COVID19 Gratitude?! Plus I’m working on my 1st podcast ever! by da-AL


Podcast photo of da-AL with K-D for Happiness Between Tails.
We’re hard at work on an upcoming podcast for you to enjoy!…

“Stay safe.” How many times a day do you hear that? During this COVID19 era, whether the conversation is for business or pleasure, the majority of mine end with someone telling me, “Stay safe.” Then I ask them to do the same.

Here in Los Angeles, weeks have turn into months. No complaints from me, proud of the liberal blueness of my state as I am. Assuming folks remind me to ‘stay safe’ at home with super-clean hands, for my part, I mean something different. Stay safe, dear reader — stay safely happy as well as healthy.

Now that we’re on the subject, how are you managing that? Me, I do my usual keeping busy. Let me preface that with: it’s easy for me. I am most definitely lucky, lucky, lucky. I’ve got food, shelter, and all my people are sound inside and out. That includes my four-legged furry little girl. And I live in an area where Spring has sprung amid a fabulously mild climate.

Recently I heard that sheltering has affected dogs (surely the menagerie of other beloved pets too) — in a good way! It turns out that at least one doggie needed vet-prescribed relaxation to recover from wagging their tail so much. Ah, the sheer bliss of having one’s person(s) home ‘round the clock, ‘round the week!

My heart goes out to everyone who struggles as a result of the pandemic. Thank you, all who are working away from home. You are my heroes.

But I feel guilty. You too? Because for as terrible as the situation is…

These are some of the gifts that I will miss when sheltering is over…

  1. I live within walking distance from a commuter airport, and my home has single-paned windows. Fewer flights mean I’ve been sleeping better and now I hear more birds in the daytime.
  2. Though I didn’t eat out much even before the sheltering, stocking up for two weeks at a time takes rethinking errands and cooking. That’s not so bad — I’m finding that shopping far less often leaves me more time to write, to walk, to do all kinds of things.
  3. Nature too is getting a ‘reboot.’ Fewer drivers result in cleaner air, more birds singing this spring-time, and less road-kill. It’s nice to look up to a night sky of more twinkling stars, fewer airplanes.
  4. It’s lovely to see neighbors I never knew. They ride their bikes past my window, their kids following like ducklings.
  5. More pets are out with their owners. On my strolls, dog in tow or not, it’s a relief to not worry about rush-hour traffic mowing us down.
  6. People are adopting more pets!
  7. My expenses are down. Since this started, I haven’t needed to put gas in my car.
  8. I have less laundry and buy fewer clothes I haven’t gotten my hair styled, and I definitely use fewer cosmetics.
  9. My rare drives are a breeze in the reduced traffic.
  10. Definitely, it would be great to see my friends and family in person soon. On the other hand, with all this extra time, we’re keeping in closer contact thanks to Zoom and FaceTiming. Moreover, visual visits require us to really pay attention to each other.
  11. When I had my annual physical, speaking with my doctor didn’t cost me a co-pay, as it was a phone visit.
  12. Without the commute to parties and my beloved yoga studio, I’m keeping fitter with fewer days of over-indulgence and the daily zoom workouts.
  13. My husband is whiling away his extra time by assuming much of the grocery shopping and cooking duties.
  14. For all anyone knows, I’ve got a mustache and mask-tan lines on face — but I won’t tell!

Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels this way. When I asked my Facebook friends, they had plenty they appreciated. I forgot to ask permission to name them, so I’ll paraphrase. Some are exercising to videos and glad for more time to cook, garden, create art, and to watch old and new favorite TV shows. Personally, I’m totally on the same page as the friend who’s binging on “Monk” shows. Even my local newspaper, The Long Beach Post News’ columnist Tim Grobaty, reports some good fallout from all the pollution slow-down.

Need some self-soothing boosts? Here are three f-r-e-e apps that help me — this one from Australia, this one through a company that also features free mind games, and this one that utilizes tapping.

