is firm but smooth, and it takes many sauces and accompaniments well. So, which one?

A quick search through my trust Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone turned up "Spinach and Mushrooms with Pepper." I modified it by stirring it into cooked quinoa. Et voila - shockingly simple in seasoning, but big on flavor. The curly grains were devoured by the boys, along with "Mushrooms, Broccoli and Peppers with Caramelized Golden Tofu," which also made my house smell good.

Another note: rinse your veggies in a bowl. You can take them out of the water as you need them and the dirt stays behind - then toss this healthy water on plants or your garden.

Spinach and Mushroom Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
about 10 white or brown mushrooms, sliced thickly
1 bunch spinach leaves or baby spinach
2 + 2 tbsp olive oil (I used a chili-flavored one for kick)
1 clove garlic, sliced
freshly ground pepper

Rinse quinoa well. Add 2 cups of water and cook in rice cooker until done (or on stove). In the meantime, clean mushrooms and leave in a bowl of water. Place spinach in a bowl of water to wash. Chop mushrooms.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil, add mushrooms. Cook until the juices are gone but the mushrooms are not all mushy. Add salt and lots of pepper (I used 10 twists on the pepper grinder). Place in a bowl aside.

Add rest of oil, heat and add garlic, saute 30 seconds. Add spinach and sprinkle with salt. Cook until wilted and some of the juice/water is gone. Add mushrooms and stir.

When quinoa is cooked, add to the spinach and mushrooms, add salt to taste, and more pepper. Stir well to combine.

ps - Vegetarian Cooking suggests this might be even better with butter, though I can't imagine.

Handmade Mochi

After a friend of my mom made us delicious varieties of mochi and other Japanese treats this summer, I couldn't resist trying my own. We bought some Calrose Shirakiku rice (local but not organic) at the Japanese market and gave it a shot as follows:

  • Powder rice coarsely in blender.
  • Soak 1hr in water.
  • Put rice on muslin inside mesh strainer. Place the whole thing in the pressure cooker and steam 45 minutes (I think we did less).
  • Transfer the rice to a bowl and mash with a pestle or wooden masher (that's what I used) until smushy and one big congealed mass. I got tired and Little One was getting ready for bed, so this was very lumpy. In the future I will mash better, or break out the electricity!
  • Make 2-inch balls out of the rice mash, rolling in rice flour and patting flat.
  • Store covered with a wet cloth until ready. I put mine in the fridge because it's so humid these days.
  • When ready to use, toast on a pan or in the toaster oven until crispy outside.

These could be filled, but we had them topped with soy protein powder (okay, okara powder) mixed with sugar and sesame powder and some just with soy sauce. You could also boil them for a softer mochi.

From Serious eats recipe here. Decidedly nubbly.

An Indian recipe uses soaked and then powdered rice, which is then cooked by stirring over heat to make a very soft dough much like mochi. Next time I may try that method, since I still have a bagful of mochi rice. (The rice also makes a pretty good sushi rice! Delicious with strips of salted kombu...mmm...)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

My child

I am the mother of a child, a timid child. A mother whose heart breaks over and over as her child wants to make friends, then grows reluctant and runs behind her legs. The mother of a small creature whose legs reach her knees and whose tiny hands grasp her index finger firmly, insistently, trustingly. Still I weep silently that my child is not beloved by everyone the way he deserves, and that others cannot imagine that he is perfect in every way. Most of all, I weep that even I forget that he is perfect as he is. I forget that he is himself, not me. I forget that the umbilical cord is cut, and that his body is his own, that his tears come from his eyes. I forget that his pain belongs to him. And while his tears are drying on his laughing face, my heart continues to ache.

That was me, but you must read this.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Macaroon crunch

I bought some Nature's path macaroon crunch granola bars a while ago (for a train trip i didn't take!) and we proceeded to eat through them much too rapidly afterward. Before the last one was over, I was thinking about how to make them.

A little Googling turned up some options, but they were not quite right, and didn't include the exact ingredients on the ingredient list. Plus, the ingredients, despite all being organic, were full of things I didn't understand (why put vitamin E in granola bars? what natural flavors? why oats and oat fiber and oat syrup solids?) and things I'd rather do without (a dash of honey, uhoh, not vegan! and invert cane syrup).

Instead, with abundant modifications from, I came up with the following. I recommend using organic and/or local ingredients where possible, and fair trade cocoa and chocolate. Yay for treats without unrecyclable wrapping!

Homemade Macaroon Crunch Bars

1/4 c vegetable/canola/etc oil
2 cups oats
1 heaped cup powdered coconut flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c chocolate chips (or broken dark chocolate, or more to taste!)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325oF.

Pulse oats in a food processor/blender until coarsely ground but not fully powdered. Set aside, and pulse chocolate chips until very coarsely chopped (or chop chips roughly by hand, if desired). I got some of it powdered and some whole, but it was fine.

Mix the oil and oats and bake at 325oF for 20 minutes, stirring halfway in between well. Turn oven down to 300.

Transfer the oats to a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients (salt, sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips, cocoa). Add just enough water to make it wet (1/4-1/2 cup) but not at all soupy. 

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment, and spray/drizzle/brush with oil. Press the granola mixture into the pan evenly. Bake 25 minutes - don't let it get too dark or it'll be very hard.

Remove from oven and cool completely, then cut into bars or squares. Eat all the powdered bits immediately! Store in an airtight container up to a week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seven things

Bits and pieces:

  1. more household papers
  2. small toys
  3. paper flowers
  4. handmade woven tray
  5. old journals and sketchbooks
  6. bangle holders
  7. 8 fiction books

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

We are the music makers...

Much discussion here in San Diego of the future, global warming, and our role in shaping the world, if can save it before it's too late. In the meantime, I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where you may have heard, "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." I knew long ago this was by O'Shaugnessy, but a little digging turned up the whole poem.

Please read it here. And if you do, read through to the end - which I read as a dire call-to-action and warning all at once. I post the first and last stanzas here in any case:

We are the music makers,
  And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,     5
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world for ever, it seems.

