Friday, December 31

Here and Now

I would like to pass along a precious fragment of wisdom from the beautiful Ann Voskamp's mellifluous pen for each of us to consider as we wrap up one year and embark upon the next.

"I’m wiping off the table. It strikes me: I am not here. My mind’s lunging ahead, already dashing onto the next and the next and the next, tripping over this and that and falling all over the future that isn’t.

I profane this moment when I won’t stay in it.

I desecrate now when I dismiss it in my push for the next. There are snowflakes sticking to the glass of the window.Right there at the table’s edge I can see them clustering together, piling, melding on the pane. I almost missed it.

I miss living this moment because my head’s already moved into the next moment — the one that isn’t even here yet — and when I am not in this moment but trying to shove into a moment that doesn’t even exist — I miss out on living at all. I may bodily be in this space but I am not even alive.

Could I be walking through the years but not even be alive?

There’s a dishcloth in my hand. The skin of my hand is the border of me in time, my skin the way of keeping me within the frame of now. Is this why God puts us who are souls into bodies? To keep us in this moment?"

(Read the rest at Ann's blog.)

May we all welcome this new year with a heart to live it to its fullest and not cheat ourselves out of a single moment by unnecessary worry or the persistent efforts of a busy mind to grasp ahead at things not yet given us to do. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27

Simple Solution

I made the mistake of reading the news today and came across an appalling article explaining the unfortunate situation in New York regarding civil commitments. I'd never heard of civil commitments, but apparently it is a system in which violent sex offenders may be committed to psychiatric facilities upon their release from prison if they are considered at a high risk to re-offend.

This seems like a reasonable precaution. Unfortunately, given the latest revision of the applicable statutes in 2007 and the logistical issues arising from the fact that all of the state's available facilities are nearly full, it seems that more and more violent, high risk sex offenders are being released back onto the streets. (Full article here.)

Rather than get all worked up about the situation, or join in the useless calls of various partisan groups for wide-scale reform, I'd like to offer New York State citizens a simple suggestion that I believe will completely alleviate the problem: buy a gun.

Learn how to use your gun, and teach everyone in your knows how to use it. (Practice head shots, specifically, as they will come in handy later during the zombie uprising.) When your house is broken into, defend yourself! Then call the police to come pick up the body and the news media to make sure every other sick bastard out there with similar intentions will know what happens to those who act on such deviant impulses.

The effectiveness and efficiency of this solution are indisputable - dead men require neither expensive trials nor lengthy, budget- draining incarceration. They don't re-offend, either.

If even half the citizens of New York took action on this plan, statewide crime rates would plummet and a steep drop in the cost of maintaining public safety would quickly follow. We'd all be able to sleep peacefully at night, proud of doing our civic duty and secure in the knowledge that we were safe.

It's almost a new year - a good time to consider where we stand and what we want to do differently in the days to come. Personally, I think this is excellent place to start. Care to join me?

Sunday, December 26

Litigious Louts

At the risk of sounding like the business major I once was, I have to say that I tend to get rather annoyed when I see headlines like this: "S.F. bookshop owner to close over ADA lawsuit."

Yes, I know. The Americans with Disabilities Act was put together with the best of intentions. But, realistically speaking, it causes a lot of damage that our country can ill afford.

Having taught ServSafe, I can attest to the laborious requirements and endless steps involved in meeting often arbitrary and frequently changing standards - even when starting a project from scratch! In pre-existing buildings, to say nothing of historic areas, the challenges expand exponentially. So do the costs.

Access compliance experts, inspectors, contractors, permits boards, zoning regulators, landlords - there are dozens of different people and agencies involved in changing or updating a building. None of them come free, and each is even more expensive if we take into account the time lost by owners and the revenue lost during the closure of operations for inspections and construction.

Often there are nasty catch-22's involved as well. You can't be in compliance without fixing this wall or that bathroom. But if you do any construction beyond the most elementary maintenance, you lose your grandfathered status and are suddenly faced with massive upgrades and modernization requirements of bankrupting proportions. So what do you do? Leave things as they are and hope no one complains, mortgage every inch of your life that isn't already invested in this dream to make it happen and pray it pays off or just close your doors and get out with your skin while you still can?

Is there really no place in our nation for the musty old bookstores, crammed floor to ceiling with hidden treasures? No place for authentically restored historic buildings in all their un-PC glory? Are we really prepared as a nation to sacrifice the chance to grasp our personal American dreams at the feet of a suffocating smog of unnecessary governmental and personal greed and burdensome legislation?

I'm not a fan of big government, so I don't think that government funding and grants should be handed out to bring buildings up to ADA status. That just compounds the problem of too much paperwork and too many hands involved. I do, however, think that dramatically slashing the number of fees, permits, and unnecessary building requirements would be a viable way to make an impact on situations like this. Lower start-up costs and less running around getting papers rubber stamped equals more time and money available to put into renovation and upgrades.

Finally, I will leave you with a oft-forgotten thought that has always seemed to me as simple as it is profound. Informed, opinionated consumers control the market. Every market. We vote daily with our wallets and, when we refuse to swallow the slop they shovel at us through their marketing, even the most powerful companies listen.

Any reform that we want to see can be made to happen without legislation or regulation - all we have to do is vote with our wallets. Patronize the businesses that do right and earn your respect and don't spend a dime at the ones who don't. The entire landscape of business would change in less than a month and be unrecognizable in less than a year. Guaranteed.

Something to think about as we head into a new year, perhaps. If you haven't already decided that I'm crazy, you can read a similar opinion from someone much wiser and more famous than me here. Then tell me what you think - I'd love to know!

95 % of Americans Need to Read This Book

Chances are you one of them. If you are, this will change your life. If you're not, you'll know someone is.

I give it the highest marks for user-friendliness and accuracy on all counts.

Check it out.

