Monday, December 20, 2010

Crafty Elf

For anyone following me on Twitter or paying attention on Facebook, it was clear I have been busy. I was not clear about what I was doing exactly, because I was busy in Santa's workshop aka my office/sewing room, making holiday gifts.

In total I made 4 no-sew fleece throws. I think these make wonderful gifts and L can help. She cuts the fringe or even ties some knots. The advantage to these, is the sky is the limit. You can make you own, by buying the fleece of your choice and trust me there is a pattern for everyone. JoAnn's even provides a tip sheet.

I have seen kits at all sorts of stores, naturally JoAnn's is my store of choice. Some kits will come prescored, which makes the entire process much easier and some you have to measure and cut, which takes more time, but is not fantastically challenging.

There is a variation on this theme, the patchwork fleece blanket. I made it a few years back for my mother. It was a challenge and I was sort in over my head. I have a kit, stashed away, which I may make this winter, but seriously, if you want to make a gift and you really feel you can't sew, the No Sew Fleece Throw is a great alternative. There is a throw pillow variant which is nice also.

The fleece throws got me warmed up, then I went for a sewing challenge.

In the summer I bought the book, One Yard Wonders after seeing it featured on a blog I used to follow. In truth, I have read it twice and made nothing. My sewing skills are basically decent, but I lacked the confidence to really go for it. The advantage is this book does have detailed directions and the internet has tons and I mean literally tons of tutorial videos. The sewing class this fall also helped to boost my confidence.

I wanted to make all the ladies in my book club something for the holidays, but I wanted to make it, not buy it. I wanted it to be the same, but unique.

I settled on the collapsible shopping bag. Great for shopping, coming to book club, going to library, and so much more. I had a variety of fabric around, some I had bought on whims and some I inherited from my mother-in-law or my mother. I only had to buy matching bias tape. (something I have never used before, but found easy enough to do, once I got the hang of it.)

In true sweatshop fashion, I cut out the five bags first, then I learned how to do a french seam. It is covered in the beginning of the book, but this tutorial helped alot too. (Tip: there are so many great sites out there, showing you how to do so many of these projects. So very helpful for the novice.)

Then I pinned the bags and then I slowly started sewing.

This charming bag I made from two tea towels, I picked up at World Market a few years ago. I love the pattern.

These bags, I had roughly 3.5 yards, so I was able to make three matching bags, are out of  the fabric I picked up at Walmart many years ago. It is whimsical. It was hard to work with though, the patchwork was wonky. I had a hard time creating the french seam.

This bag is out of exactly a yard of fabric. I have no idea where it came from. Ironically it was the easiest fabric to work with. The texture and weight seemed just right.

After I finshed these bags, I was SO excited. I wanted to Tweet pictures and post to facebook but it would ruin the surprise. So I waited and then I decided to make two more. I had the fabric and thought they would make charming presents.

I found this fabric frayed a bit, making the french seam a bit of a challenge, I did finally on these two master my bias tape technique. I finally was comfortable with using it and feeding it and then creating a clean edge.

Sewing really is about practice. You cannot learn to sew by just reading or watching You Tube vids, you have to just go for it. Each of these bags is unique, each had many flaws. They are perfectly imperfect, but they were made with love and there is not a single other bag in the world just like it.

And yes - I have given all of my handmade gifts away. Tonight I started on something for myself. I have truly been inspired and I am planning to tackle more projects after the holidays. I have proven, to myself, that I can in fact sew.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not that I am the most clever girl in the world, but rarely do thrillers or crime novels keep me in suspense until the end of the book.

Stieg Larsson had me guessing, until he was ready to reveal the truth. Brilliantly written/translated (although the bagel bit was troubling - I have never eaten a bagel in Europe. Never. True, I haven't ever been to Sweden, but still.)and with characters who are real, gritty, likable and detestable, with well developed plot lines and many little interesting tangents, which might or might not reconnect, but which never take away from the story. This story is complex and it is actually two, maybe three stories in one and I find I like that, when it is done well. Suffice to say, this one is done exceptionally well.

I think the frank discussion of sexual content is not gratuitous as some reviewers have suggested. This book depicts the lives of real people, in a real way, with the ugly bits included. For me, that is why this works so well.

I started reading this in print and then switched to audio version. The audio version is so well read and engrossing, twice I drove past my destination, so taken with the story.

I finished this last night and immediately downloaded the next in the series. Larsson has hooked me.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pumpkin Waffle

I found these waffles on a The Spiced Life.

I had to make some adaptations to make them egg, dairy and gluten free, but the family enjoyed them. Particularly my mom and H. I have noted my substitutions in blue below.

Pumpkin Waffles
Adapted from Pancakes & Waffles: The Fine Art of Pancake, Waffles, Crêpe and Blintz Cooking

2 cups AP flour (I mixed 1/2 c tapioca flour, 1/2 c sorghum flour and 1 c white rice flour)
4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, separated (I used 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum and 1/2 c warm water, beat and let stand 5 minutes)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1% with a dash of cream) I used regular Almond Milk.
1 cup canned pumpkin (or cooked and mashed)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.

Mix egg yolks, milk, pumpkin, melted butter and brown sugar; beat until smooth. Gently mix in the flour mix.

Preheat the waffle iron.

Whisk or whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold them into the batter. Make waffles according to your iron's directions. Serve with whipped cream and maple syrup.

The waffles were sweet and pumpkiny, with a nice spice flavor. They were light and crisp on the outside and rich and moist on the inside.

H said he doubted anyone would know they were missing eggs, milk and gluten. I did end up using the butter, but I think canola oil would have worked just fine.

We will be having this again very soon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Who owns it...

So - recently I espoused that this is not a craft or cooking blog and it isn't. It is being rather political of late and with good reason.

