About pujakins

I am a poet and teacher of meditation, with a fondness for words and a husband I love dearly. I write a regular column in my local newspaper and another on the internet. My hope, both in my life and in my writing is to encourage people to see things in way that will help them to live happier, healthier lives.

Green Recipes for Spring Health

Big Rock 1 Days and nights are equal now that it’s the Equinox, and it’s time to think balance. Green vegetables bring cleansing to the body and help eliminate the winter accumulation we inherit from the cold months. The following recipes can help. It’s good to connect with each season by serving the seasonal fruits and vegetables. This recipe uses dandelion greens, available in markets in the spring and later in your yard all later spring and summer,(though not tasty while they blossom) and either Asparagus or any leafy green such as kale, collards, curly endive, Swiss chard or spinach.

Dandelion greens are rich in vitamins and minerals, and this recipe is a good way to get loved ones to eat them. Many markets carry the cultivated sort, which are less time consuming to prepare than the ones from your yard. While dandelion greens can be eaten any time of year, they are especially good in the Spring or the Fall. They are extraordinarily nutritious and deserve an honored place at any table. On the other hand, unless your younger children are most unusual, they might not eat them—but you never know. A food processor makes this best, though chopping by hand is an alternative.

Green Blessings for Spring

Ingredients:

2 to 3 cups of Dandelion greens, well washed, tough lower stems removed

2 to 3 cups Asparagus spears chopped, tough ends removed

or Leafy Greens (kale, collards, curly endive, swiss chard or spinach)

2 to 3 Tablespoons olive Oil to taste

2 to 3 Garlic cloves to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: Lightly steam each vegetable separately until still a bit crisp. Drain well. Save cooking water to use in a soup or to drink. Add olive oil and garlic to taste to greens, and blend well in food processor. If you don’t have one, rough-chop or scissor greens by hand. Slice or chop desired number of garlic cloves into pan and sauté lightly. Add both chopped greens and mingle them gently in the pan. Or add food processed greens, oil and garlic mixture. Stir and sauté to let garlic cook, over moderate heat, then serve to 2 to 4.

Asparagus brings its own spring power to our bodies, being a good cleanser for the kidneys as well as full of vitamins and minerals. No leeks? Add more onion.

Asparagus Soup

1 bunch (around a pound) asparagus

1 leek, cleaned, washed and cut

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon tarragon

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups coconut, soy or other nondairy milk

Optional ½ pound or 8 oz. soft or silken tofu

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method: Trim tough ends from asparagus. Cook and drain. Sautee leek, onion, tarragon in olive oil until translucent. Add cooked asparagus, onion, leek and tarragon to blender. Process. Start by adding 1 cup each non dairy milk and chicken broth to blender. Continue adding equal parts until you reach a desired consistency. Reheat in a pot and serve or store. To add more protein add in ½ pound silken or soft tofu and reduce other liquid by a total of 1 cup.

 

If you haven’t discovered my new book: Up to my Neck in Lemons, check it out on Amazon. It includes articles, poems and lemon recipes too.  You can purchase an autographed copy from me at P.O. Box 171, North Grafton MA for $15. Postage and handling included.

Daylight Saving or Daylight Spending?

dali-clocks

 

What works for you? Did you miss the hour the daylight saving system just stole or not? You’ll get it back of course in the fall, but by then it will be long forgotten. Time is such an odd thing. Totally artificial and man made, even our calendar has gone through several changes over the centuries. Daylight saving was actually suggested by Ben Franklin, though not put into use for a long time later. It has always seemed to me to be something o a nuisance, however opinion is divided as to its usefulness. About forty countries have some form or “Summer Time,” as it is usually called.

Daylight saving, does make for a disruption and an inconvenience. Unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona, the extra hour subtracted from the beginning and tacked back on more than seven months from now is something most of us have to put up with one way or another. Some of us do welcome the longer evening  hours. Others bemoan the resetting of our clocks and our bodily systems. Babies, as I remember from my days as a young mother don’t reset easily, nor do  pets. At one level it’s a little like jet lag that lasts one day instead of several.

When I need more time to get something done I wish there were some way to have a stash put away in a cupboard where I could take some out to use, like that extra hour we just lost. I remember several different stories I read with such a theme. Each of the protagonists had a way of hoarding up time. I found myself envious of people who could make use of their ability to add more time or else manipulate it so that they could put it to use for themselves for whatever the plot required of them.

