Monthly Archives: May 2015

Sesame seeds are your friends

My autocorrect turns the word sesame into seamen which sounds vaguely dirty. Who talks about seamen anyway? Why would autocorrect feel that talking about men at sea is more common than discussing small, nutritious seeds? I mean when’s the last time you ever heard anybody use seamen in a sentence?? Maybe in Alaska or fishing villages it gets more play: “The fish are running superbly this year. Let us pray the seamen return with a fine catch.”

So anyway. I want to tell you about brown seamen. Strike that; I want to tell you about brown sesame. If you’re anything like I was, you don’t give sesame seeds much thought. They are the little white things that fall off bread and collect on your plate, right? Turns out there is more to them. Turns out those little white things are hulled sesame seeds, whereas brown sesame seeds are unhulled and similar to brown rice and brown, i.e., whole wheat bread, more nutritious.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown from a bag of Bob’s Red Mill:

Fiber, Calcium, Iron, oh my!

Fiber, Calcium, Iron, oh my!

Not only are they better for you, they also taste like something, which is not generally true of white sesame seeds. Whenever I get a new product to try, I eat some plain, right out of the container. A spoonful of brown sesame seeds is dense and chewy – it takes awhile to chow down – with a somewhat nutty flavor. That said, I doubt many people eat them by the spoonful.

If you’ve ever bought sesame seeds from the spice aisle, you may have noticed they’re usually sold in a dinky container with a high price. However, buying larger portions (which I’ve found online) brings the price per pound down considerably. The way I figure, for spices, seeds, and such that I go through a lot of, it makes sense to purchase large sizes, freeze the bulk of it and pull portions out when needed to fill a small container. (For other examples, I buy big containers of cinnamon and basil because I go through both fast.)

I keep sesame seeds in the refrigerator (they should be refrigerated or frozen)

I keep sesame seeds in the refrigerator (they should be refrigerated or frozen)

So what to do with brown sesame seeds other than eat them by the spoonful? I put them into baked goods like breads and muffins, but their usefulness is not limited to people who bake. They are great additions to smoothies, blender drinks, cereals hot and cold, and homemade “icecream”. I found that once I started using them, it was easy to find foods to add them to (which is different than a nutritious additive like flax seed, say, which has bitter-ish taste and doesn’t go well with everything). There are also black sesame seeds – who knew?! – that have a nutrition profile similar to brown.

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Because squirrels (sometimes) amuse me

I set up my seasonal screen tent last week. The mosquitoes have landed. So to speak. We have the misfortune of having the aggressive Asian Tiger mosquito, a mosquito distinguished by a white line on its back, which is active during the day and bites repeatedly. Wicked little bastards. I adore sitting outside. And the tent makes that possible.

I took photos of my bird bath and squirrel drinking station last year. I wasn’t going to repeat myself except that today in a fairly short span, I had 4 squirrels visit and captured a few interesting shots. At least I think it was 4 different squirrels – I admit that unless one has a differentiating feature, I don’t necessarily know them apart.

This one had to get way up on his elbows/haunches because the water was a bit low.

This one had to get way up on his elbows/haunches because the water was a bit low.

This squirrel seemed to be enjoying a drink...

This squirrel seemed to be enjoying a drink…

...and then turned to give me a dirty look!

…and then turned to give me a dirty look!

This squirrel was enjoying a drink...

This squirrel was enjoying a drink…

...and then became concerned about something...

…and then became concerned about something…

...which turned out to be another squirrel (the first promptly disappeared under the hosta upon the newcomer's arrival).

…which turned out to be another squirrel (the first promptly disappeared under the hosta upon the newcomer’s arrival).

The newcomer then became concerned with... the stone lion apparently.

The newcomer then became concerned with… the stone lion apparently.

This is not mine but I see it every year and every year it knocks me sideways. How can it do that?! I only recently learned the variety is likely “Conversation Piece,” which is perfect.

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More, more, more

I read this post by Angie and had enough thoughts surface that I wanted to respond in post. I’ve touched on these topics before but have more to say.

We live in a culture that encourages us to want more, more of everything. It’s our siren song. It is very difficult to resist its pull and stay a functioning, reasonably respected member of society. People who truly resist, who refuse to run the races, climb the ladders, collect the prizes, aspire for more of everything, and who live on the periphery and beyond, are not looked on kindly. Something must be wrong with them. And truth be told, oftentimes – at least sometimes – there is.

