Random Basho Haiku Text Message Generator

I’ve just completed my first very simple Ruby app using Sinatra and the Twilio API, using Git and Bitbucket for version control and deploying with Heroku (I think only Hien will know what this means!). It was a slog but I am very excited. The assignment was to make a form that sends someone a text message to a user-input cell phone number. Not wanting to send random text messages, I chose a carefully curated list of Haikus by the 17th-Century Japanese poet Basho. Enjoy!

https://fathomless-dawn-9751.herokuapp.com (I did not choose the fathomless dawn name, but it seems to go well with the Haikus).

P.S. I’m sorry only US cell phone numbers right now (I think).
P.P.S. You can use this app to send text messages to other people’s phone numbers, but you might want to give them a heads up if you do this, and the text won’t come from a recognizable number . . .

Fleece Wonders from MLK Day “Many Helping Hands” Event

Look at the amazing fleece creations (blankets and scarves) that Many Helping Hands Volunteers came up with at the Cambridge YWCA today! I was astonished by the creativity and joy of these folks. Thanks, all!

For this year’s projects, we tried to have more of a focus on no-sew designs because we always have so much work left over for our sewers. I put out a few very basic examples but people really took it to the next level. I’m really in awe . . .

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The scene at the YWCA

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Woven technique

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Large format applique

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Woven with minimal sewing

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A no-sew looped scarf

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No-sew self-barded border

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Large format applique

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Ties with contrasting border

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Another tie technique

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Tie and appliqué

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Braided fringe

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Self-braid plus contrasting fringe

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Another tie technique

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Excellently done . . .

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Tied technique . . .

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. . . almost looks like it moves

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Proud creators

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Double-looped no-sew

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Fantastic effect with ties only

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Self-braided edging

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Tied blanket (designer and implementor)

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The fabulous sewing team!

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The scene at the YWCAIMG_0243Woven techniqueLarge format appliqueWoven with minimal sewingIMG_0249A no-sew looped scarfNo-sew self-barded borderLarge format appliqueTies with contrasting borderAnother tie techniqueTie and appliquéIMG_0259IMG_0260Braided fringeSelf-braid plus contrasting fringeIMG_0264Another tie techniqueExcellently done . . .Tied technique . . .. . . almost looks like it movesProud creatorsDouble-looped no-sewIMG_0272Fantastic effect with ties onlyIMG_0274Self-braided edgingIMG_0276IMG_0277IMG_0278Tied blanket (designer and implementor)The fabulous sewing team!IMG_0284IMG_0286

No-Sew Fleece Scarves and Blankets

I’m looking forward to helping with the Many Helping Hands event in Cambridge again this year on MLK Day, January 19th. I’ll be helping make fleece blankets and scarves and despite the presence of many devoted sewers there’s always a lot of sewing left to do afterwards. With this in mind, I looked around for some interesting no-sew scarf (and blanket) ideas. See my comments below each image and click on any image to get more details.

A nice twist on the "tie" method with two colors -- could also be down on the horizontal
A nice twist on the “tie” method with two colors — could also be down on the horizontal
A nice "threaded" technique using a double heart, leaf or diamond template
A nice “threaded” technique using a double heart, leaf or diamond template
An alternative to the tied border -- perhaps less bulky
An alternative to the tied border — perhaps less bulky
Another border technique, using a single piece of fleece
Another border technique, using a single piece of fleece
A "woven" idea (would not implement as an infinity scarf). A thin piece of fleece could also be threaded through a scarf for a rushed effect
A “woven” idea (would not implement as an infinity scarf). A thin piece of fleece could also be threaded through a scarf for a ruched effect
Ruched scarf. This one is sewn but rushing could be accomplished by weaving through a thin piece of fleece and tying or threading into the ends of the scarf
Ruched scarf. This one is sewn but rushing could be accomplished by weaving through a thin piece of fleece and tying or threading into the ends of the scarf

For those of you who are on Pinterest, here’s a link to the board with additional images/links below.

Follow Rachael Burger’s board No-Sew Fleece Scarves and Blankets on Pinterest.

Thanksgiving-Time Volunteer Opportunities with Children (Cambridge/Somerville)

Several of us have talked over time about finding volunteer opportunities that involve children. Here are a couple ideas for Thanksgiving time . . .

Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) organizes volunteers to deliver meals on Thanksgiving morning. You use your own car and go in your own team or get paired up with one other person. I think these are the meals-on-wheels routes/recipients, but this is for the Thanksgiving meal. We have done this as a family since 2009. We’re generally finished by noon. For this opportunity, you need to have a criminal check (CORI) which as I recall isn’t too complicated. You can contact Marie Mazzeo at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services if you’re interested: 617-628-2601 x3051 or mwilson@eldercare.org

In the past, we have also delivered food (not on Thanksgiving day, but a few days before) with the Salvation Army in Central Square, Cambridge (my car, with my son, and a volunteer from the Salvation Army). In this case, we were delivering a box of food (frozen turkey, etc.) also in Somerville. The volunteer was very nice. There was a short talk about church up front but then we moved on to other topics. I didn’t have to have a CORI check for this opportunity. Salvation Army (Cambridge) phone is: (617) 547-3400

In addition, The Little Sister of the Poor (Highland Ave in Somerville – Spring Hill) welcomes donations of pies on Thanksgiving. This is a center for low-income elders. Very nice folks. They particularly enjoy pecans! 617.776.4420

Please note that SCES (Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services) has a number of excellent volunteer programs. I work as a Money Management volunteer and they always need more volunteers for this important program. Happy to talk with anyone about this too.

I am also a fan of the food pantry at the Unitarian Universalist Church near Medford Square (on High Street). More information and drop-off donation times here: http://www.uumedford.org/pantry.html.

Jam Jam Jam

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On Friday, my 9-year old and I made jam using strawberries and rhubarb (with a little mint thrown in) from the garden. We got seven pints of delicious jam! He took the lead, hulling strawberries, sterilizing the jars, cooking the jam and preparing the pot for the canning. I made green soup at the same time. It was fun and all came out great.

Here’s our basic jam recipe which seems to work pretty well with the different fruits we’ve picked (strawberries, rhubarb, plums, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes!). 

Ingredients: 

2 c. fruit
1 c. sugar
1 t. Pomona’s Universal Pectin*
1 t. Pomona’s calcium water (come with the Pomona’s packet and you mix it up)
Thai or italian basil or mint to taste, finely chopped (we like basil in blueberries, mint in strawberries and rhubarb, ginger/clove/cinnamon in tomatoes). 
Some people also add a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice but I haven’t bothered with this as of late.

(normally I do 6 – 8 c. of fruit in a 3 quart pan, but these — above — are the base proportions).


Directions: 

1) In a large pot, boil water and sterilize jars and lids (this is the same pot that you’ll boil the jam in after it’s ready). 

2) Heat fruit and calcium water at low heat until they get mushy and star to break down and bubble.

3) Add sugar (with pectin mixed in) to fruit and cook at a medium boil for at least 3 minutes. If you’re adding basil or other flavoring, add it with the fruit. Stir only as necessary so jam doesn’t settle on the bottom.

4) Take a bit of your jam and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes and test to make sure it sets up. (It usually does, but better test up front then have to redo your jam later). If it has not set, boil longer and/or add pectin to your mixture. You can also sense whether your jam is setting by observing the extent to which the jam from your stirring spoon (once it’s sitting for a minute or two while you’re not stirring firms up).

5) spoon the jam into jars (with a sterile implement and clean hands), leaving 1/4” of space at the top. If there’s jam on the rim, outside, or in that 1/4” space, wipe it off with a super-clean cloth in hot water or with a super-clean finger.

6) close lids firmly and boil (with 1” of water at least over the tops) in your large pot for 10 minutes. (I use a vegetable strainer at the bottom of my large pot to support the jar and boil 4-5 jars at a time).

7)  remove your jars and let them cool — you’ll hear the tops pop. 

Comments:

This method has worked quite well across a variety of fruits. I have never had spoilage. I have had batches that didn’t take (or didn’t take very well) but the testing in the freezer seems to eliminate this. I tried making all sorts of jams without pectin (in this case, I usually add lemon or lime juice and have tried making natural pectin from citrus seeds, as I recall) and it worked sometimes and sometimes not. In any case, requires more boiling and I guess I like my fruit not to be overdone (though it is thoroughly cooked). You can always try a little less pectin for fruits that naturally have more pectin. Enjoy!

* I use Pomona’s pectin — it’s supposed to be a natural, low-sugar pectin, though my recipes are not really low sugar. You can also use Ball pectin but I find I have to use more to get a batch to thicken.

First Harvest

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Picked the first fruits of the garden this weekend and cooked them up into a vegetable sautée and a rhubarb crumble. Delicious!

Above: bok choy, pea tendrils (both bought from Russos as plants about a month ago), asparagus, chives, and rhubarb (all perennials).

This year, I’ll be adding some new vegetables — okra, watercress, brussel sprouts and lebanese squash (similar to kousa squash) — to accompany lettuce, spinach, cauliflower (you can eat the leaves too and they are abundant), tomatoes, long green and purple beans (an easy-growing favorite), peas, and peppers. I’ve also put verbena, lemon balm, and a new kind of mint into the garden. The thyme bush is going gangbusters: did you know you can make tea out of thyme? More pics to come.

A Salad a Day

About November when temperatures drop, my mood seems to drop with them. A number of years back I tried an all-raw diet, but found it difficult to maintain and very high in oil and nuts. I found that a salad a day was enough to keep my spirits up and made me feel both vital and nourished. Having done this now for a number of years, I thought I’d chronicle these salads in all their beauty.