Saturday, December 25

Cure Tooth Decay

Although the information in this book is highly valuable, I have a hard time recommended it simply because I found it very hard to read. Repetitious and choppy, the writing is interspersed with distracting esoteric ideas and references completely counterintuitive to the science that informed the rest of the work.

If you have serious dental issues or doubt that proper nutrition can actually have a significant impact on dental health then it might be worth actually reading this yourself.

Otherwise, I recommend that simply accept as proven fact that a proper and complete traditional diet will radically improve your all over health and dental health specifically. Read more user friendly books like Eat Fat, Lose Fat and Nourishing Traditions for the how-to guidelines and skip this one this altogether.

Friday, December 24

Twinkie, Deconstructed

The theory behind this book was sound; sadly, the execution was much less so. Despite a clear, organized plan for exploring what goes into a Twinkie and where those ingredients originate the writing is scattered and hard to follow. Historical notes, plant visits, useless descriptions of unimportant details, related thoughts and other miscellanies jostle each other in chaotic paragraphs with no clear train of thought or progression. Chapter transitions are blatant and elementary, tacked on like afterthoughts in a freshman lit paper.

Two other aspects of this book were perpetually frustrating.

First was the incessant cheerfulness the author expressed about each ingredient's role in making Twinkies the wonderful product that he considers them, regardless of how terrible that given product may be for human consumption. The fact that hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup are highly damaging to human health was generally irrelevant compared to their miraculous ability to give Twinkies their unique texture.

Second was the severe redaction of information. To be fair, Ettlinger opens his book with a disclaimer: recipe changes, company mergers and ingredient production processes change so frequently and without notice that what he writes may well have become inaccurate or obsolete by the time it reaches readers. Unfortunately, the specifics one might expect to find so carefully covered by such a clause are nowhere to be found. We learn more pointless details about the non-descript buildings and innumerable trucks involved in the industrial processes than we do about the actual ingredients or their creation.

All in all, I was thoroughly disappointed in this book and recommend skipping it in favor of any number of better alternatives.

The Monster of Florence

Possibly it's bad form to bring an audio book with you to the gym instead of music - instead of jogging along on the gerbil gym in upbeat silence, you may become prone to exclaiming aloud or laughing maniacally at random intervals. That said, having something fascinating to occupy your mind will certainly inspire you to stay put and keep working out so that you don't have to stop listening! In that event, allow me to suggest the following title.

Proof positive that truth is stranger than fiction, and an indelible reminder that real life mysteries often resist the tidy resolutions of cinema and crime novels to which the modern world has become accustomed, The Monster of Florence is a literary masterpiece not to missed.

Authors Preston and Spezi flood their pages with their shared passion for Florence, vividly bringing to life the place, its people and the history that envelopes and shapes their everyday lives. The first half of the book is a recounting of the Monster of Florence case, in which a serial killer (rare in Italy) murders 16 people over the course of twenty years as the police and journalists muddle their way through sickening crime scenes, a convoluted web of suspects and informants, and mountains of questionable and contradictory evidence. Fascinating twists, unbelievable turns and torrents of questions, answers and lies - all true and documented - capture and hold your attention from start to finish.

Possibly even stranger is the second half of the book, in which the authors find themselves sucked in to the very story they sought to write about - interrogated, arrested and defamed as accessories to the very crimes chronicled in the preceding pages. Escaping the trap they have fallen into becomes its own adventure, leaving readers with a great deal to reflect on and their own conclusions to draw. Although true crime is not a standard part of my repertoire, I was mesmerized by this story, and highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself.

Tuesday, December 21

Kitchen Literacy

There is no aspect of our lives with which food does not intersect, and it rare to find a work that can weave those many divergent threads into a single cohesive and articulate piece; Ms. Vileisis masterfully does exactly that.

Her work is both vindicating and challenging; though readers will already be aware how much less current generations about food and the culinary arts than our predecessors, few realize how far back in our nation's history that knowledge started to erode or the full spectrum of instigative causes. The detailed research and moving insight applied to succeeding generations of Americans as they struggled with progress, change and the growing integration of technology and psychology in their food systems were fascinating to explore.

The author presents an admirably balanced view of history, condemning and belittling neither industry nor consumers as their roles in producing, procuring and preparing food shifted and adapted over time. Most appreciatively, Ms. Vileisis filled her work with incidents, trends and characters rarely addressed, bringing fresh content to the table and offering unique ideas to enrich the discussion of our nation's foodways - past, present and future.

Do Hard Things

Though the teenage authors specifically target their peers with their disarmingly elementary but profound message, this book carries a wake up call parents, youth leaders and pastors would be just as wise to heed.

In a marketplace rife with books lamenting the laziness, uselessness and ignorance of modern teens and the younger generations this one stands out for the astounding simple reason that it offers a viable, credible and trial-tested solution. In fact, it is a solution that every adult in this nation needs to hear and take to heart, because we have a vital role to play in the saving of ourselves and our youth.

Written in a straightforward fashion by twin brothers to their generation, the book lays a solid Biblical and historical foundation for each of its tenets before giving practical modern examples of how teens can – and already are – living these ideas out in real life. Well organized, articulately laid out and consistently realistic this book far outstripped my expectations for its potential – a fitting irony considering the author's key message.

Regardless of where you are in life or what you think about your generation and the ones rising up after it, you need to read this book – you will not be disappointed.

Food Supply Related Terrorist Threats

I'm not much on watching the news, but I did see coverage this morning of the planned terror attack on hotel/restaurant food supplies.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, which is not the intention, I find the uproar over this discovery exasperating to say the least. Evidence of the deplorable condition and precarious safety of America's food production and supply chains has been mounting for the last twenty years to the point where one must be purposefully blind and deaf to avoid be clobbered over the head with it. The screaming headlines of proliferating of food borne illnesses and mass incidents of contamination over the past twenty years alone should have made it obvious that our foodshed hangs on to stability by fragile thread, likely to snap at any time from the slightest provocation.

