Happy Vishu! Dear reader, may the coming year be blessed and prosperous for you and your family.
Life in the Blue Mountains, Nilgiris, of South India was much simpler during my childhood. Back then it was a small world where service was close and personal. Our milk was delivered by a young woman named Helen who’s family also grew the most beautiful and fragrant roses. (Years later we bought huge bouquets of the colorful blooms for our wedding). The baker was a family man who made sure he gave us the freshest coconut buns. Every winter the tangerine man came to our front door with a basket filled with tiny orange fruit, juicy and tart.
Even though our town was a sprawling tourist attraction, it was like living in a small village. After my father’s death the entire town kept a close eye on my sister and me. The stationary store owner, Rajan, knew when we had important exams and was ready to sell us the latest in fountain pens. The Alankar Bakery owner gave us an extra cookie or raisin-studded bun and always inquired about my mother and uncle (it didn’t matter to that he had never met my uncle!).
There was an invisible grapevine that was almost as effective as Twitter! My mother heard all the important news of the day from her bus driver on her way home from work as a school teacher. So of course she knew right away the one day I had left our school campus during lunch hour to visit the local bazaar. Surprisingly I didn’t get in trouble but it gave me pause because I knew there were a lot of eyes on me. Small world, big connections!
I missed those personal interactions when I moved to California more than 30 years ago but I found another village in the city of Davis. For the past 19 years I have discovered that this college town has a small-town heart. Small world, big connections.
Case in point: Recently I participated in a community theater production and was pleasantly surprised to see the cashier from the local supermarket in the audience. After the performance she hugged me and told me she’d see me at the store soon. Another example of small world, big connections.
Social media can fool us into thinking that we are making personal connections while seated in front of our laptop computer or smart phone, but I have found that nothing beats face-to-face interactions.
So this coming year (April 14th we celebrated Vishu or Kerala New Year) I hope you will find the joy of life in the real world, away from the small screen.
Filed under Blue Mountains, Celebrations, community theater, cooking, Fresh fruit, Fresh produce, Indian food, meatless, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, Nilgiris, Personal experience, recipes, Seven, South India, spring, renewal, Uncategorized, vegetables, world peace
I love making lists and reading them too! So here is my latest list, in no particular order.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stretch: Take time for a quick (or long) stretch. This is a great way to start each day.
- 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!
- 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!
Filed under Blue Mountains, Celebrations, cooking, fasting, grandmother's wisdom, lists, mindfulness, my mother's kitche, reading, tea time, Uncategorized, yoga, stretching
It was a party at Samantha’s house on Thursday evening when members of Slow Food Yolo gathered to listen to stories from My Mother’s Kitchen and watch a cooking demonstration.
They watched me prepare feathery light rice dumplings called idlis and Ishtu stew made of ginger, coconut milk and potatoes. There was also spicy tomato chutney and sweet milk pudding with vermicelli and cardamom. What a tasty and fun evening!
I was interviewed by Radio 12 host Anita Ahuja on Thursday, April 21. Here’s a link to the in-depth interview.
I was reminded of the importance of “mindful eating and cooking” at a recent event. Both Slow Food Sacramento and Sacramento Food Co-op Chef Adam advocate this philosophy.
Slow Food Sacramento has a worthy mission of wanting to provide good, clean and fair food for all. At the same event Chef Adam advised guests to use their hands, put away electronic devices and be mindful while cooking.
Being mindful of not only eating but paying attention to every aspect of life is something we should all try to do. We let our electronic devices control us and so we end up doing more than one thing at a time. This multi-tasking can lead to an unfocused life which in turn leads to stress.
I was fortunate to have someone very wise in my life who always urged me to “slow down and take my time.” This meant doing one thing at a time, being mindful of every action. It was not easy to follow this great advice. When I was a reporter in a busy newsroom, I was expected to do more than one thing. Later on motherhood meant multi-tasking in another way. It was hard to do just one thing at a time when there was so much to be done. However I did learn that teens responded better to undivided attention and one-pointed listening. Life on an elementary campus was not conducive to doing just one thing at a time either.
But now that I stay home I have the time to be more mindful. I begin my day early so that I can enjoy a quiet cup of hot tea and not feel rushed. My dog, Duke, is a great at doing just one thing at a time. When he eats, all his concentration is on his food. When he goes for a walk and stops to sniff a blade of grass, he takes his time and doesn’t move until he is done.
Most afternoons he quietly (and persistently) insists on me joining him outside. Instead of being annoyed by his loving request, I put aside my work and go out into the fresh air. My hound and I sit together in silence, listening to the birds and buzzing bees. During this time I let my mind slow down and soon my breathing and my body quieten down. I look forward to these moments of mindfulness now. I find all my senses are alert after my afternoon session with therapist Duke. A cool glass of lemon water is refreshing and enjoyable. Cooking our evening meal is a pleasurable task that I take my time doing. I am more focused at an evening exercise class. Being in the moment helps me relax and get ready for bed.
I urge you to try a moment of mindfulness every day and reap the benefits and if you have a four-footed therapist to enjoy the moment with, so much the better.
A programming note: Please tune (or set your DVR) to Channel 31 on Friday, March 18. At 9 a.m. I will join Good Morning Sacramento host Tina Macuha to demonstrate how to make Aviyal stew and to promote my book.