Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Music: Tommy Emmanuel

I especially enjoy sharing guitar music form time to time. Here is Tommy Emmanuel performing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Mr. Emmanuel Performed in Birmingham, Ala. last Saturday.

Note from the YouTube site: "This classic song by Harold Arlen from the film, The Wizard of Oz, was arranged and performed by Tommy from the mid '70s. It was first adapted from a version played by Chet Atkins, then it evolved over many concerts."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

One Hundred Years in Sarajevo

Sarajevo, 1984  

It was a moment of hope.
She had been a mystery for a generation,
A forgotten vortex of conflict
Hidden from the “free world”
Behind the cloak of a communist regime.
It was a winter of joy
As the Olympic Games unfolded
In a land that had become exotic by her absence
From the world stage of events.
Now that land was hopeful with her reentry,
Standing center stage in the grand beauty and pageantry
Of peaceful games.

Yet in that moment
She stood less than a decade away
From the devastation that would come.
The unraveling occurred from 1992 to 1995;
11,000 lives would be lost
Due to deeply divided loyalties
And the ripping away
Of the thin veneer of civilization
That had been her glory.

In that same moment
She also stood but seven decades beyond
The unyielding and tragic events
That had brought untold misery to a continent
And violence on a scale unseen until that time.
Shots fired by a young Bosnian Serb in 1914
Began “The Great War,” “The War to End All Wars.”
Labels for that war were cruel and hopeful
Like language that sidesteps reality
To numb the living.
The world saw 17 million deaths,
20 million more wounded
And the ripping away
Of the thin veneer of civilization
That had been the world’s hope.

Now in this moment 
Twenty years after the Bosnian War,
Thirty years after those hopeful games,
One hundred years after the outbreak of world war
What stories does she foretell?
How long will people suffer
The dread of war?
How soon will we see yet again
The ripping away
Of the thin veneer of civilization
That has been our only solace?

                             ~ Charles Kinnaird

Photo: Sarajevo View
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Dragonfly

resting near the pond
the soul finds its own freedom
in the dragonfly

                            ~ CK

Photo by Penny Nash at
Her blog is One Cannot Have Too Large a Party


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Let's Be Honest about War

"Guernica" by Pablo Picaso
     "Anyone who advocates for war should 
first take into account what war truly entails"