Great hail! we cry to the comers     65
  From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
  And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
  And things that we dreamed not before:     70
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
  And a singer who sings no more.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seven things

More paper items, DH's clothes, and a few other things:

  1. empty goodie bags
  2. bits and pieces from dress-up
  3. kids' books
  4. at least 10 kurtas
  5. men's shirts
  6. men's tshirts
  7. a tie

Friday, June 29, 2012

Seven things

Clothing and paper stuff:

  1. a top
  2. 2 throw pillows
  3. toddler pants
  4. pair of leggings
  5. coloring books
  6. cards and envelopes
  7. stickers

Seven things

Some more large household furniture and items:

  1. dining table
  2. 4 chairs
  3. headboard
  4. set of 2 night stands
  5. another night stand
  6. red sit-on scooter
  7. pair of shoes

Friday, June 22, 2012

Seven things

The big stuff. Finally got around to it. Ahh, so much more empty now:

  1. lawn mower
  2. 2 rugs (maroon and blue)
  3. sofa with extra slipcovers
  4. kids' rm artwork and wall stickers
  5. paper flowers arranged around the clock
  6. framed parrot - back to parents
  7. corner shelf - back to parents

Seven things

Around the house:

  1. picture frame - glassless
  2. paay (straw mat) - shedding
  3. dough buttons - for a sweater, didn't need these
  4. glass marbles (these also appear out of the woodwork)
  5. more extra house hardware
  6. insta jack - for a phone line we may never need
  7. blue tricycle - outgrown, though rarely used

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Seven things

Emptying the toy bins:

  1. trains and accessories - even more, coming out of the woodwork
  2. big wooden blocks - too many different kinds of blocks
  3. 2 drums - rarely used. better pots and pans.
  4. swing and slide set - outgrown
  5. red scooter - rarely used
  6. xylophone - uninteresting compared to the "real" keyboard
  7. 8 ball - not yet age appropriate

Seven things

More catching up of giveaways:

  1. kid artwork - some used as placemats, the rest have to go
  2. holiday ornaments I just don't feel connected to
  3. 2 gift bags
  4. envelopes
  5. orange top
  6. small cloth pieces
  7. train tracks - do these ever end?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Seven things

Catching up on old giveaways, finally out of the house:

  1. orange parachute pants - well loved but just no longer look any good
  2. suitcase keys that don't match suitcases
  3. boxes/ribbons
  4. 2 electrical diyas/lamps - only one of each works
  5. plastic animals
  6. 2 trophies - long forgotten accomplishments
  7. pieces of cardboard

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seven things

One by one, out they go:

  1. a zip-up dress
  2. doorhangings
  3. sweatshirt
  4. salwar set
  5. religious papers
  6. 2 religious idols
  7. round brass plate

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Kindness from strangers

After reading a bit from "The Power of Good: True stories of kindness from total strangers," I reflected on the past few days, and turned up the following:

- While on a trip to San Francisco by train, at least 3 strangers helped me carry my big duffel bag into and out of the train and station
- Several people offered advice on which bus to take and directions
- An old lady offered my son gum (I refused with apologies, he doesn't yet know not to swallow!) and others chatted with him amiably
- I've had lots of doors held for me
- People have been patient while I rooted for change or answered a call (or child) during a conversation
- Others smiled unasked and said thank you!

I'm not so sure of what I've done for others, but I'm aiming to pass it on.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Seven things

A little of this, a little of that, set free into the world:

  1. pair of earrings
  2. 2 orchid plants - at a garden share
  3. bangles and bracelets - craft exchange
  4. 5 toddler clothes - to a rummage sale for charity
  5. a top
  6. tank top
  7. knit hat

Friday, May 18, 2012

Seven things

Sometimes the little things count.

  1. 2 spools thread tape
  2. garden fabric staples
  3. roll of blue piping - not sure what for!
  4. preschool-related papers
  5. torn underwear
  6. sink mat
  7. craft papers

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mouse cupcakes

I made these (eggless) mouse cupcakes as an auction gift for a French brunch. They were inspired by these, and didn't come out perfect, but I still think they are adorably cute. And if I do say so myself, likely the cutest cupcakes I've ever made.

Seven things

Why just seven? Because it's more than one but easier than 10. It's about 1 a day if you do it weekly, and leaves you room for feeling good when you get rid of more than that many items.

  1. set of 2 lacrosse-style rackets
  2. coloring books
  3. a book
  4. old drawers used to hold books
  5. a kurta top
  6. 5 saris
  7. bathroom hardware

Friday, May 11, 2012

Seven things

Must we throw away only to buy more? No, let's confront our need to have stuff to fill the chatter of our minds, and face the deafening silence.

  1. yellow throw
  2. 2 nightgowns
  3. skirt
  4. foam letter blocks
  5. batter up toy
  6. glass table top
  7. word flash cards and CD

Seven things

How do you want the condition of things in your home? I decided that if I don't love them, need them, or they aren't something I would buy anymore, they're going:

  1. googly eyes
  2. utensils that are part plastic
  3. cloth pieces - unusable
  4. more toys
  5. tiny pieces of toys/parts
  6. 4 bras in poor condition
  7. dusty throw pillow

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Seven things

A good, hard, look at what is in decent condition, and what values we want to project in what we use and wear and have, turned up:

  1. car zip (wave ride) toy
  2. 3 other unused toys
  3. toddler clothes (with commercial images on them)
  4. old house papers
  5. old underwear
  6. commercial kiddie books
  7. a religious lamp and incense

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Seven things

Does keeping these things make me happy or uncomfortable? (the latter)

  1. old, rusty, or broken garden and household tools
  2. unused cabinet hardware (left by the people who lived here before)
  3. fabric
  4. paper party banners and decor
  5. doilies
  6. more trains/cars/accessories
  7. 7 children's books

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Can you imagine living without trees?

Little One came home singing "living without trees" and "think about tomorrow," which intrigued me, so I looked up the lyrics to find the full song, as below.

Can you imagine? (2x)
Living without trees
Every time you chop one down
One less three grows in the ground
Think about tomorrow please.

Can you imagine? (2x)
Living without trees
That's where birds build their nests
Where their babies eat and rest
think about tomorrow please.

(continues...). I can't find an audio version, looking for one since I missed the teacher's rendition!

Seven things

Further cleaning out. Asking, Is this something I want to pass on?

  1. more cassettes
  2. 2 toy trucks and another toy
  3. styrofoam boxes, pieces and popcorn (to my nearest UPS store)
  4. more bicycle parts and accessories
  5. ski jacket
  6. winter gloves
  7. homemade cardboard rattle

Friday, April 20, 2012

JOT #38: Steaming

Steaming food is another great way to lock in nutrients without a lot of added fat, with the benefit that you also use less water.

Simple ways of steaming include in an electric rice cooker, which often comes with a steamer basket. If you don't use yours, you're just wasting all that perfectly good steam. Instead, stick some veggies or almost anything else of medium size on top (for tiny things you can also put them in a smaller bowl, as long as some of the steamer holes are free) and they'll be done probably before your rice is. If you don't have a steamer basket, you can buy one or even use a shallow strainer, colander, a bamboo basket, or the inside of your salad spinner (or any plate or bowl with some holes in it). Set it on top of a pan that fits it fairly well, and make sure to close the top to let the steam build up.

Fun ways to use steam include the following:

  • steam veggies on top of pasta while it's boiling (they can go in the sauce)
  • steam things in a pressure cooker
  • steam on top of a slow cooker
  • use the steam to open up your pores, then give yourself a quick facial
  • use the steam (after you boil pasta, for example) to open up clogged sinuses when you have a cold

Would love other ideas!

