May 31, 2010

Learning by Heart

Posted in Books, Children, Family, Serbia, Traditions tagged , , , , , , , at 7:30 am by Liliana

Battle of Kosovo

The Battle of Kosovo

I grew up in a family of storytellers, but the best storyteller by far was my grandfather, Nikola. A shy and tender man, always a perfect gentleman, he entertained his grandchildren with stories and wondrous recitals of Serbian epic poetry. Every story and poem he told us was from memory. I never saw him read a book but I know that my love of books and literature descend directly from the creative mind of this gentle man.

My earliest memories are of us (a number of very young grandchildren) begging our grandfather to tell us a fable or recite a poem about the heroic battles of the glorious Serbs fighting the Ottoman Turks. My grandfather loved children and even when he was extremely busy with the work of running a farm and taking care of his land, I never remember him refusing our requests.

Grandfather made a magical game out of every experience. On the spacious veranda of his old house, he would set little stools in a circle for us to sit on, settle in the middle of our group and start a poem. Transported in a second, we left the village on the wings of my grandfather’s rhymes and floated to the heroic adventures of Serbian medieval warriors.

Knights, ladies, silk gowns, gold, honor, swords, betrayal, vengeance, family, friendship, pride, love, death, Serbian valor, Turkish valor, history, Kosovo – those are the topics that fired our young imaginations. Told from memory, in predictable and well ordered rhyme, we knew all those poems by heart ourselves without even noticing that we have learned them.

They are still with me. They never left.

The Banquet on the Eve of the Battle
(a fragment)

Prince Lazar his patron saint doth honour

On the fair and pleasant field Kossovo,

With his lords is seated round the table

With his lords and with his youthful nobles

On his left the Jug Bogdan is seated,

And with him nine Jugovitch, nine brothers;

On his right Vuk Brankovitch is seated,

And the other lords in their due order;

Facing him is Milosh, that great warrior,

And with him two other Serbian leaders

Kossanchitch, and young Toplitza Milan.

Tsar Lazar lifts high the golden goblet,

Thus he speaks unto his Serbian nobles:

“Unto whom shall this my cup be emptied?

If it be old age that I should honour

Then, oh Jug Bogdan, I must now pledge you;

If it be high rank that I should honour

Then Vuk Brankovitch, I must now pledge you;

If the voice of feeling I should follow

To the Tsaritsa’s nine well-lov’d brothers

To the Jugovitch, my toast is owing;

If it beauty be that I should honour

Ivan Kossanchitch, I must now pledge you;

If heroic looks I now should honour

Then Toplitza Milan, I must pledge you;

If heroic deeds are to be toasted

I must drink to that great warrior Milosh,

I can surely pledge no other hero.

Milosh Obilitch, I drink to thee now,

To thy health, oh Milosh, friend and traitor!

Friend at first, but at the last a traitor.

When the battle rages fierce to-morrow

Thou wilt then betray me on Kossovo,

And wilt join the Turkish Sultan, Murad!

Drink with me, and pledge me deep, oh Milosh,

Drain the cup; I give it thee in token!”

To his feet leaps Milosh, that great warrior,

To the black earth bows himself, and answers:

“Tsar Lazar, for this thy toast I thank thee,

Thank thee for the toast and for the goblet,

But for those thy words I do not thank thee.

For—else may the truth be my undoing—

Never, Tsar Lazar, was I unfaithful,

Never have I been, and never will be.

And to-morrow I go to Kossovo

For the Christian faith to fight and perish.

At thy very knees there sits the traitor,

Covered by thy robes he drains the wine-cup,

’Tis Vuk Brankovitch, th’ accurséd traitor!

And when dawns the pleasant day to-morrow

We shall see upon the field, Kossovo,

Who to thee is faithful, and who faithless.

And I call Almighty God to witness

I will go to-morrow to Kossovo,

I will slay the Turkish Sultan, Murad,

And I’ll plant my foot upon his false throat;

And if God and fortune so befriend me,

I will take Vuk Brankovitch then captive,

Bind him to my battle-lance! Yea, tie him

As a woman ties hemp to her distaff,

And I’ll drag him with me to Kossovo.”

