Monday, April 30, 2012

A View from My Window on a Spring Afternoon

Through the clouds, sunlight dances on the mountains. Shadows camouflage the brown while the new green growth sparkles. Spring is proof that any dark doldrums can be overcome.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 25 April 12


Plaster casts of Bigfoot tracks

Your excited laugh

Nevada State Route Three Seven Five

Gas tank’s down to half

Picnic on the grassy knoll

Sixth floor windowsill

Your wild eyes while you dispute

Oswald’s shooting skill

You pout and sulk

At Arizona’s hulk

But you’re angry too

Cause Roosevelt knew

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poetry Wednesday 18 April 12


by Abhay Adil

In the journey of life
A man searching for light

In the coldness of the world
And emptiness of the heart
Is there any place with goodness and grace?
Where one can break free

A place where a man can be what he wants to be
A place high above in heaven
After the long journey of life
A man can slow down for a peaceful rest

Searching and searching all his life
Can’t find a simple spot for rest
Living in the chest of broken glass
And all the hope is lost

He finally found a place to rest
The salience he got at last
Away from the dreadful voices
From whom he wanted to depart

Love that he never got
Delight he never saw
Unappreciated and deceived
Is what he feels

The darkness filled his dreams
Crushing his heart and making him scream

He left this place and walked of the ledge
Towards the shinning place with happy face
To finally find his place
On a stop called Willoughby

Willoughby a poem by Abhay Adil Inspired from "The Twilight Zone” episode “A stop at Willoughby”

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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Garden Chronicles: In the beginning

Food from your own garden always tastes better than anything bought in the supermarket. Sometimes that’s because of growing a different varietal. Most times it is because food from your garden gets picked at the height of ripeness. Planning your garden should be done well ahead of the ideal time to plant.

In preparation for this year’s garden, we made lists of what plants we wanted to grow. Of those plants, we’ve decided which ones were going to grow from seed and which were going to transplant from nursery flats. Over the last month or so, different stores have been having sales on seed packets. Collecting seed packets are a fun first step to building this season’s garden.

Earlier this month, Home Depot had a buy one get one half off sale on herbs and veggies. Even though we cannot plant much yet, we also could not pass up a sale on our favorite garden plants. We bought 20 plants from our local Home Depot.

Those collection of plants include a variety of herbs, a few peppers, a cherry tomato, cabbages and brussel sprouts.

Usually when we bring plants home from the nurseries or the home improvement stores, we leave them on our sunny back stoop until we can get them into the ground, if we don’t plant them that day. This time of year, our sunny back stoop is much too cold for tender plants. Just the other night I watched buckets of snow drop from the sky in the soft yellow light of the street lamp. Later that day, tiny ice balls pelted the ground. We’ve had overnight freeze warnings.

Finding a sunny window inside the house was our only option if we want to keep our newly bought plants alive. With three very curious cats and two equally curious dogs, we also wanted the plants to stay intact and in no way munched.

I live in an old house with three floors. The stairs to the top floor are conveniently blocked by an old door with an old brass doorknob. Neither cats nor dogs venture up there. Two west facing, non-dormered windows fill the third floor with a healthy amount of afternoon sunlight.

All twenty plants were placed into a plastic box and set on some wood to bring them up to window level. Here, they are kept cool, but not cold. Every day they are turned to keep them from growing in one direction. They get watered as needed.

These initial plants are doing well. Once the local nurseries open, we will be adding flats of other plants to grow in our garden. Soon, our early bought herbs and veggies will be bursting from their little peat pots and ready to flourish.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This Wednesday's Poem -- 11 April 12

Beauty is revolting
in a superficial way.
Attraction is deceptive
when it isn't meant to stay.
The game of love's suspense
is one I never wish to play

A philocalist sees beauty most clearly when he keeps his eyes closed.

By: paradox

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pantry Pasta Perfection: Tuna Noodle No Casserole

A week or two ago I was in the middle of spring cleaning which really means spring re-organization. Just about every surface was covered with something. My stomach was rumbling and I wondered what was for dinner. Takeout does not satisfy the way a home cooked meal does.

Why not pull from the pantry? I was spring cleaning after all.

Digging in the pantry I gathered, two cans of tuna, a can of anchovies, a can of string beans, a can of condensed mushroom soup, and two 13.25 oz boxes of whole wheat spaghetti.

