2016, September 23

Six reasons to smile in September

This month, I have signed up for George HS Singer’s Poetry Tour run by Poetic Book Tours, so I am posting this one week early. I know you won’t mind, once you see the pictures I’ll share ;)

Nearly every morning, I get one of these beautiful lattes.
For the birthday of a colleague at work, I decided to get a bit creative and place the money we raised in a jar filled with M&Ms – he loved it!
Pixel was all sorts of cute this past month – like always – and delighted me with a bunch of new poses.

I was walking on Eroilor Street one afternoon and saw an arrows-advertisement for WalkingMonth, which I found interesting. Teams of four people compete against each other to take as many steps as they can during September 12 – October 11, and the funds raised through registration will be donated to the children with neuromotor disabilities cared for by the Malteser Relief Service in Romania.
I would’ve loved to participate, if I hadn’t already (very bravely!) signed up for The Companies Cross, where you can run either as individuals or in teams, in a fun race of 6 km! My colleagues and I have formed teams and have trained for the run in Central Park every week this month, and honestly I can’t wait to see myself crossing that finish line on Sunday. Like my colleague also said, the benefits of doing sports are life changing: helps us clear our minds, makes us more productive, keeps us focused and in good shape. Definitely a nice little nudge to continue my new-found exercise routine! I only wish I could run during winter as well, without having to go to the gym, which I hate the thought of…

One evening when I was visiting my mom, I really felt like turning on the lamp my godfather made when he was young. I just needed a moment of quiet.
And one day after my afternoon run, I came across a really pretty sunflower. Just the one. In the middle of a grass patch. I loved it!

Here are the reasons I smiled in September:


Did you smile a lot this month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

2016, September 16

Expressing love

I’ve been in relationships where “I love you” was said every day. Or even several times per day. In ones where it was seldom said. And I’ve been in relationships where “I love you” was said too soon. Each of these situations has its own positives and negatives.

But you know what? Sometimes, you don’t really need those exact words to feel the love projected your way.

page more love letters

Love might come in the form of:

  • a caramel latte made every morning
  • asking ‘are you OK?’
  • being driven to work and then back home each day
  • saying ‘thank you’
  • finding us-time
  • watching movies/series together
  • annual Elder Flower Picking Day
  • having friends over when you don’t feel like going out
  • making tea
  • cuddling
  • going out of the way for something
  • road trips
  • funny names and titles
  • two art pieces on the wall
  • taking off one’s shoes as soon as walking in the door because they know you’ve cleaned the house
  • cooking together
  • being supportive
  • listening
  • cooking for one’s partner, or their family and friends
  • being OK with the tea collection taking over cabinet space
  • caring about what the other partner thinks, feels like
  • massages
  • a simple gesture
  • a hug
  • a caring look
  • a smile
  • guarding the plants from the cat
  • reading, while they watch the game
  • riding bikes together
  • holding hands in public
  • holding hands in the summer when it’s too hot to cuddle on the sofa
  • a photo on the fridge
  • checking that the alarm is set for the morning
  • going biking together
  • chatting while at work, too
  • taking care of each other in sickness
  • a note on the fridge
  • reading the partner’s creative writing
  • sharing about work
  • helping with studying
  • doing things separately, too.

What do you think? And what have you observed? How many other ways does love come in, aside from saying those three words?

2016, September 9

Recipe of the Month: Crunchy Brain

That title sounds interestingly weird, right? I know, I know. But trust me on this one!

When I was still a kid, you wouldn’t have caught me dead eating anything as exotic as this recipe sounds, but after I’ve gotten older and my mom tried this crunchy brain version, I actually like it!
Granted, the whole way through the process of dipping the brain pieces in flour, the egg mixture and in breadcrumbs I was feeling like I would’ve done anything else but feel the squishy brain in my hands… but hey, I survived! And I SO deserve a week off from cooking for this one :))

page crunchy brain

crunchy brain

Crunchy Brain

2 whole eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds brain
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs
Olive oil, for drizzling

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack, or with parchment paper.

Combine the eggs, salt, and cayenne in a dish. Dip the brain pieces in flour, then in the egg mixture and transfer to a dish with breadcrumbs, pressing to coat each side.