That terrorists have waited this long to exploit such a weakness is a miracle in itself. I am sufficiently cynical towards our government and large scale food manufacturers that I do not believe even this highly public threat will prompt viable corrective action on their part.

So it is my humble suggestion that as we consider what our new year's resolutions are to be that we each quietly add to our list a determination to become personally responsible for the food security of ourselves and our families. Restaurants and hotels may be high profile targets, eagerly covered by the news, but they are by no means the most vulnerable or efficient targets for terrorists. It would take precious little to bring our current capricious system to its knees, unleashing panic, chaos and starvation.

The good news amidst this looming darkness is that underneath the tide of commercial food-ways most of American retains the roots of it's localized foodsheds, many of them freshly re-developing in the wake of recent organic and locavore movements. The framework for a safer, more stable food supply exists within reach of each of us if we will simply open our eyes, extend our hands and take hold.

Guess What?!

Preparedness Pantry has posted one of the guest blogs I submitted on their webpage! How wild is that?!

Monday, December 20

Amelia Earhart

The Air Museum at which I give tours has on display a replica of the Lockheed Electra in which Amelia Earhart made her final voyage. In hopes of having better material to present at that point in my tours, I scoured the library for books on Ms. Earhart. Finding "The Sound of Wings", I assumed it would be as sufficient a biography as any - what I found instead was a tour de force of the life and times that created an aviation legend.

Despite the famous names, daring exploits and record breaking endeavors that fill its pages, the most remarkable thing about this work is the author's mastery of her trade. Intensive research and perhaps the most skillful use of primary sources that I've ever encountered are balanced by Ms. Lovell's tact and graceful handling of her subject. She neither shies away from nor sensationalizes the intrigues, betrayals, heartbreaks and triumphs of Amelia and her husband George Palmer Putnam. Her judicious tone carries throughout the book, bringing these and other historic celebrities to life in honest and very human terms.

I was continuously astonished by how little I actually knew about this aviatrix who has been a household name since decades before I was born. I was just as appalled by the number of commonly accepted "facts" that were nothing more speculation, rumor, bitter lies spread by opponents or the result of carefully crafted publicity campaigns.

Perhaps one of most impressive aspects of this work was the author's ability to keep people and events grounded in the greater framework of the national and international events unfolding around them. Readers follow Amelia and her contemporaries not only through both world wars and the Depression, but through the technological and avian advances occurring in leaps and bounds around them, actively shaping and reshaping their lives and adventures.

I have never been one to follow an author, but Ms. Lovell may start in me that habit! I highly recommend this work, even if you have little specific interest in aviation. With the mentions that Amelia Earhart continues to receive even now, you will find plenty to rivet your attention here.

Sunday, December 19

A Word of Caution

Several years ago, in the wake of a string of pet deaths nationwide due to contaminated kibble and massive pet food recalls, the market saw an influx of books on homemade doggie treats.

At the time, I snagged several of the new volumes from the local library and copied out a few simple treat recipes that I've relied on ever since.

Recently, I decided to add a few new treats to my repertoire and was reminded of the conflicting value of these well intentioned works.

Each book seems to offer several excellent recipes - healthy, simple, inexpensive and loved by every dog I've given them to.

Unfortunately, those shining stars usually comprise only a fraction of the book. Many of the recipes contain ingredients of impractical expense or questionable safety. I'm sure that every dog would love liver and salmon pates, but I doubt that I'm the only reader who finds such ingredients out of the budget for puppy treats.

As for safety, a surprising number of the given recipes contain cheese and other dairy ingredients which dogs are not intended to digest. Some also contain garlic and dried cranberries which, being closely related to onions and raisins respectively, also rank high on the list of foods to be kept away from dogs. Although they probably won't do any harm in small amounts, they should not be a regular part of your pet's diet.

So while I highly recommend making your own doggie treats (both for your furry companion's safety and your budget), please make sure that you do your research or run the ingredient list past your vet's office. As the saying goes, if something is worth doing than it's worth doing right - especially when it comes to the health and safety of our furry companions.

Pretzel Rolls & Pierogies

I tried two new recipes today, both from (formerly recipezaar).

The first was Pretzel Rolls. Wegmans makes the most delectable pretzel rolls ever. Of all time. Not being near a Weggies any more, of course, I determined that I must learn to make my own. If you want to try, you can find an easy to print version of the recipe here.

Surprisingly for a yeasted bread, the recipe starts by cutting butter into your flour. After that, you mix in the remaining ingredients and knead until you get a beautiful, smooth dough.

The dough rises for an hour, then gets patted out flat, cut into sections and rolled into balls. The recipe said eight sections, but that made pretty generously sized rolls. Next time I'll probably make ten instead. The balls of dough go into the fridge for at least two hours and up to twenty-four.

Carefully adding baking soda to boiling water, you are then ready to boil the rolls briefly in batches. Based on my finished product, I should have boiled mine a little longer because they didn't quite get that shiny, crisp top that the best pretzels have. So don't skimp on boiling time!

Then, your rolls go onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet and into the oven for half an hour. These are not really burned, it's just a bad picture. Lol. They're actually a perfectly golden brown color.

Results? The inside was yummy and a good texture, but a little additional boiling was needed to get the correct chewiness on top. So I'll be keeping the recipe and trying again!

In the breaks while my pretzel dough was rising and chilling, respectively, I decided to tackle Pierogies. This motivation came primarily from two factors. First, I already know how to make ravioli and theoretically pierogies should be little more than mashed potato filled ravioli and therefore an easy extension of an existing skill. Second, not having a microwave makes reheating leftover mashed potatoes a fairly messy and not particularly impressive endeavor. It makes much more sense to throw those leftovers inside pasta and stash it in the freezer for those nights when a quick, simple meal is most welcome.

The recipe I used can be found here, you're interested. Please note that the recipe as given does not include garlic salt and cheese, both of which I believe to be essential components of pierogie filling. So if you make your own, be sure to add generous amounts of each!