The Constitution of the United States is taking one hell of a beating of late. This is the document, which is the foundation for our political system and our overall culture I would say. It is what defined us as a nation and it was, in its time, a radical document. It was, not to be punny, REVOLUTIONARY.

It is still relevant today. Freedom is freedom. Liberty is liberty. We must as a nation ALWAYS error on the side of preserving freedom and liberty for ALL. I am not saying we should ignore the law, I am saying when there is gray area, the lens we must use, is the lens that allows for the preservation of liberty and the least intrusion of government in the private lives of citizens.

Human rights, civil rights, states rights and then and only then the rights of the Federal Government.

I am tired of beating the TSA horse - whose policies are  a blanant violation of Americans 4th Amendment rights. (Just so we are clear - I am not changing my opinion, just moving onto another topic.)

I am moving onto the 1st Amendment, which aside from the 4th, is my favorite.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


When we as writers write things, which we have factual proof of or are expressing an opinion we hold dear, the government cannot censure it. They don't have to like it, but they cannot censure it. They cannot just come on over and delete my blog. In China, they can. Here in the US, they can't, even though they might want to.

(This includes you Department of Homeland Security, even though you might like to think otherwise, just sayin' Constitutions trumps the Patriot Act and if doesn't - shame on you court system.)

This brings us to WikiLeaks. (who I would link to, but am either being blocked from doing so by Big Brother and Big Business or they truly have not found a new host server.) Here is a reuters news article on the subject.

I am not exactly sure how I feel about the cache of US State Department Cables, which WikiLeaks is slowly feeding out into the Internet. On one hand, as a writer, I want my copyright respected. No one better be publishing my work, without my permission, I own it, unless I have waived my rights. You can quote me, if you link properly. (see what I did with the Amendment 1 quote.)

What WikiLeaks is doing is hardly quoting. It is publishing documents wholesale. Presumably redacted in certain cases.

Also, do the writers of the documents have copyright rights? Is their work product considered the property of their employer, the United States Government and as such, what must the Government do to safe guard that work product.

And let's clear this up, how did WikiLeaks get the information? Was it really that easy for one army private pencil pusher, to download all this stuff and just pass it along. Did he get paid?

If WikiLeaks paid him to "steal" the information, ie it was their idea and they asked him to do, then I am more upset than if they just bought it from him.

What I am ravingly pissed about is that he, this lowly army PFC could get his hands on it at all! Hello - is my government run by a bunch of circus clowns? (emphatic nodding of head YES!)

Furthermore, some of what is said in what little of this I have read is objectionable. It is not professional and it is the kind of thing I would NOT want my employees writing about co-workers, allies, vendors or partners. Everything we write or say in a professional (and frankly personal) context should pass what I call the "would I want to see this printed on the front page of the New York Times." (any doubts - yes this blog post passes this test and frankly if they want to reprint it, it will cost them. I am not waiving my fee.)

Then there is the very real issue of who needs to know. There was a time I would have said that some things need to remain secret. I don't feel that way now. I have about zero confidence in the elected officials in Washington and their appointees. They allowed slanderous material to be stolen and then leaked. What kind of security did they have in place. (Um, poor.)

Freedom is not a game. National Security is not a game. A police state is not what we want. We have to have a balance between Freedom and Liberty and frankly I think it is HIGH time the American public wake up and realize we are not getting what we are paying for in terms of representation and good stewardship of our national ideals.

Members of Congress and the President are public servants. They serve at our pleasure and we pay their salary.

Shifting gears -

There is some speculation that Amazon and other web hosts were pressured to kick WikiLeaks off their servers. I am inclined to believe phone calls were made. I am also inclined to believe that WikiLeaks violated Amazon's terms of service vis a vi the ownership of content posted and hosted via Amazon's web service. (This is what Amazon has said in a press release/comment)

The thing is, in this case, I think it should have gone to court. It would be incumbent on the US and other Nations to prove that WikiLeaks had no legal right to the content. Who owns the documents. Was there a reasonable expectation of privacy?

In my experience, Terms of Service  Agreements are the scapegoat. Is Amazon actively monitoring all of its clients and the material posted to the servers. Not a chance. Did someone with some political clout recommend they take action. You betcha.

I think everyone deserves a slap on wrists here. Amazon for appearing to cave (and as a book seller, that scares me. What if someone with some political power suggests not selling a book about this very case in a year. Will they cave? The press must be allowed to continue.)

The US Government, sloppy with your security of documents and archives much. For shame. For shame that it was that easy to get that amount of information, embarrassing information stolen. You have no one to blame but yourselves and I were the boss - a good number of you would be fired.

WikiLeaks - I am not sure of your motivates. I am not sure you are the good guy. I do think, that you have an agenda that I might not be 100% in favor of, but I do think you are exposing the truth, embarrassing though it might be.

I will leave you dear readers with this. I used to wonder how Hitler did it. How did he get a nation, if not half a continent to follow his insane plans? I could not for the life of me as a young passionate contrary woman get my head around the idea that all those people went along. Hello your neighbors are being marched to a gas chamber. Your co workers are disappearing. Didn't you smell something, anything?

I will tell you how it happens. Erosion of civil rights and then the justified seizure of your basic human rights. It really is that simple. It is systematic and it is brutal and it is happening right now in the US at airports. It happened with your investment accounts right after 9/11 - too bad most Americans didn't notice.

It may start at a train station near you soon.

It may already be happening with our ability to gather information on the world wide web. It may be happening at the largest retailer of books/media, Amazon. (Why can't I get WikiLeaks to come up?)

When the STATE decides what information you have a right to see, that is censorship.
When the STATE decides it is ok to sexually assault you in an airport, that is a police state.
When the STATE decides to exempt themselves from the rules (notice congress members are exempt from sexual assault at airports.) It is the slippery slope to Big Brother running rampant.
When the STATE decides to run it citizens to the ground in a public square with tanks, that was China, it could just as easily be the United States.