Transfer to your baking sheet. Drizzle with oil. Bake until golden and brain pieces are cooked through, about 16 minutes. Season with salt.

The potatoes shown in the above pictures are cut up, drizzled with a bit of oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and coriander, and baked in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.

Serve the crunchy brain to your and your family’s liking with dressing, salad, hot sauce, etc. with a side of rice, potatoes or freshly baked bread.


Note: I make my own breadcrumbs as opposed to buying them from the store – there’s always leftover bread no one wants to eat, so I leave it to dry or pop it into the still-hot oven after I finish baking, then grind and store it in an airtight container.

Bon appétit! ;)

2016, September 6

Innovative ways to dispose of chewing gum

While I visited London, UK for both work and fun last summer, I noticed something really interesting. An innovative way to dispose of chewing gum!

I found it so great, that I had to take a picture. Go see it over at Milliver’s Travels, along with a little more info on the solution in my short travel article, “Funky Signs: Stick Your Gum Here!”.

2016, September 2

Where George HS Singer’s poetry comes from, in Ergon

PoeticButtonToday’s blog post is a stop on George HS Singer’s Poetry Tour run by Poetic Book Tours, which lasts throughout this month. I will also have a review of the book up, on September 30th, so make sure to check back in for that.

In her description of the blog tour, Serena Agusto-Cox, mentioned that George Singer is a former Buddhist monk and professor in his 60s, who has written his first poetry collection with the help of Molly Peacock. That immediately drew my attention, and I wanted to know more about George’s background.

I always find it fascinating to find out where poetry “comes from”.


ERGON_coverHow has being a monk and professor, and publishing a first poetry book later in life shaped you?

Becoming a Zen monk has shaped my life as much as any of the major influences most of us experience— the family we are born into, school, friendships, the encounter with history, and marriage. I became a monk as a young man of 20, took up the practice and the relationship with my Zen master with great enthusiasm and stayed with it for ten years. Although later in life I developed a bit of distance from the belief system, I have meditated everyday since in one form or another and my experience of it is central to my on-going experience of life. I was never very good at being a monk. I’m very spacey and so as an example of a mindful person I am an embarrassment. However, the tradition I was exposed to (Serene Reflection Meditation—Soto Zen) has offered me the experience of something fundamental that I think of as mercy. Early in my time as a monk one of my brother monks lost his sister to suicide. One of my poems in my book is about how my teacher helped him through his grief. There is a lot of silence in a Zen monastery and much is communicated through bells, clanging of mallets on wooden blocks, drums, and chimes:

…each ting of the little bell,
the inkin, rode time all the way

to the periphery, trailing off out
of reach of the ear— the same
with the in and out of breath.

The silence and the wordless signals came in time to say something to me about mercy. Here, from the same poem, is my imaging of how my friend gained some relief from his terrible loss:

He thought then that Jean, his little sister,
would somehow be alright and, if
there were to be rain, he would be
the downpour. And he was taken up
by something like mercy.

Regarding being a professor, mostly, I feel that academia has offered me a kind of safe harbor where I am able to exercise my strengths and where people are generally tolerant of my several weaknesses.

I found that the kind of writing and teaching that I do as an academic rarely allows for expression of the emotional and spiritual dimensions of my life that seem closest to my sense of who I am and how I belong (or not) in the world. Initially I thought that I might use poetry to honor my Zen teacher and our tradition. However, I soon branched out and also eventually realized that I was sounding preachy in my writing and needed to try to be less some kind of font of wisdom and more simply to express the voice of the mixed and necessarily limited person that I am. If I have a credo in my poetry it is the notion that nothing is unmixed—that life is inexpressibly wondrous and terribly painful and both arise together at the same time. I also know that the experience, which is most fundamental to me, is wordless and so there is an inevitable limitation in trying to write about what is most important. To me the tool kit available through the art of poetry allows the possibility of at least hovering over that which I wish could be said, if not to enter into it. I am forgetting who said that language does violence to experience but that poetry is the language that does the least of such violence.