Seven things

Sometimes things are tucked away - for example, I found an entire box of negatives I'd put away in the garage just to "not be seen," but in fact I ought to have them in front of me so I can either use them or chuck them (right now they're just sitting there next to the photo albums). But the duplicate photos I'd stashed in there are gone. A few other garage items:

  1. 5 more books
  2. more duplicate photos
  3. more scrapbooking stuff (a small stack)
  4. drying stand
  5. wrappers for chips and candy (sent to Terracycle)
  6. small rice cooker - just not enough, now that we are actually 3 (not just 2 1/2!)
  7. 2 more cassette drawers

Seven things

Then there are those items you think you need and will definitely use, but never do. Case in point: a dustbuster. With a toddler, you'd think I'd use it frequently. DH cannot get it to work for the car, so only I've used it, about twice, and maybe once more to scoop up some Cheerios (just because I felt I had to USE it). So I discovered the hard way that we're fine with the dustpan and brush, and we can run an extension cord of the vacuum cleaner when the car needs a cleaning. Ahh....

  1. dustbuster
  2. 2 CDs
  3. stereo system - 14 years old, most of it doesn't work (tape players, volume knob)
  4. more tupperware
  5. a glass vase
  6. various glass jars
  7. non-CFL bulbs
  8. a duffel bag

JOT #37: Fermenting

Many things can be fermented: yeast is fermented into bread, apple cider fermented into vinegar, grape juice into wine, soy into miso. In India, we traditionally ferment a finely-ground batter of rice and blackgram (urad) lentils to make idlis and dosas. Milk also ferments into yogurt, cheese ages, kimchi ripens, kefir cultures, and beer brews.

All these things take a carbohydrate, like sugar, and convert it into lactic acid (usually) - the same process that inside your body gives you a cramp when you're out of shape. Instead of turning sugar into the most efficient water and CO2, like we do when we breathe, yeast and these bacteria make a delicious concoction of vinegars through this process of fermentation.

Why ferment? Well, it certainly adds flavor (think of a lovely balsamic vinegar!) and depth and complexity, and hints of sourness and tartness and "umami" which are delectable, a good enough reason in itself. But add to that the potential health benefits of many fermented and preserved foods and you have a winning combination.

Many of these foods allow lactobacilli to form, or other forms of beneficial bacteria that colonize our guts and help us digest our food and fight off "predator" germs. For example, my parents tell me that when they were younger, leftover rice was covered with water and left overnight in the humid weather of India. In the morning, this "kanji" was seasoned with salt and drunk as a refreshing, healthful, and filling beverage. You've also probably heard about the advantages of the resveratrol in wine, which helps keep you living longer and may help your heart.

Other types of preserving and fermenting also allow the food to be stored for longer periods. Ordinary rice and lentils ground in water - a day, but fermented, a week, and with refrigeration even more. Other cultured foods can last even longer, which is why these fermented foods go way, way, way back in history, before refrigerators and freezers and perhaps even indoor cooking. (More info here)

Want to try? Start with something simple like letting your apple cider turn to vinegar, or bake your own bread, then move on to the more (seemingly) complex stuff. It's amazing what a little fermentation magic can do.

Seven things

I'm hit by another strong wave of nostalgia, digging through Little One's baby clothes. I found mini onesies, minuscule jackets, and microscopic socks. Even Little One (at 3 1/2) cannot believe how "tiiiiiiiny" they are. I'm glad they will go to clothe a tiny new boy we know.
  1. bag of baby clothes/shoes/socks, etc
  2. more trains
  3. some small toys
  4. bike accessories - most broken
  5. babyproofing cord wraps
  6. fireplace accessories we never used
  7. some old medicines

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seven things

It's funny how little of each kind of thing we actually need and use. Little One is case in point: he owns lots and lots of toys, but plays with only 10% of them on a given day. In the absence of toys (sometimes despite them), he finds something else to use, like a stick or pebble or something out of the recycle basket. I wish adults could be so resourceful.

  1. train tracks
  2. broken contstruction toy
  3. stack of train track pieces
  4. toys - a construction toy, a big plastic car
  5. board game set given as a gift
  6. cookie sorting toy
  7. toddler clothes outgrown

Seven things

I had a great big box full of fabric, sewing projects, papers, and other scraps. Digging through, and putting away things that don't belong, I now have only one box (and an empty basket to use for something else!):

  1. holey socks
  2. paper scraps once saved for paper-making
  3. origami papers
  4. fabric scraps
  5. roll of papyrus
  6. stack of tissue paper
  7. underwear


Traffic pollution kills more than traffic accidents:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Seven things

After a big trip of dropping off various things at various locations, I feel lighter. Among them, went some clothes:

  1. 3 tops
  2. a tank top
  3. a skirt
  4. 8 saris - what a relief to be free of these
  5. pair of hose, and pair of tights
  6. another salwar set
  7. a backpack - ok not technically clothing

Monday, April 16, 2012

Seven things

A hard look at the bookshelf, and then other things found while just wandering. I found it useful to think about whether I want to really read something, or am keeping it just because it was a gift or sentimental:

  1. 7 books
  2. outdated business cards
  3. salwar set
  4. a few energy-saving devices
  5. 4 glass bottles
  6. a tarp
  7. an eyeliner

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Seven things

In nooks and crannies:

  1. pumpkin carving kit - brand new, but never used
  2. box of straws - we discovered the reusable kind!
  3. some more tapes and CDs
  4. old napkins - were already used as rags
  5. set of stoneware plates - beautiful but unused
  6. tent - no stakes or poles
  7. 2 dupattas

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seven things

More purging:

  1. pair of earrings
  2. inhaler pump once used by Little One when he had breathing problems
  3. several boxes of over-the-counter meds we don't use
  4. expired prescription medicines
  5. 6 bottles of old spices never used
  6. children's old medications and sunscreen, acetaminophen (link to asthma!)
  7. old backup CDs - ages old, from work and otherwise

What came in? A couple of birthday take-home-gifts, 4 glass spice bottles, several plastic containers bought along with things from the store, a party balloon, an informational binder, some mail, a few pieces of kids' artwork.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Seven things

Clothes. They keep coming.

  1. men's shirt
  2. an overly shiny shawl
  3. salwar top
  4. one more skirt
  5. 4 regular tops
  6. 3 pairs men's underwear
  7. pair of hotel slippers - saved for just-in-case for many years!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Seven things

Sometimes things really do feel like a weight on your shoulders. For example, whenever I see my yearbooks, I feel heavy. Yearbooks are heavy, and they are full of some childhood memories I don't want to relive, and people I don't remember, and they make me feel bogged down in the past. I pull these out, heft their weight in my hands, set them free to be set loose, to fly, to defy gravity.