The dough involved 2 oz of cream cheese, which I thought was slightly odd, but it seemed to work out well in the end. Make sure you go a little dry when initially adding water to your dough, or you'll have to add plenty of extra flour later when you roll it out.

After your dough has rested, roll it out. You can absolutely do this by hand if you want. Or, if you have an amazing pasta machine that you like to play with as I do, you can use that instead. Either way, have extra flour on hand - you will probably need it.

Ideally, you want 5 inch circles of dough. The biggest of my beloved biscuit cutters was only about 3, so mine were on the small side. It worked out fine, so use whatever you've got and don't worry about it.

Feel free to add anything you want to your potatoes before wrapping them up in dough. I added Parmesan cheese and garlic, but the options are pretty much endless. If you're trying to sneak veggies into your kids, throw a little spinach in there - they'll never know!

Put a little of your potato mixture in the center of the circle, fold it over and seal the edges.

If they don't want to stick, dab a little water along the insides and after you've pressed them shut crimp the outside with the tines of a fork. Never fails.

At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the pierogies until you want them. To cook, drop them in boiling water, spiked with a little olive oil. The recipe says three minutes, but if you used whole wheat flour like I did give them an extra two.

And, since everyone knows that the whole point of eating pierogies is the butter, sauté some onions in an indecent amount of butter and throw a generous portion atop your hot pierogies. Add a pinch of salt (it is one of the primary food groups, after all) and you've got a fast, fantastic dinner!

I will definitely be keeping this recipe and endeavor to regularly keep a bag of these goodies in the freezer.


Wednesday, December 15

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

When Christmas rolls around, it seems as if every menu is stuffed with fatty, sugary foods. If you're craving something that says "holiday" but won't ruin your healthy eating habits, you must try this recipe! It takes some time, but it's easy, healthy and delectable. Don't let the fancy terms scare you away - this came from a high end bread book, but its very user friendly!

First, make sure you have someone else around to help you eat the final result -
this bread is too good to keep to yourself! I'm lucky enough to have a furry companion on hand for important jobs like this.
Next, start your soaker.
If at all possible, use freshly ground flour. Both the texture and nutritional value will be vastly better than the ancient, rancid stuff you buy at the store. Soaking flour not only provides the soft, luscious texture of the bread but improves its nutrition.

Combine:1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
3/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Add 1 cup of raisins or dried cranberries to the dough and knead until incorporated. Cover and let sit for 12 - 24 hours.

Now, put together your biga.

Mix together:
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
6 tbsp buttermilk (room temperature)
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1 egg, slightly beaten

Knead for about 2 minutes with wet hands (to prevent excess sticki
ng). Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for 1 minute.

Transfer to a clean, oiled bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove from the fridge at least 2 hours before using.

In the morning, or whenever the soaking process is complete and you're ready to start your dough, collect your ingredients:
7 tbsp whole wheat flour
5/8 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp honey1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

Combine soaker and biga with flour, salt, yeast, honey and cinnamon. Knead 2 minutes with wet hands.

Turn onto floured surface and knead 3-4 minutes. Add nuts at this point if desired. Let rest 5 minutes.

Knead 1 minute, then place in oiled bowl to proof until doubled.

Roll out to 1/2" thick 8" square. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously over dough and roll into a tight loaf.

Place in greased loaf pan and let rise.

Preheat oven to 400*. Once loaf is in oven, reduce oven temp to 325* and bake 20 minutes.

Rotate 180* and bake another 25 to 40 minutes, until the inside registers 195* on a thermometer. (If you don't have the thermometer, 25 minutes is almost always enough.)

When the loaf comes out of the oven, brush the top with butter and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar. Cool and serve!

Here's the whole recipe in easy to cut-and-paste format if you want to print it. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour3/8 tsp salt3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup raisins

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast6 tbsp buttermilk (room temperature)
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1 egg, slightly beaten

Final Dough
7 tbsp whole wheat flour
5/8 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

Combine soaker and biga with flour, salt, yeast, honey and cinnamon. Knead 2 minutes with wet hands.

Turn onto floured surface and knead 3-4 minutes. Add nuts at this point if desired. Let rest 5 minutes.

Knead 1 minute, then place in oiled bowl to proof until doubled.

Roll out to 1/2" thick 8" square. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously over dough and roll into a tight loaf.

Place in greased loaf pan and let rise.

Preheat oven to 400*. Once loaf is in oven, reduce oven temp to 325* and bake 20 minutes. Rotate 180* and bake another 25 to 40 minutes, until the inside registers 195* on a thermometer. (If you don't have the thermometer, 25 minutes is almost always enough.)

When the loaf comes out of the oven, brush the top with butter and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar. Cool and serve!

Monday, December 13


I found this monstrosity on This Is Why You're Fat. It's a pop tart ice cream sandwich, and it makes me never want to eat again. Just thought you might be entertained to see it too. (For the record, this is probably all of your calories for the day, and more than enough sugar to put you into a diabetic coma.)

This one on the other hand, I wish I'd known about when I was working at Keuka - the students would have loved me forever if this made it on the menu! (From the same site - Chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, marinara sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes on a hoagie roll.) We won't even discuss the calories and heart attack waiting to happen in this creation...

Swine Flu PSA

I clicked on the "latest headlines" tab of my web browser today and was thoroughly annoyed to see this link warning all pregnant women to promptly get themselves a swine flu vaccine if they haven't already.

Therefore, I would like to offer a brief public service announcement reminding everyone that the swine flu vaccine (now included in ALL flu vaccines - along with mercury and formaldehyde) is a dangerous abortifacient. It is NOT safe for anyone, and is exceptionally dangerous for pregnant women whose immune systems are already compromised.

Please do not believe everything you read in the news. Thank you.

Sunday, December 12

New Recipes

I wish this picture had turned out as pleasing as the recipe tasted! This is the gnocchi with a Gorgonzola cream sauce that I tried yesterday. It was the first time I've successfully made gnocchi, and I was very happy. Add that one to the "keep" pile.

