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Cine Latino  – Learn about some of my favorite picks from Latin America!




Great, responsible coffee

I just found Maud’s Coffee from Intelligent blends.  These single serve pods are recyclable, easy to peel to get the grinds out for compost, and the coffee I bought is both organic and Fair Trade.  With coffee, of course the quality is what’s most important, and even that I found to be significantly better than most of the other brands of the market.  Single serve cups without the guilt, plus great coffee.  What could be better?


Chickpeas and Tomatoes

About a year and a half ago I took a course on Spanish cooking through Universal Class.  The class was great, as I learned a lot about Spanish cooking history, ingredients, and recipes.  The assignments involved making tapas, various dishes, paella, tasting Spanish wine, and the final assignment was to host some family and friends and serve food from the course, with Spanish wine of course.


One of my favorite recipes from the course was tomatoes and garbanzos.  The recipe calls for sauteeing the onions with bacon or pancetta, which we did the first time I made it.  During the final project of hosting some friends, one of our guests was a muslim, and so I decided to make the dish without the bacon.  That was in January.  In March I became a vegetarian.  Now when I make the recipe I leave out the bacon and replace chicken broth with vegetable broth.  This was an easy recipe to transform, and it is one of my go to recipes that is so delicious.  



1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can Italian tomatoes, drained

½ onion

Several cloves of garlic, minced

(Original recipe) Thick bacon or pancetta

½ cup Vegetable or Chicken broth

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

Herbs or Spices*

Olive Oil




  1. Add oil to medium saucepan.  Add coarsely chopped onion (and pancetta/bacon if you are using), cover, and turn on low heat.  Heat until onion is translucent then added minced garlic and heat until fragrant.  
  2. Raise heat medium low.  Clear a spot on the bottom of the pan and add the tomato paste.  After this sizzles, add the broth.  Bring it to slow boil and then add the chickpeas and tomatoes.  Reduce heat, recover, and cook for about 10 minutes.  
  3. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs/spices of choice.  
  4. Enjoy!


*I change this around based on what’s available.  Right now we have a lot of herbs from the garden, so I used some fresh parsley and basil.  In the winter I might use more spices, like some turmeric and cumin. It’s really up to you.    


** Sometimes I like this with Kalamata olives and feta.



Connecting the kids with nature.

I haven’t had time to write about our Labor Day weekend experience yet, but I’m happy to be doing it now.  Last weekend we took the kids camping to Clear Creek State Park.  For my wife and I as parents, it is very important to get our kids connected with nature and disconnected from the electronic world, even if for only brief while.  Our kids do love camping, and this is the third time we’ve went as a family.  Kids are not necessarily into the same sort of camping things that us adults are, but I’m happy they had the benefits of getting closer to nature.  


So my kids aren’t trilled about hiking and my older one didn’t even want to sit by the campfire.  They are interested in discovering and being with nature, but just not in the same way that I am.  They don’t want to trek along trail and go for distance.  They like to meander, observe, touch, and discover.  When we went hiking our hike was like that, relaxed.  We got to see some great wildlife like frogs, chipmunks, and fish.  I think the best part was when we stopped so that they could throw stones into the river.  They were amused for quite some time, and it didn’t involve anything electronic or store bought.  We repeated this activity again with great results.  To me, this was their meditation, and very therapeutic for them, even if they didn’t realize that was the case.  



I’m also happy that they were able to experience freedom, the freedom to ride their scooters around without having to worry about too many cars.  The freedom to not have the noise of cars, lawnmowers, and the constant barrage of artificial sounds that surround us daily.  The freedom to have days with no schedule and no activity.  The freedom to stay at the campground’s playground until they were good and hungry and wanted to go back to the cabin to eat.  This kind of freedom is rare for them during the school-year.    


Clear Creek also has great educational programs with the park’s naturalist, and the kids got to enjoy activities with her like churning butter, finding and identifying spiders, making a Smokey the bear sandcastle, and learning about beavers.  The kids loved these programs, and the park naturalist, Ms. Susanne is an excellent educator.  My older one still loves coyotes after a program last year about coyotes.  


So for the past week we’ve been back to the rat-race of school, homework, and activities.  I am most certainly grateful that my kids were able to create some nature memories, and that we created those memories together as a family.  Being outdoors and close to nature is very important for me, and I’m sure it will be for them as they grow older.         


Here’s an interesting article from Mind Body Green that has some ideas of how to connect kids with nature.  

On The Teachings of Don Juan

The Teachings of Don Juan is one of the craziest things I’ve read, ever!  Carlos Castaneda’s account of his time with Yaqui master Don Juan are attention grabbing, hard to put down, enlightening, and somewhat disturbing.  


Castaneda first tries to get close to Don Juan by asking him repeatedly about Peyote, which Don Juan insists he call ‘Mescalito’ or ‘him’.  Finally, Don Juan is impressed by Castanedaa’s sincerity and decides to introduce Carlos to ‘him’.  During his initial experience with Mescalito, Don Juan is intrigued by how Mescalito plays with Castaneda and decides to take him on as a disciple, or to become his benefactor, as he referred to his master.  


The author had no idea what he was getting into by setting forth on the path to becoming a ‘man of knowledge’, but Don Juan introduced him to the path, and told him on this path a man needs an ally.  Allies are plants/spirits with powers.  Don Juan uses one ally, ‘the little smoke’, but also knows another, ‘the devil’s weed’.  Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda start their journey through precise ritual and abundant respect for the plants, the nature around them, and the energies that they carry with them.  