Here, a few things that were weighing me down:

  1. 3 yearbooks
  2. pair of broken glasses - they looked great, but were not very light and were hanging out as my backup-backup
  3. stretched-out ponytail hairbands
  4. an eyeliner that's itchy and makes my eyes look droopy
  5. expired colored contacts I would wear someday
  6. 2 old magazines saved so that I could remember...something
  7. several small gift bags - I always save too many of these

Friday, March 30, 2012

Seven things

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the author turns our ideas of heavy and light around - what is heavy is usually dull, holding us back, weighing us down, and what is light is usually free and uplifting. But here's an idea: the lightest, flimsiest things in our homes might be the ones holding us back, keeping us from the serious heavy stuff of life that's really important: family, community, work. It's funny what sort of silly lighthearted things we hang on to for no good reason:

  1. box of extra large legos - Little One has outgrown these!
  2. toddler shoes
  3. a few pieces of tupperware
  4. a sinkbrush
  5. a mismatched plate
  6. more old papers
  7. wrapping paper

Seven things

From the guest room:

  1. 3 VHS tapes - the others are slated for conversion
  2. lots of CDs I no longer need (old backups, outdated software)
  3. various mailing supplies (letterpaper cover, old glue stick, boxes)
  4. a folder, now emptied
  5. a blank notebook
  6. a poster
  7. 9-11 book

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seven things

The albums are done! Finally a nice clear space - but wait, I have other stuff to put there. It never ends.

  1. 3 random cloths
  2. a pretty card from an event we missed
  3. 2 serving bowls - I just have lots of other options for serving, like other bowls and plates
  4. cork trivet - too large to fit where I store the others
  5. a photo album - the last one
  6. binders - that photos were once stored in
  7. a bit of fabric

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seven things

Further progress through the albums, only two left to go through!

  1. more photos
  2. more albums
  3. some gift packaging - an unexpected gift
  4. an apron, the one I borrowed from my mom until I got my grownup one
  5. a few travel brochures
  6. envelope of "trinkets" I once intended to send by mail
  7. 2 kitchen towels - how can a person have so many kitchen towels?

Seven things

Making my way through the photo albums.

  1. more photos - stacks of them. gone are the duplicates, the embarrassing, the blurry, and the forgettable.
  2. photo sleeves - the ones that rip too easily and don't fit the album anyway
  3. a pretty embroidered wallet/purse - Little One was stashing markers in these.
  4. an old skirt - too long unworn
  5. pair of capris (white...)
  6. my old sketchbook from childhood
  7. old blank notebook

Seven things

A stab at the appliance section, which I was dreading, turned up the following. I've also started attacking the disarray of photo albums lodged in the bottom of my bookshelf. My strategy? Throw out photos that are blurry, too dark, or which don't actually have people in them (with a few rare exceptions like one shot of our plum tree in bloom). I handed a few photos (animals, chocolate factory, trains) to Little One for his own personal album.
  1. food processor - may be a temporary loan to my mom
  2. juicer (back to mom)
  3. red sleeveless top - the moths got to it
  4. broken goggles (prescription)
  5. toddler jacket - the sleeves go to the elbows. so soon!
  6. several binders - once photo albums, now free to discover their destiny
  7. lots of photos

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seven things

Other things I've found in my aimless wanderings around the house. I finally tackled a box of saved seeds in the garage. I could plant an acre if I had it:

  1. a few kid papers
  2. forks
  3. more plastic utensils
  4. noodle seasoning packets - a flavor I don't like
  5. pretty envelopes
  6. 3 packets of seeds
  7. ice cream maker - this is a big one. I finally have accepted that I won't use it much, and therefore will borrow my neighbor's :)


I came across a notebook I'd taken to India, and found two great quotes that I find particularly relevant to current crises like climate change and peak oil:

In a time of change, it is learners who inherit the future, the learned find themselves equipped to live only in a world that no longer exists. - Eric Hoffer

Unless we change the direction we are heading, we might end up where we are going. - Chinese Proverb

Both were printed in a recycled notebook I found at a local general store booth - the notebook itself was made of sugarcane/rice/straw/wheat waste, how cool.

Seven things

More decluttering. I'm at the stage of wandering around the house finding little things to give away, opening drawers, cabinets, and cupboards to see what can go. I'm avoiding the big spots...procrastination rears its head.

  1. extra sari blouses - duplicates, of course
  2. necklace - just one I am finally ready to part with
  3. pair of earrings - same, because I made them myself
  4. lidless teapot - *sigh* - saved the filter for mom
  5. a book
  6. paper yoga suns - these were part of a yoga party that were leftover
  7. a tshirt

Friday, March 23, 2012

Seven things

I feel that some of my uncluttering is slowing down as I find real openness in a few spaces around my home now. They are full, but not as unmanageable. A few spots remain: the clothes closet, which is full again, and the bookshelf, which never seems to have enough space for all the books (though I don't buy any!). Those will have to be revisited.

In the meantime, I'm clearing out the things I have set aside to be given away but which haven't actually yet gone to their intended recipients. It's nice to have a clear space when they are gone.

  1. old CDs
  2. piece of petrified wood
  3. various pinecones etc that found their way inside (Little One will bring in more...)
  4. 2 bowls
  5. 2 enamel cooking pans
  6. colander
  7. case for sari blouses

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

JOT #36: An ounce of prevention...

It's been at least 2 years since Little One and I have taken antibiotics. We're not against them inherently, they do save lives and are necessary to help prevent the spread of so many diseases. The same is true of so many other medications.

When Little One was barely one, we had a scare of H1N1 flu in New York City, and he was prescribed Tamiflu. We had to force down dose after dose of white fluid that he kept spitting out and letting dribble from his tired, cranky face. A week later, we were able to confirm it wasn't any fancy bird flu, not even influenza, just a bad cold virus that all his friends back home had gotten as well. Lesson learned.

The same year he had had two ear infections, and when we traveled to India that year, he had another round of antibiotics, some decongestants, and cough syrup, added to malaria pills - he was almost on a schedule worthy of an octogenarian. I decided enough was enough, and I bought up a supply of delicious probiotic pills (he lapped those up), laid in a stock of sweet elderberry syrup, and went with the remedy doctors in Amsterdam once gave my mother when I had a fever: stop giving milk, and serve very weak tea. And ear infections? Regular ear-cleaning and drying (especially post-swimming), no straws and sippys, and a ball of cotton soaked in eucalyptus or other oil in the ears. The herbal tinctures are generally mild and serve as backup.

Not very logical advice, but what I took away was this: healthy immune systems get stronger by working to fight infections. In the case of otherwise healthy children, it really is a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

That's not to say I won't be giving serious medical concerns to the pediatrician's care, or halting all immunizations, but I do think I've overused medication in the past for my child, and myself as well.

Let's bring back prevention, what an idea!

Seven things

Brought to you by the number 2.

