Thursday, May 30, 2013
Summer has officially begun and perhaps some of you took in Memorial Day Weekend as the launch to your summer grilling.  Grilling is not just an American pastime.  Whether you use propane or charcoal, a hibachi, smoker or rotisserie, grilling is more than a reason for a party or family gathering, grilling creates a common denominator between many cultures.  Did you know that?  

While the economy is still recovering and you may not have much money tucked away for an international vacation this summer, don’t feel like you have to actually travel to experience other cultures.  If you are planning to do a STAYCATION – why not do it in your own backyard, the fun way???   

Here at We Solved It, we understand what it means to have to save money and make cutbacks, but in doing so, doesn’t mean you have to do the same old boring thing with hot dogs and hamburgers in your backyard creating a humdrum barbecue gathering.  Why not spice things up and do things differently? 

Whether looking at Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan or Medieval cultures – five elements can be found.  And while many of the elements vary from air, sky, space, salt, wood and metal – there are three elements which are a constant throughout and they are – water, earth and then there is fire.

Fire is the element of energy and passion within people.  But it is also the key conductor of energy… heat.   It is this heat that is known as man’s earliest cook top, the barbecue.
In its earliest form, the barbecue was an open fire and the heating of stones were used as a barbecue grill top.  Raw meats were cooked on sticks over the open flame; vegetables and more delicate meats of fish were cooked wrapped in leaves and essentially ‘steamed.’  

While there are many grilling techniques, the ultimate objective of grilling is to achieve a ‘searing’ of whatever is grilled so the moisture content stays within and the outside is ‘sealed’ with caramelization, browning the outside to achieve both color and flavor.  Methods of barbecuing vary from slow-cooking and braising to smoking and quick grilling.  Culturally, there are many variations of the barbecue and cooking techniques depend on marinating times and the cuts of meat utilized in barbecue.

In Mexico whether it’s carne asada over mesquite, fresh peppers, corn or tortillas – Mexican cuisine is no stranger to the grill.   Recado marinades slathered on chicken, pork, beef or even seafood make everything tasty. 

Siu Mei is the Cantonese barbecue method for Chinese rotisserie which is a wood-burning rotisserie oven, where the barbecue flavors come directly from the sauces and the slow-cooking.  In mainstream culture, we are most familiar with Cha Siu (barbecued pork), but other ‘Siu’ dishes include barbecued duck called Siu Ngaap or Siu Ngo which is barbecued goose. 

In South America, the skirt steak never skirts a hot flame when it has the chance to be seared and charred for the most delicious flavor and topped with a variety of chimichurri condiments. 
Bring on the Greek Souvlaki, rotisserie lamb and everything you can find at a tavern from gyros, to chops bathed in garlic and lemon, savory sausages and Kontosouvli for something different on your grill in your backyard. 

Ping is the grilling barbecue method in the Laotian culture.  Most of the Laotian barbecue is done at a low temperature and meats are well-seasoned with soy sauce, lots of garlic, cilantro and ginger but the barbecue method is opposite of American culture. Instead of a ‘sear’ to make meat juicy, it is to ‘dry out’ the meat for easier and less-messy consumption by hand.   Dishes include barbecued fish (Ping Pa), chicken (Ping Gai) and beef (Ping Sin).

Inihaw is the Filipino barbecue method. Grilling includes the gambit of beef and chicken to mussels (Tahong) and milk fish (Bangus), which is put in foil and grilled over hot coals.  In the Philippines, the traditional pork “Lechon” is a pig which is grilled over a spit, similarly done like the Kalua pig in Hawaii.  Filipino barbecue sauce traditionally has crushed garlic and onion in it.

Hibachi is the Japanese barbecue method utilizing a charcoal or gas flame with open grills and is the most like the traditional American barbecue grill we use in mainstream culture, only much smaller.  Originally, Hibachis were designed in China as space heaters inside homes and were not designed initially for cooking, but they do not look like the hibachi grills we know today.  They started off as a clay-lined, heatproof container with coals.   Japanese refer to these as Shichirin.

