U.K. Mushy Peas n Castles: Harlech, Conwy, Penrith, Ullswater by da-AL

Our visit to the United Kingdom was studded with castles, each well worth a stop. We were on our way to see Harlech Castle, Conwy Castle, and then to overnight in Penrith with a look at Ullswater.

On my way to Harlech Castle.

Our vacation began in London, where we enjoyed the British Museum here and here and here. We left with a rented car and were almost accustomed to driving (my husband) and riding (me) on the ‘wrong’ side only inches from England’s gorgeous stone-walled roads by the time we reached Bath. We admired Avebury, then a little of Wales on the route to Stokesay Castle, and later we would be awed by the Kelpies of Scotland.

Even this black dog admires the sights.

Harlech Castle in Harlech, Wales, a World Heritage Site, is categorized by UNESCO as one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.” Enormous, it offers grand views…

The panoramic views from Harlech Castle are impressive…
…even on a cloudy day.
The city of Harloch is lovely…
…including when you see it…
…from here with my honey.

It was time for lunch. A short drive further up the coast, we stopped in the city of Conwy for fish and chips fried in beef fat for Khashayar, and mushy peas (marrowfat peas cooked down to mush — a love-it or hate-it staple throughout the U.K.) with vegan gravy for me. Conwy is a walled market town in the north of Wales. After the filling meal, we strolled the nearby river and marveled at the Conwy Castle’s exterior. Writer/TV personality/activist Rick Steves offers a fascinating view of the interior. UNESCO calls Conwy Castle one of “the finest examples of late 13th-century and early 14th-century military architecture in Europe.”

Conwy Castle is worth a visit…

…and so is the region around it.

We spent the night in Penrith, Cumbria, a market town with more sights than we could take in. Exhausted and the evening late, we checked into a beautiful bed and breakfast, glad to find an attractive room with a scenic window. Once settled, we strolled to what must have been a theater at one time. Whatever it was, it’s now the biggest Indian food restaurant I’ve ever seen!

Elaine, Richard, and Dora are terrific hosts.

That following morning, our hosts, Elaine and Richard plus their lovely Dora, charmed us with their kindness. Their extensive English breakfast equally accommodated my meat-lover husband and my veggie self.

Ullswater is a quick twenty-minute drive away, so we enjoyed a nine-mile ride along the lake. It’s the second largest lake in the English Lake District. Here’s a video by someone else of the boat jaunt we took.

Rain or shine, a ride down Ullswater is fun.

What’s your fave region in the U.K.?

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?

Guest Blog Post: Incredible India! by Niks

My idea of India is a place so fascinatingly diverse and vast that a lifetime of studying it can only scratch the surface. A teacher, a blogger and a photographer, Niks is based out of Jaipur, Rajasthan. His site is filled with intelligent posts with memorable photos of India. He also writes personally, such as how his small hometown is faring under the specter of COVID 19. Here are his tips for visiting Incredible India…

Niks blogs about India…

Incredible India by Niks

India is the most beautiful place to visit. It has an amazing history, culture, and heritage that attracts tourists from all over the world. It’s the best place to visit because it is a combination of art, culture, and heritage. There are many tourist places in India. These are historical places like forts, palaces, and also natural places like lakes and gardens.

Earth City Park, Science City at Ahmedabad.

History

In ancient times, India was known as ‘golden bird’ as it was dominant in trading. But, after British rule, it became a poor country in the world. With time, it improved its economy. Now, India’s economy is the fastest-growing in the world.

It was ruled by various rulers. Most were fond of beautiful palaces and forts. They spent a lot of money on their luxury lifestyle. The architecture of palaces that they built is indeed attractive.

Northern India

In northern India, there are forts and palaces that attract tourists. However, some hill-stations are also popular. The famous places to visit in North India are Srinagar, Golden temple at Amritsar, New Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh. Golden temple in Punjab is a religious place that is worshipped by the Sikh community.

Srinagar is a town in the Kashmir state of India. It is a hilly area that has snowfall in the winter season. Taj Mahal is located in Uttar Pradesh that is one of the seven wonders of the world.

North-Eastern India

Northeastern India is best for those who love hill stations. Shimla, Manali, and Assam are popular destinations of northeastern India. These places are famous for adventurous activities such as river rafting, paragliding, and more.