  1. 2 magazines
  2. 2 twisty straws - phthalates/BPA?
  3. 2 plastic/straw cups - BPA
  4. 2 pairs torn jeans
  5. 2 single chopsticks
  6. 2 drain cleaners - dangerous chemicals
  7. 2 boxes of cling wrap - phthalates

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seven things

Then there are the things you hold on to because they're part of a set or you might just fix or use. Why am I waiting for someday? Use em or lose em.

  1. small measuring spoon - never used this size
  2. non-spraying can of PAM - after much trying to get the oil out, have given up
  3. what to expect the first year - we're well past this
  4. handmade ceramic plate - cracked and reglued
  5. bunch of green cloth scraps - why?
  6. birthday invitations - not when there's evite.
  7. corkscrew - a duplicate

Monday, March 19, 2012

Seven things

A few numbers for contemplation. So many duplicates, triplicates, quadruplicates, and quintuplicates (or as I like to call them "pent-up-licates")!
  1. 5 fondue forks - a second set
  2. 5 notebooks - just extra for writing!
  3. 5 extra sheets - still have enough for duplicate sheets for each bed plus an extra
  4. 4 books and a few printed stories - ones i've read or will never
  5. 2 neti pots - we still each have one and an extra
  6. 1 bra - stretched thin
  7. 3 more containers - don't know where they come from, i sure don't buy them!

Seven things

I learned a good decluttering tip a while ago, which I am now finally putting into practice: get rid of duplicates. When I have multiple hair clips, I keep one in my bag, one on my nightstand, and one in the kids' bag, one in the car, one in the bathroom. I can never find one. When I have just the one, I watch it like a hawk, making sure I know where it is at all times.

Now I'm getting rid of the duplicates:

  1. bobby pins
  2. extra safety pins
  3. various ziplock and packaging bags
  4. more recipes I don't plan to cook
  5. bottle of pumpkin seeds (one of two!)
  6. some beans
  7. more cards and envelopes

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seven things

I recently saw the movie "Bag it!" which discusses the dangers of plastics, and chemicals such as pthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) which are associated with them - quite scary effects, including feminization of boys, dangers to babies and pregnant women, and other effects we are already seeing. Little One has eczema, DH has asthma, and we all have allergies, which are all some of the associated possible effects, making this very close to home.

  1. envelopes - just a few
  2. car stuff - papers, coupons, etc
  3. a steno pad
  4. toddler shirt
  5. soft plastic bath toys - pthalates!
  6. various spices from jars and bags
  7. an old pretty calendar

Seven things

My posts seem limited to Seven Things these days, as I clear out my home of extraneous supplies and items I no longer need. It's very freeing to let go of a hobby, and just tell myself I will never use something - sort of a surrender to my humanity. I have found recently that I find it difficult to be alone with myself, and stuff only enables that. I'm hoping that releasing some of the stuff will free space in my surroundings and also in my mind for real contemplation.

  • kids' games from cereal boxes and other places - given to children, as they were intended!
  • a top
  • more baby papers - been saving these too long
  • lots of empty folders - also for "someday"
  • miscellaneous small papers saved - the same
  • stack of Indian magazines - "what ifs"
  • bottle of chaat masala - my dad loves this stuff

Seven things


  1. glass bottles - more than I can use
  2. rolling pin - broken
  3. two knives - ones I don't use
  4. plastic spatula - worn out
  5. small cloth and vinyl bags that are extras
  6. small display case - for a religious piece that looks better out of it
  7. dough beads - we made pretty marbled ones one day, but never used them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Seven things

My dresser:

  1. necklace and earring set - have long secretly disliked this set
  2. another necklace - slightly sentimental (from DH) but rarely worn
  3. four more stacks of bangles - aah!
  4. a small container - used up the last of the mask, and did NOT keep the adorable container
  5. little japanese house office organizer - really cute craft actually
  6. Ben Franklin photograph stand - once held the saying "Either do something worth writing, or write something worth reading"
  7. small note papers

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seven things

Little One's room:

  1. kids' overalls - too small
  2. toddler kurta - doesn't fit
  3. kid undershirts - ditto
  4. small box - once stored socks, then medicines
  5. picture frame - to a new mom
  6. milk rings - saved for a garland someone else can make
  7. address labels - once saved as stickers

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seven things

Working my way around the house, decluttering. Here are some things religious and musical:

  1. broken tambourine - a handmade kids' art one, beads spilled out. Will go to crafters.
  2. 2 photo albums - for some new parents
  3. incense sticks/burners and stands - Just had too many.
  4. small containers (used for kumkum) - To people who do beading/sorting.
  5. broken chimes - once used as bells, but I have another bell
  6. used tealights (not sure what i was saving those for)
  7. bits of string

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seven things

Jewelry and the kitchen.

  1. more bangles - weaning myself off of them
  2. 2 necklaces - good to see those go
  3. earrings - i'm actually allergic to these!
  4. even more bangles - another trip past them and I was ready to pass on more
  5. once-nonstick pan - frustrating
  6. crepe maker/molds - given to me new by someone else who never used them. Still unused.
  7. faucet aerator - an extra, 1.5gpm

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seven things

A little digging around in the bathroom and attached closet turned up some things - embarrassing and otherwise

  1. men's shirts - once business casual, now too casual
  2. more old underwear
  3. nightgown - I prefer pj's
  4. men's jeans - well-worn
  5. cosmetics that have phthalates
  6. perfumes (also perhaps phthalates...)
  7. shampoos with parabens

Seven things

What do you keep in the bedroom? Here's what I dug up that I didn't even need:

  1. a few items as gifts for friends - finally going to some of them
  2. 3 old towels
  3. old bras
  4. miscellaneous pieces of metal - in the bedroom???
  5. pair of too-small rain/ski pants
  6. old foam mattress pad
  7. jacket - sleeves too short

Friday, March 09, 2012

Seven things

Garage finds. Crazy what gets stuffed in there - everything but the car!

  1. 3 cassette tape drawers...and
  2. 2 bags of cassette tapes - we no longer have a tape player to play them!
  3. popcorn popper - never used it
  4. various pots and pans that are extras - ah, so nice to be rid of
  5. a sun-faded kids' table - we have another too that we're keepin!
  6. a few party supplies - extra ones
  7. tupperware and containers

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Seven things

More paper purging. Perhaps parchment, poster, or papyrus? No: pieces, packaging, post-its and pens.

  1. more cards given by friends/relatives - these will be reused to make other cards by other people for others!
  2. post-its and small notebooks - let someone else make use of them before Little One shreds them
  3. some holiday wrapping paper - have cut down on the gift relationship
  4. brochures for going green/gardening - hoping to help a few
  5. more papers - old documents, shredded
  6. more baby art - again, nostalgic, but a little less so
  7. calligraphy pen and other pens

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Seven things

Purging paper. I plainly cannot possibly perceive the population of poplars and pines that populate our pad.

