Category Archives: grandmother’s wisdom

Garden meditation

August 2019

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience; everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” ~May Sarton.

Our tiny backyard garden is a year-round source of peace and produce.

Gardening is a form of meditation for my husband. He finds solace and joy in pulling weeds, preparing the soil, carefully planting the seeds, watering and nurturing the plants and then harvesting the fruits of his labor.

Harvesting cherry tomatoes or handfuls of fragrant herbs gives him immense pleasure. The fact his harvest ends up on his dinner plate makes the whole process even more satisfying.

I love fresh produce but I admit gardening is not my thing.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy our backyard oasis. In the middle of the day, when the lawnmowers and leaf blowers are finally turned off, a warm stillness settles in the garden. The neighborhood children are in school and there is a profound silence all around me.

The warm sun, chirping birds, buzzing bees and an occasional butterfly are my only companions. Some days the peace is broken when a territorial fight breaks out between the mocking birds and the aggressive Scrub Jays. These tiny guardians are fiercely protective of their space.

The bees and butterflies pay no attention to the screeching birds. Gathering nectar from golden sunflowers and purple zinnias is much more important.

As the day warms and the sun’s heat wilts the green basil and the valiant tomato vines, I settle in the shade to enjoy the peace. For me the real harvest is not the produce but the serenity of growing things.

Surrounded by verdant and lush bushes and plants, my breathing slows down. I can feel my muscles loosen and my aches and pains fading.

Northern California’s fierce heat melts away my cares and worries. As my body relaxes my mind calms down. Those annoying thoughts zapping around my brain slowly wind down.

I don’t usually call this meditation but sitting in my little green garden on a quiet weekday afternoon does feel like a moment of deep reflection. Now I understand what my husband finds so tranquil in the garden.

Recently we visited our son in his first apartment. His tiny patio is a little green oasis. I hope he discovers the restfulness of being surrounded by growing things, even if it is just one cherry tomato vine, a single pepper plant and a few herbs.

Making a place for quiet contemplation, a moment of mindfulness and meditation is essential in this busy world. I hope all of you find a minute or two to slow down and breathe deeply.

 

 

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Filed under garden, gardening, grandmother's wisdom, harmony, harvest, meditation, Mindful cooking, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel With Recipes, Northern California, Personal experience, Summer, Uncategorized, vegetables

A list for me, and you!

 

December 2016

I love making lists and reading them too! So here is my latest list, in no particular order.

  1. Get outside more: Dog lovers do this every day, rain or shine! Everyone can benefit from being out in the fresh air. I love walking Duke at dusk under a pink and purple sky. On a recent walk the eastern sky was lit up by the moon and the western sky was aglow with the setting sun.
  2. Be more mindful: My close-knit circle of family and friends call mindfulness by another name. They practice the art of meditation. But whatever you call it, set aside some time to be still. Practice going inward and calming the mind. It may be difficult at first, but you’ll notice the difference in your life.
  3. Eat more yogurt (if you aren’t a vegan): In south India, we finish our meal with some homemade yogurt. Yogurt or curd rice was a tasty way to get some protein and beneficial bacteria.
  4. Bring back tea time: The other day I had the joy of sharing a pot of Chai Tea with a group of friends. We munched on savory and sweet goodies and enjoyed an afternoon of camaraderie. When I was growing up in the Blue Mountains or Nilgiris of south India, my sister and I looked forward to our afternoon cup of tea and snack. Most often the snack was just leftover breakfast but once in a while we had a special treat when the cake man came to our house. His visits were rare and delicious. He carried a large tin suitcase filled with small cakes and pastries. My favorites were the tiny iced cakes, topped with the brightest, most unnatural colored icing. My sister and I could never get enough of these sweet treats, but my mother was a cautious shopper and only bought one small cake for each of us. Iced cakes are still my favorite tea time snack. Taking time to have an afternoon cup of tea forces us to slow down. Elaborate tea making and drinking ceremonies are common in many countries. I like to boil tea with a few slices of ginger root or cardamom pods. The boiled tea is mixed with fresh whole milk and served with a dash of coconut palm sugar. This spicy concoction is delicious and invigorating and as my son calls it, “dessert in a cup.”
  5. Read a book or two: When my boys were in elementary school their teachers asked them to keep a reading log and to try to read for at least 20 minutes a day. Luckily, both boys loved reading and the 20 minutes a day was an easy quota to meet. During our recent tea party we also exchanged wrapped books. It was so much fun to unwrap the gift and discover a book that you would never chose for yourself. I received one that may help me tidy up my house. If all goes well and my house is less messy, I’ll blog about it.
  6. Support a local author: Recently I attended a book signing for a local author and came away with three instant and personalized holiday gifts. Most books are under $25 and authors are thrilled to meet you and sign a copy or two. You know what they say? Make an author smile and an angel gets his/her wings. Just kidding. But it does make us happy to hear you are enjoying our work.
  7. Take part in a mini-fast: By skipping one meal you can wake up your taste buds. I had a wise relative who recommended we eat only one meal on Sundays. Studies have shown that fasting for 12-16 hours can help revive our metabolism and help the body cope with a myriad of ills. Don’t do this every day and use commonsense when fasting.
  8. Stretch: Take time for a quick (or long) stretch. This is a great way to start each day.
  9. Take a break from electronics or social media: Whenever I find that I’m spending too much time on my phone or computer, I try to schedule a “media recess.” This break can be anything from 1 hour to 24 hours and perhaps you’ll find the time to read that book or go on that walk!
  10. Your idea here: Send me some of your suggestions and perhaps there will be enough for another blog.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my readers!