This picture won't win any prizes either, but the recipe was also a keeper - butter poached scallops with sautéed spinach. The spinach makes this recipe amazing, and I think next time I'll use salted butter just for the little extra kick. I'm very thankful that the nice gentleman at Hannaford's cheerfully picked out six individual scallops for me so that I could try this recipe without investing in an entire pound size bag!

This is a far cry from my usual isolation diet, and I look forward to my Prince's return so that he can reap the benefits of this experimentation.

Land Rights & Other Debates of Substance

I participated in Model UN for years in high school, and would have continued to do so in college if it had been available. Frustrating as it might have been to work with other "delegates", recognizing the limitations of power even in our mock setting, it was very enlightening and we had some deep discussions on how to find solutions to world wide problems.

Those discussions immediately came back to me today, when I read a fascinating column on World Net Daily, regarding enduring poverty and its connection to basic land rights (or, more precisely, the lack thereof). It's an idea I've never heard before, but that makes a lot of sense.

Perhaps what makes this most interesting to me is the talk I've heard/read recently pushing to move 80-90% of Americans into cities. Proponents suggest this is the most responsible and practical way to move forward as a society for a number of reasons. In my experience, however, few city dwellers own their own land. When they do, they're limited by vastly more zoning laws and hobbled by much more extensive taxes and fees than their suburban or rural counterparts.

Call me paranoid, but I'm going to start paying more attention to conversations and legislation on this topic. Renting may be a good arrangement for us right now, but I've no interest in seeing American's rights in such an important arena eroded any more than they already have been. Speaking of which, Last Child in the Woods would be another great reading option on this subject.

World Net Daily had a couple other great articles today as well. The first related the story of some nutcases who have started a website for the public to vote on whether or not they should abort their baby. Not surprisingly, the columnist suggests the couple is complete unfit to have a child and should neither be allowed to keep it nor ever get pregnant again. I totally agree. I've long been convinced that it was time to reopen the American Eugenics Program. Nice to see other people on the same page - now if only it were possible!

The second was about mega-author Max Lucado and the comprehensive, three year marketing plan his publisher has put together for all things Lucado related. The author's main point was that the Christian book market is heavily over-invested in a few key people, making it even more difficult than it already would be to get new authors into the public, regardless of how valuable their message is. He also noted the failure of almost every Christian publisher to adapt to the demands of the modern book market, such as iPhone aps, compatibility with digital readers and the availability of free digital material.

This brings up a number of interesting debates about what the Christian publishing market should look like, how much it should mirror the secular market and in what ways. Personally, I think they should start by raising the standard of what gets published and by whom. I've read many a "Christian" book that was theologically flawed but at the top of the best selling list, and works from many an author that had no business calling himself a Christian. I've also seen plenty that were just Harlequin novels with the sex scenes removed and a couple Bible verses thrown in. Doesn't the Christian market have a responsibility to self-monitor and carefully measure the image and theology it sells?

The more complex questions start when you debate things like the marketing plan. Whether it's a good business decision or an arrogant, selfish move is open to discussion. As is the question of how deeply invested publishers should be in the digital market. If anyone has opinions, I'd love to hear them because this could be a fascinating conversation. Why don't they have debate clubs for adults?!

Saturday, December 11

$20 per gallon

While sifting through my library's collection, looking for a decent audio book, I found $20 per Gallon - a projection of what our world will look like when the price of oil permanently skyrockets due to increasing scarcity.

Singularly unique to this book (besides the annoying chapter titles) was the author's perspective that all the upcoming changes in society, however painful the initial transition, were both necessary and positive. Throughout the book, his tone remained optimistic and his writing completely devoid of any fear-mongering which is typically a staple of the genre.

I did not agree with everything the book proposed, but it was excellent food for thought. He clearly had done his research and extrapolated the ideas to their fullest extent. It was slightly unnerving in places, as my mind filled in the darker shadows sure to fall in the wake of the author's bright ideals. Some of us, I know, will still cling to our "Jeffersonian" theories of independence and non-compliance and I am sure the shining new world he describes will be unimpressed to say the least.

Still, this was one of the most well thought out books I've seen on this subject and if you have the chance I recommend picking it up to see what you think.


There are lots of things I like to do the old fashioned way, but when it comes to basting a quilt I'm very happy to cheat! I'm clearly not the only one, because someone invented this nifty stuff: basting spray!

Thanks to that (and the watchful border collie who kept wandering onto my fabric, inspecting for quality), I was able to make fairy quick work of getting the batting and backing onto my lap quilt.I failed to take a picture after I trimmed the excess off, but it looks good and is ready for the next step. I've temporarily put that step on hold, however, as I unearth myself from the piles of fabric squares that are going to be my next quilt.

As you can see, there's a bazillion tan squares that needed to be cut, stacked on my cream rectangles, marked and piled to await sewing. The good news is, this quilt is going to look fantastic when it's done so it will be worth all this patience!

I even rearranged the furniture in the den so that I can sew in there instead of sprawling stuff all over the dining room table! Not that I entertain while Eric is gone, but apartment counters are a bit on the small side for things like prolific ravioli and puppy treat making, both of which happen to be on my list for next week. Yum!

Anyway, all this should keep me out of trouble for while, which is good - Arthas could use a break from herding me!

Wednesday, December 8

Model Rocket Resource

In my inquiries into setting up an Estes model rocket class at the Air Museum, I happened across an excellent website with instructions on how to make rockets from scratch rather than from a kit.

If that sounds interesting to you, or someone you know, you can find it here.

I'll be sure to post updates as I dig further into this project (provided I don't burn down any buildings in the process). ;0)

Cream of Wheat

I have determined that this year I will not fall into my usual "isolation diet" while Eric is on The Ice. Instead, I will continue to cook real food and have regular mealtimes. In keeping with that decision, I experimented today with a new recipe for homemade cream of wheat - and it turned out great!