This is a fragment of a famous epic poem about the “Last Supper” set on eve of the battle of Kosovo. The translation does not do it justice, but it is the best I could find.

Source: Serbian Epic Poetry


May 30, 2010

Greek Garbanzo Bean Salad

Posted in Food, Health, Home, Recipes tagged , , at 6:58 am by Liliana

Greek Garbanzo Bean Salad

Greek Garbanzo Bean Salad

Prep and Cook Time: 5 minutes


  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, preferably organic or 2 cups cooked
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 TBS parsley, chopped
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 6 sliced kalamata olives
  • 1 tsp rosemary


  1. Press or mince garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out its hidden health benefits.
  2. Drain liquid from garbanzo beans and rinse under cold running water; this helps prevent intestinal gas.
  3. Combine all ingredients with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Source: George Mateljan

May 29, 2010

A Good Day

Posted in Family, Home, Weather, Women, Work tagged , , at 7:45 am by Liliana

Summer evening

Summer evening

I had a good day yesterday.

I woke up rested and refreshed to a sunny, fragrant, summery morning. I had some berries and kefir and a cup of coffee for breakfast, and then I headed to work. The traffic was light.

It was quiet at my office, I had no meetings scheduled, and everything I touched, worked the first time. How often does that happen? I had to do a lot of writing and was happy with the results. My colleague Raina and I collaborated on solving a problem for a new project and we found a solution.

Everything moved at a relaxed pace, but I got a lot done. Everyone was kind to me. My computer didn’t break. My colleagues and I took a walk in late afternoon and not even the hot, humid weather could put a damper on my good mood.

I left work feeling happy with my accomplishments. The evening was going to be busy. Nena’s college roommate, Carolyn, was staying with us for the night and needed to be picked up from the train station. Sam had a class to go to. Everyone in the household had obligations that evening.

I tidied up the house, cleaned the bathrooms, changed the towels, and started a load of laundry. Then I went to pick up Carolyn from the station. Just as I was pulling into the parking lot she called to tell me that the train would be late. She wasn’t sure how long. Well, ok, I thought, perfect evening for ice cream. I stopped at my favorite place and had some delicious hazelnut gelato. I was grateful to the train for being late.

After we all assembled at home and had dinner, I took Kaya for a late walk. It’s good to have a dog to walk with again. It was dark and cooler by now, the fragrances of summer filling the air. There was a huge, full yellow moon gracing the night sky. The tired world, full of heavy shadows, was quieting down.  I ran into an old man walking his puppy and we exchanged pleasantries while our dogs played.

When I came home I found Branka and Carolyn sitting at the table chatting happily. Nicky was working on her French assignment, Sam studying for his Spanish test. Jeff was reading and Joe working on his computer.

I tried to read for a while, but it was hard to concentrate. I am not sure when I fell asleep.

May 28, 2010

Aches and Pains

Posted in Health tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:56 am by Liliana

Aches and Pains

Aches and Pains

All of us have aches and pains (whether we are young athletes or simply getting older) and most of the time we shake them off, move around and try to feel better.

There are certain symptoms, though, that you should not ignore. They might be signaling something more serious, so pay attention to your body. No need to panic, but be honest with yourself. Consult your doctor if you have concerns about any of these symptoms.

Problem: Intense pressure or creeping pain in your chest; or pain that is spreading from shoulder to jaw could indicate a blocked blood vessel that may be prevented from carrying oxygen to your heart.
Response: Call 911 and take a full-strength aspirin (325 mg.)

Problem: Numbing pain in your lower back, starting in the buttocks and extending down your legs might indicate a herniated or slipped disk.
Response: Call your doctor and make an appointment.

Problem: Tingling or fiery pain in your feet could indicate nerve damage and is one of the symptoms of diabetes.
Response: Call your doctor and request a blood sugar test.

Problem: Extremely acute pain in your head could signal a ruptured blood vessel or brain aneurysm.
Response: Call 911 right away. A CT scan should be performed to check for hemorrhaging.

Problem: Pain and redness in your leg muscles, not unlike muscle cramps, could be deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot that forms in your legs. It the clot breaks free if could travel to your lungs and cause pulmonary embolism.
Response: Call 911 or your doctor right away. An ultrasound should be performed immediately to check for blood clots.