Mongolian barbecue (Chinese) and Japanese Teppanyaki  have a lot in common. This cooking method involves grilling meats and vegetables on an iron griddle. While the two cultures have grills varying in size, the method of cooking is fast and furious for a quick sear on meats and a caramelization of the vegetables.  The flat griddle design makes grilling more similar to wok style cooking in that there are no grates for smaller pieces of food to fall through. 

Yakiniku is the Japanese grilling method of barbecue incorporating wood charcoals and an open flame.  But it is often associated with Korean barbecuing.  The style of cooking is all about cooking in front of people similar to the traditional Japanese cooking style of sukiyaki, teppanyaki or Mongolian barbecue, where meat and vegetables are brought to the table to cook.  The meat is often marinated in sake, sugar, soy sauce and garlic.  The meat is bite sized, rather than a big roast thrown onto a flame or grill. 

Yakitori refers only to skewered grilled chicken, not ‘red meat’ like Yakiniku. It is also bite sized like the Yakiniku, but it is grilled on grates over charcoal. 

Bulgogi is meat that is cooked over an open flame and is a term used in Korean barbecue.  This meat is marinated in sugar, soy sauce, garlic and sesame and is usually meat selected from prime cuts, like beef sirloin cut into pieces.   Galbi is often mistaken for Korean style barbecuing as a style or method, but this refers more to an actual dish in Korean barbecue.  
Galbi is a short-rib – in both Japanese and Korean cuisine, using soy sauce, garlic and sugar. 
Whether you are smoking your meats slowly in the tradition of Spanish and Native American culture with wood or charcoal; baking in an old-fashioned barbecue pit with hot coals and utilizing the ‘baking’ method of barbecue like the Romans or grilling quickly like the British – grilling requires patience, skill, artistry and consciousness of time.

Barbecuing is about the celebration of a meal shared amongst a group of people.  It doesn’t matter whether you are inside of a restaurant gathered around a table where your meal is cooked right in front of you; or if you are outside enjoying the great outdoors and nature – the experience of a barbecue is meant to be shared and enjoyed.   It’s a good time to reflect on gratitude, where your food comes from, the time and care it takes for food preparation in cutting, seasoning, marinating, cooking right down to the plating and savoring of a meal.

Every culture embraces fire and the energy that fire conducts to produce heat to cook food.  And as fire is ignited to create the energy to fuel such harmonious celebrations of food and good times for people, it is also a moment to reflect upon the power of the flame to bring cultures of people together.

Grill up fun times around the world right in your own backyard for yourself and enjoy the art of barbecuing.


~ Athena & Tess – We Solved It

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Theoretical Physicists of course have their own ideas about ‘string theory’ as it relates to Physics, Gravity, experimental tests, relativity and The Universe.  And we can get into theories and sub-theories about what all of it means.  But if you take the idea of strings down to a very elementary tangible and material level of being, what do you think of? 

When you think of string … what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Do you think of a ball of twine?  Do you think of Marionette puppets?  Do you think of string on a kite?   Perhaps you may have a string that is hanging from your shirt pocket that you are looking at right now, the dental floss you used this morning,  or even string that is helping attach plant vines to a trellis or support stick in a potted plant.   If you’re channeling Julie Andrews in “Sound of Music” – you’re probably thinking of ‘brown paper packages tied up with string…. These are a few of my favorite things…” 

When you think of string instruments you probably think of the guitar, violin, cello, bass, piano and harp.  If you are really into music you probably have heard of the zither, ruan, ektara, koto, mandolin, dan bau, sitar, Appalachian dulcimer or Hawaiian ukulele. 

String instruments which have a way of creating the feeling of well-being, perhaps because they produce sound through vibration.  Vibration resonates and notes are created from direct contact with the strings and are based on string or scale length.  Most instrumental music is soothing, calming, peaceful, emotional, somber, reflective or just happy and upbeat. No matter what the mood, instruments themselves somehow provide a balanced vibe just because they are vehicles for musicians to express themselves as they are either plucked, bowed, or struck.