Amazingly, there are voices in the news media who are once again drumming up a case for U.S. military action in Iraq. Iraq should be “Exhibit A” in the case against war. Military invasion resulted in chaos, the loss of thousands of lives, and the destruction of social infrastructure. At a cost of over 2 trillion dollars and  4,800 American lives (plus hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths), the result is continued misery and increased instability in the Middle East. We as a country were drawn into military conflict on decisions based upon fear. The public was still fearful and uneasy following the 911 attack in 2001, and the politicians who authorized military involvement in Iraq were fearful that they would not get votes back home if they did not go along with the drums of war being sounded by the chief executive. Today, with Iraq once again in turmoil, some are suggesting the need for more military action. Before entering into a new war, we need to be completely honest about all of the details. 
First, we should be clear about why Iraq and the Middle East are “vital to U.S. interests.” It is not a desire to “spread democracy,” it was never about “weapons of mass destruction,” and it is not even about the security of Israel. The reason we have a vital interest in the region is oil, which even President George W. Bush admitted we have an addiction to. Back in 1973 our country experienced an oil crisis. Some astute leaders said that it was time to invest in alternative energy sources. If we had launched such a national effort then, we would not be nearly so concerned about the Middle East region now. There would be little question that they should just work out their differences among themselves – without U.S. interference. There were, in fact, many who questioned invasion of Iraq at the outset, saying back in 2003 that there should be no blood for oil. Almost half the country, in fact, were opposed to entering into war.
Second, and most important, we must be honest about the nature of war. We have a long history of glorifying war and making it seem noble and honorable on national holidays. We look to World War II as the grand example of a justified war. Even with that war to end an evil regime, few people then or now could grasp the true horror that is unleashed in wartime.
Perhaps the two arguments most often heard to justify military action are national security and the just war theory. These arguments overlap, as one could claim both arguments in a situation of national defense. In reading modern justifications for armed conflict, I notice that not many people are referring to the just war theory, but for some it is important to use that concept to measure the need for military action. My own view is that war is never a moral choice and that we must find other means for settling our differences. Too often, the just war theory is simply one more attempt to justify war. If one is to make the argument for war, however, it is crucial to acknowledge the full reality of the nature of war.
Realities of War
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, Paul Fussell wrote a piece for The Atlantic Monthly titled, “The Real War.” In that article, Fussell made the case that most Americans have no notion of the true horrors of war. When we were engaged in WWII, reporters had an unwritten understanding that the true nature of war would not be stated for the sake of keeping people back home optimistic as well as for the purpose of not jeopardizing the war effort. Such a widespread lack of understanding about what front line troops were facing, Fussell points out, led to immense cynicism on the part of American military personnel reflected verbally in such acronyms as SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR.
No one wrote about conditions on the front line where soldiers had no latrines, lived in filth, saw the internal organs of their buddies scattered about, and faced the growing knowledge that they would likely not make it out alive. Fussell quotes General Eisenhower who wrote a rare explicit passage on the carnage of war in Crusade in Europe, describing the battlefield at the Falaise Pocket: "It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh." Fussell goes on to tell of why the public was so unaware of the realities or WWII:
How is it that these data are commonplaces only to the small number who had some direct experience of them? One reason is the normal human talent for looking on the bright side, for not receiving information likely to cause distress or to occasion a major overhaul of normal ethical, political, or psychological assumptions. But the more important reason is that the news correspondents, radio broadcasters, and film people who perceived these horrors kept quiet about them on behalf of the war effort, and so the large wartime audience never knew these things. As John Steinbeck finally confessed in 1958, "We were all part of the War Effort. We went along with it, and not only that, we abetted it. . . . I don't mean that the correspondents were liars. . . . It is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies." By not mentioning a lot of things, a correspondent could give the audience at home the impression that there were no cowards in the service, no thieves or rapists or looters, no cruel or stupid commanders. It is true, Steinbeck was aware, that most military operations are examples of "disorganized insanity," but the morale of the home front could not be jeopardized by an eyewitness's saying so. And even if a correspondent wanted to deliver the noisome truth, patriotism would join censorship in stopping his mouth. As Steinbeck noted in Once There Was a War, "The foolish reporter who broke the rules would not be printed at home and in addition would be put out of the theater by the command.”
Anyone who advocates for war should first take into account what war truly entails. “The Real War,” by Paul Fussell is one excellent source, describing conventional war in stark and unromantic terms (that article can be found here). Those religious leaders and politicians who support national military action must make themselves aware of the “disorganized insanity” of battle. They must acknowledge the practices of rape, mayhem, bodily dismemberment, civilian death, and community destruction that are unleashed in wartime. We as a people must acknowledge that many soldiers we send into battle will return badly damaged in body and spirit. They will never overcome the personal horror they witnessed, to which we are blithely oblivious. We as a nation must realize the immense destruction that we leave in our wake when we choose war, as evidenced most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a result of more than a decade at war in the Middle East, we have brought debt to ourselves as well as our children and grandchildren. We have also brought about the destruction of infrastructure and the impossibility of a normal life to hundreds of thousands of people. We have made new enemies and bought at least another generation of ill will. We have forgotten about being a country that welcomes “the tired, the poor and the weary” and have focused on being an empire protecting energy sources. The democracy we pretend to be trying to export is becoming less and less recognizable here at home. In short, our military actions in recent years have brought horror to people abroad and a poverty of national purpose at home. These are only a few reasons why continued military action would be ill advised. The public has little appetite for more war, and if we truly saw the realities of war, most of us would be absolutely repulsed by the notion.

“A Defeat for Humanity”
I cannot get out of my mind the dissonant voices that were heard at the outset of the Iraq War, which was dubbed, “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Pope John Paul II urged restraint from the U.S. stating that war in Iraq would be a defeat for humanity. To me, that was a true prophetic voice from the community of faith, yet there were others from that same community of faith that were easily justifying military action. One example came from George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the official biographer of Pope John Paul II. Weigel wrote editorials stating why war in Iraq was justified. I know that Weigel is an intelligent man and a faithful Catholic, yet on the matter of war, he seemed to bend intellectual theory like a contortionist to make Operation Iraqi Freedom comply with the just war theory. On the one hand, his words sounded clean, antiseptic, intellectual and distant when he argued for military action. On the other hand, I wonder if George Weigel, like many others at the time, was speaking as an American living in fear rather than looking to the standards set by a community of faith. Or perhaps he just put the ideals of empire ahead of the ideals of faith.