I try to avoid the little packets of cream of wheat you buy at the grocery store for two primary reasons: they're super expensive and of almost no nutritional value. Wheat begins losing its nutritional value within 48 hours of grinding unless it's frozen. Obviously, therefore, the cream of wheat on a grocery store shelf is long past its usefulness.

Notes on this recipe: bulgur wheat can be found inexpensively at your local natural foods store. You will need to grind it to a powder, via your grain grinder or food processor. I did not include the wheat germ in my recipe, and in the future will probably sub milled flax seed in its place. I found that this needed slightly less cooking time than suggested, so go by consistency rather than your timer. Finally, feel free to soak the wheat in the milk overnight beforehand for added nutritional benefits. Enjoy!

Cream of Wheat

3 cups cracked bulgur wheat
1/2 cup wheat germ

Grind wheat to powder, combine ingredients and store in freezer.

To Use (makes 2 servings):
Combine 3 1/2 tbsp wheat with 1 1/2 cups cold milk in a saucepan. Add a dash of salt and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer 5 min or until desired consistency is reached. Stir in maple syrup or jam as desired before serving.

Tuesday, December 7


There's a reason I don't read the newspaper regularly. It makes me apoplectic.

The latest debacle? "Michelle Obama's campaign to end childhood hunger and fight childhood obesity." (Democrat & Chronicle, last week)

As much as I appreciate that she recognizes there's a problem and is trying to use her authority and visability, I still feel inclined on a regular basis to send her the bumper sticker that says "If it gets any worse, I'm going to have to ask you to stop helping."

A bill just approved by the House would spent $4.5 billion to:
1. "Give the government power to decide what kinds of food may be sold in vending machine and lunch lines"
2. Limit bake sale fundraisers
3. Prompt the USDA to rewrite nutrition standards and dictate which foods schools can make available
4. Create after school meal programs to serve dinner to students who qualify for the free lunch program
5. Increase by 6 cents the amount of money schools are reimbursed for each free meal they serve

Why is this a problem?

Research into the National School Lunch Program, childhood obesity and pioneering programs successfully addressing the related issues leads conclusively to exactly the opposite of what's being proposed!

The most effective programs, both in cost efficiency and result production are locally initiated and orchestrated. They thrive without government involvement, and are tailored to the specific needs and resources of their communities in ways that cannot be replicated cookie-cutter fashion by a national initiative. Giving government more power is not the answer.

It is a direct and flagrant conflict of interest for the USDA/ Agriculture Department to rewrite the nutrition standards - just as it was when they wrote them the first time around! The primary purpose of the USDA is to promote agricultural production and success in the US. Child health and nutrition are inevitably sacrificed when all rules and requirements are written through that lens. School meal programs become dumping grounds for the excess production of American factory farms, just as they have been in the past. When the large scale manipulation of government agencies by giant agricultural and pharmaceutical companies is taken into consideration, this idea becomes even more appalling.

It is a documented fact that students/children who eat dinner with their families at least three nights a week are vastly less likely to be involved with drugs, alcohol, gangs and other troublesome behaviors. While it's certainly important to make sure that students have access to food, no initiative that purposely or strategically undermines family meals together should be undertaken at such a level.

Finally, as someone who has worked in industrial food service and battled the practical issues that arise from trying to feed large numbers of people on $1 per day or less, I have to say that increasing reimbursement by 6 cents a meal is not only unhelpful, but demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the system and its inherent flaws.

It is tremendously discouraging to see Mrs. Obama, who I'm sure genuinely means well, put her name and resources behind a bill so antithetical to her stated goals.

I'd say we should all write our Congressmen and Senators, but it appears that they neither listen to voters nor understand most of what they vote on.

Instead, if you have children and do not home school them, I offer the best advice I know of: buy a lunch box. Stuff it every day with the best food you can. Because well intentioned or not, the National School Lunch Program will destroy their health and lay the foundation for a lifetime of serious health issues.


Years ago, while he was stationed in Japan, Eric purchased two beautiful oils on canvas. We've carted them through each of our moves, safely rolled up in a tube, and every time we moved into a new apartment we discussed getting them stretched and framed so they could be displayed.

But every time we priced it out, it was simply too expensive to be worthwhile. So they waited, tucked away in a closet somewhere until the next time.

Well this time, Eric and I have put real effort into making our apartment a home. We decided it was time to get these things framed and on a wall. Again, the cost of framing was horrendous. But a trip out to the Wilton Mall for something unrelated led us to the discovery of Frame of Mind, a framing store whose prices were dramatically less than half of what we'd been quoted anywhere else!

Delighted, we took them our oils on canvas and selected frames. I picked them up yesterday, and I have to post them here - they are even lovelier than I imagined they would be!

I tried to get pictures of the frames, because they're perfect, but these pictures don't do them justice. Either way, it's very exciting to have them finally done!

Now if only I was capable of hanging things level...

Tuesday, November 30

Safe Travels

Eric left for The Ice yesterday via commercial aviation (ugh) and is still en route somewhere. The last fully loaded C-130 leaves from base today, and the Antarctic season is in full swing.

There are more NSF personnel down there this year than ever before and Antarctica is not a forgiving place for accidents or miscalculations. If you get a minute, please say a prayer for safe travel and a safe season for all involved.

Thank you!

Words to Chew On

I don't usually get involved in the gay marriage debate, since my passion really lies in the realm of food and the social ramifications related thereto. Recently, however, I ran across an article reposted on LAF (Ladies Against Feminism) - a fantastic site well worth exploring if you're not familiar with it - from The American Conservative about divorce and how it has shaped the gay marriage debate, often to the detriment of traditional marriage supporters.

Although I don't agree with everything it says, the article brings up some ideas and connections I hadn't thought about before with widespread ramifications. It's one of those articles that sticks with you, to be chewed on and digested slowly. If this is a subject you're passionate about, or you're interested in broadening your horizons a bit, you can find it here.

