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Continuing on the “recipe” theme from the last post, here’s a review of another recipe.  This one is called “Tofu and Mango Curry” and comes from my friend @dharmaloser.  I’m not going to reproduce the recipe, you can find it for yourself here. But, I found myself looking at the recipe last week and noticing that I had all the ingredients in the house already. Well, all except the edamame. Hadn’t actually heard of that before, so Ellen and I looked it up. Wondered if we could substitute green beans (@dharmaloser said yes, but might need to cook it longer).  When Ellen came home from the grocery Friday night, she had a bag of edamame. Who knew? (Oh, yeah, we didn’t have lemongrass either.)

Saturday afternoon we set about making this dish.  It went together pretty easily once I had prepped the ingredients, and it smelled wonderful, although I think I overcooked the shallots/ginger/garlic. I always do that.  And I can never cook tofu without it sticking to the pan, big time.  It always sucks up the oil and then forms this atomic bond with the cooking surface.  But, we muddled through.

Once it was “plated” (that’s a fancy cooking term, right?), we served it up.  The kids were less than thrilled.  We have come to realize that there are some dishes that we make that are “grown-up” dishes and some that are “family” dishes, but the kids always try them.  The “grown-up” dishes usually involve making a separate meal for the kids, and Ellen and I have a nice quiet dinner later.  This dish actually ended up somewhere in between – the kids weren’t excited about it, but they ate it. (The adults thought it was yummy, though.)

I always try to make a recipe the “right” way the first time, so I can see what was intended, then the next time I start going “off-book”.  I think the next time, in addition to different tomatoes, I would cut the tofu smaller. I think that may have been part of the issue for the kids. I also put in a block and a half, maybe a block would suffice.  I would also add more mango and maybe a little less curry powder – try to sweeten it up a little – and more edamame.  We actually had to kick the kids out of the kitchen because they kept coming in to scarf more of “those lima bean pea things”.

We served it on top of some jasmine rice, with a side green salad, and it was delicious and very filling.  In our quest to eat more healthily (and less), it’s one we’ll be making again!

Plated. (Before the salad)

There was a discussion on the Online Meditation Crew Twitter Channel yesterday about bread (in between the football tweets).  Precious Metal mentioned that he had just made a loaf of bread using beer (but lamenting the fact that the only thing he had on hand was Labatt’s).  I tweeted that I had a good recipe for a quick-bread made using Guinness.  In response to some requests, recipes were shared on Facebook.  But, some people don’t use Facebook, and would still like the recipe, so, by special request – here is the Guinness Bread recipe.  It’s dark, but not as heavy as you would think.

And, since I like you, I’m including a bonus recipe.  Whenever I make this one, it goes fast, and I get multiple requests for the recipe. It’s Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Bread.  It’s a little more finicky, but it’s fun to experiment with!

Guinness Bread

4 C. flour

2 T. baking soda

1 t. salt

1/4 C. sugar

12 oz. Guinness

2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375.  Sift together flour, powder, salt, and sugar.  Add Guinness and eggs. Stir until batter is just blended.

Pour into greased 9x5x3 loaf pan.  Bake for about 70 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.

Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Bread

1-1/2 C. warm water

2 pkgs. yeast (about 4 tsp.)

4-1/2 to 5 C. flour

1/4 C. honey

1 T. salt

1 C. chopped sun-dried tomatoes*

1/2 C.  chopped, pitted, kalamata olives

In small bowl, mix 1/2 cup water with yeast until it dissolves. Let stand 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, honey, salt, and remaining water.  Add yeast mixture and mix.

Continue adding flour until a stiff dough forms.  Turn dough out onto floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (5-10 min).  Flatten dough.  Add tomatoes and olives on top of dough.  Fold in until tomatoes and olives are fairly evenly distributed. Place dough in greased bowl, cover lightly, and let rise until doubled in size (90 minutes).

Punch down and let rise again until doubled (60 minutes).

Punch down and divide in half.  Form halves into loaf shapes and place on a greased baking sheet*. Cover lightly and let rise until doubled (35 minutes).

Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

*Notes: I find 1/2 cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes soaked in boiling water for 10-15 minutes yields 1 cup.  I bake this using Italian loaf pans, which make for a rounded bottom, but flat on a baking sheet works okay, too.

During that “in-between” time right after college (and before starting “real life”) I decided that I was going to learn to juggle.  I suppose it was the beginning of my “bucket list” – I wasn’t going to die before I could juggle.