Take good care of your health. Best of luck.

Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before making major medical decisions.

May 27, 2010

Meet Bridget Spence

Posted in Breast Cancer, Cancer, Health, Women tagged , , , at 6:59 am by Liliana

Bridget Spence

Bridget attended LBBC's conference for women with advanced breast cancer

I first read about Bridget Spence on the LBBC blog. Her story moved me deeply.

Two weeks after her college graduation, at age 21, she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.

Visit Bridget’s blog  – My Big Girl Pants, and read about her progress. She is a wonderful writer and her courage and sense of humor will leave you full of hope.

Read about Bridget’s experience with cancer in her own words:

No Plans for the Summer Because Every Moment is Special

If you are in college or are about to graduate college you always hear the phrase “What are you up to this summer” a lot. Mothers ask kids over the weekly Sunday phone call home. Your grandparents ask at family gatherings. Your professors ask when they run into you in the student union. Your friends ask at a crowded party. You are asked during job interviews. It can become a dreaded question!

I dread that question perhaps more than most, because my answer is always long winded. I hate being a “downer”. But I always take a deep breath and share. I have to share. My story, my plans are important.  This summer, I will be enrolling in a clinical trial. I am 26 years old, but I am enrolling in a clinical trial.

Five years ago, on June 3, 2005, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  I was 21 years old. It was two weeks after my college graduation. I had no family history of breast cancer. Two weeks after my Boston University commencement, I met up with a girlfriend at Starbucks. We had both just finished our first week at work and we were excited to commiserate. My phone rang while I was in line for my caramel macchiato. It was my mother calling to tell me I had breast cancer.

The fabulous post college summer plans I had made quickly changed and, instead of living with my four best friends, I moved home with my parents. I am going to be honest, I was more upset about moving in with my parents than I was about a cancer diagnosis. It wasn’t until the doctors found a tumor in my liver. It wasn’t until the doctors told me I was a Stage 4 cancer patient. It wasn’t before one doctor told me I had a 16% chance of seeing my 30th birthday that I stopped worrying about living the life I had planned and started wanting to fight for the life I still had.

So this summer, like almost every summer since my graduation five years ago, I will be spending this summer at the hospital.

This summer, I will be at the hospital for 4-10 hours each day, three days a week. I am enrolling in a Phase 1 clinical trial that looks at the toxicity of two chemotherapy drugs. The doctors are going to give me as much drug as I can physically handle before I beg for a break. I am enrolling in a clinical trial this summer that is designed to make me sick.

I take a deep breath and always share my story even though I hate sharing it because you all need to know that the life you have planned and set up for June may not turn out the way you expect.  Life is hard and crazy and never ever goes the way you have planned.

But remember, no matter what life throws at you, you will be just fine.  No matter what happens after you put on that black gown and goofy hat, stay true to yourself and you will be a fabulous success.

My life with cancer is really hard. I have lost a lot of friends because our lives are just so different. I am often too sick to go out on Friday nights. I have missed big birthday parties and events because I’ve had doctors’ appointments. I have had to change my personal and career goals. But I also love my life more than I ever would have without cancer. The friends I still have are the best friends a girl could ask for, and the times I am feeling well, when I do go out, I go out and I truly appreciate it.

The greatest lessons I’ve ever learned weren’t in the classroom, they were in the hospital room. So here is what I have learned:

Your parents: those parents whose blood, sweat, tears and $40 + thousand dollars brought you to this moment. Those parents you don’t want to move in with next month. They are your best friends. Contrary to what you may think now, they will not be here forever. They know you better than you know yourselves and they can help.

The best thing that ever happened me was moving in with my parents after graduation. I did not just live upstairs. I cooked dinner with them every night, my dad and I went on dates, I got to know my mom as a friend and not a mother. I learned about their first jobs and their graduate school experiences. I learned to turn to them for good and sound advice. In college, I spoke to my parents once a week. After college, I speak to my parents several times a day.

I’ve also learned to stop worrying about your answer to the question “what are you doing this summer?” or “what are you doing with your life?” Stop planning your whole life and setting certain goals to attain. Do not measure yourself based on the accomplishments of your peers. Life is too short to wish it away. Let go and enjoy where you are in this very special moment. Reflect on all that you have accomplished as opposed to planning for the next accomplishment. When I visited a doctor and he ran his hands through his hair and said, “I just don’t know what to do with you.” At that moment, I was forced to take stock of my life.