Thinking Ahead

Just a quick note, as much to remind myself as everyone else - I came upon a fun little book called How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried.

It's a really fun, cute book with mini lessons on basic household/ independent living skills that huge swaths of modern women never learned growing up. Sewing a button back on, stain removal, baking bread, writing a budget, etc. It was very well done, and I kept thinking it would be a great gift for a new high school or college grad headed out on their own.

So if you have anyone in your life that fits that description (or will this coming May/June), consider picking up a copy while you're out Christmas shopping anyway in the next couple weeks. Slap a sticky note with their name on it, tuck it in your closet or wherever you hide gifts and pat yourself on the back for being ahead of the game!

PS - If you're prone to losing things because you "put them somewhere safe", you might want to write yourself a reminder on your calendar or in your planner so when May rolls around you can find it again...

While everyone is out doing their Christmas shopping in the upcoming weeks, I thought I'd toss an idea out there -

Practice Quilt

Check this out! I took a Finishing Class at the local quilt shop recently where they came up with a great idea: to make the class accessible to everyone, they donate the fabric and batting for a small practice quilt to all class participants. In class, you cover all the necessary skills for binding and finishing a quilt. When you finish the practice sampler you return it to the shop and they donate it to the local animal shelter! Isn't that sweet?

They gave us a beautiful butterfly fabric that my pictures can't really do justice. I took it with me when Eric and I traveled for Thanksgiving, and he was generous enough to drive so that I could stitch - and I finished it! It turned out really well, and now I can back and bind the quilt top that I made in my first quilting class over the summer. This isn't a great picture, so you can't see all the stitching, but that's probably just as well... it was my first practice piece, after all! :0)

Monday, November 22

Clutter Up Your House, 101

Though Thanksgiving is not yet quite upon us, the holiday season seems to have started in full swing. Daily influxes of Christmas catalogs fill our mailbox and I confess I find them highly entertaining, though certainly not in the enticed-to-shop way they are intended.

Have you seen the SodaStream Genesis Soda Maker? Laughably promoted as a healthier (no HFCS or aspartame) and greener alternative to buying 2 liter bottles of soda at the store, it allows people to make their own soda at home. Seriously?

For the record, the sucralose/sugar combo and artificial coloring are not better for you than regular soda. Nor are the little bottles of syrup and CO2 canisters you need to buy better for the environment.

Similarly crazy ideas include the mini cupcake maker and mini donut maker. Really cute but totally beyond reason unless you're starting your own novelty bakery.

Both are, however, more palatable ideas than the Vinturi Deluxe Red Wine Aerator. That is an unequivocal flirtation with the end of civilized society as we know it. Either take your wine seriously, buying the good stuff and taking time to properly appreciate it, or avoid it altogether. Anything else is just an insult. *ahem* Stepping off my soapbox now...

The one cool thing I have seen so far is a Portable Scanner Wand. I would have LOVED for these to exist when I was in college! With Keuka's library being so tiny and trips to other libraries so expensive, it would have been a huge benefit to be able to scan the relevant pages of books (including cover pages for copyright info) and then take them back to one's room to read electronically or print rather than taking copious and time consuming notes by hand. Everyone once in a while, things like this make the science fiction I read in high school seem much less like fiction than a quickly approaching phase of reality... though hopefully without the ravenously militant aliens!

Anyway, what comes to mind most often when reading Christmas catalogs is that pretty soon we're all going to need apartments like the one Bruce Willis has in The Fifth Element. Everything from the shower to the fridge stacked on top of something else, sliding up, down or into a wall as needed so the same tiny main living space serves every function. How else are we going to accommodate the flood of gadgets and mini-appliances we're being sold without finding ourselves totally buried?

I recommend skipping the appliance deluge and heading to the library instead. Pick up Pioneer Woman's cookbook and taste decadence on a plate. Start with the cinnamon rolls and chicken fried steak (but not at the same meal). Absolutely divine.

Oh, and just for fun, if you start to stress out about how your house looks heading into the hectic holiday season, hop over to Hulu and watch an episode of Hoarders (the A&E series). Realizing that people all over the country have houses literally labeled with giant red tags declaring them unfit for human habitation or piled so high with detritus that they actually don't know when a homeless person is living in a nest they made in their basement is guaranteed to make you feel better about whatever small messes hit your home over the holidays. (Note: if you are a compulsive cleaner like myself and a few of my friends who also watch this show, please limit yourself to one episode per week. Failure to do so will lead to nightmares. I'm not kidding.)

One more thing and I'll quit spilling the contents of my ball-of-wire-brain: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Wednesday, November 17

The Edge of Cataclysm

S.510 (discussed in previous posts) has passed the House and is due to be voted on in the Senate today. If it succeeds, it will be only a matter of time before the two versions are reconciled and it becomes law. If that happens, we're screwed.

Watch and pray. Hard.

Update: The Senate voted to continue pursuing the bill and will finalize voting post Thanksgiving. An amendment has been introduced to exempt small farms but it's terribly frustrating to see the bill move forward.

Tuesday, November 16


Some things are too good to keep to yourself, so I am compelled to share the name of an amazing company Eric & I have been blessed to discover and do business with: Champlain Valley Milling Co.

Most people who know us by now have heard that we grind our own wheat. Well the CVMC is where we get that wheat. We mostly stick to hard reds or hard whites because they're the best for bread making, but the company does offer a variety of other options as well.

If you're into food storage, you can do what we do and buy the wheat whole and grind it yourself. If not, you can buy flour; please note that flour loses its nutritional value quickly and needs to be frozen if you're not grinding as needed. Either way, its worth it to check this company out - seriously, we just ordered another 100 lbs of wheat for $50. Considering that a 5 lb bag of whole wheat flour is $6 at the store (and has already lost both its nutritional value and best cooking baking properties long before purchase), its easy to see how drastically this cuts our grocery bills!

If you don't have a grinder, you can check them out here (they come in manual and electric versions). I strongly encourage anyone who bakes regularly or who is trying to improve their diet to check out this company. Their customer service is as excellent as their product!