I picked up a Klutz book and opened it up.  The first direction:  “Drop the balls on the ground.  Get used to that sound, as you’ll be hearing it a lot.”  Yep, they were right.  But after some, okay a lot, of practice, I got it.   Three balls.  In the air. Not on the floor.  Yay, me!

I enjoy it so much that I started juggling objects other than the hacky sack/beanbags that came with my set.  I was especially fond of koosh balls, because I could jam three of them in a pocket and take them with me anywhere.  And, if you take me to the toy section of the department store, I’m likely to be found juggling rubber balls in the aisle.  Even better is the sporting goods store!  I can really challenge myself there.  (Although I’ve noticed that the staff tends to frown on stray soccer/bocce/footballs bouncing around the store.)

This summer,  I decided that I wanted to learn to juggle other things – like clubs.  So, I picked up a set of clubs, and have been practicing with them.  I’m doing okay – I keep them in the air more than I drop them, but I still get backaches from bending over to retrieve scattered clubs (true story).  Although, it did prompt me to learn to do a real cool “kick-up” so I don’t have to bend over so much.

While juggling this summer, I was talking with Ellen about the tattoos we wanted to get for our 15th anniversary.  I knew I wanted a Buddhism-related one, and I had settled on an Om in a lotus, sort of stylized.  The key word was “settled”. It would have been cool, but it wasn’t speaking to me.  Since this would be my first tattoo, I wanted it to be just right.  I don’t know who suggested it, so I’ll give us each half credit, but someone said “How about a juggling buddha?”

Hello! Perfect!

I’m no juggling expert, and I’m no Buddhism expert, but I see a lot of connections.

Juggling reminds me a lot about what attracts me to the whole Meditation/Buddhism universe.

In juggling…

  • there are many distractions in your surroundings.  To keep the cascade going, you have to acknowledge the distractions and let them go.
  • you have to concentrate on what is in front of you, or it will fall apart.
  • if you try to grab for the balls/clubs, the cascade will fall.  You have to let them come to you.
  • when you catch, you must do so gently.
  • there are only so many things you can keep in the air.  As you practice, you get better at it.
  • when you are able to keep the cascade going, it’s a joyful experience.
  • what you think is real is an illusion.  Someone juggling 4 balls is really juggling 2 in each hand. (Shh…don’t tell.)
  • you have to let things go with the right velocity and rotation for them to arrive safely in your other hand.
  • it takes a lot of practice to see results.

Sound familiar?

In thinking about the design, I came up with the image of a “laughing buddha” to represent that joyful feeling of being able to keep everything in balance.  I chose five balls for him to be juggling, using the traditional colors of a prayer flag.  I decided that one should be on the ground, as it’s impossible to keep everything “up in the air” and we need to decide what things to put down.

When researching what the colors of the prayer flags meant, this is what I found out:

  • Blue: sky/space
  • White: air/wind
  • Red: fire
  • Green: water
  • Yellow: ground

Coincidentally, the one I had chosen to leave on the ground was the yellow one. Appropriate!

I had this image in my mind of what it would look like, but hadn’t done anything about it yet.  I then started sitting with the Online Meditation Crew, and saw that The Kamikazen was designing twitter avatars for some of the crew members.  I asked him if he would like to take a stab at this tattoo design.  Much to my surprise, and excitement, he said yes.

We spent a few days of back and forth with descriptions/drawings.  What I was looking for was different than his usual style, so he had to work a little outside his comfort zone, and I wasn’t very good at explaining what I could see in my head.  Once it was all said and done, this is what he came up with:

This was almost exactly what I was seeing in my head, with a little Kamikazen twist to it.

All the avatars that The Kamikazen had designed he turned into t-shirts that you can purchase.  This one is no exception.  You, too, can have this way cool design on a t-shirt (or a hoody, or long sleeve tee, or onesie, or a sticker), just by following this link*.  Proceeds from the sale of this t-shirt (and the other ones in the store*) go to charitable causes, so buy a couple of them!

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does!  Notice on the t-shirt there is some text below the design.  It says, “Balance…It’s all up in the air.”  This perfect tagline was added by the OMC’s founder ZenOutlaw!!

What a great collaboration – thank you KamikaZEN and Zen Outlaw!

Now, to get up the courage to get the ink put on…

*Update (9:00pm) – moments after I published this post, The Kamikazen announced the launch of the official Online Meditation Crew store.  The link in the article works (as of this writing), but for the latest up-to-date stuff go here:  I Want My OMC Gear! or, you can go right to the page with the Juggling Buddha.

Update (again) (9/13) – Just released!!! The Juggling Buddha in color!!  Get yours now!

The Online Meditation Crew has a Facebook group.  At first I was hesitant to join.