I wonder too, is it essentially part of the human condition to be dissatisfied? To want? Philosophers and social scientists and religious scholars have long devoted their work to these questions. I know how all that desirin’ and covetin’ is said to be the root of unhappiness. For me though, the questions remain unanswered. I’m too entrenched in my Western, first world point of view to know how much is in my DNA – and subsequently more difficult to shake – and how much is culturally driven when it comes to wants and satisfaction.

I tell you this. I recognize these things in myself and others. A certain amount of wanting can drive a person to get things done, be productive, and improve their lot. We get into trouble, though, when there’s no joy to be had, no pleasure in living and life is always focused on the end zone or what’s next. Or simply, on what’s wrong.

Some years back people, mainly women, started talking about and writing “Gratitude journals.” The idea being to shift one’s focus from a litany of complaints, grievances, and dissatisfactions to the good stuff that is often overlooked and/or taken for granted. The idea is that where you put your focus, your experiences will follow. I.e., what you think about is what you’ll get more of, so you can retrain your brain according to the theory, and consequently change your circumstances (or at least how you feel about them).

I never kept a Gratitude journal; it wasn’t quite my style. Instead, I came up with my own little practice that I do from time to time. In that (ideally) brief period of wakefulness before going to sleep, when one’s mind looks over the day or revisits grievances or whatever else it is inclined to do, I ask myself to mentally list ten good things in my life. They might be events or people or tangible things. They need only be positive. It’s an interesting exercise. It doesn’t preclude having whatever unhappy or worried thoughts I might have, but it must minimally be done in addition to them.

Knocking out five or so isn’t too hard. But as the number gets higher, sometimes I must stretch a bit or repeat ones from a previous accounting. “My bed” and “a refrigerator full of good food” are frequent listees. That’s okay. There’s no harm in acknowledging and appreciating such basic parts modern life. In fact, it’s good. Not everybody has those things. They are marvelous gifts. I need to remember that.

This links to something else from the original post. The fear many of us have of not having enough, not being enough. It seems insufficient – or so the message goes – to be thought of, or consider ourselves and our lives as “ordinary.” Ordinary is clearly nothing to be proud of; one must be constantly defending their own existence. Heaven forbid you just go about your quiet business and take up space. My thought here is that statistically speaking alone, most people are bound to be ordinary. How many “extraordinary” people do you know?

Unfortunately, too many people feel a pressure to “puff themselves up,” to sell themselves like mad in an effort to compensate for this ordinariness they feel within themselves. They are SO busy, their lives are jam-packed, they have SO much going on, they say. The virtuousness of the busy. I do think some people thrive on constant motion, activity, and chaos, but not nearly so many as who live by these practices. Scrambling all around does not seem to make them all that happy or peaceful. It just makes them occupied.

Short Thought 121 (anti-aging)

I’ve brought this up before. In a print ad, I saw a campaign for anti-aging Olay¬© makeup featuring Katie Holmes. Beautiful, youthful Katie Holmes. Worrying about not showing her age (which turns out to be 35). Ahaha! I wonder how old ladies, once they get out their reading glasses and magnifier that is, feel about blurrily seeing such rubbish? “That poor Katie Holmes,” I bet they think, “Look at her, aging so dreadfully. Good thing she got hold of the right foundation.”

Let’s fix up a bird cage thingie!

Two years ago while shopping I found a small decorative cage that was marked way down, under a buck. I was intrigued. It was obviously on sale because it was quite disfigured, like a giant had squeezed it in his paw-like hand. I wondered how it had gotten mangled, especially since it was made of strong metal. There was no way I could bend it back by my hand so I put it on the floor of the store aisle and stood on it, using my body weight to mostly realign the shape. (Wonder how that little display looked on the security cameras?)
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And what did I need a decorative birdcage for you ask? Well, when I saw it I had an idea I could put suet for wild birds in it, so squirrels and big greedy blackbirds couldn’t gobble up all of the treat. (There are fancy-schmancy suet holders you can buy for this purpose but given my thrifty nature, well…) And I did use it successfully for that purpose the first winter. The little birds were initially leery but they got the hang of it.

It wasn’t looking all that great now from its time outside, and if I was going to keep it, it would have to be nicer. A friend (and long-time supporter of this blog) recently offered me some bright aqua spray paint. I love the color aqua and was sure I could do something with it. So I used that to paint the cage proper and decorated the little metal bird on top with other leftover paint I had. I was obviously unconcerned with its plumage resembling any actual bird.
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The cute bird sold me on this cage

The cute bird sold me on this cage

The little door opens

The little door opens