Probably anyone who is reading this remembers a first experience as a child of reading a poem or a passage that really spoke to them. For me this happened in 6th grade after the death of my best friend. It seemed to me that everyone around acted as if death was not real or should not be talked about. A poem by Longfellow with the phrase “foot prints in the sand” struck me like lightening one day in class. I realized that I was not the only one who had thought about mortality. I started finding that literature was a balm for loneliness and that it offered a way to touch upon, if not enter into, other people’s minds and that there were extraordinary writers who offered this communion. So I hold onto the ambition that one of my poems might serve this purpose of dispelling isolation for someone else who might be in need of communion with another mind concerned about some of the basics.

What themes have you covered in the poems?  

  1. The beauty, humor, and difficulty of living as a Zen monk.
  2. Coming to terms with a very mixed childhood and its insistent residue.
  3. My sense of gratitude for having found a soul mate in my wife.
  4. My sense of the unutterable wonder of existence and that there is enough of it that can be taken in and joined with to keep from staying down after inevitably and repeatedly falling down:

the stars across the axis of the sky,
light enough to walk without stumbling.

Have you always written poetry or only after “retiring” from the monastery?

I wanted to be a poet when I was in college. I fell in love with French literature and thought the musicality of the language got at something beyond the meaning of the words. I stopped writing after dropping out of Yale and becoming a monk and did not take it up again until I was 40. I entered into a wonderful mentoring relationship with the poet, Molly Peacock, who continues to help me with my writing over a quarter of a century later. I also have benefited greatly from the wonderful opportunities to learn at the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H., summers. I’ve been particularly appreciative of faculty there including Patrick Donnelly, David Baker, and Diane Seuss. Over the years I have developed an intense love of poetry as an art. It gives me great joy to encounter a new poet or to be given the gift by a fine writer of a new poem.

Thank you for your questions and the opportunity to address them.


Ergon is a mix of poems about George HS Singer’s life as a monk and in the monastery and about his life after when he left to marry and have a family. As he tries to balance his spiritual principles with every day life as a husband and father, these poems utilize nature as a backdrop for his quest.

Published by WordTech Editions, you can find George’s 86 pages long poetry book, Ergon, on Amazon and on BookDepository, as well as his other publications which range in a myriad of topics from education & teaching, parenting & social sciences, to medical books.

GeorgeSinger_AuthorPicMore about the author:

George HS Singer is a former Zen Buddhist monk and student of Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett, lives with his wife of forty-two years in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he works as a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. He was educated at Yale, Southern Oregon University, and the University of Oregon. He wrote poetry in college but took a twenty-year break before taking it up as a regular discipline. He has been a long term student of Molly Peacock and has had the opportunity to work with other marvelous poets through the Frost Place in Franconia, N.H.  He writes about life in and out of a Zen monastery, trying to live mindfully in a busy and troubled world, his love of nature and of his wife. The arts have become more central to his life.  Singer’s poems were published in the Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry.

2016, August 29

A mix of places to visit in Hungary

Lately I’ve been thinking about travel a lot and, given our recent trip to Budapest, of past travels. So I’ve written about another older trip, this time about a trip I took alone. It was just what I needed back then!

Head over to Milliver’s Travels to read my article, “Places worth visiting in Northern Hungary”I’ll see you there!

2016, August 26

Six reasons to smile in August

This month was interesting. I finally broke down and bought a year-round vignette (road tax) instead of the usual week-long one I got every time we decided to take a road trip. It’s good to do the math sometimes ;)

I quite like how these “six reasons” posts have turned into my little “highlights of the month” posts. Because I mostly write about certain topics, DIY, or recipes, etc. which cross my mind at any given time, I feel that I have lost touch a little with this more personal side of blogging these past couple of years. Hence, my previous blog post.

August was long-awaited! I was most excited because after a looong time (six years, to be exact) I finally went on a trip longer than four days. My boyfriend liked Hungary so much, that we decided to go back in the summer as well, and spent 6 nights there. I made the reservations back in January!!! Expect my Budapest-themed travel articles over at Milliver’s Travels in the near future.

It was such a great vacation! We visited Budapest, walked all day long every single day we were there, and since we traveled by car we even visited a few cities near Budapest, and took a day trip to Bratislava as well.

Trust me when I say, it was extremely hard to choose only six pictures to share what made me smile this month!

Here are the reasons I smiled in August:

page 2016 summer vacation

The cities shown above are, from left to right then downwards:
Budapest, Győr and Esztergom,
Szentendre, Debrecen and Bratislava.

Did you smile a lot this month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

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