Wine & Warmongering

Thanksgiving is near at hand - do you have wine on hand to toast the blessings bestowed on you? Finger Lakes wine, specifically... God knows it would be bad form to toast heaven's bounty with the nonsense coming out of California that they have the nerve to label wine! ;0)

Eric & I were blessed to make one of our semi-annual pilgrimages out to wine country this last weekend to restock our wine rack. In case you haven't heard, 2010 was a stellar year for grapes, which means next year's wine will be off the charts amazing! Whoo hoo! I love our days in wine country - driving along the lakes, chatting with vintners who love their jobs and know their stuff and enjoying one of the few traditions our constantly-changing schedules accommodates every year.

Whether or not you're usually into wine, if you drink at all I highly recommend snagging yourself a bottle of Dr. Frank's semi-dry Gewurtz, dry Riesling or a bottle of the brand new Gruner if you haven't yet picked out wine for Thanksgiving. I guarantee it will be worth every penny!

On a completely opposite note, I am finding the news this week of great interest. [If you're not interested in apocalyptic talk, stop reading now please.]

I usually assume TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) will come as a zombie apocalypse, but recent headlines suggest we might just get our revolution in the streets after all.

First off, something fun: a bra holster for handguns. Completely unnoticeable under clothing. How awesome is that!?

Next up, the public outrage is finally swelling to critcal proportions in the face of TSA insanity at airport checkpoints and Texas Public Safety officials trying to get cameras and checkpoints instated on highways. A public opinion survey by Reuters found that 96% of travelers can and are making alternative plans to avoid airports because they refuse to be subjected to the full body scanners (which, by the way, have not been proven safe for use on humans) or intrusive pat-downs.

Also fun to listen to are the debates over the missile launched over California and explained away as an airplane contrail... apparently that's the newest version of the old "it was a weather balloon" line.

I find great reason to celebrate in the news that Ron Paul has been made "chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy", which means there's actually a chance of abolishing the insidious Federal Reserve! Keep on eye on this one... its going to be ugly, but possibly one of the most impressive and decisive battles of our era!

While you're keeping your eyes open, watch for both Smart Meters attached to your electricity meter or in new appliances (don't buy the marketing hype - these are a dangerous idea!) and facial recognition technology on vending machines (again, sounds novel but is a terrible idea in practice).

That about wraps up the major events of note. And people wonder why I so often just stop reading the news...

Friday, November 12


Does anyone know a good place to take a photography for idiots class? The more I make an effort to take pictures for this blog, the more I realize how horrible I am at it. Probably I should do something about that at some point. For now, I'll share what I have and hope you'll forgive the lackluster quality in favor of sharing my enthusiasm.These are delicious GF Cinnamon Coffee Bars with Apple Cider Glaze. Shockingly fast and easy to throw together, you can see by the fact that they're half gone how much we've liked them. :0) For reference purposes, I will note here that I greatly reduced the sugar content and got excellent results.

This, while not a great picture, is the Creamy Sausage Stew referenced in a previous post (I threw in some carrots, which do not technically appear in the recipe). Love this stuff!
This is a mini-batch of Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls just before I rolled them up. (Please note - her original recipe makes a freaking million rolls, so if you want to try it scale it down drastically first!) These are to die for, but for the sake of your waistline I recommend making them only occasionally. (I am making them as a treat, since Eric and I celebrate our 6th anniversary tomorrow. Yeah! Where has the time gone?)
Just to prove I do something besides play in my kitchen, I'll share some updates on what we're doing around the apartment. I've mentioned before that this is the first place Eric and I have really invested in making a home that reflects us and our tastes instead of just a place to crash around work and school. I had a surprisingly hard time finding decent pillows for the living room, but was delighted to hit on these pseudo-suede treasures at Bed Bath & Beyond this week. They barely cost any more than the pillow forms I would have needed to make my own (which I was considering), and are super squishy to boot - perfect!
Much more impressively, we actually put together a bathroom set that not only matches, but that tames our obnoxious blue floor! Whoo hoo! This picture doesn't do it justice, but the sea blue and chocolate brown color combination does a really good job of polishing up the space and making the disparate pieces stuffed in there when we moved in look like they were intentional design elements instead of multi-step renovations done by blind men with leftover stock. :0) SO happy that we got this done! There are a few more little touches to add here and there, but this is a vast improvement and very exciting!I've probably mentioned this already too, but it continues to blow my mind so I'm posting it again. Seriously, this book has made me want to cry more than once and I'm only a little more than halfway through it.

Next post I'll try to have a picture of the adorable practice quilt we made in my finishing class.

I'd like to finish with an entertaining PSA regarding Facebook. As you have probably heard, some moron in California is suing because she got fired after posting nasty things about her boss on Facebook. She claims that her freedom of speech has been violated. It's rather embarrassing, actually, to think that we do such a lousy job as Americans of teaching our children what freedom of speech is (and is not) that she honestly thinks this. Even more embarrassing that public tax money is being spent to put it through the courts.

Really what should have happened is that when she approached a lawyer with this idea, he/she should have politely explained that freedom of speech means you have the right to say whatever you want as long as it doesn't physically put someone else in harm's way (i.e. falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater). It does not exempt you from the consequences of your actions. We're all entitled to our opinions, and we're all equally responsible for demonstrating discretion in which ones to air and how to do so in an appropriate, civilized fashion.

If you walked into your boss's office and told him off, it would be insubordination and you would be fired. Choosing to indirectly tell him off via Facebook is no different. If anything, its worse; you've now publicly humiliated and slandered someone which could quite potentially get you sued!

I am not a fan of Facebook and cannot comprehend what it is about the site that makes users so convinced that it is a separate entity from the real world. It is not Vegas, people. Things that happen on Facebook do not stay on Facebook. Please give yourself a reality check and then go sign up for a basic etiquette class. Please and thank you. :0)