Don Juan first decides to teach his disciple about ‘the devil’s weed’, although he does not like the devil’s weed himself.  The elaborate ritual of harvesting the weed, boiling and crushing, and then planting a new plant is complicated and takes days to perform, and must be repeated.  Further into the teachings involving the devil’s weed it is revealed that one of the powers of this ally is that it is used in divination or sorcery.  Describing the process is beyond the scope of this blog, but it is very involved and unique, and certainly not the kind of thing I would consider ordinary from my western cultural viewpoint.  The other ally, the “little smoke” also involves elaborate ritual, and takes a year to harvest and prepare the ingredients (hallucinogenic mushrooms and different flowers).  Not only is the collecting of the ingredients a year long experience, but Don Juan also progressively allows his apprentice to handle the pipe.  At first, Castaneda can only place on hand on the pipe while Don Juan holds it with two, gradually increasing the contact until he is ready to smoke.  Smoking the hallucinogenic mixture was another experience all unto itself, and Castaneda has many discussions with Don Juan about if his experience was real, or if the experience was watched by someone else, would they witness what happened to him.  Don Juan’s perspective is that it doesn’t matter what others saw, just what he experienced.  


In the end, the author ends his apprenticeship with Don Juan.  I will leave it to the reader to find out why.  If you have indeed read the book, let me just state that I probably would have given in the way Castaneda did long before he did.   


This book is very valuable in the fact that it opens up a world and perspective that I think is very unique to the modern western reader.  Some things that jump out at me are the pace.  There is no urgency for anything in Don Juan’s world, everything must be intentional and at the right time.  The fact that hallucinogens are utilized in a way that is most certainly with the aim of learning and spirituality and not as a casual party drug is also a difference in perspective.  When I was in my adolescence and experimenting with hallucinogens, although the mind expanding qualities of these drugs was on my mind, my motivation was probably more about escapism, partying, and fitting into the counter culture group.  This was not the case with Don Juan or the others who were on the path of knowledge.  Mescalito was a teacher and protector according to Don Juan.  Another amazing fact is that this book doesn’t take place on the other side of the earth, but in Mexico.  Don Juan is an indigenous person of Mexico, yet his mores, traditions, and beliefs are nothing like many of the modern Mexicans around him.  It is so beautiful that such unique culture can still be alive after forces such as colonialism, evangelization, capitalism, development, and modernization have changed so drastically the world that surrounds Don Juan and the other people who walk that path.  


This was a book I could not put down.  While reading I was both enticed and unsettled.  I very much enjoyed the first half, which documents Castaneda’s time with Don Juan, much more than the second half, which puts Don Juan’s world view through rigorous analysis.   Don’t get me wrong, the analysis is important and enlightening, but it’s not quite the page turning material in the beginning of the book.  If you’re looking for a different perspective and a window into a life that is completely different than the modern life that most of us lead, this may be a book for you!   


Tomato – Basil soup

So I made use of some ripe summer tomatoes and basil from the garden last night.  This is what I utilized to make this soup.

1 head of garlic plus a couple cloves

1 large sweet onion

5 large tomatoes

Several sprigs fresh parsley

Several bunches of basil

Fresh chives

2 cups of vegetable broth

Olive oil


Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Salt and Pepper



Roast chopped tomatoes and half the onion on an oiled baking sheet.  Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast also, everything together in the oven at 430 until everything was a little charred, maybe a half hour.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in butter until translucent then add the other cloves of garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add the roasted ingredients to the pot along with vegetable broth, and about half of the basil.  I didn’t even cut this basil, as I took it out before blending.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat for about 10 minutes.  Use a hand blender to puree.  Add vinegar, salt, and pepper and taste.  After pureed, and after allowing to cool down I added some fresh chopped basil, parsley, and chives.  Grate Parmesan on top. The end result was pretty delicious for the adults of the household.  Unfortunately, the kids were not willing to try it last night.  Hopefully they’ll change their mind today.


Sopa de tomate

As for the adults, we’ll be enjoying this with some great bread today.  Buen provecho!

Hello! Why this blog, goals, and what you can expect!

It has been quite a while since I blogged, and I actually wanted to try a new blog.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still interested in the topic of my last blog, but I feel I was limiting myself by being so narrowly focused.  I will still be addressing learning Spanish and bringing up bilingual kids, but I’d also like to write about some of my other interests, such as cooking, gardening, reading, philosophy, and photography. I hope to include some great photos in this blog as I learn more about photography and how to operate my dSLR camera.  


I’m writing this new blog for several reasons.  One of the most important is for a little bit of self discovery.  Writing about and putting together the things that I’m passionate about is a way of analyzing and getting to know me.  Another goal is to connect with like minded folks.  If you are reading this, I do hope to have lively discussions in the comments.  Who knows, on some of these subjects perhaps we can work on some projects together.  I’d also like an outlet to grow as a writer, as writing is not something I’m naturally inclined to do.  Another area in which I hope to use this blog as a learning experience is to grow as a photographer.  I am new to the art of photography, but hope to learn how to take really awesome pictures, and to share them in conjunction with what I’m writing about.  


When I’m away from the blog, which is the majority of the time, I am a father of two awesome daughters, ages 4 and 6.  With our girls we try to raise them to be kind, caring, compassionate, in touch with nature, and bilingual.  My wife is Panamanian and we feel it is important for the girls to stay in touch with their Latin roots.  I’ve worked at the local public library for 6 years now and have done everything at work from teach Spanish and Job Hunting Skills to coordinating contacts with other non-profits and organizing logistics to ship programming supplies around our 18 library system.  In my free time I like to do all the aforementioned activities, as well as yoga, meditation, journaling, and much more.     


So in the near future I hope to write about and share pictures of the foods we’re making at home, discuss philosophy and reading in general, to swap gardening tips, and much more.  I also would like to write some posts in Spanish, and about Spanish, and about raising bilingual kids.  I look forward to this journey and wish you, the reader, all the best.   Me with coffee