Mount Abu hill station.

Western India

The states of Rajasthan and Gujarat are located in the west of India. Rajasthan is well known for its forts. There are more than 60 forts in this state. Most were built by Rajput rulers. They show the culture and history of Rajasthan.

Gujarat is a western state of India that is famous for wildlife parks and tasty food. Gir National Park in Gujarat is the largest park of lions. “Statue of Unity” is a monument in Gujarat, which is a statue of Vallabh Bhai Patel, who was a politician of India.

Amber Fort, Jaipur.

South India

Southern India is popular for temples, food, and heritage sites. The architecture of temples in south India is alluring. Alora caves, Mahabaleshwar, and Sun Temple are some of the famous places in South India. Also, the cultural festivals of South India is a great experience.

Tips

  • Plan your journey before the visit.
  • Contact a tour guide to know about the places you want to visit.
  • Book hotels and transportation tickets in advance.
  • Do not talk with strangers.

Along with tourist places, the culture and food of India are amazing to experience. Peoples of India are friendly and respect foreign tourists. You don’t need a lot of money to visit this country as it is quite affordable.

For more of Niks’ writing and photography, visit his blog, and Instagram, and Facebook page.

What comes to mine when you think of India?

Celebrating Gloria Steinem, Feminist Icon by da-AL

There are many great feminists, but Gloria Marie Steinem (born March 25, 1934, in Ohio) springs first to my mind. She takes risks to expose and educate, to enlighten the world via speeches, publishing, and more. Here’s a glance at her contributions…

Gloria Steinem addresses supporters at the Women Together Arizona Summit, Carpenters Local Union, Phoenix, Arizona, Sept. 17, 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore Peoria, AZ.

She’s descended from human rights activists, raised front seat to legal and economic slights against her single mother. As early as 1962, Esquire magazine published a Steinem piece on how women are forced to choose between career and marriage.

In 1963, she made headlines — including about herself — for reporting from undercover as a Playboy Bunny at the New York Playboy Club. “A Bunny’s Tale” reveals how Hugh Heffner sexually exploited waitresses at his nightclub.

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem, reporting incognito, 1972.

In 1969 she attended an abortion speak-out for New York Magazine, herself having had one at 22. Spurred into full-time activism, her New York magazine essay that year, “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation,” solidified her a feminist leader.

“It [abortion] is supposed to make us a bad person. But I must say, I never felt that. I used to sit and try and figure out how old the child would be, trying to make myself feel guilty. But I never could! I think the person who said: ‘Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament’ was right. Speaking for myself, I knew it was the first time I had taken responsibility for my own life. I wasn’t going to let things happen to me. I was going to direct my life, and therefore it felt positive. But still, I didn’t tell anyone. Because I knew that out there it wasn’t [positive].” Gloria Steinem

“Sex and race, because they are easy and visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.” July 10, 1971, part of Steinem’s visionary speech.

Ms. Magazine

Did feminist magazines exist before she co-founded Ms. in 1972? Surely none sounded as loud a gong as Ms. continues to resound today. Did you know that the first Wonder Woman comics endowed the character with grit and superpowers that they later revoked? Thanks to Steinem’s re-empowered Wonder Woman gracing an early Ms. cover, the comic book publishers restored the character’s heroine status!

Thanks to Steinem, Wonder Woman got her powers back!

Steinem crusades for labor rights, people’s rights, reproductive rights and civil equality, against female genital mutilation and male circumcision — and more!…

A breast cancer conqueror, she has neither biological children nor living relatives. At age 66, she married once — to David Bale, father of actor Christian BaleWilma Mankiller, the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, performed the ceremony! Criticized for having denounced the institution as “the model for slavery law in this country,” Steinam explained…

“I didn’t change. Marriage changed. We spent 30 years in the United States changing the marriage laws. If I had married when I was supposed to get married, I would have lost my name, my legal residence, my credit rating, many of my civil rights. That’s not true anymore. It’s possible to make an equal marriage.”

When it comes to aging…

“At my age, in this still hierarchical time, people often ask me if I’m “passing the torch.” I explain that I’m keeping my torch, thank you very much — and I’m using it to light the torches of others.” Gloria Steinem

Who’s your favorite feminist?

Cultivating Hope Amid Corona Virus (COVID-19) 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.

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: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?