People are grateful for…

  1. Time to enjoy flowers.
  2. Along a beach on Lake Huron, Canada, the sky is breathtaking… clean, clear days and inky nights with exuberant stars.
  3. I’m using less gas, and I love how gasoline prices have dropped.
  4. Less traffic is excellent for motorcycling.
  5. Now I have time to practice meditation.
  6. Now there are a lot of swans at my park.
  7. I’ve got more time to garden. The clean air and bright sun are lovely on my walks with my dogs.
  8. I’ve taught myself new line dances as I practice in my kitchen!
  9. As a baking enthusiast, I’m taking cakes to friends stuck at home.
  10. I don’t like that I still have to go to work, but it’s nice to see others spending more time with their children.
  11. This is giving everyone a chance to reevaluate their priorities.
  12. My cat has more time to sit on me.
  13. My blood pressure is way down.
  14. I’m feeling more relaxed and healthier than I have in years.

What’ll you miss once the pandemic is over? Are there any gifts you’re determined to maintain?

More of Happiness Between Tails posts regarding the current crisis are here and here and here and here and here and here.

Now about my first podcast — I’m hard at work on it! It’ll be ready for your listening pleasure soon!

Video music nirvana plus Happy Nature Day and all days by da-AL


Our Nature Day picnic turned out nicer than we expected. Our impromptu Nature Day picnic turned out nicer than we expected.

Did you know that April Fool’s Day is celebrated in Iran too? Thirteen days after Persian New Year (our 1st day of Spring, which you saw us celebrating here and here and here), Persians stay out all day and play games. It’s Sizdah Be-dar (literally 13 Outdoor), also called Nature Day. One must dispel any potential bad luck from the number thirteen. Some people like to play innocent pranks on that day too!

Often that 13th day falls around Easter, filling local parks to double their capacity. So many people gather that folks will run into childhood friends, ones from other countries.

Sheltering, quarantine, house arrest, what’s in a name? Yes, it’s grim, but it also bespeaks of a hopeful world, one where everyone is pulling together (not counting the every-present handful of conspiracy theorists). (Here and here and here and here and here are a few more posts to cheer you through the crisis.)

Nature Day was an at-home workday for us. Half-heartedly, my husband and I set a modest picnic under the dwarf kumquat tree in our little front yard. Our sweet doggie joined us for a quick round of cards over tea and Persian cookies. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were having fun. Then we ran back indoors to return to our at-home work. Dinner involved more Persian deliciousness – see in this post that reveals how Persian food has something for everyone!

Get in close to smell Khashayar's bubbling tomato-bean-potato stew. Get in close to smell Khashayar’s bubbling tomato-bean-potato stew.

No, I don’t have a right to complain — not when people have suffered far worse and continue to do so. We’re all well here. This far, California seems to have evaded the tsunami of illness that’s still predicted to swell, probably thanks largely to our horrid mass transit that scares folks off from piling together into busses and subways.

Family in Iran, thank the heavens, is fine if we don’t count how the country has been walloped by the epidemic, amid a grossly hobbled infrastructure.

I’m rambling. Forgive me. This is what one does when one is cooped up for weeks, relegated to video chats and to regarding anything to do with life outdoors as if its all of it is radioactive waste, from people to food to petting — hands off! — each other’s dogs, and why aren’t you wearing a mask? Well, I thought outdoors…

Thank goodness for the arts. I’ve got this video-post about my enchantment with those who pursue arts and hobbies for no other compensation than inner glee.

A gift to you from Iran! Here’s some of my extended family there sharing fine musicianship — enjoy their classical Persian music performance of “Tak Derakt: Single Tree”…

With that loveliness in mind, here are a few photos from my dear husband’s visit to Tehran several years ago. (Here and here are more about that same trip.)…

The whole of Tehran turns green in Spring. The whole of Tehran turns green in Spring.
Even at night this Tehran bridge is colorful. Even at night this Tehran bridge is colorful.
Flowers in Spring in Tehran. Flowers in Spring in Tehran.
Tehran's spring-time snowy mountains. Tehran’s spring-time snowy mountains.

If you want a better idea of how a real Sizdah Bedar is meant to be, look here and feel here.

How are you fairing indoors, dear reader? Healthy and happy, I hope…

Guest Blog Post: More Eats from Less by Angela Bell


Do you adore lyrical, thoughtful novels? I want to meet you! Thank you, blogosphere, for introducing me to blogger Angela Bell who I met through her love of books. Self-described as, “New England-born, Pennsylvania raised, and 100% Italian-American, ” Angela’s posts are filled with intelligence. My favorite line of hers is, “While time marches on, life around you, if you allow it to, also becomes more interesting, more stimulating, and even a tad freer… and age, in fact, matters less and less.”