How to use time efficiently continues to be the subject of a good many studies. For myself I have to admit that my effective use of it owes more to being strict with myself about avoiding distractions than anything else. Like many I have a way of letting one thing lead to another—oh, I’ll just look at that email, and then I catch a glimpse of another, and then the phone rings, or Stephen needs something, then where was I…and the day slips away until it’s over and I ask myself, “what did I accomplish anyway?” It helps to make a list, and cross off what I manage to get done, and rewrite the list when it gets used up. That and the discipline of “Not now, please” are about all I have to help me.

When I was a child time seemed an endless treasure I could do with what I wished. Now it is a precious substance I try unsuccessfully to hoard. I find it fascinating to observe how quickly or how slowly it can move, dependent on the circumstances. For instance, it always seems to take longer to get somewhere than to return from the same destination, regardless of traffic. While I do my best to make good use of the time given me, I hope that one day I will find a way to focus better than I do now, so that the constraints I feel around time will melt away and I will always feel I have enough.

Judge Me Not

Dead Branches and reflections 2Someone once said, “Point a finger at someone else and you will be pointing four at yourself.” That is what we do when we judge someone else. However this is exquisitely easy to do. In fact, most of us do it all the time. For instance, how many of us who need to lose a few pounds look at an overweight person and say silently, “How could he or she get so out of shape?” I know I used to be guilty of that. Now my thought is, “Oh that poor person, how difficult it must be for him or her.”

In the Bible in Mathew 7 during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” And he goes on to say (I have paraphrased it) that before we do that we need to look into our own selves to see how guilty we may be of what we are criticizing. It’s been my experience that those things that annoy me most are often those things that I may be guilty of myself.

If I am paying attention, I can take the opportunity this gives me to look at my annoyance as a reminder of my own issues rather than feeling superior about someone else’s faults. Like most if not all of us I have been there and done that and perhaps even realized afterward that I too am guilty of the same. It is easier to see the faults of others than to turn the searchlight on our own.

Rather than look critically at another, there is another road I can take and that is observing without actually making a judgment. This has to be done carefully, with a sense of compassionate detachment. For instance, if I see someone behaving in a way that appears to me to be rude, I can view the potential rudeness simply as how this person is acting, or I can see the person in a critical light. If I did these things, I would consider them to be rude. However, perhaps the person in question simply doesn’t know any better.

This kind of behavior frequently happens with children, especially the very young. I remember one of my daughters at three looking at her grandmother and saying. “Why are you so fat?” The poor woman was somewhat taken aback but took it in good spirit. She sputtered a bit then smiled and changed he subject. Young children can be tactless. Later they may learn that this behavior is not viewed kindly. I know even as an adult I have been guilty of it. Remembering this, when I am with someone whose actions seem to be inappropriate I work to see their  behavior as a result of ignorance.

Learning as I go I hope to be as nonjudgmental as I can. Having grown up with prejudices inherited from my rather judgmental mother and father, in order to do better I observe myself in action as I am able, and I do not judge myself. Life is a wonderful teacher. As I move through each day I find numerous opportunities to enhance my knowledge as well as to refine my responses. It’s a kind of game I play. If I do not judge myself I will be less judgmental of others. Despite what they might have said or done, when I don’t judge them I can see them more clearly and with kinder eyes.

 

A Smile is the Best Cosmetic

Tasha full f ace My young daughter asked if she could draw a portrait of me. I sat in the living room, smiling as she drew studiously, being very careful in her five year old way, to get everything just right. Suddenly she ran over, peered at my face and then went back to her drawing. Her pencil went dot, dot, dot on the paper as she put in her final touches. Proudly she showed me the portrait. To my dismay, the dots were a representation of a recent break-out around my lips.

Sadly, I realized at the time, I was becoming allergic to lipstick. This began for me when I was twenty five with the break out of the skin around my mouth. When I stopped using lipstick my skin cleared up. Then eye makeup began to make my eyes itch. Any lotion I put on my face created more breakout. I realized that my days using any form of makeup were over, and so they have been ever since.

The history of cosmetics is long and varied. As far back as 10, 000 B.C. in Egypt Women and sometimes men have used cosmetics. In the days of Queen Elizabeth fashionably inclined women painted their faces with lead to look fashionably pale as well as to cover up any blemishes. This was extremely dangerous to their health. Believe it or not, according to Wikepedia red lipstick,  was popular way back in 13th century Italy.