January 17, 2014

romaine, baby spinach, roasted brussel sprouts, home-made dhokla, home-made sauerkraut, chickpeas, trader joe's greek feta dressing.

January 23, 2014

Baby spinach, romaine, Trader Joe's greek feta dressing, home-made left-over Poha with Tofu and roasted veggies.

January 24, 2014

I admit there's not much salad on this plate (there is some) but this is lunch on a rare date with my husband at Ritu Ki Rasoi.

January 25, 2014

Salad with Nassir and Randa. Romaine, baby greens, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sale & pepper.

January 26, 2014

Romaine, baby greens, seed mixture (raw flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seeds), greek feta dressing, and pao bhaji (savory indian potato in an iggy's brioche roll with sautéed sesame jalapenas).

January 27, 2014

Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak (onions, tomato, indian spices).

January 28, 2014

Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, cucumber, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak.

January 29, 2014

baby spinach, mashed avocado, olive oil, salt, pepper

February 3rd, 214

romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, trader joe's goddess dressing

February 2nd, 2014

romaine, ras seeds, ranch dressing, leftover fruit salad

February 1st, 2014

romaine, cucumber, salt, pepper, raw seeds

January 31st, 2014

romaine, seeds, olive oil, granny smith apples

romaine, baby spinach, roasted brussel sprouts, home-made dhokla, home-made sauerkraut, chickpeas, trader joe's greek feta dressing.Baby spinach, romaine, Trader Joe's greek feta dressing, home-made left-over Poha with Tofu and roasted veggies.I admit there's not much salad on this plate (there is some) but this is lunch on a rare date with my husband at Ritu Ki Rasoi.Salad with Nassir and Randa. Romaine, baby greens, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sale & pepper.Romaine, baby greens, seed mixture (raw flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seeds), greek feta dressing, and pao bhaji (savory indian potato in an iggy's brioche roll with sautéed sesame jalapenas).Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak (onions, tomato, indian spices).Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, cucumber, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak.baby spinach, mashed avocado, olive oil, salt, pepperromaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, trader joe's goddess dressingromaine, ras seeds, ranch dressing, leftover fruit saladromaine, cucumber, salt, pepper, raw seedsromaine, seeds, olive oil, granny smith apples

Chocolate Pie

I cut out this recipe years ago and recently brought this pie to Thanksgiving. This recipe is nice in that it is simple, gluten-free, and can be adapted to be vegan as well (just substitute coconut oil for butter and coconut milk for heavy cream). This pie is rich — almost like fudge, and benefits from the use of high-quality semi-sweet chocolate (e.g. Caillebaut). Enjoy!

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The Five Remembrances via Allen Ginsberg

We’ve been reading Fear by Thich Nhat Nanh in sangha and this week I have to present on the chapter on the Five Remembrances, which are as follows:

1) I am subject to aging; I have not gone beyond aging;
2) I am subject to illness; I have not gone beyond illness;
3) I am subject to death; I have not gone beyond death;
4) All that is dear to me, and everyone I love, are of the nature to change. I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.
5) I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.

Interestingly, Wikipaedia is a pretty good source for context on the five remembrances as is this 2005 article in Yoga Journal by Frank Jude Boccio.

As I was working with the Five Remembrances, a song kept coming into my head — “Father Death Blues” by Allen Ginsberg, which I first heard live from Ginsberg himself in 1988 at a Jack Kerouac Festival in Lowell, MA. For me, Ginsberg’s catchy, dirge-like composition captures much of the essence of this practice: keep close to death in order to realize the preciousness of life.

Here is Ginsberg accompanying himself on the harmonium (and Indian instrument that’s closest to an accordion that he uses here in a drone-like fashion). I did my own (somewhat abbreviated version) with guitar below.

Father Death Blues Cover, by Rachael

Key Lime Pie

keylime
This is a super-easy, no-bake, eggless key lime pie that I made for my son’s 9th and 10th birthdays. I don’t like to cook with eggs and turns out eggs are not at all essential to this recipe, which I’ve adapted from this recipe by Jennifer McHenry of answers.com.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (this was equivalent to 1 “pack” (of four) in the box I bought
6 – 8 T fat (I used 6 T. coconut oil and 2 T butter, but you could use all butter, olive oil, or combine fats)

Crush graham crackers (I used a cuisinart or blender) then add desired fat until mixture starts to take shape.

Spread mixture into a 9” pie plate, pressing the mixture up into the sides of the pie plate.
Put in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes then let cool.

Filling

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 pack (8 oz). cream cheese, softened
1/2 t. vanilla
2/3 c. key lime juice (if you don’t have key limes, regular limes work fine)
zest of 1/2 lime (I recommend using organic limes if you want to add zest, and washing limes carefully before zesting).

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into baked pie crust, smooth of the top with a spatula (if necessary/desired) and refrigerate.