Sometimes I feel like I’m holding two different worlds in tension.  There is the one that I grew up with, where Christianity is the norm.  Then there is the one in which I can explore spirituality and religion without worrying about what society expects of me.

Facebook and Twitter mirror those worlds for me.  In Twitter, I have the shield of anonymity that I can hide behind if I need to, so it feels safe.  It is the place that I can explore and connect and get answers and try things on for size.

Facebook is more like “real life” for me.  All of my friends on Facebook (save two) are people that I know in real life – whether it’s friends from high school, former coworkers, or people from my current social circle, which centers around the Episcopal Church (in fact 18% of my friends are priests).

The Online Meditation Crew is Twitter.  It is a place where I can let my guard down, ask questions, explore.  I really like what I see, what I am doing, and what I am learning and experiencing. I don’t hold any illusions that I actually know the people I’m sitting with, but it really doesn’t matter.  We are all part of the same universe, and as such part of each other.  All the rest is details.

My fear was that my Twitter/OMC/Buddhist world would suddenly collide with my Facebook/Christian world and I would somehow end up chucked to the side from both.

And, lest you think this fear is unfounded, I must relate a story about two things that happened in church recently.

There was an opportunity for parishioners to join in “centering prayer“.  I thought it sounded great and joined the group on their first “sit”.  To me, everything about centering prayer was what I had learned about meditation.  There was one person in the group who was adamant (and I don’t think that’s a strong enough word) that this wasn’t meditation at all, and he tried to throw some theology in behind it to back up his opinion.  I still say that if you strip away all the trappings…it’s meditation.

The second story is about a person who was coming in to the parish to lead a workshop on yoga.  There wasn’t anything religious about her presentation from what I could tell – it was just about using yoga techniques to help center you in both mind and body.  The person who was organizing this workshop got up on two consecutive Sundays to try to get people to sign up.  She stressed both times that it was not some other religion that was being practiced so no one had to worry.

So, I see fear from the Christians, and I don’t know the Buddhists (or enough about Buddhism to be secure in it) yet, and I was afraid of what would happen when the two met.

During today’s OMC scheduled meditation session, it suddenly hit me.  It’s not about Christianity, or Buddhism, or Facebook, or Twitter, or “real life”, or “online life”.  It’s about ego.  My ego was getting in the way of me being who I am.  This is the way I am experiencing the universe, and the way the universe is experiencing me right now.  At this moment.

And this moment will be gone immediately to be replaced by another moment and another way of experiencing.  It’s time to let go and be.

I joined the OMC Facebook group.

My daughter had wanted to ride horses for a couple of years (and Ellen secretly – or not so secretly – wanted to ride with her). We finally relented and KJ started riding lessons. At the beginning of the summer we decided to use the money from the lessons instead to half-lease a horse, so KJ could ride whenever she wanted to.

This worked out great, and we leased Brandy. KJ was so excited, and really bonded with that horse. She would take her out several times a week, and even showed her at a local horse show. She was getting Brandy ready to show at the county fair next week.

Over the weekend we got a message from the stable – Brandy was colicky and it was probably best that KJ not come out to ride. One of the girls at the stable had taken Brandy out for a trail ride and apparently it was too much.

Yesterday was the first day of school, and KJ’s first day in middle school. She was a bundle of nerves and energy. About mid-day we got the word – Brandy didn’t survive. In the afternoon we got to see the joy, the excitement, the laughter that came from KJ’s great day at a new school, but we knew that we were about to smash her world in two. Ellen told her about Brandy, and she ran crying to her room.

I was devastated. I felt so helpless. I just wanted to wrap her up in my arms and keep the world out. But, of course, I couldn’t. And shouldn’t.

An aside: the worst part of this for me is the feeling that I let KJ down. I never got to see her ride Brandy. I always had something else to do when she was out at the stable to ride. I legitimately couldn’t make the horse show – I was doing something with our son. I was really looking forward to the county fair. I was so proud of what she was doing, and I know now how fragile this existence can be. I pledge to be better in the future, and I hope I don’t fail too bad in that endeavor.

The Christian in me is conditioned to say that Brandy is in a better place, God has a plan, and all that stuff that is meant to make it better, but really doesn’t help very much.

The Buddhist in me is learning that life is a cycle, and we will get through this like we get through everything else. More comforting for me, but hard to explain to a 10 year old.

The Dad in me knows that I love my daughter (and all my children) more than anything else in the world, and I will always be there for her, through the both the joy and the pain.

KJ and Brandy

KJ and Brandy

KJ and Brandy

Into the wind...

I love you KJ.