At that time, I had never been employed. I had never saved much money or even paid my own bills. I most certainly had never achieved all of the goals I set out for myself post college. I wanted to graduate and work for the CIA. That never happened and never will happen, but I am still a success.

I task all of you to spend some time today taking stock of your lives. Don’t take stock of your career goals or material possessions. Take a look at your character and at your relationships.  Take a look at the friends around you, because at the end of your lives, your relationships are what endure even after you are gone. Your relationships and your character are what matter and they are all that matter.

May 26, 2010

Fresh Herbs

Posted in Food, Garden, Health, Recipes tagged at 7:03 am by Liliana


Plant an assortment of herbs in your garden this spring. They are aromatic, delicious, nutritious and environmentally sustainable in most temperate regions.

A selection of herbs to plant:

  • Basil – has a strong, pungent, sweet flavor. It is a wonderful addition to many recipes, especially pastas, Italian sauces and tomato dishes. Basil is a good source of vitamin A, and can act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Parsley – used to flavor and garnish a wide variety of dishes, such as soups, salads, stews, and infinite others. Parsley is rich in vitamin C and has carcinogen neutralizing capabilities.
  • Sage – a peppery herb, excellent for seasoning meats, roasts, etc. is a beautiful resident of any garden.  It is a member of the mint family. Sage is believed to boost brain functions and enhance memory.
  • Rosemary – native to the Mediterranean region this fragrant herb is used to flavor meats, stews, roasts, etc. High in iron, calcium and Vitamin B6. In Ancient Greece, young scholars placed rosemary sprigs in their hair when studying, as it was believed to aid memory.
  • Thyme – a light flavor that blends well and does not overpower other herbs and spices . Widely used in countries from the Caribbean to the Middle East in flavoring meats, soups and stews, it is also a good source of iron.
  • Dill – subtly aromatic leaves used to flavor foods such as fish, soups, and pickles (where the dill flower is sometimes used). In Serbia we use it to make glorious white sauces, and best potato salads. Native to Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Western Africa, dill adds a tangy, refreshing flavor to any dish.
  • Oregano – tastes range from spicy to sweet to pungent. Its delightful flavor is famous in Italian and Greek dishes.  Oregano is also an effective anti-bacterial.
  • Peppermint – a refreshing addition to summertime meals, its flavors produce a cooling sensation.  It is excellent for making tea, and soothes stomach problems.
  • Lavender – adds a lightly sweet flavor to food, but most people grow it for its singular aroma and the beauty it adds to any garden. Lavender oil is excellent for healing burns, wounds, and insect bites and is used to produce balms, salves, lotions, and perfumes.

My dream is pull out all the grass from the front lawn of my cottage and plant nothing but lavender.

May 25, 2010

Ways to Feel Better

Posted in Cleaning, Family, Food, Friendships, Health, Home, Weather, Women tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:00 am by Liliana

Nena, Nicky and Kaya

Nena, Nicky and Kaya (puppy)

All of us have dark, irritable days when nothing goes right and everything seems to be our own fault. How to make oneself feel better and lift one’s mood? Often it is the simple, everyday, sensible things that help the most.

Here are a few practical and effective suggestions:

  • Let the sunshine in – open the windows and let in the sunlight and the fresh air. Taking a few deep breaths always makes me feel better and reminds me of the beauty of the world.
  • Play with your pet – animals are non judgmental. They love you for being you and cheer you up with their presence.
  • Exercise regularly – talk a walk or go for a swim. Do something you love. Just getting out of bed or that dark chair will lift your mood.
  • Clean your house – order gives us a sense of control and accomplishment.
  • Repaint your room – change your environment. Beautiful colors transform your vision of the world.
  • Listen to music – whether listening to a classical piece or singing a popular song, music allows us to examine and explain our emotions.
  • Don’t over schedule – this is very hard for me to follow, but I thought I would say it anyway.
  • Take care of your health – visit your doctor and dentist regularly. Control the things that you can control.
  • Eat a healthy diet – good, nutritious food makes you healthy in body and mind. You will feel more optimistic and energetic.
  • Eat chocolate – in moderation. Chocolate boosts one’s moods.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol – they might make you feel better for a very short while, but you’ll be sorry later.
  • Maintain a daily routine – don’t be rigid, but it helps to have a daily plan. My husband, Jeff, has taught me this.
  • Talk about things – there is nothing more depressing than resentful, sullen silence. It feels liberating to discuss issues and try to find a joint solution.
  • Connect with others – get together with your friends. One long, freezing winter my girlfriends and I got together every Tuesday night. We all remember it as a wonderful season.
  • Get a good night’s sleep – when all else fails (and when it does not) rest and sleep and recharge. You will feel better.