The scandal at Abu Ghraib demonstrated how quickly military action can degenerate into unspeakable acts of inhumanity. Any time we advocate for military action, we must be willing to face the harsh realities, the inhumanity, and even the evil that is unleashed in wartime. Perhaps the difference between Pope John Paul II and George Weigel is that the Pope lived through the horrors of war in Poland while in Weigel's case the concept of war is discussed from the halls of academia, far removed from the realities of war. That is the problem that most of us Americans face when war is discussed – we are far removed from the bombing, maiming, and desolation of war.
When Pope John Paul II warned against war in Iraq, he was speaking from a long standing view toward peace. In his message at the celebration of the World Day of Peace in January of 2000, he stated:
The twentieth century bequeaths to us above all else a warning: wars are often the cause of further wars because they fuel deep hatreds, create situations of injustice and trample upon people's dignity and rights. Wars generally do not resolve the problems for which they are fought and therefore, in addition to causing horrendous damage, they prove ultimately futile. War is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be guaranteed.

My hope is that we may come to realize that peace is gained through peace and that war will always be a defeat for humanity.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Music: P.D.Q. Bach: Black Forest Bluegrass

Peter Schickele composed and recorded a number of humorous musical pieces under the name of a fictitious unknown son of J.S. Bach. One of the most hilarious is the introduction to "Cantata Blaues Gras" (Bluegrass Cantata). You can scroll down to read the translation from "the original German" (though the humor is more in the music than in the lyrics). If you like, you can read a brief Wikipedia article about P.D.Q Bach here.

                                     Translation of the intro to "Cantata Blaues gras"*
                                                     Blue grass, shining on me;
Nothing but blue grass do I see.
Blue grass—I say blue grass and green sky—that’s right;
Tell me, where the hell am I?
Tell me please, please tell me.
Shave and a haircut, two please.

*From the Peter Schickele/ PDQ Bach Website found at )


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Night Frogs

nocturnal voices
join in the ancient chorus
old souls hear the song

                                ~ CK

Photo: Setting Sun at Swamp
          (Public Domain)
          Courtesy pf Wikimedia Commons


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Taylor Field's Upside Down Devotion

Taylor Field has been ministering in New York City’s Lower East Side for almost 30 years at Graffiti Church. In his new book, Upside Down Devotion: Extreme Action for a Remarkable God, he brings a wealth of insight for anyone involved in any of the helping professions. This small volume is a delight to read, and in those pages, Taylor Field moves seamlessly back and forth from insights learned on the streets to insights from literary authors, philosophers, and biblical narratives. He handles the heart of a New Testament passage with just as much insight as he has for the heart of a marginalized person living on the streets. He speaks with straightforward wisdom that will be immediately accessible to readers from all walks of life.
Upside Down Devotion is not the first book authored by Taylor Field. He has written about his work in New York City in A Church Called Graffiti: Finding Grace on the Lower East Side (2001), and Mercy Streets: Seeing Grace on the Streets of New York (2003). Taylor Field has the education and the credentials to be a university professor or an uptown pastor, yet he has chosen to take his learning and his ministry to the inner city streets. In the interest of full disclosure, one reason I know about Taylor’s background and credentials is that we became friends back in 1981 when we were both teaching in Hong Kong. I came to know him as a man of great integrity and strong intellect as well as having a heart for service, and we have kept in touch through the years. It was indeed a pleasure to read this latest work of his and I was glad to be invited to review it.
Taylor Field brings a unique perspective to bear that measures success and effectiveness differently from what one usually sees in the many “how to” guides on the market today. It is from that vantage point of faith and ministry that he began his “Upside Down” series, beginning with Upside Down Leadership: Rethinking Influence and Success in 2012 and now with his latest, Upside Down Devotion. I would definitely put Upside Down Devotion on the list of inspirational books. It is one that those who are working with relief agencies, church ministries, or in social work will find inspiring and encouraging. It is also a book that will bring inspiration and enlightenment to anyone interested in deepening his or her own spiritual life. Taylor Field brings authenticity and balance to his presentation of spirituality and social outreach.
Drawing from the Old Testament prophets, Field shines a light on the true nature of worship and devotion. If a Sunday church service ever seems stale, boring, or out of touch to you, you might be surprised that it can make God downright sick and disgusted. That is what the Old Testament prophet Amos said, and that is how the first pages of Upside Down Devotion unfold. Throughout the book, the author gently guides the reader to a place of balance, where one’s worship and one’s service can come into alignment to allow for healthy authentic living. By reminding us of the liberating words found the words and actions of Jesus, and by sharing his own stories of service to people dealing with issues ranging from addiction to mental illness and homelessness, Taylor Field demonstrates the value of living according to principles. By sharing insights from such writers as Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Soren Kierkegaard, he shows us how to live a genuine life that may seem “upside down” to some but meaningful to the one who seeks to practice faith in the real world.   
Upside Down Devotion is a book that offers practical advice to inner city ministries, social workers, relief agencies, and church mission projects (check out the appendix for a handy “Short list of Community Ministry Rules” drawn from the author’s own experiences). It can be a valuable source of inspiration for individuals wanting to live out their faith by giving something back to the community. It is not everyday that one finds a book that brings scholarship and spirituality to the street level where it can be applied to daily life. Upside Down Devotion: Extreme Action for a Remarkable God is such a book.