When WikiLeaks leaks largely unedited and highly embarrassing documents, which it easily obtained, I think it is unethical on one hand, but way preferable to being felt up in an airport and being told what to read by the State.

It is preferable to being forced to join the Hitler Youth and hiding in my cellar as Nazi soldiers ransack my family home and physically and perhaps sexually intimidate my mother, which is EXACTLY what my mother in law experienced as a girl not much older than my daughter, in Germany during WW II.

Let's be careful what we wish for, as we level judgment on those who publish the truth. WikiLeaks did not write these documents... they are merely exposing those who did.

The real question is - is the tone and tenor of those documents the tone and tenure we want our elected official and government employees to be using? Is this what are tax dollars should be spent on? Should we believe what the President says because he is the President? Or should we be more critically thinking about how we are running this nation. Do we want to follow (goose stepping along like lemmings) the "this is what WE decided is best for you" bandwagon?

Those are the questions, which we must answer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hey - Michelle, she has a point, what DO YOU Have to say for YOURSELF

Harassing a nursing mother? Mr. President you must be SO proud.

This is not the reason I vote for you, Mr. President. This is disgraceful and abusive to women. I pumped and carried for my daughter all the time. Breast is best and no child should have to be fed X-rayed breast milk - the guidelines allow for it to be alternatively screen. The TSA manager should lose his job.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dear Mr. President

I rarely write to my elected officials, cuz let's be honest, no one above an intern actually reads what is written. Also I am rarely moved to such high levels of angst. I have to tell you, not much gets me up in arms, aside from when the government tries to monkey with my right to free speech and I am a BIG fan of the 4th Amendment. I have a right to say NO you can't touch me, look through my car or house, just because YOU think there is threat.

I also have spent more than ample time empowering both L and E to say no. No you can't hit me. No you can't hurt me and no you can't touch me in inappropriate ways. I am not inclined to make an exception to a TSA official, especially when this list of folks gets to waltz through scott free, unmolested and unscreened (as reported by Chris Elliott.)

The TSA insists it is listening to air travelers, and has already loosened many of its screening requirements in response to the public outrcy, including exempting pilots, flight attendants and children under 12 from the body scans or enhanced pat-downs. (Children will receive a “modified” pat-down, but the agency declines to say how, exactly, kids will be screened.)

It is so damn easy for President Obama to say these measures are important, he gets to jet set around the world with his wife and children and not have to explain to his daughters why women and men in uniform are touching them inappropriately. He does not have to explain to his daughters why they have to give up their right to consent to sexual touching.(also as reported by Chris Elliott)

President defends pat-downs. President Obama tells ABC’s Barbara Walters tonight that the pat-downs will continue. “I understand people’s frustrations with it,” he says. “But I also know that if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people…and it turned out that we could have prevented it possibly…that would be something that would be pretty upsetting to most of us – including me.”

No one is going to goose him in an airport, so why should he care. His cronies are exempt. His wife is exempt. His children are exempt. The baggage handler is exempt. This TSA policy is for the birds and we all know it.

So this is the message I sent the man I voted for 2 years ago. His job is to keep us safe and UPHOLD the Constitution. It is not an either/or proposition Mr. President. Take your fancy education and figure out some real solutions. I would start with finding Mr. Pistole a job as a pencil sharpener, he is not representing you well.

My Letter to the President:

I am writing you to urge you to reconsider this horrible and I feel unconstitutional TSA search and irradiation policy. As the father of two daughters, I cannot believe that a) you feel what amounts to sexual assault is justified, even to young children and b) this policy with its abundance of loop holes, like unscreened airport employees and members of congress, and the underscreened cargo  is not actually making us safer, but it is discriminatory.

Buying an airline ticket should not also mean I must submit defacto to sexual assault.

There are better ways and it is up to you, Mr. President to find them.

There must be a balance between security and dignity.Policies which purport to ensure our safety but steal our dignity must not be tolerated. That is not what the founding Fathers' risked life and liberty for and we should not be willing to accept anything less than that.

Freedom comes with great responsibility and first and foremost we must responsibly protect those freedoms.
This wrongheaded and unconstitutional TSA policy are not the way to do that. I know you know that. As a father you want your daughters to be safe and have the right to consent. Do not steal that from my daughter, just because your daughters can fly on a private jet. Just because your wife does not have to be man-handled in public, do not make me consent to such treatment.

If there were proof that these type of loop hole riddled policies actually made me safer, perhaps I would go along with it, but they don't and we all know that.



Friday, November 26, 2010

This is not a craft or cooking blog.

I know, I have been posting alot of entries which have to do with cooking and crafting and this may be causing many of you to think that I am morphing into a Domestic Diva and while it is true, I am no longer fighting the economy and have embraced enjoying motherhood and writing creatively and to suit myself, I am not gunning for the Martha Stewart homemaker of the year award. (not that I have a chance of getting it, the house is cluttered and the laundry is frequently in piles and the kitchen gets torn up routinely.)

What I am doing is enjoying my children, who are 8 and 5 years old. I am home to get them off to school in the morning and I am home to hear about their days in the afternoon after school. I can afford to devote many weekends to taking them here and there. I organize trips to the library and the conservatory.  I waited well into my late twenties and early thirties to have children and for a good portion of their toddler years I fought the notion of being a stay at home mom. I worked sometimes 3 jobs to put myself through the finally two years of college. I worked hard to complete that MBA. I wanted to put all that work to use and then it dawned on me - I am. I am focusing on my children and my family and my writing and I am showing my children, that I define success on my own terms.