Take good care of yourself. Be your own best friend.

May 24, 2010

Relay for Life of Canton, 2010

Posted in appliance parts, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Good people, Health, Money, Organization, tagged , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Liliana

Relay for Life of Canton, 2010

Relay for Life of Canton, 2010

Last weekend, participated in the Relay for Life fundraiser in Canton, Michigan. This is an inspiring event that celebrates the lives of people who have battled cancer, remembers loved ones lost, and fights back against the disease by raising money for research. All the money is donated to the American Cancer Society.

At the Canton Relay, teams of people camp out at our local park and take turns walking or running around a path surrounding a small pond. This is the second year that RepairClinic has participated in this event and we all find it very moving and inspiring. The event starts with the survivor’s walk. Participants stand on the sidelines and cheer those who have battled the disease. I always cry when I look around me and see young children, mothers with babies, middle aged people, senior citizens. No one is immune to this disease. Still, as hard as it is, there is healing and comfort in the support and cheers from other people, in their love and encouragement.

This year’s Relay was a huge success. These are the official numbers:

The Relay For Life of Canton celebrated 347 survivors, had 1,283 participants, honored the battle of over 3,630 loved ones with luminaria and raised $248,062 for the fight against cancer! We exceeded the community’s fund-raising goal by $8,062!

RepairClinic thanks all of you for your help.

May 23, 2010

Salmon in Citrus Sauce

Posted in Food, Health, Recipes tagged , , at 7:39 am by Liliana

Salmon in Citrus Sauce

Salmon in Citrus Sauce

This is a delicious and healthy dish and it takes only fifteen minutes to prepare.

Any time I am unsure of what to make for dinner, I run over to our local supermarket and buy some fresh fish. With some rice or couscous, fresh vegetables in season and a light salad, it is everyone’s favorite. Enjoy!


  • 1-1/2 lbs salmon fillets
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 TBS + 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 TBS minced fresh parsley
  • salt and white pepper to taste


  1. Preheat broiler and place a stainless steel or cast iron skillet under broiler for about 10 minutes to get it very hot.
  2. Chop onions and garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to enhance their hidden health-promoting properties.
  3. While skillet is heating, place chopped onion, garlic, fennel seeds, 2 TBS lemon juice, and orange juice in a shallow, wide saucepan and cook on high heat for about 10-15 minutes to reduce to half the volume.
  4. Season salmon pieces with 2 tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper and place on hot pan from broiler. Return pan to broiler (approximately 5-7 inches from heat) and broil salmon for about 7 minutes depending on thickness (10 minutes per inch of thickness). Do not turn, as salmon is cooking on both sides at once.
  5. Remove salmon from pan, and place on platter. Season citrus sauce with salt and pepper and strain liquid over salmon. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.

Source: George Mateljan

May 22, 2010

Spring Breakfast

Posted in Food, Health, Recipes tagged , , , , , , , at 6:52 am by Liliana

Berries with Kefir

Berries with Kefir

At this time of year, this is my favorite breakfast. I eat it almost every morning.

All kinds of berries are in season now. I buy a selection of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. I wash a handful of whatever kind I have that day, and place them into a pretty glass bowl. Over this colorful medley, I pour kefir (a dairy product found in most supermarkets, similar to yogurt but more liquid.) On top of this concoction, I sprinkle a handful of walnuts or a teaspoon of honey. Or both.

That’s it. It is refreshing, healthy, filling and delicious. A wonderful beginning to a warm spring day.

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