Book Details:
Upside Down Devotion: Extreme Action for a Remarkable God
Author: Taylor Field
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: New Hope Publishers (April 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 159669405X
ISBN-13: 978-1596694057
For more information, go to:


Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Music: Jimmy Scott, Day by Day

It happened this past week:  a milestone in music with the death of jazz great Jimmy Scott.  Some described his voice as ethereal. His wife Jeanie said on Friday: "He was an Earth angel. He was different from any person I ever met. He was kind, humble. Everyone he met he made them feel special. He had a hard life, but he didn't hold any resentment." (quoted from The Guardian) There is certainly something transporting about his rendition of "Day by Day" from his 1969 studio album, The Source. (Music and lyrics by Sammy Cahn, Paul Weston, and Alex Stordahl) 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Day Remembrance

(For Father's Day, I am reposting a blog entry that first ran in September 10, 2010, then was repeated on Father's Day, 2012)                                                                          

About My Father's Business

"I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.” – Albert Einstein

Clyde Kinnaird
A friend once asked me, "What motivated your father to be different from those around him?" Certainly that is the underlying question that motivated the essays I have written about him, and it probably influences much of my response to life. The question itself is much more effective than any specific answer that might be given. Some questions are best left out there calling to us, rather than giving definitive answers. I imagine that if my siblings were to answer that question, you would get some similarities, but many specifics would be different. So you see, any answer I give may say as much about myself and my opinions (by what I choose to remember) as it does about my father. With that in mind, I will tell you a little more about my father, "Pop," as we called him.

On Baptismal day

Clyde Kinnaird was a Baptist minister and educator. He pastored small churches in Alabama. Later on his career he became "bi-vocational" when he began teaching in the public school system while continuing as pastor in rural churches. Unlike most Baptist preachers, his sermons were more often taken from the sayings of Jesus than from the teachings of Paul. In fact, when I picture my father in the pulpit, I have a simultaneous image in my mind of Jesus teaching on the hillside. To this day, when I think of Christ, I see the teaching Jesus and the compassionate Jesus rather than the crucified Christ. I can thank my father for that image.

Pop bringing me down to the waters of baptism at Lake Martin, August 1964

After my father died in 1996, I became especially conscious of the influence he had in his own unpretentious way. When I delivered the eulogy at my mother's funeral, three and a half years after my father's passing, I said, "Both of my parents left the world a little better than they found it. That is their inspiration and challenge to those of us who remain." It is that realization that caused me to do some reflection and to ask myself what kind of influence my own life may have.

One reason I began writing essays was to put down in writing what I believe and what I value. My thinking is that it is of benefit to me to express it, and if nothing else, my daughter will have a written record of what is important to me. I wish that my father had written things down, but he was not one to write. I have two notebooks of sermons written by my maternal grandfather (whom I never met), but not a single note or letter from my father. I have to rely on memories and recollections of what he said and did. In reality, though, memories and recollections are all that anyone has of their father.

Growing up in Centreville

Pop was born in 1910, the seventh of nine children, in Centreville, Alabama. He was born 45 years after the Civil War ended. My father's parents and grandparents had current memory of living in a defeated nation and an occupied territory, while at the same time being absolutely patriotic with an undeniable love for their country. Pop spent his childhood with horses and wagons, and as a young adult, he was a mechanic who worked on Model A's and Model T's. His father, "Lud", was a rough-and-tough rascal who made a living farming, running a black smith shop, driving a taxi, and serving at least one term as road commissioner. His mother was the local midwife who was known in the community as "Aunt Claudia."