  1. lots of scrapbook stickers and kits - even more. I finally realized I will never scrapbook.
  2. three scrapbook albums - see above
  3. some of my old artwork - too old, some in danger of being mistaken for Little One's
  4. lots of Little One's old artwork - as touching as they are, I can only keep so many. (sigh)
  5. some of Little One's baby mementos - oh, let's not talk about them anymore.
  6. crayon stubs - from the days when I imagined remaking other little crayons. That job will go to another creative person.
  7. stack of Indian bumper stickers - 3 different designs, sent back to India

Finding a middle ground

A search through my notes saved from a college environmentalism course (I actually took one!) found these two beautiful poems. Can we find a solution that is optimistic but not egotistic?

The Conservationist's Lament
The world is finite, resources are scarce,
Things are bad and will be worse,
Coal is burned and gas exploded,
Forests cut and soils eroded,
Forests cut and soils eroded.
Wells are dry and air's polluted,
Dust is blowing, trees uprooted.
Oil is going, ores depleted,
Drains receive what is excreted.
Land is sinking, seas are rising,
Man is far too enterprising.
Fire will rage with man to fan it,
Soon we'll have a plundered planet.
People breed like fertile rabbits,
People have disgusting habits.

The evolutionary plan
Went astray by evolving Man.
- Kenneth Boulding

The Technologist's Reply
Man's potential is quite terrific,
You can't go back to the Neolithic.
The cream is there for us to skim it,
Knowledge is power, and the sky's the limit.
Every mouth has hands to feed it,
Food is found when people need it.
All we need is found in granite
Once we have the men to plan it.
Yeast and algae give us meat,
Soil is almost obsolete.
Men can grow the pasture greener
Till all the earth is Pasadena.

Man's a nuisance, Man's a crackpot.
But only Man can hit the jackpot.
- Kenneth Boulding

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Seven things

A trip through a kid closet turned up:

  1. kids' tshirt, too small
  2. a diaper cover - glad to be past that
  3. bottle brush - too icky
  4. a comb - how many does a child need?
  5. old toothbrushes - what are those doing there?
  6. empty eyedrop bottle once used as a toy
  7. more kids' tees and shorts - so tiny, can't believe Little One once wore these.

I'm tearing up with nostalgia...

Monday, March 05, 2012

Illustration Friday: intention

For IF this week, the theme is intention. What is a prayer but a silent entreaty to oneself, a conscious intention for your life and the lives of others?

On Stuff

Cool stuff about stuff:

George carlin

Story of stuff

Paul Graham


Steve Jobs

Don't sweat the small stuff

Save that stuff

NYC stuff exchange

Bill Nye stuff happens

SNL don't buy stuff

Seven things

How much fabric we use. Now that I use fabric for everything, I've saved it as well, but there's still more:

  1. piece of canvas used as a tablecloth - time for it to go
  2. more sample fabric pieces - extras
  3. cushion covers - some are torn or from sets I no longer have
  4. old stained/torn sheets and pillowcases
  5. another piece of cloth - just an extra piece
  6. men's undershirts - dingy. Saved two for rags, toss the rest to be recycled
  7. old underwear - nuff said.

Seven things

Another pass at sentimental stuff - I've found a useful decluttering strategy. I look at things from a  long-term perspective: do I really want to put the energy into keeping this around for the next 40 years? Will I remember this person or event then, and is it an important? Do I plan to use this in the next year?

  1. paper and other little mementos from childhood - don't remember the events, or they're not important
  2. old ID cards and other cards
  3. photos of people i don't remember (from school etc)
  4. a couple of letters - also from people I don't remember!
  5. hand-drawn labels - made these to give away
  6. metal paper fastener (for two-hole punch) - from some of those papers
  7. todo lists i no longer plan to do - how freeing (next up: have to get rid of the digital versions of these! ack!)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Seven things

More stuff above the stove and a part of a bookshelf:

  1. empty long lighter
  2. stack of small Indian recipe books - chose the best recipes already
  3. piano lesson book
  4. guitar chords
  5. two parenting books - for the younger years
  6. some old sentimental papers from a scrapbook
  7. sentimental cards - no longer relevant or just too many of the same

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Seven things

Cleaning out the file cabinet and the space above the stove (seldom visited):

  1. two basketfuls of file cabinet shredded papers - phew!
  2. old checkbooks and unused registers and sleeves and boxes - for a bank account I'm closing (fyi: break up with your bank LINK)
  3. an out-of-style unraveling cardigan - from my mom. I loved it a while, but time to be free. (this was in the closet)
  4. an unused organizer - I have had this forever, used to use it for birthdays and intended it to be for recipes, but I have a system I like better (I separate recipes I've done from those I have to try). Plus my recipes don't fit, so though I am sad to part with it, it must go.
  5. a splatter guard - great when popping mustard seeds, but it's torn
  6. jars of garden herbal flowers - I will never use them, let's let someone else (from the pantry)
  7. kids' airplane - don't know why this was above the stove! off to a worthy child.

Seven things

Bookshelf, under the kitchen and bathroom sinks:

  1. 2 recipe books I have had too long and not used
  2. another random book
  3. 2 old plastic loofahs
  4. under the sink: newspaper and onion-bag scrubbies - saving for what?
  5. various tiny bath parts - broken or don't know what they're to
  6. kids' sombrero - too small (in Little One's room)
  7. extra bandages - from when DH had an illness I don't want to remember (these were under a sink as well!)

Seven things

I rediscovered the toolbox after a while, hanging out in the garage. (In the meantime, I made a little tool set for Little One out of a little non-sharp screwdriver, an allen wrench and a plain tiny wrench, some wooden pegs, measuring tape, a tiny non-sharp saw, and some locks) The box also got a good reorganizing.

  1. random nails and screws and bolts, mostly bent ones
  2. 2 whole boxes of new screws we will never use
  3. various household parts for who knows what, like pieces of metal
  4. 2 tubes of spackle (I kept another one)
  5. magnetic tape - someone will love this
  6. an extra CD and case - for some old demo
  7. also some tiny toys Little One has outgrown

Friday, March 02, 2012

Coffee vs. tea

Checkout this very informative and easy-to-read graphic on how much water our daily activities use.

Bet you didn't know coffee uses a lot more water than tea!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Consumerism Costs

No Impact Man posted this today. Love it - see the video here:

Seven things

A little more digging in the kids' room:

  1. spool animal kit - to a friend
  2. coloring pages - how many can a kid color?
  3. trains that have lost their magnets - there are still too many!
  4. blank notebooks - more of em
  5. popsicle sticks - we have a mold, don't need more craft sticks
  6. halloween colored foam beads - Little One loved these but they end up everywhere
  7. remote from an old DVD player that broke (how did that get there?)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Illustration Friday: capable

This week's theme is "capable," which reminded me of a trip of DH and Little One going kite-flying. I wasn't able to go with them, but this is what I imagine it was like.