Here Angela teaches us how everyday forgotten abundance can be diverted from landfills and nourish us…

Blogger Angela Bell.

Making the Most of Stems and Scraps by Angela Bell

My daughter Emily is a Culinary Institute of America graduate with a nutrition certification from a Cornell program. She points out that if this (COVID10) confinement continues, we may have to learn to make better use of what we have. Recognizing that everyone is overwhelmed and probably worried about managing the household food right now, she and I had the following conversation.

Me: Can you give us some ideas for using our kitchen scraps?

Emily: Soup! If you have broccoli or cauliflower stems, dice them, add onion if you have it, and sweat in fat — oil, butter, rendered chicken fat, or bacon fat — over medium heat. When they’re soft, dust with flour and add chicken or vegetable stock. Stir to thicken, season, and puree. You’ve now made a classic French soup from kitchen scraps.

Angela performs alchemy on scraps to achieve epicurean delights.

Me: You taught me to do this with whole broccoli and chicken stock. It’s delicious—a creamy soup without the cream.

Emily: You can make a vegetable stock with any vegetables or vegetable scraps you have on hand, or make a chicken or beef stock with bones leftover from a roast. The longer you simmer the stock, the more collagen you’ll extract. Collagen adds body and may have health benefits. Add vegetable scraps to the pot with the bones, cover with water, simmer for about two hours, strain, and season. Roast chicken or turkey carcasses make great stock, as do bones from beef roasts and fish bones for fish stock. Add that meat “jelly” in the bottom of the roasting pan, too—that’s pure collagen. If you have a pork bone, just throw it in with a pot of beans or a pot of spaghetti sauce, rather than make stock with it.

Me: If I don’t have time to make stock from a roast chicken carcass, I freeze it. All the flavor in the roast chicken, from the herbs or vegetables, roasted it with transfers to the stock. I add water and let the slow cooker do the rest, then strain when it’s done, cool, and use or freeze.

Ice cube trays are handy for freezing pesto and stock.

Me: You mentioned using bacon fat.

Emily: Save rendered bacon fat after cooling and straining, and use in place of olive oil or butter. It adds so much flavor! If you’re making soup or a stew, you can sauté anything that’s going into it in bacon fat first. This is another classical French technique. Refrigerate rendered fat and use within two weeks, or freeze.

Me: What else can we do with stock?

Emily: If we get to a point where we can’t get meat because of supply chain interruptions, we’ll appreciate having stock and rendered fats on hand for flavor. You can cook rice in it, add it to beans, use it to flavor sauce or gravy. I freeze stock in ice cube trays in case I want to deglaze a pan or thin out a sauce.

Me: Some of us have loaded up on fresh vegetables, perhaps more than we can use. How can we prevent waste?

Emily: If you have vegetables ready to expire, blanch, and freeze them. Some, like carrots or green peppers, can be sliced and frozen raw. For best results with vegetables that don’t freeze well, like celery or escarole, prepare a dish and freeze that. You can also make pestos. If you have a bunch of a particular herb, purée it in the blender or food processor, along with the flavorings or ingredients you like, and freeze in ice cube trays. You may want to add a bit of oil to facilitate this. Enjoy over pasta or add to other dishes for flavor.

Vegetable soup is a great way to use up miscellaneous vegetables. The key is not to overcook the vegetables. I sweat them until they’re about half cooked, then add the liquid and simmer just until they’re done. Use water if you don’t have stock—just season it well. You can add shredded leftover meat, rice, pasta, beans, whole grains like farro or bulgur.

When you’re going through the refrigerator or freezer, use a first in/first out mentality. Before buying food, think about using something from the freezer to free up space.

Me: I’ve promised myself I’m going to use up what I have on hand.

Emily: It’s going to take some planning and thought to prevent waste. That might mean taking a look every other day at your fresh fruits and veggies, then deciding to bake some apples or juice some lemons, or make a soup and freeze half of it.

Me: If you’re blessed to be healthy and practice good personal and kitchen hygiene, you can always leave a care package on a neighbor’s doorstep.