I thought about applying for a job or two this fall, but the reality is H is now based back at home, after a long stint in NYC and if I adopt a traditional 9 to 5 M-F work schedule, we would never see each other. Also, E was sick a week or so ago and it was totally on me, H was traveling and E was home 2.5 days, one only gets so much sick time. (I was sick the following week, totally unrelated, but still.)

I feel like, while I am busy, it is all manageable. I can make time to write. I can make time to cook, I can make time to make dolls with L and not feel like I am trying to keep the damn from bursting. I can roast a whole pumpkin, puree and make ginger pumpkin bread and homemade pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. I can spend time with friends and love ones and not constantly feel as if I am behind and overwhelmed.

So while this is not a cooking nor craft blog, it is my blog and for now, during this season of my life, I am cooking, crafting and writing and that is exactly what I should be doing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dolls and Dolls

I took the kids to Junctionview Studios on Saturday for the Viewfinder event. L is very in touch with her creative self and E is certainly showing signs of having a quiet creative spirit. I like the children to see artists, craft people and artisans working. I think in our counsurmerist centered capitalist culture, we have ceased seeing the value in those items, which are crafted with skill, heart and soul.

L has wanted an Ugly Doll for awhile and we have resisted. She has a zoo of stuffed creatures, one can hardly see her in her double bed most nights. She saw some handcrafted stuffed pets at the Viewfinder and as we walked back to the car, full of Pattycake cookies and high spirits, she said she thought we could make them.

In truth my sewing skills are not salable quality, but I can sew. It is something I enjoy, if I am not that good at it. I would like to sew more, but finding the time for me to really focus on the task is a challenge.

So thanks to the power of Google and YouTube, we found a video and a pattern. I blew the pattern up slightly using our copier and we set out, looking through my material scraps and my craft buttons. (I also did not trace and sew, as L wanted more elaborate embellishments and we had to make some modifications.)

L helped design the dolls, picking the fabric and the embellishments. We offered to include E, but he passed. I think he thought we were nuts. Saturday night we plotted, planned and pinned. On Sunday we cut, pieced, and sewed. Then L stuffed. At swimming lessons, I hand sewed the heads closed and patched any of the holes, which formed as enthusiastic stuffing split a seam or two.

I am pleased with the results. L had named hers - Stubby (Top right corner)  and Clara (blue strips with pink tummy patch) and they have been going to school with her, this short week of school. She is proud of our efforts and most of all happy, I think at realizing her creative vision and doing so, with me. It was a very nice mother/daughter project.

The other two have found good homes as well. So all is right in the stuffed world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yummy Butternut Squash Pasta sauce

I have been experimenting with squash. I have many from my CSA and I have aimed to use every single one. So when I read this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens I knew I had to give it a try - with some modification to accommodate my allergies and sensitivities.

Here is the recipe from which can be found here


  • 1  large  butternut squash, 2-3/4- 3-1/4 lbs., or 1-3/4 lbs. ready-cubed (6 cups)
  • 1  large  onion, finely chopped
  • 2  Tbsp.  olive oil
  • 3/4  tsp.  smoked paprika
  • 1  Tbsp.  unsalted butter
  • 3  Tbsp.  Marsala
  • 1/2  cup  water
  • 2/3  cup  pine nuts
  • 1  lb.  pappardelle or other robust pasta
  • 6    fresh sage leaves
  • 5  oz.  soft blue cheese, such as Saint Agur


1. Peel, halve, and seed the butternut squash; cut into roughly 1-inch cubes.
2. Cook onion in olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan that can accommodate the pasta later. When the onion starts to become golden, add the paprika.
3. Stir butter and squash into onion mixture in pan. Add Marsala and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 10 minutes or until squash is tender but still holds its shape.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to boiling; add hefty pinch of salt. Cook pasta according to package directions. Toast pine nuts in a hot, dry frying pan o the stove top until dark gold. Pour them into a bowl or onto a plate to cool.
5. Lightly season squash mixture to taste with salt (the blue cheese will add additional saltiness). Remove from heat.
6. Finely chop sage; sprinkle over the squash, reserving some for serving.
7. Remove about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water with a ladle or mug; drain pasta. Add drained pasta to the squash mixture. Gently stir to combine. If sauce is too dry or mixture won't come together, add some of the reserved cooking water; the starch in it encourages the sauce to emulsify and cling to the pasta. Stir in most of the pine nuts and blue cheese. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining sage, pine nuts, and cheese. Makes 6 (1-1/2 cup) servings plus leftovers.
My changes -

1. I could not find gluten free Pappardelle. I did find some wide noodles which were gluten free, but they contained corn starch and eggs so they were a no go. I opted for some gluten free penne. Which seemed strong enough to hold up to the thick hearty sauce.

2. At Whole Foods, I selected a sheep's milk blue cheese, which seemed milder than some of the very sharp cow's milk blue cheeses, but I was just happy to be able to use blue cheese.

3. I am not a huge fan of  Marsala. So I used some white wine. The same for pine nuts, not a huge fan and I am thinking nuts are aggravating my tummy, so I omitted those also.

I found this to be an easy and yummy dish, very hearty. I served it with green beans. H is wanting to try more vegetarian dishes and reduce our consumption of meat. This fit the bill and is very filling. This made enough for two good sized dinner portions and plenty of leftovers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A flying...


This phrase has always struck me as bit off. I imagine little fairies or cherubs or 300 pound men on Circus trapeze, whatever. When kids would say this in High-school, or more correctly yell it, I was always puzzled. I digress.

I picked this title because a friend made a very funny funny and it inspired me. (Thank you R!)

If you are somewhat awake and following the news, you know that the TSA has been busy of late. Want to bone up on the full body scanners and enhanced pat downs - go here for a primer.

I will also note, H had an incident this week, at an airport, where these new procedures are in play. A butter knife was found and H followed protocol and the head of TSA for that airport came and that clown asked H if he wanted to search the plane or not. H is like, heck ya I wanna search the plane, I want to see what else you missed.The passengers deplaned and they all got re-screened and the plane got a thorough going over (all except the cargo, that is.)