Apparently, he knew early on that he would be a minister. Pop told us of an experience he had at five years of age. He said he was out in the yard playing and was overcome by an unusual feeling, or sensation. He could not fully describe it, but he said he knew then that he would be a preacher. He recalled that he ran inside and told his mother, "Mama, I'm going to be a preacher."

To me, this sounds like a mystical experience that would have been precocious at that age. The way I interpret it is that my father became aware that he was living in the presence of something far greater than himself, and that awareness was an uplifting, comforting experience. My father's explanation would probably lie in something I often heard him say, "Sometimes God gives us a little taste of Heaven just to assure us that everything will be alright." Compare this to Einstein's question, "Is the universe a friendly place?" My father would have said, "Absolutely!" A mystic like Meister Eckhart would say, "Without a doubt."

Pop graduated from high school in 1928. I once looked through his senior yearbook that a classmate had sent him late in life. I was struck by how optimistic his class was in their statements and dreams of going out into the world. I was also impressed with the good-natured humor I found in those pages. The class prophet said of my father, "Clyde Kinnaird thought he was going to be the next Charles Lindbergh and fly across the Atlantic. He hopped into an aeroplane and made it across the Cahaba River. He landed in a field, thinking he was in Paris." It was especially poignant to me as I read the upbeat messages of that class, knowing that those graduates in 1928 had no idea what lay ahead in 1929 when the Great Depression hit.

Moving On During the Depression

My father claimed that the Depression did not have much noticeable effect on his community because most people in their small agrarian town had very little money anyway. Nevertheless, I cannot help thinking that the Depression influenced the timing of my father's higher education. He did not go to college until six years after graduating high school. It must have been a call to ministry that motivated his going on to Howard College in 1934, in the middle of the Depression, without enough money to make it through the first year. Even then, at a time when many Baptist preachers had no higher education, my father completed college and seminary.

One person my father admired, and who surely must have influenced him, was a retired missionary to China, Dr. Napier, who came to pastor the First Baptist Church of Centreville. "Up until then, we had not had an educated pastor in the pulpit. Most pastors would come and stay about 18 months. By then, they would have preached all their sermons and would move on." Dr. Napier, my father recalled, would carry books with him to the pulpit and share with the congregation what scholars had written about various scriptures. "We had never had anything like that before."

Dr. Napier's son, Davie, also must have had some influence on my father. They were both at Southern Seminary at the same time and would often ride home together. Many times while I was growing up, I would hear Pop comment about something Davie Napier had said. Davie Napier went on to become a renowned professor at Yale Divinity School, a United Church of Christ Minister, and chaplain at Stanford University. Somewhere along the way, my father latched onto the conviction that education and religion were vital to individual and community development. If the Napiers did not instill the idea, they surely encouraged it.

A Career and a Mission

Pop showing my daughter
how to shuck corn
Pop said late in his career that he had essentially done mission work all his life. I think that is very true. He spent his life, by deed and example, trying to bring education and religion to the farmers, mill workers, housekeepers, laborers, and merchants of Alabama. On the one hand, I could tell that my father was often frustrated by the lack of education and the dearth of thoughtful religion among his peers. One the other hand, he demonstrated a sincere respect for people whether they were rich or poor, educated or uneducated. He brought dignity to the pulpit and to the classroom, but always related to the working class and the working poor. After all, his own family were farmers and working class people and he himself had been a garage mechanic who went off to college to "make a minister." He was never interested in moving up the social ladder. Pop considered such actions "uppity and pretentious."

He was a conservative man from the Old South who took some remarkable stands and had some progressive ideas. More important, he left his corner of the world a little better than he found it. My father understood when I left the Southern Baptists after fundamentalism had become so rampant and entrenched. I think, though, that he regretted that I was living with the same frustrations that he had lived with. I may be a little more open to change than Pop was. In some ways, maybe I am a little more tolerant, but that is only because I learned from his example of granting dignity to others and showing respect for all.

Attributes of Distinction

If I may recapitulate, perhaps I can sum up my answer to my friend's question of what motivated my father to be different from those around him:

1) He saw education and religion as two avenues for improvement. Pop had a strong commitment to continuing education and a striving toward thoughtful religion (he used to say that religion should be reasonable).

2) He believed in showing dignity and respect for every person, regardless of their social standing.

3) He believed that the Universe is a friendly place.