For those without musical strings attached, strings have their own way of showing up in our lives. But we must not always look at the string as being ‘tied,’ ‘knotted,’ ‘frayed’ or ‘tangled’ in the perspective of impossibility.   If we look at strings this way, we are doomed to stay stuck in a messed up mindset which is not a healthy way to live. 

Much like a life puzzle, we can look at how string can be helpful and useful.  If we look at string as thread or yarn, we can create something magnificent.  If we examine a shoestring for example, we can see how we can keep our shoes on or be crafty with a limited budget and challenge ourselves to make the most of what we have. 

Sometimes strings can actually assist us in holding things together.  Sometimes we must cut strings which bind us, hold us back from our potential and imprison us from living our best lives. But quite often strings can be woven into a beautiful life tapestry of many colors so we can witness with our own eyes, how far we have come in our journey and what we have accomplished and created along our own pathway.   

We all have a choice as to what to do with our strings. And we must celebrate the differences in how we choose to use them.

One person can be happiest creating art with it.  Another may want to make a clothesline outside to give it a practical use. Someone else may truss a beef roast and put it in the oven.  While two children could tie tin cans to it and play telephone and communicate with it.   The best part is realizing that what we do with the string is just as much a part of who we are, as it is with our own connection to what matters to us in our lives.  Strings can be woven into something more if we choose, too. There is always a greater purpose for strings than ourselves.

Strings have a way of resonating with more than just music, we can rhythmically be synchronized in our ways of thinking and being.  Often our thoughts, life purpose, mission and initiative can be like the music strings and truly resonate with others whereby we can create movements for proactive change in our world – creating a world vibration.  

But it is up to us to each untangle our string and wind it up and keep the ball rolling in forward movement if we are to make progress, hopefully leaving a thread trail for others to follow suit in making a difference somehow, some way, somewhere.

~ Athena & Tess – We Solved It

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Losing jobs. Losing homes. Losing loved ones. Losing our neighborhoods to violence, natural disasters, crime and poverty.  When everyone was predicting the world would end in 2012 – they thought about the world ending in an apocalypse.  The truth is, the world ‘we once knew’ is ending but everything continues the same as it ever was.  If you look back to the teachings of Greek philosophers, you will see that things were no different… which is why many philosophies and teachings are relevant today.  They are applicable. We still have the same problems, they’ve just donned new costumes.  

There are countries still at war.  There is violence still happening.  There are still homeless and hungry people.  And there are unspeakable acts we’ve all become aware of because of all of the ways we are informed about it now.

Awareness is key.  If we become the SOLUTION instead of pointing fingers of blame at others for our problems or waiting for others to clean up a mess that they did not create and we each started taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other – why would we have to sit around ‘waiting for the world to change’ when Gandhi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Take a look around to those struggling.   Have you ever seen a bunch of homeless people gather and hover together to keep warm around a fire and actually share the food they get with one another?  

Do you see there is humanity and hope?   Do you see there is an immediate identification in a place coming from compassion to be able to relate and co-exist in trying to help out someone else in the same situation?  Do you see how a single situation can be 180 degrees from the other, that rather than destruct, there are people who wish to construct?  

It is the same as looking at technology as both a blessing and a curse. But isn’t it like everything else?  People use it for good.  People use it for evil.   The recent Boston tragedy has shown us both sides of it.  The bombers used it for evil.   The public used it to help identify them.  And in the face of tragedy and horror – there were those who stepped up and stepped in to help, there are others who looked away and did nothing.

The gift and value of life is to see people ‘taking care’ of themselves and each other.  The comfort of a hug, a smile, a friendly outreach of kindness, reassurance that ‘everything is going to be alright’ – even in the bleakest moment, when you yourself have nothing to offer, there is hope.

Is the reason that people resist from giving hope is that they are not given the signs of hope themselves?    The reason We Solved It was created was to empower people to realize they have the power within themselves to resolve and solve anything.   Sometimes in certain situations we are made to feel hopeless and helpless and sometimes powerless.  But when you are shown the light to be empowered and to feel like you have within you something to promote progress and create change, it’s quite an uplifting thing, even it just means that someone vocally declares they believe in you.  