First, I filled my pasta pot (with insert) with water and turned on the flame. While that heated, I got out my trusty 7 quart dutch oven. Into the pan, I dumped the entire small can of anchovies plus the packing oil. The tuna was drained before it made it to the pan. I added a touch more olive oil to help sauté the fish.

The very thought of canned anchovies may repulse some of you. For you food snobs out there, the canned product I buy is very nice with wide, firm fillets. Jarred anchovies are nice too because you can just use a few from the jar at a time. Jarred anchovies are also hard to find unless you spend mucho moola more for the same product. This is especially true if the anchovies are packed in salt. Not to mention having to drive to the specialty food store which isn’t worth it if you are only going for one or two items. For those who say, “eww anchovies,” you are missing out on something truly wonderful. Anchovies are not only good for you, they disintegrate as they sauté giving the finished dish an underlying deliciousness.

Canned tuna will never be anything like fresh tuna. I don’t use tuna packed in olive oil because again it is hard to find. I happened to have two cans of solid white in oil in my pantry. This oil is drained because I do not like using soybean oil in my food. Plus they add broth to oil packed tuna.

Before I turned on the heat under the pan, I added a bunch of dried spices. Those included: onion, garlic, thyme, red pepper, oregano, basil, and black pepper. After a quick stir while on a medium flame, I drained then rinsed the green beans. The beans were added to the pan and quickly stirred.

Dried herbs and spices are great. I find them just as good as fresh and when you are pressed for time or space they work very well. The flavor of dried herbs are much more pungent than their fresh counterparts. Some herbs, such as oregano, are actually better dried. The oils become much more concentrated and cooking them in a little oil first helps to coax the flavor out of them. When my garden is in full swing, then I’ll use fresh over dry.

Canned veggies need to be rinsed before using. They tend to keep the flavor of the can, which can completely ruin a great dish.

Once I could smell things cooking, I sprinkled seasoned breadcrumbs to just cover the bottom of the pan. The breadcrumbs absorbed the oil as I stirred them to get them toasted lightly.

The water came to a boil and I added some salt before dropping the pasta in the water.

Salt is added to the pasta water to give pasta a little oomph. Otherwise, pasta can taste like cardboard. In cooking, I typically use kosher or sea salt. But in pasta water, I use regular inexpensive table salt. Be careful though, you can over salt the water. The sauce does not need any salt. The soup, fish, beans, and breadcrumbs all already have copious amounts of salt.

As the pasta cooked according to the package directions, I dug the soup out of the can adding it to the beans and tuna. To that, I added a half a can of milk. Because I drink skim, about a quarter can of half and half was thrown into the mix. And, I can’t forget the splash of dry vermouth. Everything was stirred well. A knob of butter gave the sauce a smooth finish.

Resist the urge to add more milk. The breadcrumbs will absorb the liquid. Adding a second can of condensed soup or too much milk will make the sauce soupy. A soupy sauce can turn any pasta into mush rather quickly. If you find that you have too much liquid, cook the sauce without the lid so the excess liquid can evaporate.

The “sauce” was thickish. I turned the sauce down to low while the pasta finished cooking. Once the pasta was ready, I dumped it into sauce pan. Using my wooden spoon, I stirred the pasta and sauce to coat. If it doesn’t coat well, add a couple of ladles of pasta water. The pasta water loosens the sauce and allows it to coat beautifully.

The pasta was creamy without being heavy. The touch of red pepper flakes gave such a balance. This delicious dinner served 4 hungry adults with leftovers to serve at lunch the next day.

I wish I had taken pictures but, before I could breakout the camera or the camera phone we ate it. Imagine a plateful of taupe colored spaghetti with hints of mouth melting tuna punctuated with cut green beans.


Leftovers were spread into a buttered 8-inch square pan. I added milk to the pan to give it more moisture. The top was lightly sprinkled with seasoned breadcrumbs then dotted with butter. It was baked in a 350F degree oven until hot and bubbly which took about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This Wednesday's Poem - 4 April 12

Spring days, spring nights…

Hear the wind course as birds take flight…

The morning a time for growing pains,

The night a time for laughing dreams.

The soul a wondrous creature,

How it gazes out upon the land,

Wishing for hope, for dreams

For midnight moonbeams…

Spring days, spring nights…

Watch for the caterpillar or the worm

Those the birds peck and feed upon--

More lovely their dying, serving part.

by Mark Alan Murray

MARK ALAN MURRAY works, composes and creates in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.