If I can hang on to those things from here on out, I think it would do my daddy proud.

In Memoriam: Richard Clyde Kinnaird, Sr.
September 8,1910- December 18,1996

For more about my father, check out these other posts:

Trust Yourself: A Message form my Father

A Local Hero

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Fireflies

                                           lesser lights
    aloft in the night
    child’s delight

                     ~ CK

Photo: Firefly Long Exposure
Credit: Fonda Lashay


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Recommended Recipes: Ratatouille

Over the years, one of my favorite recipes has been ratatouille. Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stew that originated in Nice. I discovered it as an adult when I was looking for vegetarian recipes. The first recipe I found for ratatouille was in the Betty Crocker Cookbook which I bought about the time I set myself up in my first apartment. It is a simple stew cooked on top of the stove, but very flavorful and satisfying. I have used that recipe for years, sometimes as a stew or a side dish, sometimes as the main course served over brown rice and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. I have even served it wrapped in crepes and topped with Gruyère cheese.

When the movie Ratatouille came out, I noticed that a baked version was featured in that animated film. I decided to search for such a recipe. There are a number of baked ratatouille recipes to be found online. Ratatouille typically includes eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. I found one called “Roast Ratatouille” that looked interesting. It is included in a line of recipes featured by a British grocery chain, Waitrose.

I have tried the roasted ratatouille recipe a couple of times now, and it is a hit with the family. Using less oil, it is a lower fat version, and the roasting adds a different flavor to the mix. I thought I would include both recipes here, and you can choose whichever one you want. They are both good. In preparing the eggplant, I usually peel it first, but you may slice it or dice it with the peeling still on. Your dish will actually have more color as well as more vitamin content if you leave the peel intact.

(From the 1983 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, ninth edition)

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1½ pounds)
  • 2 small zucchini (about ½ pound)
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped (about1 cup)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup) 
  • 4 medium tomatoes, each cut into fourths
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 5 cups eggplant, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes.
  • 2 cups sliced zucchini

Cook and stir all ingredients until heated through. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. 

*    *    *    *    *

Roast Ratatouille 
(From Waitrose Recipes online)

Traditional ratatouille is a mix of garlic, onions, peppers, courgettes and aubergines braised with lots and lots of olive oil. It's very healthy, but not exactly low-fat. To cut down, roast the vegetables in a hot oven with just a hint of olive oil. Stir in a further tablespoon of your very best olive oil at the end, for flavour and richness.

Preparation time:   10 minutes
Cooking time:          30 minutes
Total time:              40 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 3 medium courgettes (zucchini), sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 large red onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin wedges held together by the root
  • 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium aubergine (small eggplant), halved lengthways and sliced into half-moons
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 6-8 ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7.  (Note: This is equal to 428 ° F – the first time I heated the oven to 450°, the second time I tried 425°. I think I liked the hotter temperature better. Of course, you can always turn the dial somewhere between 425 and 450)

2. Put the courgettes, onion, peppers, aubergine and garlic into a non-stick roasting pan large enough to fit them in one and a half layers (if the vegetables are more crowded, they'll steam, not roast). Toss with 1 tsp olive oil (or spray lightly with oil from an atomiser). Roast for 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Remove from the oven, stir in the tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes more, till the tomatoes are soft and all the vegetables cooked. Remove from the oven, stir in the extra virgin oil, season to taste, and serve.

(Additional Note: I started out with a 13 x 9 inch Pyrex baking dish and quickly realized that my vegetables would completely fill the dish, which is not what the recipe recommends. I quickly got two additional baking pans so that I could spread all the vegetable out in a single layer. I roasted the vegetables in those three separate pans for the first 20 minutes of cooking time. Then when the recipe calls for adding the tomatoes, I threw everything into the 13 x 9 Pyrex dish for the final ten minutes)

3.You could add chopped olives and capers to create a flavourful accompaniment for fish. Try serving the dish with macaroni cheese, or stir in fresh basil and toss with pasta for a simple supper.

(One more note: you will notice that this recipe calls for very little seasoning. The second time I made the dish, I sprinkled some herbs de Provence on top along with some shredded mozzarella cheese before serving – it was superb!)