Raising a child

Here are a few guidelines for raising a child in the modern world from a great child-raiser (my mother). Thought I'd share if anyone can benefit from this!

1. Your child should be your first priority. Give him/her unconditional love.

2. Protect the child against normal hazards, but also insidious things

- never make your child feel guilty
- don't threaten them or use fear
- don't make promises you can't keep

3. Be age-appropriate with your child. Don't expect them to understand things only older children would..

4. Decide what your limits will be on the most important issues and don't compromise on them

- For example, stick to a bedtime and have a routine before it
- Don't change those limits just because you are at a party or have people over, unless it's really a special occasion

5. Give your child rituals, festivals, and traditions. They need a routine and consistency.

- Teach them slokams and songs, take them to church/temple, give them a cultural context
- Do what was important to you as a child - share your beliefs
- Do things you can show and in which the child can participate

6. Make sure kids play with others at their friends' houses

- Realize that your friends' kids may not be your kids' best friends
- Besides relatives and outside friends, make sure kids have friends from school
- Organize play dates
- Try to expose them to different backgrounds, not just other Indians or people from your economic class

7. Spend at least 1/2 hr three times a week with your child to teach them something

- Try your traditional language or music or some other activity
- Share something you know and love that you want them to learn

8. Hug and kiss your child at least once a day

9. Don't put each other down in front of the child. Show a united front.

- The person who is good with discipline should communicate the decision
- Don't back down or send mixed messages!

10. Be laid back about your kids' growth and achievements.

- Don't go by books or what society expects. Each child has different capabilities and interests.
- Skip all the charts and recommended goals and millions of activities.

11. Give your children some unstructured alone time.

- This is time for creativity and imagination
- No tv, no video games
- Really, leave them alone for it and don't interfere or stifle.

(I should note: if I could follow all these all the time, I'd consider myself a perfect parent, which I am most definitely not!)

Seven things

Even more - went through part of my bookshelf and more kids' stuff:

  1. More stacking blocks - tiny holes. Wonder what they went with?
  2. a couple of trains (extras)
  3. extra train parts - bridges, telephone poles
  4. old notebooks with music in them, don't need them anymore
  5. extra music books - not sure why I have 3 copies of the same book!
  6. a velvet dress - this dress was worn at my 8th grade formal. It was loose back then. Oddly after taking out all the darts I can just barely squeeze into it (it's super tight and would rip if I sat down, I'm sure, plus not at all flattering anymore...)
  7. a wireless router - we had to upgrade (gotta blog!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seven things

Little One just inherited a whole pile of wooden and other toys from his cousins, which means I have to double up the emptying to make room for the new. Starting with the toys and kiddie stuff:

  1. mattress pad - not to say potty training is over
  2. 3 little cars a friend gave
  3. 2 little soccer balls from the above - letting him keep one
  4. toy fire station - untouched these days
  5. wooden blocks - donated all the ones that wouldn't fit in his block box
  6. lots of toy stacking pieces (sans poles)
  7. misc toy bits

Friday, February 24, 2012

Seven things

A little more digging. I'm trying to find a different place around the house each day - a corner, a drawer, etc to go through. Sometimes two. It's amazing what I was clinging to until just now.

  1. cosmetics accessories - brushes, a sharpener, little container, that sort of thing
  2. a little eyeglass bag - unused
  3. a lumpy candle holder i made in my pottery days - was being used to hold bangles (see previous!)
  4. face-blotting tissues - remember those?
  5. 3 pairs of toddler shoes, worn and outgrown
  6. Little One's jacket - aww, too small
  7. crib sheet - yes, he still uses those

Seven things

Still more...

  1. chopsticks - about 10 saved for a project like this, which is totally cool, but i really don't have the wherewithal to do it now :)
  2. some labels - for bottles, gifts, have too many. anyone want them?
  3. 3 jars of food things: salt-cured lemons, orange marmalade, salty-ginger pieces (just can't eat those)
  4. 2 shot glasses - not even mine, and outgrown
  5. a few fabric pieces - i was using them as placemats but now i have way too many
  6. bangles - i went through, and all i managed to relinquish was a set of orange sparkly ones that poke a bit. a start.
  7. hair accessories - extra rubberbands, a scrunchie (who wears those?), headband, hair clips

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Seven things

More. I may be obsessed with clutter now. It appears the nesting phase is gone!

  1. two golden bangles - I just have too many, but I'm loath to toss them (yet)
  2. bag of pretty glass pieces - got them free. they were intended for the garden. Just can't find a place to use them.
  3. a couple pairs of earrings, a necklace, a bracelet (to my sister, and a silver pair back to my mom, to be repurposed)
  4. two pretty jewelry boxes - now that I have a little less jewelry to store
  5. paper punch - makes pretty flowers, but sticks a little. used for what i need, time's up.
  6. extra envelopes - saved from mailings and junk mail. even i, a letter-writer, have too many. plus, it's more fun to make your own.
  7. small ball of twine - i have another large one

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Illustration Friday: fluid

This week's Illustration Friday topic: fluid. It's been a while since I did any monochromatic work aside from pen/pencil, but the topic inspired it. I like to draw like this, without too much forethought and let the drawing take itself where it wants to go. Sometimes it's an object, sometimes just a fluid design, like water swirling into the corners.

Birthday banner

A little craftiness. After the last craft exchange, I picked up a series of little strips of paper in various designs and color (reversible). I cut them into rectangles and added letters from some recycled raffle tickets. Sewn together, then folded up, they make a gift that's small enough to put in an envelope and send in the mail in time for a special day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Seven things

Another set from the purge.

  1. more containers - some old ones I'd been saving for making more lotion, but really, I have enough
  2. henna powder - i fear i will never do this. plus i had way too much
  3. pretty papers that I was saving for cards and scrapbooking. again, just too much.
  4. some more fabric bits - time for them to be free
  5. extra stickers - clipped from those "free" address labels - off to some worthy children
  6. the little velvet over-robe or stole from my graduation - wow, and it's been years!
  7. bag of colorful pompoms - after being fed to plastic dinosaurs, they are gone.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Seven things

I'm in decluttering mode again, really rethinking things in terms of a "use it or lose it" mode. It's been helpful to look at what another person may use and what really has just been taking up space.

  1. various boxes and containers - I was saving these up for a project but they are going to Little One's school for a play store, what a great idea!
  2. recipes - I have a folder full of clipped recipes. These are the ones I'll never make. I hope they make someone else's stomach happy.
  3. kid clothes - outgrown ones, to Little One's younger cousin
  4. flower hair clip - as a gift to a little girl who promptly put it on herself and looked adorable in it
  5. a bag of things my sister left
  6. more old calendars
  7. a stack of kids' activity papers

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Seven things

Seven more - mostly to various people who want to do arts and crafts, or to schools looking for supplies

  1. plastic containers - some I just don't need anymore
  2. extra pair of knitting needles (to a little girl learning to knit!)
  3. tiny fabric scraps - to a crafter
  4. some fabric samples - to another crafter
  5. black boots that are peeling (ahh vinyl)
  6. blackberry case (DH's, was lying around, he now owns an iPhone)
  7. cloth bag - as part of a gift

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade ravioli

Now that I have a bit of pasta-making under my belt, I decided to try my hand at ravioli.