At times in history, women of the peasant class were forbidden to wear makeup; at other times it was thought to be sinful and thereby frowned upon or even forbidden. Earlier in the last century and even before, makeup was thought to be used only by “fallen women.”  The used of cosmetics has waxed and waned through the years, yet it seems one way or another always to have been part of human society. The high school I attended strictly forbade us to wear lipstick in class. Every morning the older girls would wipe it of in the coat room before they went in to study.

Although at first I felt a bit out of place among my friends, let alone women in general, I soon got used to the freedom it gave me not to have to spend time putting  on makeup. Now when I see the price of cosmetics in stores I rejoice to think how much money I have saved by not having to buy any. I use only hot water on my face. For occasional dry skin I have a lotion made from herbs and vegetables that helps keep it to keep from getting too dry.

It is also possible to create natural cosmetics from foods and herbs. I knew a woman who used beet juice to make her cheeks rosy. They did look quite bright. However, it is also true that good health, exercise that enhances the circulation, and a good night’s sleep go a long way toward nourishing the skin. Yet the best of all cosmetics is a smile. It strengthens the muscles of the face makes every face glow with youthful energy and is free to all.

Love Has Many Forms and Faces

Stephen and Tasha by Kim 3          One of the more famous of the poems Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to her Robert as they fell in love begins, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” It has always been a favorite of mine. I even set it to music and played it on my guitar in the days I sang in coffee houses and for parties.  Love can be given in many ways, and all of them are valid and special because each person has his or her own way of giving love. When I pay attention and see how love is given, it is a wonderful lesson to be cherished. Watch very small children; toddlers give us wonderful examples of the giving of unconditional love.

The gifts of love are so special. My home has loving presents from friends and family that come from their love and I cherish the giver as I see, wear, or use them. The kind words I hear, or receive in emails or cards and letters never fail to warm my heart. The love I have shared with my beloved husband for nearly forty years is an important part of my every day experience. I think of him as my always valentine. Love whether brotherly, romantic or spiritual nourishes my heart as well as the heart of us all.

Valentines’ day is an annual reminder that love is a vital part of our lives. I know that as I live with love and give it, I grow happier and more content. A wise teacher once told me, “You don’t have to like everyone but you must love everyone.” When I first heard this I thought a lot about what it meant. How do I love everyone? Especially how do I love those that annoy, irritate or even do awful things, whether to me or to others? In time I have taught myself to do this. I learned how as I grew more aware when I wasn’t loving and deliberately corrected myself, replacing criticism with unconditional love. I am still learning.

When I practice unconditional love, love without judgment and with compassion, even unlikable people can be loved. I don’t have to like them, or like how they act. Nor do I have to approve of anything about them. I can simply open my heart and see them as another human being, however troubled or awful, and envision them surrounded in the light of love. If I feel they ought to be punished I can say I hope they get what they deserve, without specifying.

When my children were small and had been naughty, I might not have liked their behavior yet though I might punish them, I loved them all the same. Often their bad behavior came from ignorance or was a test of boundaries. When I make an effort not to judge another person regardless how I might feel about them, I enhance my ability to give that kind of love. Unconditional love grows from practice. Just as I could punish my child’s bad behavior and love them still, I can give my unconditional love to anyone, and as to punishment, that’s not my job. I can have faith that eventually what goes around will come around, and sooner or later, so it will.

A Lesson in Baking A New Recipe

Apples 3Apples are versatile and make for good cold weather desserts. They are relatively inexpensive and always available, plus they are very good nutrition. Needing inspiration for an apple dessert, I checked through my cookbook collection looking for a different way to make one. Because I try to avoid pie crust, I’m not a pie baker. Apple crisp, though very tasty, gets boring. I found that the recipes in my cookbooks for Apple Pan Dowdy and similar concoctions called for too much starch for a healthy diet.

After perusing many recipes, I decided to create one of my own. Toward that end I was careful to note down my ingredients and their measurements in case I wanted to repeat my effort. Sourcing many of recipes I had perused, I tried dried bread crumbs. This proved to be a mistake. They absorbed too much of the liquid and made for a rather stiff end result. Still, the pudding tasted good enough so that I wanted to make it again, but a little differently. Rather than using dried bread crumbs, I decided to try fresh ones. I pinched small pieces off the bread, including the crust.