I will let you in on a little secret. I dislike Big Brother (who now is turning into Creepy pervy - in a bad way - Uncle!) I have a real problem with people in authority who are stupid. While we are at it, I have zero tolerance or patience for stupid in general. I also have a BIG problem with my basic rights being violated. Convicted criminals cannot be subjected to this type of invasion of privacy without proper cause and yet we the American flying public are paying to be subjected to groping and radiation and news flash - it isn't doing anything to make us safer. Not when cargo goes unscreened or under-screened and airport employees are only randomly screened.

So while those of us who choose to fly (which is not me - after my trip to Cancun, I plan to stay firmly on terra firma for awhile.) are stripping down to our underwear, being zapped with what cannot be a safe amount of radiation, by people who may or may not be saving those images, and then poked and prodded in a manner that would get the average horny guy in a bar arrested and on a sexual predator list - millions and I mean millions of pounds of cargo are flying on commercial airliners - unscreened or under-screened. H says he routinely gets a manifest which includes cargo, that NO ONE had screened since it has been entered into the system and then it is likely the shipper answered some yes or no questions, and not enduring a groping.

Go with God, darling. Go with God. Especially when this is the US attitude toward screening of cargo.

U.S. Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole, who also attended the conference, said a delicate balance needs to be struck to ensure that the enhanced security requirements for air freight do not disrupt global trade.
"The flow of global commerce is key to economic recovery," Pistole said. "Security cannot bring business to a standstill."

So while we consumers, air travelers and normal Joe's are being subjected to draconian and I think illegal searches of our person and property, cargo, stuff in boxes is flying first class, unsearched and unscreened.

This Article has a great graphic detailing how cargo is processed. While there is some screening, it is not nearly as invasive or as thorough as passengers are enduring. Nor is cargo stored in a sterile area. It is often left unattended, on the tarmac, on a truck or in a warehouse.

Now if I were of a mind to wreck havoc, I would go for the airport employees - who come to work and largely get to pass through unscreened. While nosing around, I found this article about what the TSA says it is doing. I am not buying it. H says he has never, in all the airports he has been in, seen it either. I think that every employee of an airport should have to submit to the same screening as passengers everyday. Why should they be any different than the guy who flies two to three times a week? They are the door in. Let's face it, they are paid peanuts. Many are foreigners or new to the US and money is an issue. I am not sure how easy it is to do a 10 year background check on a tarmac employee, who is from Kenya or Somilia or Mexico and been in this country for a few years. I am sure those governments, in the developing world have great record keeping methods and I am sure they are super willing to share that information.

Also I recall rather fondly the time, I discovered while doing a client's 401 K pre-test audit and discovered that there were 17 different employees, at three different plants, with the same social security number. Fake ID's anyone? The terrorists who brought us 9/11, many of them had valid State issued ID. While it is illegal to lie to the BMV, a guy or gal who wants to blow something up, I seriously doubt lying to a quasi government agency, a government they have great contempt for, is a great moral quandary.

I am not the only one concerned about this. This article speaks to the perils of swipe cards and security by-pass procedures, which are the rule at US airports, not an exception. (Read more here and here )

So I do give a flying f*ck. My Sweetie, goes to work and his office is 35,000 ft off the ground. I want him to be safe and if I was assured that all the other loop holes were closed and the only way we could assure his safety was for me to strip naked and walk through the airport, get my thyroid fried with radiation and let some pervy, underpaid, under educated goon grope me, I would do it. Heck I might kiss the goon.

But that is not the case and until we close those other loop holes - this is a classic case of the government being lazy and stupid and motivated by corporate interests. Don't hold up cargo. Don't make my employees have to go through security, it eats into the work day. Why should I pay to have them groped. Blah, blah, blah.

The metal detector and the wand searches are enough. They are not 100%, but I think H's experience this week proves they are just as effective as the searches which steal our human rights. I would rather take my chances on what works reasonably well and maintains my dignity than what clearly doesn't work and puts us on the slippery slope to a police state.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Goodreads: Fear of Flying, Eric Jong

Fear of FlyingFear of Flying by Erica Jong

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While I could not read this book, finding it hard to read bits and put it down and pick it up, without having to flip back a few pages and re-read, I did end up finishing it - but in audio book form. I found having the book read to me, to worked wonders.

I purchased the audio version on and the narrator is wonderful and the book really comes alive.

I found myself really loving the frantic prose and the jumping from topic to topic and while reading the meandering of Isadore's mind proved challenging, listening to them was rewarding and pleasant. I actually found myself thinking about all the craziness she was explaining and experiencing, instead of drowning in the words on the printed page.

I think this book is very well written, and rich with fantastical phrases and very rye and sage observations, very relevant still today and worth being read. I don't actually  like any of the characters and while I would like to say I am grossly disappointed in Adrian Goodlove turning out to be a worthless, spineless, fraud - what does one really expect from a character deliberately named Goodlove.

I am glad I got creative and took a chance on the audio book, it really did make all the difference.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meet my Big Blue Pot

Allow me to introduce the new to me, beautiful blue granite-ware, deep canning pot, with the riser insert.

I found this darling gem at a second hand collectible shop in downtown Deleware, Ohio while shopping with my mother. For $16.25. Quiet a bargain. For my first few canning attempts, I build my own, M*A*S*H style canning system with a galvanized bucket and aluminum foil. While it worked and the jars sealed and nothing exploded, I do not recommend this method, at all.

Canning you say, yes canning.

I know it is very domestic and Martha of me, but I have been up to my eyeballs in fruits and veggies. H and I decided on a CSA with Wayward Seed this year. One veggie and two fruit shares to be exact. We have feasted on all manner of fruits and veggies, at their peak of freshness and many we might not have ever tried otherwise.