Perhaps it is ‘pride’ that causes people to answer the standard ‘I’m fine,’ to the everyday flimsy question of ‘how are you?’  If given the answer ‘I’m fine’ – most people let that answer be, and never prod further. Perhaps this is to either be respectful not to pry into something people want to keep private, or simply be self-absorbed because they don’t care about anyone but themselves.   But you will find that most people don’t admit to challenges or hardship.   Is it to ‘save face’ or to put on the appearances that everything is alright?  Is it denial?

While most people don’t admit to medical problems or even having to sell off items to make the rent, there seems to be an upkeep of ‘appearances’ that all is okay, when it is not.  But what suffers most in this process is the reality check that one is not actually ‘taking care’ of themselves – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually or otherwise because they are in an environment that is not supportive.   Nothing spells loneliness like thinking no one cares about anything in life but materialism and superficiality.  

We only have ourselves as a society to blame, if we are the ones who purchase the magazines that have the tabloid headlines, we feed into the idea that we support things that matter less than humanity.

Perhaps there is too much plastic surgery, makeup, the guise of the trendy diet, brand names of status and fake appearances covering up what is really going on beneath the appearance.  People appear to be ‘too busy’ to take care of themselves, but in reality there is more happening to alter the buttons of existence.

Our society has life backwards.  Maybe today’s economic turn has helped to change the sick cycle of need for greed and humbled a few. Perhaps, it has made one appreciate the blessings of life. But the truth is, no matter what your situation is, chances are that your health seemingly comes last. 

When was the last time you had a check-up?   When was the last time you consciously ate healthy?  When was the last time you went for a walk instead of sitting like a couch potato in front of the TV?   And when was the last time you made conscious decisions about your health and well-being to insure a better future?  When was the last time you took a deep breath, if only for 2 minutes, closed your eyes and relaxed to get mental clarity?   When was the last time you laughed?  And when was the last time you actually asked someone “Hey, what can I possibly do to help YOU?”  

It takes a lot along the journey in order to bring priorities to ‘the big shift’ for many. Maybe it is during this time, when only real friendships surface, that one may discover that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will.  Whether you pick up the phone today to call to make an appointment for yourself to change your life or decide to finally take your own fate into your own hands – taking care of yourself for yourself is a wise thing to do.

It is also during this time, we realize we can only rely upon ourselves for all levels of well-being. Maybe this is healthy in some instances, giving us the prod, the push, the determination that we need to be self-reliant and responsible for all our actions and consequences of neglect.

Most economists state that we are still in a state of recession and numbers across the globe in financial, corporate and various industries are showing this is true.  But if you take a good look around, you will find that even in the best of times, someone is always going through something.

If you actually take the time to talk to a person who is 90 years old or older, you will find that what we are seeing is nothing new, it’s just in a new form. Their wisdom is something we all need to hear.  They’ve been there, done that and yes, wear the badge of having lived through it.

Evolution is evolution.  With every new invention comes a new problem.  With every new wave of creation, things get forgotten, go by the way side and change happens.  Problems take on a new form or appear to be in mass form – only because a lot of this information is more accessible.  It may appear that the things have changed and have gotten worse, but we’re overwhelmed with information overload now because we have several devices to have more accessibility to opening our eyes about how messed up things are.  Some may look at this as a curse.  But in a way, it opens our eyes up to the blessings we have to be grateful for what we have when things are good and also a way to know we are not alone in our struggles.  Someone 5,000 miles away may actually be experiencing the same things as you where they are.  Sometimes the grass is not always greener, (truthfully it is only green where you water it), but sometimes our eyes are opened to the idea that it can be RIGHT WHERE WE ARE if we take pro-active action in our own communities to make things better where we are.

Never before, was this more apparent when recently witnessing the most amazing thing ever seen.