The pudding tasted wonderful. Unfortunately, my original dish size was incorrect for the change in the recipe. The resultant mess on the oven floor was horrendous. Another lesson learned. The recipe was so good I made it again with different fruit. This one worked well however it stuck to the baking dish. More lessons. The solution to that was to set the container in a pan of hot water for the duration of its baking time. This produced a moister result. All in all the recipe through trial and error has improved to a point where I want to share it.

 

Preheat oven to 350, use a 2 quart buttered covered casserole

Ingredients:

4 cups THINLY sliced peeled apples*

4 or 5 slices of bread

½ cup raisins or chopped dates

¾ cup rough chopped or broken pieces of walnuts (Optional)

½ cup flour

¾ cups brown sugar

1&1/2 cups cider

¼ cup butter plus some for buttering casserole

1 tsp Cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp clove

¼ tsp salt

 

Method: Heat cider, butter and spices on stove until butter melts. Stir to blend. Butter well a 2 quart casserole. Pinch off small pieces of bread. Cover bottom of casserole. Make a layer of apples, sprinkle on ¼ cups brown sugar, 2 Tbs flour, ¼ cup raisins and ¼ cup (optional) walnuts. Repeat bread, apples, sugar, flour, rest of raisins ¼ cup (optional) walnuts. End with a layer of bread, apples, (optional) walnuts, sugar and flour. Pour cider mixture over all. Bake covered at 350 for 1 hour. Uncover casserole and bake 10 more minutes to brown. Serve or save for later or next day. It tastes lovely with cream or ice cream or plain.  Alternative ingredients: 1 to 2 cups frozen cherries, cut in quarters and 1 to 2 cups frozen blueberries, omit raisings, substitute pecans for walnuts. With berries, you might use a shallow pan filled with water beneath the casserole for a moister pudding that doesn’t stick.

 

Up to my Neck in Lemons, my latest book has more recipes, poetry, and insights into turning Life’s Lemons, into Lemonade To have your own autographed copy,  please send $15. To Tasha Halpert at P.O.Box 171, North Grafon, MA 01536,  or purchase your copy on Amazon.

Life’s Patience Training

pictures downloaded from my camera 2. 148My introduction to using a computer came abruptly. The son of a friend dropped one he had built on my desk and said, “Here you need this.” He left me without giving me any instructions beyond how to turn the machine on and off. This was back in the nineties when I still happily typed my columns on a typewriter and delivered them by hand. I imagine you can sympathize with how it was to try to apply what I knew about typing to this newfangled mechanical servant! Fortunately he did come back to teach me until I began to learn better how to manage. It certainly took patience—his and mine.

How do you learn to be patient? By being patient, of course! It helps to have had little children to care for, yet not everyone gets to do that. Many of us, however work with cell phones and computers on a regular basis. They can present much need for patience. As a writer, I deal with that often. I do not have much knowledge of computers except what I have needed to learn in order to write and publish on the internet and submit to the paper.

In this time of sad stories we read and hear every day, I hope to be able to offer positive, uplifting words to help readers feel better about themselves and life. For the opportunity to do this I am grateful. That said where does the patience training come in? It has to do with the use of computers and their mysteries, and it includes the use of cell phones with their dropped calls, missed words, bad or strange connections, lack of cell towers, “roaming” charges and so on. Still, computers can be worse.

Sometimes when I start up my computer it announces that it needs a pass word. I never have put a password on my computer to start it up, so how can I find it or post it? I do keep a list of my many passwords to various and sundry sites. I even printed  it out so that in the event I have forgotten one I don’t have to go look for it on the computer while trying to use the computer to access the site. Having something in print is helpful, and keeping records in other places than on the device you are using can be equally so as I have discovered.

There is the problem of the articles that vanish because I can’t remember the titles. Sometimes a piece even disappears because I hit a key that mysteriously makes it do so.  If I am writing a column or a poem, thankfully I can retrieve my effort with the backward arrow. However if I am emailing, I have to begin again. Ah, patience training, her it comes again! I am sure my readers have similar issues to deal with, and know what I mean. The bright side, however, is the opportunity to practice my ability to be patient, and that can indeed be valuable for my life in general.