Little One LOVES ravioli. There was a time he would ask for it for breakfast. He loves that it can be finger-food. I like that there are veggies built in!

Another from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, though the pasta recipe is a standard vegan one (repeated below for clarity). I made a double-batch for about 50 ravioli - enough to last quite a while. You can find a pasta maker at a thrift store cheap.

Vegan pasta
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
dash salt
1T olive or vegetable oil
1/2-1 cup water

Mix flours and salt. Add oil and 1/2 cup water and mix. Add water by teaspoons until all the pieces come together without being sticky. Knead very briefly. Cover with a damp towel and rest for 20 minutes. Divide into 3 balls and rest another 15 minutes.

For ravioli:
Flatten a ball to 1/2 inch and then press through the pasta maker.until you get to the thinnest setting, or the thinness you want. Cut into strips 2-2 1/2 inches wide (I used 2 1/4 inches) and then into rectangles double the length (eg 2 1/2 inches by 5 inches). Dot each with a teaspoonful of filling. Dip your finger in water and rub around the edge of each piece, then fold in half and press with fingers (you may also wish to use the edge of a blunt fork for a pretty edge).

You can store these in the fridge for a couple of hours, but it's better just to freeze them if you want to wait any longer. Because they are fresh, they should cook in about 4 minutes in boiling water. Serve with any sauce, such as a vegan-butter or white sauce or marinara, or even just with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The filling I made:

Butternut squash filling
1 butternut squash
2T Earth Balance
salt and pepper
1/2 cup vegan parmesan/white miso (I used a combination, but you can use all parmesan)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, brush cut edges with oil, and bake cut side down in a dish with a little water at 375oF for 30-40 minutes. Scoop out flesh and mash with Earth Balance until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper, then add parmesan and breadcrumbs until smooth. Chill until you need to use it. You can also make this the day before.

Extra filling can be frozen or used to make a great pasta sauce.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Udon with 5-spice tofu and stir fry

This is a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I love five-spice tofu. Hodo Soybeanery makes an amazing one that costs about $5. But I made my own because I am cheap (with their medium tofu):

Five spice tofu
1/2 package/block medium or firm tofu, cubed
fennel powder
clove powder
anise powder (or star anise, powdered - be sure it really is star anise!)
peppercorn (I never have Scezhuan, so I use regular) powder
ground cinnamon
soy sauce
sugar/brown sugar
sesame oil (or veg oil/peanut oil)

If you don't have the dry spice powders, mix the whole spices together and grind together. You can also do some and not the others, it's fine!
Put the tofu (sans any water) in a container that has a tight-fitting lid (a reused yogurt container or tupperware will do). Add a few tablespoons soy sauce and about 1/2-1 tsp of each of the dry spices plus 1 tablespoon of sugar. Close the lid and give it a good shake. Stick it in the fridge for 1/2hr up to 1 day.

Remove and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with sesame oil. Bake at 350oF for about 30 minutes until golden brown and firm outside.

As you can see, I was able to get the noodles in a straight line to dry on a kitchen towel this time (look, ma, one hand!):

Here are the vegetables (they might be good with rice on their own):

And the complete dish:

Finally, the wildly modified recipe. Shocking, but I had an unopened jar of hoisin sauce in the house. The original used peanut oil, red peppers and mushrooms for the veggies, and there was an additional 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste in the sauce, which I omitted because Little One is mildly allergic. You can add them back :) but they were pretty amazingly good without. It took me about an hour to make the noodles, bake the tofu, and make the veggies and toss with noodles, all together (without Little One underfoot, however!). After 2 adults and a child ate, there was enough leftover for lunch the next day.

Udon with Stir-fry and five-spice tofu

1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
3 T hoisin sauce
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely (add more if your kid can handle the spice)
1 T grated lemon zest (or lemongrass)

1 7-8oz package udon, or a batch of vegan noodles
2 T oil (sesame, peanut, veg)
1/2 package five spice tofu, or your own
2 medium leeks, white or light green parts only, julienned
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1/2 bunch collards, sliced thinly into strips
coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish

Mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Cook noodles in plenty of boiling water 5-7 minutes (fresh noodles will cook faster).

Meanwhile, heat wok with oil until hot. If using store-bought tofu, stir fry in the oil until it sizzles then set aside and leave oil for veggies. Stir fry leeks, carrots and collards for 1-2 minutes until leeks are softened and add a few pinches salt. Add tofu (if homemade) and sauce. Stir fry another minute and then turn off. Taste for salt.

When noodles are done, pick them up out of the water and let them drip briefly. Add them to the veggies and stir. (This way, you can add more or less according to how saucy you like your noodles!) Garnish with cilantro.

Drain and save any remaining noodles, of course, and save the pasta water for a soup!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan Pierogies

I have previously waxed ebullient about Post Punk Kitchen, one of my fave places to find vegan recipes. It has it all - sweets, remakes of non-vegan things, and dishes I've never even considered making, even in my pre-vegan days.

So it is with these vegan pierogies (sorry, pierogi). I only looked into it because my friend Lisa suggested that it would be a good quick, frozen lunch option for Little One.

Little did I know what I was getting into. It's not complicated to make, but does take various steps, such as:
  • making the potato stuffing
  • caramelizing the onions
  • making the dough and cutting circles
  • filling the circles and boiling them
I did steps 1 and 2 in advance, and 3 and 4 together, though in retrospect I wish I had made the dough in advance. Step 4 is by far the most fun for me, though Little One had fun with step 3, making circles with the glass and eating raw dough (thank goodness for no raw eggs, or yeast!).

I changed the recipe in a couple of ways: I used probably less onions in the filling than called for, and more importantly, I substituted rutabaga for potato, because it's rutabaga season at my CSA. It gave it a slightly sweeter taste. The caramelized onions are also red onions (Little One says purple, and that they taste like raisins). I served several of them with those on top and a spoonful of leftover filling.

I only wish I had used some whole wheat flour. Perhaps next time. There will definitely be a next time, because these somehow inexplicably make a simple, satisfying but phenomenal meal. Oohs and mms went around the table.

This recipe made about 40 pierogi, plenty for all of us (though we ate about 10 each, including Little One, unheard of!) plus a few leftover to be frozen for a future delightful lunch to which I am already looking forward.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Illustration Friday: popularity

After a long and interesting discussion about social media today, I tuned in to Illustration Friday to find today's topic: popularity. The definition seems to have changed!

Here's my take.