Emily: Absolutely, and if you’re experiencing food scarcity for financial reasons or an inability to get to the store, there are programs now to address that. Check with your municipality to see what is available in your area.

Here’s a longer version of this post at Angela’s site.

What are your tips for getting more out of less?

Cultivating Hope Amid Corona Virus (COVID19) Chaos w Video by da-AL


2020 is taking a bit of a nosedive, no? So let’s celebrate the new year again! My husband was born in Iran, where it’s Nowrooz, a non-religious holiday. Here we are with our Persian New Year’s setting…

Here we are with our Persian New Year’s setting.

Spring and new years are laden with blossoms of promise. Regardless of what occurs outside ourselves, they’re opportunities to release our pasts and do what we can to foster good times ahead.

In addition to Iran, other countries participate in Persian New Year (aka Nowrooz, which is spelled many ways due to varying phonetic translations). The list includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Albania. Even Japan celebrates a version of Nowruz!

Here’s a speech about Persian New Year I performed as a member of Toastmasters…

My wish for you, dear reader, that the future brings only the best to you and your loved ones.

 

More on the current crisis here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

How do you cultivate hope and celebration during uncertain times?

Squatting Whole Body Health Benefits and Politics plus Video by da-AL


Picture me sitting on my haunches atop a conference table, assigned to perform an entertaining Toastmasters speech titled, “The benefits and the Politics of Squatting”…

Can you do this and smile? Image by edwindoms610 from Pixabay.

The subject first piqued my interest years ago, when my mom moved in with us. To make things extra comfy for all, we had some construction done on our snug home.

Each morning, a crew of men assembled under our backyard gazebo. Aged from early twenties to eighties, each hailed from Cambodia.

What intrigued me was the way they waited for each other to show up. In totally relaxed full-squats, the gentlemen sipped coffees, munched pastries, chatted, and smoked. Once all were there, they stood — not a one groaned or complained of creaky bones.

Lunch involved more of the same. They full-squatted as they passed around freshly steamed rice with fragrant grilled meat and veggies. Afterward, still squatting, they finished with smokes and maybe a sweet.

Squatting was still on my mind when, a couple of years later, I broke my knee twice in the same year. Torn cartilage, fractured bone, stretched tendon, blah, blah, blah. Ouch!!!! and Ohno!!! don’t begin to cover it.

Enter, Francisco Rufino, a gifted yoga instructor who pointed out that squatting keeps people in India free of knee and back problems.

Voila! Thanks to his suggestion that I squat five times a day, for thirty seconds each time, as I watched TV, my knee is so great that I never needed the surgery that two doctors prescribed! Yesterday I went for a terrific jog, no problemo!

By aligning muscles and organs from toes to neck, squatting aids in…

  • Getting rid of hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and hernias.
  • Preventing heart attacks caused by straining on European-style toilets.
  • Alleviating incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Making pregnancy easier.
  • Guarding reproductive organs, including protecting against prostate cancer.

So why don’t we do it more? When I gave the speech, at least one audience member expressed disgust. My h-a-unch is that we think we’re too good for it — and that includes politically. This Korean woman, married to an Anglo man, explains his chagrin when she and her family socialize while squatting.

Would your family be embarrassed if you performed full squats?

Guest Blog Post: Happy International Women’s Day Pt. 2 of 2 by Denzil


1914 International Women’s Day poster.

Happy International Women’s Day!!! Is it celebrated where you live?

1975 International Women’s Day poster.

All days merit celebrating — for the opportunity to find ourselves still players in the game of life. Each of us is of value — if it was up to me, we’d all begin our mornings with a smile, feeling and saying, “happy me, happy you, happy us in this big beautiful world!”

Regarding wonderful women — I recently found this fun book trailer that includes publishing know-how guru-ess, Jane Friedman

Belgian-British blogger Denzil Walton, who’s a guest writer for Happiness Between Tails here and here, and Part 1 of this here, posts about the wonders of Belgium (and writes for hire too!). Included at his site are some incredible Belgian women!…

Guest Blog Post: Equines Empowering Women! By Anne Leueen


Did you know that owning and caring for a horse or a donkey empowers women? Here blogger Anne Leueen fills us in…

HorseAddict

In the developing world two-thirds of the livestock keepers, that is a total of approximately 400 million, are WOMEN

The Brooke, a charity that focuses on working equines,(horses, donkeys and mules) is a major supporter of the women and of their working equines. The Brooke works in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East reaching over two million working horses donkeys and mules. The Brooke is not a rescue organization but with vets, animal welfare specialists as well as advocacy and development specialists works to improve the lives of working equines and to educate and support their owners.