There was an old homeless woman.  It was very apparent she had lost her home, her job, her car, perhaps many relationships –family, friends, a significant other and most of her belongings except for a few changes of clothes held inside of her tattered tote bag.  It was evident the long laundry list of ‘things she lost’ was very, very long.

But to much surprise, there was even longer list of things she did NOT lose:

She was walking tall and proud.
She was walking with a smile.
She was saying ‘hello’ to people as she passed by.
She moved with energy.
She hadn’t lost her spirit.
She was singing in between greetings.
She was multi-tasking as…
She was vigorously applying SUNSCREEN TO HER SKIN!

Yes, you read right.  She was applying sunscreen to her skin!  

So add more to the list things she hadn’t lost: her hope to want to live longer, stay healthy and not get skin cancer and hadn’t lost her intelligence because she had the wisdom to do so.
She was taking her health into her own hands.  She was looking at what she NEEDED TO DO for herself at that moment which was a shift in priorities.

Think about this.   Isn’t this inspiring?   Seriously, to anyone who has probably been down the journey she has been, would this be the first thing on their minds?   This was more than an amusing sight, to me this was further proof that someone’s will, faith, conviction and belief can be stronger than any challenging situation.

We wake up every single day with the opportunity to seize the day and to be thankful for what we are given.

We are given the opportunity every single day to use what we DO HAVE to make each day better – not just for ourselves but for each other.  Even if it means giving those we love, tough love.  Those who are straddling the fence in-between hardship and inconvenience won’t understand life’s true meaning of what life is about unless they step outside themselves and their own self-pity and their horrific situation to take action to do what they can as they can to take a step to improve it.

Perhaps it is laziness. Maybe it’s denial.  But for those of us who are conscious about our place in the world, realize there is something more beyond material self-worth …. There is taking care of oneself knowing there is something more, a bigger and greater purpose for our being.   This woman represented just that.   She didn’t have to spend a ton of money to do almost everything on her list of the things she DID DO.   She didn’t have to have to have the right moment to take action on what she needed to do.  She just did it.  There were no lame excuses – even though she would be the most legit person of all to have many, many real excuses.  But she didn’t use them as an excuse not to smile, not to be kind, not to stand tall, and above all, not to do something she COULD DO to take a pro-active step to take care of her own health.

Most people say when s*** actually hits the fan, “well, at least you have your health…”  

Health represents many things – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.  One affects the other. A lot of people pay attention to physical health.  When was the last time you tended to your psyche, your brain, your emotional state of affairs with your life and your life situation?   Is your spiritual life in check?  They are all connected.  And one affects the other.  TRUE BALANCE can only be achieved if all are taken care of. 

Yet health is such a confrontational issue for most people that this seems to be the thing on the ‘back-burner’ of life.  Why is this so?    For the majority of people who do not address health, it mostly has to do with the fact ‘they are afraid of what they will find… ‘   For others who don’t bother to do the elementary things to ‘take care’  and preventative maintenance, it has more to do with vanity, laziness, denial and feeling ‘inconvenienced.”

While it may be more ‘convenient’ to eat junk food than a nutrient-rich piece of fruit…. Isn’t it more inconvenient to find you have disease, when in the middle of the prime of your life?    While it may be inconvenient to self-insure your health instead of paying $30 a week on designer lattes, isn’t it more inconvenient to be sick and not covered?

Prioritization is key.  This homeless woman applying sunscreen would rather take the time to slather on sloppy sunscreen and inconvenience herself by actually not having a meal that day with the money she found, having to put it on top of dirty skin and protect the only skin she has, rather than take the risk of getting skin cancer. 

To her that was worth it.   Maybe we all have our own ideas of what is ‘important’ – but the bottom-line is that taking care of yourself for yourself so you can be here to be of greater service to others, even though, you yourself may be suffering is probably one of the greatest lessons we all can learn.  While she may think she had nothing…. She did something with what she did have instead of dwelling on what she didn’t.    AMEN.

Take care.  And don’t forget to apply the sunscreen.

~ Athena & Tess – We Solved It