What started me on this quest was the almost 3 pounds of plums we got. So many plums. So I tried a pickled plum recipe. The nice thing about Wayward Seed, is they give you cooking and storing ideas each week. I have yet to taste my pickled plums, but the jars sealed and I plan to crack one open this week.

Next was the concord grapes. Made my own grape juice. Going to try some of it soon also.

Now let's talk apples. Holy Cow do I have apples. I have made and froze some applesauce, but I have apples on top of apples. I have made apple pies, baked apples and apples something else. Still I had apples.

At the market, I picked up a copy of Edible Columbus. In it there is an article about canning and a recipe for Curried Apple Chutney. I thought, why not. I like chutney. I like curry and man do I have apples.

I made a few modifications. I used jaggery instead of brown sugar and I omitted the garlic and I used a high end, spicy curry powder instead of the run of the mill curry powder. Both I bought at my local Indian market. I left out the alspice and mustard seeds, as this curry powder can stand alone.

It was easy to make and I canned 12 .5 pint jars of chutney.

I ate the bit I had left over and let me tell you I was licking the plate, seriously, it is that good. This is going to be yummy for months to come. For this canning job I used my new pot and wow, the right canning pot makes all the difference. It made the job easy. The jars all sealed perfectly. I was able to process six jars at a time.

Today I decided to use up the sweet potatoes I got in my farm share and I made sweet potato butter. Recipe also from the Fall Edible Columbus Magazine.

I think I should note, I am not inclined to follow recipes exactly. It is pathological I suppose. I replaced the brown sugar with jaggery again, and I did not use my slow cooker, but instead cooked everything down on the stove. It yielded one pint jar and one half pint jar and a bit extra. This is velvety smooth and so super sweet.

The jars sealed just fine and I am looking forward to eating this all winter long.

I have a pile of apples still, so I think more pies are in order and more apple sauce. I ordered a bushel of apples from Hirch Farms and will pick them up this week. After that the fruit will be gone but I will have veggies until the beginning of December.

I never thought I would be canning anything, but it is easy and it does mean I can make foods which are safe for me to eat and enjoy. Since I have to make almost everything I eat, in order to avoid corn, wheat, gluten, eggs and dairy - I have become increasingly adventurous in the kitchen.

Now about that M*A*S*H still... eh maybe next summer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Outside voices

The FCKH8 little video floating around facebook and twitter, dealing with repealing Prop 8 and advancing the legalization of marriage for all Americans has caused a stir. I reposted it on my Facebook because I think it is savvy and clever and spot on.

Since 2008, I have been clear that I see marriage as a social contract and ergo it is a legal convention of the State and under the US Constitution,  all Americans must be afforded the same rights and protections under the law. (Here are two of my blog entries which deal with marriage: Contract of Marriage and Marriage is a Social Contract)

That said I am equally opposed to the casual use of the F-word and HATE is a banned 4 letter word in our house. In this case I think the words are being used with the gravity and brevity they both deserve. I think that the time has come to use an outside voice and speak up and speak loudly.

Let's call it as it is. Nothing short of prejudice is stopping marriage from being legally allowed for all couples who meet a baseline set of standards. It is illegal to disciminate for jobs based on a persons sexual orientation so it is not a magic leap to say it is illegal to disallow some couples from availing themselves of all the perks of marriage under the law.

Politically speaking, I think the government's job is to manage the business of running a nation and provide for smooth international relations and commerce. I think less government is better and I think the prudent management of the US check book is in order. At the moment I am disgusted with both parties and I think the lot of them should be sent packing and we should start over. A multiple party system is in order. Accountability and what not.

That said, I find it objectionable that both parties say they are defending the Constitution and clearly having marriage being the litmus test for 1000s of rights and privileges and then limited those who can participate in said Unions goes against the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. Sexual Orientation should not be a valid reason to prohibit a couple from all the tax perks (and penalties), insurance benefits, the right to transfer property with tax advantages and the right to be at a loved one's bedside in the event of a tragedy.

I shan't belabor my stance on marriage, go forth and read the links I referenced above.

That said, I think it is time to use an OUTSIDE VOICE. Being nice gets one no where and make no mistake we are at a social crossroads. Our rights are being eroded at every corner and basically we have forgotten that we are a melting pot. There should be some base line social niceties and the rest of our private lives should be that, private. If people want to practice their faith, I am fine with that, I just don't want to hear about it, be roped into participating in it and be subjected to that faith's arbitrarily designed rules. The government is secular, was designed to be secular and should remain so.

Harvey Milk said "“More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, my friends, that is true perversion.” The celebration of love, family and the American dream should know no color, race, gender or sexual orientation. Family units look and feel differently for everyone, but what cannot be disputed is families are the bedrock of society. We already live in a society where those units are a myriad and various as makes of automobiles, now is the time for the law to catch up with the social reality.

The other reason I thought this campaign was worth discussing is I am a MBA geek. I love thinking and writing about business and specifically marketing. I find marketing to be fascinating. I also am currently writing and thinking about social media. I attended a workshop on the use of social media in one's business model.

This campaign in the short 12 days it has existed as raised over $100,000 and has done so through the use of social media. Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. This is cutting edge. Whether you agree with the message or not, you have to admit that it is an example of what viral marketing is capable of generating. Social media, for now, is free. Set up a Facebook Fan page, a Twitter ID and You Tube channel and you are off to the races. Free.

Twitter is like a large chat room with a huge bulletin board. It never sleeps and the beauty of all social media, I think is the content is user controlled. I can say whatever I like (withing reason) and only the people who follow me or are #hastag watching will see my content. It is searchable. If you want to troll for information, it is there and totally searchable.