 

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Filed under Blue Mountains, Celebrations, cooking, fasting, grandmother's wisdom, lists, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, reading, tea time, Uncategorized, yoga, stretching

A bowl of many memories (and uses)

November 2016

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It will never be a collector’s item or be coveted by antique dealers. Yet, this simple bowl holds a special place in my heart (and kitchen).

Receiving and giving stainless steel pots and pans as wedding gifts is a time-honored tradition in India. Thirty years ago, on my wedding day I received a number of pots and pans but this one with its unique design and lid stood out. It was a gift from my aunt Malathi and Uncle Bhanunny. I knew this because their names were etched on the side of the bowl.

When I decided to return to California, my mother insisted that I take this particular bowl back with me. It will be useful, she stressed. Back then I had just discovered the convenience of Pyrex and plastic and thought a stainless steel bowl was old-fashioned and frankly useless. So it was with great reluctance that I lugged it back with me. I packed it away; surely I would never find use for such a thing!

But one day, when my boys were just toddlers, I unpacked a cardboard box and found the bowl. I ran my fingers over the inscription and the names brought back a flood of memories. Mrs. Malathi and Mr. E.B. Unny. I remembered my aunt, uncle and their three beautiful daughters with affection. Perhaps I could find a use for this in my kitchen after all.

So for the past 20 odd years that bowl has become an integral part of my kitchen. I can’t imagine ever being without it.  It was the perfect size for tossing a green salad. I used it to knead homemade pizza dough. It has been used for making cakes and delectable frostings. The bowl was just the right size for whipping cream and even mashing potatoes. One year when my son wanted a soccer ball-shaped birthday cake, the bowl became a cake pan. It truly was a bowl of many uses!

So for our Thanksgiving Day feast, the bowl may be filled with roasted root vegetables but what it will really serve will be a huge helping of precious memories. My mother was right, as usual!

THE END

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Filed under Celebrations, cooking, grandmother's wisdom, Indian food, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, Personal experience, pots and pans, South Indian, Uncategorized

A Pearl of Wisdom

June 2016

My maternal grandmother had the coolest name: Pearl.

Granny Pearl died in her mid-40s from an untreated benign tumor and her older sister whom we called “Muthi or granny” kept her memory alive with vivid stories about her. Pearl was an accomplished pastry chef and her skill at twirling chickpea pastry dough into perfect circles was in high demand. Her nimble fingers were able to twirl the chickpea dough into a huge circle, in some cases 101 times around, without a single breakage.

The pastry circle was made of chickpea flour flavored with cumin seeds, red chili pepper powder and sea salt. The completed pastry or muruku was air dried and then deep fried for a melt-in-your mouth treat.

As a youngster, Muthi was always reminding me to be more like Granny Pearl. According to Muthi, Granny Pearl was so gentle, compassionate and kind-hearted that even her footprints didn’t leave a mark on the earth.

Apparently fiction writing and story-telling is an inherited family trait!

When I was a child I had no idea what Muthi meant. But now, decades later, I can see the hidden truth in her words.  Granny Pearl left no negative footprints. She was so full of warmth, love and kindness that being in her presence was soothing to the spirit.

I’m thinking a lot about Granny Pearl these days. The world needs more of her empathy and tenderness. Whenever I am dismayed about the state of the world, I try to conjure up Granny Pearl’s humanity. More than a century after her death, she is still remembered for her tolerance.

So when violence and hatred swirls around you, try to be more like my Granny Pearl. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be remembered, decades from now, as a loving and kind person, just like Granny Pearl?

Granny Pearl was wise and aptly named.

An additional note:  My book is so close to having 50 reviews on Amazon and apparently after 50 reviews Amazon will throw a big party and you are all invited! Seriously, that number 50 is the Holy Grail for many authors. Can you please help me in my quest? A huge thank you to everyone who has already written a review!

 

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Filed under amazon review, Book Club recommendations, grandmother's wisdom, mother's kitchen, my mother's kitche, South India, Uncategorized