Photos Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
Upper - Traditional ratatouille
             Credit: Tomáš Zeleninský
Lower - Roasted ratatouille
             Credit: Ji-Elle


Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Music: Cleo Laine (Turkish Delight)

Cleo Laine is like no other! It was my privilege to see her perform with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra back in the 1980s with the Pops series. Here she is singing "Turkish Delight." The music is by Mozart, the lyrics were written for Cleo Laine by her husband John Dankworth. Dankworth accompanies her on the saxophone.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Misty Places

  the soul of the earth
  quietly made visible
  in the forest breath

                        ~ CK

Photo: "Mochrum Loch looking west"
Credit: David Baird
This photo is part of the Geograph Project
Courtesy of Creative Commons


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Personal Change: Transformation or Unfolding?

Canna lily bud
Transformation is a term that is usually loaded with promise. There are business models that promote transformational change to help companies survive, adapt, and even thrive during challenging times. Self help books, TV evangelists, and infomercials promoting everything from health shakes to home workout machines often promise transformational change for individuals. Many are attracted to the idea of somehow becoming a “new person.”  If you stop to think about it, you probably know people who set out to make a radical personal change, only to fall back into old living patterns. You probably also know people who have been able to effectively rise above their circumstances. Some will attribute their success to hard work, some to a Higher Power. Most people can look back on their lives and see that they have changed along the way. Some can point to a particular circumstance or a time in their life that marked a pivotal change.   

How Does Personal Change Occur?

Change is inevitable. A healthy person will naturally make changes in light of new experiences. Sometimes it is an attitude that changes or a prejudice is softened or discarded. Sometimes one will find strengths and abilities that he or she had not realized until circumstances called for them. It is true that some manage to see positive changes in their lives while others can remain stubborn and stilted, refusing to adapt or alter their behaviors or their views. The question is, in those lives that exhibit dramatic change for the better, is that change a result of a transformation from without, or is it a matter of a natural unfolding of latent talents and traits from within?

A friend of mine worked with a colleague who was fond of saying, “People change, but not much.” I took that little aphorism to be a realistic notion that one can hope for some improvement in the behavior of others, but don’t expect total transformation. I can recall a time in elementary school when I usually had a comic book stashed somewhere in my room or in my book bag. On the back of many of those comic books was an ad featuring a picture of a muscular young man and promoting an exercise book. The promise was that with this amazing workout book, you, too, could achieve that same muscular physique. I briefly entertained a fantasy of ordering that book and transforming myself over the summer so that when school started up in September, my school buddies would be amazed and envious. Of course, there is no way a skinny, nerdy eight-year-old boy can achieve such a transformation. In fact, the wish for such transformation might even be a hindrance when harsh reality sets in. If one becomes disillusioned because of a false hope, he may not see the actual change that is possible and still within his grasp.

Everyone Changes

The truth is, everyone changes. An article by John Tierney last year in The New York Times, "Why You Won't Be the Person You Expect to Be," related research findings regarding how much people change vs. how much they expect to change. Most people, the study suggests, see vast changes when looking back at their lives, but imagine only minimal change when thinking about their future. Everyone changes. No one’s life remains the same. I suspect that regardless of how change comes, it is a process of the natural unfolding of our lives.

Personal change and development may be like the buds of a flower which are laid out in perfect symmetry to unfold into blossoms with time and maturity. More likely, perhaps, we may have a multitude of possibilities laid out within our DNA. From those many possibilities, our individual lives unfold. That unfolding can be hindered, stifled, encouraged, or facilitated by a multitude of factors, both external and internal. If we are nurturing toward our children or toward our friends, we can encourage that positive growth. If we find ourselves in a supportive environment, we may be more likely to see positive growth in ourselves. Certainly our own attitudes can affect whether the adversities we face will beat us down of move us forward. Moreover, it is not just the adversities that produce the winnowing fans of fate. Good times and success will also affect our lives, both positively and negatively. Change may come in fits and starts, or it may be a gradual evolving. Ideally, if we pay attention, we will see a continued unfolding of the life that is within us.

Our Better Angels

During some dark days in our country, Abraham Lincoln appealed to his countrymen
to look to "the better angels of our nature." He was not appealing to some idea of guardian angels "from on high" to look down and give us aid. No. His hope was to look within to our own nature and take hold of those good and powerful traits. That is a hope that we can continue to hold on to, both collectively for our society and individually in our own lives. So while growth is natural, and change is inevitable, you can reach down and look within to find your better self. Keep growing and developing so that in good faith you can bloom where you are planted.

Canna lilies in bloom

*Flowers tended and photos taken by Charles Kinnaird


Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Music: Ripple (The Grateful Dead)

                        Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, 
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

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