If for example you think I am a mouthy good for nothing blowhard, you have options. You can unfollow me, block me and go about your merry way. On the other hand, if you think I am intelligent, confident and thought provoking, you can encourage your friends to follow me, by re-posting (called retweeting) my posts or doing a follow Friday post and include me in your list.

Twitter, I think is an example of free speech at its best.

Less than 100 years ago, I was property. African American men had the right to vote before women did and in the 60s, a black man or woman could not legally marry a white man or woman. It took some loud talking to effect those changes.

When I was in college, being gay was rarely talked about.

Times change and we must change with those times. We grow in our enlightenment. Look ye across the pond. Europe, while rife with their own issues, are examples of societies which trace their roots back to Roman occupation and then further back yet. They aren't still governing the way they did 1000s of years ago. They have grown and evolved. Beheading your political opponent and enslaving his followers, is so passe.

We now must learn to grow and evolve.

Fancy that. A movement advancing the evolution of marriage and the definition of family is embracing the new marketing tool.

Ponder that.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Flour-less peanut-chocolate cookies

I adapted this recipe from the March 2005 edition of Everyday Food.

It was flour-less, hence gluten free from the get go, but I now have to eliminate eggs and that has proved my bakers Achilles heel. Until my friend and chief dough slinger at Rogue Bakery set out on the making me cookies that I could eat AND other people would want to eat. In the process he discovered and perfect a formula for replacing eggs in baked goods with Xanthan Gum. I used his formula and got these yummy gems!

Wanna have these tonight? Here is what you will need to do.

Preheat oven to 350.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Mix 1/4 tsp Xanthan Gum with 1/4 c slightly warmer than room temperature water. Beat as you would an egg and let sit about 3-5 minutes. It will look like egg whites.

In a large bowl combine 1 c Creamy Peanut Butter (I used Skippy Natural, cuz that was what was open), 3/4 sugar, Xanthan Gum mixture, 1/2 tsp baking soda and pinch of salt. Mix well. Stir in 1/2 c whole unsalted roasted peanuts and 3/4 c semi sweet chocolate chips.

Mix well.

Using a table spoon or a medium scoop, spoon even amounts of dough into hands and form into balls with damp hands (to prevent sticking)

Mine did not spread much, but leave ample room between. You should get 12-14 balls.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the trays once.

My neighbor, my mom and my kids loved them. I think they are pretty tasty. No one guessed they were gluten and egg free.

If you are feeling lazy but still want some cookies - might I suggest emailing Rogue Bakery. His cookies are worth every penny and HE brings them to your DOOR.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stuffed Squash

I had one acorn squash and one random little yellow "sweet potato" squash. I decided to stuff them. Here are the results.

Wanna have this for dinner - here's what you need.

3/4 lb or slightly less bulk sausage. I used spicey Italian chicken sausage from Whole Foods.
1 1/2 c hot cooked rice (I used basmati from my local Indian market)
1/2 c golden raisins (also from my local Indian market)
1/2 med yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbs ginger paste (yep, local Indian market)
1/2 Tbs garlic paste (yep, local Indian market)
2 Tbs hot water
1/2 c grated cheese (I used some leftover sheep's milk regiano)

Cut and seed the squashes. Place on a baking sheet and preheat oven to 400.

Place raisins in a large mixing bowl and and toss with the hot water. Cook the sausage, breaking it into small pieces. Add onions, garlic and ginger pastes to the raisins and toss. Stir in rice and cheese. When sausage is almost done, dump - drippings and all - into the mixing bowl. Toss to combine.

Stuff into the squashes, mounding it high. Extra stuffing can be baked off in a small casserole dish.

Cook for 35 minutes or until the squash is tender.

H is not a fan of raisins or squash exactly and he ate one of each.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sewing 201

I finally made good on my promise to myself this summer and took a sewing class. My basic skills are decent, but I want to make myself some clothes and frankly I knew I needed some professional guidance.

Monday I took a sewing class at JoAnn's and we made option A from this pattern. I made a modification, becasue I wanted it to button differently. I am 98% finished and will post pictures once I complete the hem and ornamentation.

I feel inspired now to try more versions of the jacket this winter and to finally tackle some of the other dresses and such that I have been afraid to try.

(jacket A is the middle one in a aqua. I choose a very pretty burgundy print fleece for my jacket.)

Help Wanted

Help Wanted: Congressional Reps and Senators

Reasonably well spoken, energetic self starter, with an eye for details, fantastic reading comprehension skills, and unsurpassed active listening skills. Must be able to manage a staff and an active calendar of events, understand modern communication methods such as Twitter, SmartPhones and email.

Desirable personality traits include: humble nature, ability to put others and their well-being ahead of personal gain. Must be dedicated to working on behalf of others and still maintain the ability to say "No" when it is warranted. 

Having read the Constitution of the United States of America is a requirement. Understanding what is and is not covered by said document extremely important.

The ideal candidate must refrain from involving him or herself in the private lives of others. All personal opinions of a moral, religious, or cultural nature must be kept to one's self at all times.

Extensive experience in accounting, money management and fiscal responsibility a bonus. Having taken classes or seminars or having on the job proven negotiation skills will be judged most favorably. An understanding of the concepts of "Prudent Man" and "Fiduciary Duty" also required.

Educational requirements vary and personal skills will be weighted equally to educational achievements.

Vacancies to be filled in early November - the applicant pool thus far, substandard. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You only have one shot

So - while away this week, the power of email hit me square between the eyes. I got a facebook email message that one of the women from my Kenyon Review writing workshop had died. She was 20. She had been living with cancer - no blossoming. She was a hell of a writer. Man, she could craft a poem. She could tear one apart also.

I had the privilege to learn with her. Grow with her. Write with her.