Photo from Brooke Website

Here is what the Brooke has to say about their work with women.

Owning and caring for equines, alongside earning income from their work, raises women’s social status and recognition in the community. Equines help with household chores, which frees up time for women to participate in…

View original post 300 more words

Happy New Year Everyone from da-AL!!!


Wishing each of you and your loved ones the very best ahead — peace, health, and happiness!!

Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad (l) & Agnetha Fältskog (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

A heartfelt thanks for your visits to Happiness Between Tails — for ‘Taking a Chance’ on this little blog. Never, when I started it a few years ago, did I anticipate that I’d meet so many wonderful people from so many interesting distant places.

Björn Ulvaeus (l) & Benny Andersson (r), “Abba – The Last Video (Official Video)” on YouTube.

Let’s each of us ‘Take a Chance’ on making this world a better place for ourselves and each other, hairy, scaly, feathered, muddy, and all the rest. Hope this makes you smile — keep an eye out for Cher!…

A plea and a solution for food sellers by da-AL


My dear blog reader, if you or anyone you know agrees with the letter below, won’t you please share it, hashtag it, copy/paste it, add your name to it, and do whatever you like to get the basic sentiment out there? (And read on for an additional message to you that follows it.)

Dear Trader Joe’s, as well as other grocery stores and processed food manufacturers,

Food, glorious food! I love your stuff, and I adore it all the better when you sell it in containers that are healthy and easy to re-use.

Rather than cans and near-impossible-to-recycle (let alone repurpose) plastic vacuum-sealed boxes, sell us stuff in containers like these!…

Something delish…
Tastes better when it’s in something useful…
Like how this keeps a snack fresh!

Here’s the kind of jars I love best — think healthy, easy-to-clean, and uniform in which to store my beans, grains, flour, pasta, and such:

  • Straight-sided and where I can easily reach in wash clear down to the bottom.
  • Labels that require just a quick soak to remove.
  • Better yet, no labels at all, as in the case of the adorable drinking glasses illustrated after this letter — how sublime that the Welch’s name appears only in fine print!
  • Interchangeable sizes and lids would be extra classy!

The mustard sauce in the photo is great — and is all the better for the jar!

Yours truly,

da-AL — a customer who I doubt is alone

P.S. Don’t think you can get away with overpricing products with super-cute holiday gift-type containers and expect us to think you’ve done anyone a favor.

Back to you my dear cyberland friend,

As you can guess from above, I’m asking businesses to go beyond using less plastic. It’s lovely when grocers sell us food in glass jars. Let’s encourage them to take it up a gazillion notches by doing something that’ll benefit us while making us more loyal to them!

I hope you’ll share this with anyone who’s as upset as I am with how impossible it is to get away from plastic. Share this with individuals as well as with businesses. Even small gestures can go a long way when they’re multiplied. As consumers, our wallets wield immense power.

Every time I turn around, I read more scary stuff about how corrosive plastics are to our bodies, and downright catastrophic to the environment. There may have been a time when we deluded ourselves that plastic was better than glass, but these days, we know better.

When I was small, my family ate Welch’s jam. Why? Sure, it was tasty, and we needed something not too expensive for our toast — but with all the jams out there, Welch’s outsmarted the others! Theirs was in glass jars meant to be repurposed into drinking glasses! Customers wanted to collect the cute freebies while getting decent jams at the same time.

In the stone-age, harhar, jam came in these. They were great to drink out of and made shoppers want to go buy more to collect them!

Win-win joy here, there, everywhere!! Pardon me while I do a little jig at the keyboard! Why the heck don’t all stores and all brands continue to do something like what I described?

For crafty readers and those of us who enjoy looking at stuff we’ll never do — here and here and here and here and here and here and here are some links. Key search words: repurpose and up-cycle.

Are you concerned about plastics?…

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL


“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?