Friday, November 29, 2013

St Petersburg Museum Day

We have been enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving holiday with my daughter, Nicole, and her fiance John and his parents. It has been a real bonding of families, and I've never laughed so much in my life!

Today we visited the Salvador Dali museum  where we saw the absolutely stunning work called Santiago El Grande. I'm including a picture of it from the internet, but believe me when I say that this doesn't even come close. For one thing, the real painting must be 12 feet tall. If you ever have the opportunity, you should by all means go see it. It was intensely spiritual and very beautiful.

After the Dali museum, we checked out a Chihuly exhibit at the Morean Arts Center . We could take pictures in there, so of course I took the opportunity for a few selfies, which I will spare you!. We have seen Chilhuly in Tuscon and of course, there is the beautiful light fixture at the Eastman School in our home town of Rochester NY.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Shrine

I'm a Tibetan Buddhist and I keep a modest shrine. Today I decided it needed to completely cleaned and reset - something a do 3 or 4 times a year.

A Buddhist shrine is all about offerings. The bottom level, from left to right is water for drinking, water for washing, flowers, incense, candles, perfume, food, and song. One can use bowls of water and simply visualize the offerings, or have representations of the offerings. I think it is good to have as nice a shrine as you can muster - "nice" being what you think is nice. Because it's your offering, after all!

 Here's a meditation I wrote some time ago about the offerings. It isn't very orthodox - but I'm not a very orthodox person, I guess!

Offering Bowls

The first offering is drinking water. I think about how dry my throat felt when I worked on a limestone parking lot when I was 17 in Central Texas and then Mr. Teague brought me a drink of water. Water coming out of a cold well. The water pitcher in my mother's refridge. The sound of the ice cubes when the are half melted and the condensation is dribbling down the side of the glass. My daughter taking the cup for the first time. Ice chips on my tongue when I was in the hospital. Holding my grandmother in my arms and offering her a cool drink on the hot July day when she died. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The second offering is washing water. I think about my shower this morning. Bathing my daughter the first time. The wonderful feeling of a shower after a long camping trip. The cold shower on our retreat land, the feel of the pine boards under my feet, the shivering cold wet plastic that brushes against me as I go out. The different feelings of ocean water and lake water. The amniotic fluid rushing out of me as they ruptured my membranes. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The third offering is flowers. I think about the strong smell of lilies in my lily garden. The flowers in my bridal bouquet. The thousands of small bunches of iris my ex  gave me. The flowers in the wreath for my daughter's First Holy Communion. The wreath of wild flowers Eva wove for Garchen Rinpoche and how delighted he was and how wonderfully silly he looked. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The fourth offering is incense. I think about the incense in my childhood church, which was a wonderful maple syrup smell. I think about the sensor clanging against the metal chain, the smoke rising. I think about the smoke of hundreds of campfires, as a child and as an adult. I think about fireplace fires. I think about the strange smells of the incense that the monks used on retreat last summer. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The fifth offering is light. I think about the light of my kitchen window when I drive home on a snowy night. I think about my bathroom night-light, the flashlight I dropped down the "unflushable" at camp, of lying on the ground and watching the zillion stars in a summer Texas sky, not being able to sleep because of the unbearable beauty of it, total eclipses and sunburns, the meteor shower. I think about the Advent wreath, Christmas tree, and a romantic candlelit table. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The sixth offering is perfumed water. I think about my mother's perfume (Channel #5), I think about the smell of my daughter when she was a baby, the smells of cinnamon rolls, sauteed onions, fresh mown grass, the smell of rain, the smell of gin and tonic and lime. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The seventh offering is food. I think about what I had for breakfast. I think of the tastes of Altoids, of thanksgiving turkey and dressing, of chocolate cake, of Popsicle. I remember my favorite meal and offer that. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The eight and last offering is sound. I think of the chirping of crickets, of the sound of birds at dawn, my daughter's first words, of church bells, the no sound when Grandma died, the sound of my Vajra brothers and sisters singing long life prayers, the rattle of my gau, the sounds of lovemaking, the sound of the Chod trumpet. The sound of my own voice. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

By the merit of these offerings, by the merit of samsara and nirvana, may all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gift Ideas for the Foodie in your Life - Part One

Are you looking for a holiday gift for that foodie in your life, but really don't know where to start? In my next few posts, I'll share some of the things that have made my heart sing. And good news: most of them are very inexpensive!

First up: a magnetic knife rack. I never trusted those knife blocks. What's in there? At the very least the dust of the ages. The whole thing just makes me feel ooky. So when my better half surprised me with this magnetic knife rack, I was thrilled! As you can see, I have a nice little collection of knives, but if I had some extra room, I'd add my church key (that's "bottle opener" to you!) and my potato peeler. This thing is a champ. And you can get one for your favorite cook for under $11 for 12" of magnetic goodness. Trust me on this one: everyone who comes in my kitchen and lays eyes on this wants one of their very own.

My second suggestion is this flat, mesh skimmer. I originally got it to help fish out poached eggs. I hate it when my toast gets soggy from the cooking water, don't you? This does the trick. But it is good for a lot of jobs. For example, when I pop corn (in my wok!) I can use this to stir the corn while I spray butter on it. It's fabulous. It's good for fishing solids out of broth. I have had this for about 15 years and I bet I've used it 3 times a week every week since I bought it. I got mine at Williams Sonoma, but you might want to check out Amazon where I saw a nice one in the $8 neighborhood. Don't spend too much for this. You shouldn't have to!

Now, haven't you always wanted to own something by Ronco? Well, here is your chance! Let me introduce you to a little piece of heaven on earth - the Ronco ST3001SSGEN Showtime Compact Rotisserie. Yes, this is a little more expensive than the other two items in today's post, but at $80 it's still quite a bargain. This gem makes the juiciest, most delish chicken you have ever tasted, I promise you!. It takes a little effort to truss up a chicken and get it balanced on the rotisserie, but after you've done it a few times, you will be a pro. It takes about 15 minutes a pound to cook a chicken, and the drippings make a luscious gravy. I'm not a fan of those mega chickens they seem to have in the grocery stores these days. A chicken is not supposed to be 5 pounds! I find then to be rather tough. But not when they are cooked on this beauty - I guarantee they will be tender and juicy. My experience with small birds (cornish game hens, for example, that come in at a pound - pound and a half range) are not as good because they just don't take long enough to cook. But the smaller 3 pound organic free range chickens are wonderful Cleanup isn't hard because all the main parts break down and will go in the fridge. I think we use this about every other week when the outdoor cooking season comes to an end.

So, there you go: three ideas for some kick-ass presents! Next time we will talk about a noodle maker, a really nice frying pan, and mixing bowls.