She was just finishing up a round of chemo and had fast talked her doctors into letting her attend the workshop. She rested alot and hung out with me at meals. She could jive with my diet issues and fear of an upset tummy. I never balked as she swallowed down horse pill after horse pill.

I told her about my mom. I got it. The process of cancer. I also was not hung up on it. She was not dying - she was living and I think - seeing my mom battle through chemo - that is important to note.

What she showed the world and continued to show - as I followed her on Facebook and Goodreads - is life is for living - ONE DAY AT A TIME. Squeeze it and hang on tight. Sure maybe an afternoon nap is in order, but do not coast, do not sleep it through, cuz you have no right to expect tomorrow to include you.

As a teenager it had to be tempting to just give up, get pissed, be angry at the world. Instead she took summer school, online and sometimes from the hospital, getting chemo. Seriously.

This spring, she and a friend were hatching some public poetry project and sent out a call for work. I sent her some of my work. Happily so. I hope her friend sees that vision through.

Her words, written during the workshop will never cease to inspire me and make me want to write my very best. Such skill with the pen and at such a young age. I wish I had the chutzpa to write like her when I was twenty. I was shy, maybe once you realize that tomorrow is not a guarantee you just write like you don't care. It took me years to learn to take those risks.

As the news settled into my gut, part of me wanted to be angry. What kind of Universe takes away someone with some much talent and such a gift to inspire. Then I remembered - it is not how long you have - it is how you lived what you were given.

I think M's words speak for themselves. She lived every single second... and just like a good poem. Ever single word counts.

Some of her lovely and and totally moving prose can be found here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Short term thinking breeds long term problems

I saw this link on several FB friends' pages the other day. The article, I think get's it about half right. I think we are seeing the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but to aim the ax mostly at US corporations is disingenuous. To blame this administration or the past two is likewise not the answer either. The American consumer, as much as the American worker also shoulders some of the responsibility.

For every bit of Chinese manufactured bit of fluff purchased at Wal*Mart or Target or where-ever that is one less manufacturing job in the US. The quality is sometimes shoddy, but hey it is cheap. It will likely break in a few months, but then it did not cost that much so what's the big deal. The big deal is the rich get richer and the poor, well poorer.

The REAL problem is as someone in the comments section of the article stated - it is all about short term solutions. In both business and government, and dare I say our culture in general we favor the short term quick fix to long term problems. ...Couple that with corporations being encouraged by Wall Street, to MAX out profits - notice I did not say be profitable - but max out profits quarter over quarter that you have CEOs and CFOs making short term profit maximization decisions and not decisions with an eye towards long term longevity and sustainable profitability.

The tipping point will be, I think, when the American consumer, cannot afford even goods and services using what I call the Walmart pricing model. That or we will all collectively stop supporting companies who fail to match their corporate strategy with our personal value systems.

We need less government intervention. I am very much a free marketer. We will live to regret not letting capitalism work its ruthless magic and allow Wall Street to implode itself. Someone would have stepped in with a business solution, not a tax payer funded solution. Money is like matter, it is never created or destroyed. Someone has money and will move to spend it, when the price is right. Governments creating artificial funding sources, just make matters worse and rarely better.
Sometimes we only learn from terrible and painful lessons.

When I worked for Merrill Lynch a deathly hush fell over the office when Greenspan testified, I said then and I say now, it is dangerous fun to put so much focus and reliance on the ideas and theories of one man, no matter how much or little you think he knows. It was too much power, centralized in one part by the government and one part by the media. Was he brilliant, maybe. Was he savvy, you betcha. Could he read a crystal ball? Only at parties and only for fun. He got it wrong as much as he got it right.

The real issue is this, we lack a real sense of who we are and what we want to represent and the most worrisome statistic in the bunch to me is this one:

In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

This is the crux of a major issue in American business, the fleecing of the stakeholder and the employees. There is no reason for this type of wage inequity. I have YET - to see a CEO who warrants this type of pay. In fact most CEOs of most US companies are not worth a plugged nickle and some hog spit. A leader leads by example. He or she does not fleece the business, cut the wages of the rank file, to enrich themselves. In my opinion, CEOs who cannot produce sustainable, ethical profits for a business, year over year, should earn nothing. It should be a commission based job. No golden parachute for a crappy job, no bonus if you have cut shareholder returns and slash rank and file pay. Earn your keep, like the rest of us.

Not accounting hocus pocus, but real income, real profit. No fancy accounting gimmicks or games of depreciation. I am talking about selling a product and banking real cash. Providing a service, providing it well and banking the profit. Let's pick on my industry du jour - the airlines. The CEO's of all the big ones, need to be put on a CRJ and pelted with garbage, becasue that is exactly how they treat their customers. They should not pass GO and they certainly should not earn 8 figures. The CEO of BP, who is stepping down. He should not get his golden parachute, he should get some hip waders and a one way ticket to a FEMA trailer on a beach on the Gulf Coast and a roll of bounty towels, to wipe down water fowl. That would be leadership. That would be making a difference. All he has done thus far is fail to come up a solution, look stupid and tank the stock.

Business used to be honest and straight forward. When we return to that, to a time when a hand shake meant something - and no double talk and loopholes, then and only then will we start to see a level playing field. It is about an honest days work and a job well done.

I also am totally against any more regulation, let's enforce the regulations we have. Look back on my blog, I have advocated for some time some real accountability. When people who commit fraud and fleece the American taxpayers and corporate stakeholders, they should do hard time, then and only then will it be a deterrent.

There is more than enough blame for this situation to go around. So next time you are trotting off to Wal*mart, with the remains of your ever diminishing paycheck, ask yourself, what am I doing to send the message to businesses that I am serious about keeping the Middle Class and American jobs stateside.

Understand, I am not picking on Wal*Mart exactly, but it is the idea that we think cheaper is better... sometimes it is and in the longer term, sometimes it just isn't.