Sunday, November 30, 2008

In the News

Reading the newspaper is a mixed bag for me. Some days I don't even look at the "hard news" because I know I'll be depressed by it. Some days I comb the paper for positive stories (which can be hard to find).

Today's mixed bag:
  • DNA test seeks kids' sports niche. A company in Colorado is offering a DNA test for $149 that claims it can identify athletic potential based on the presence of a certain gene. Of all the ridiculous applications of genetic testing! Not to mention waste of money. And what about interest? What if a child is genetically good at strength sports, but would rather be a chef? The ability to excel is more than just genetics.
  • Stampede at Wal-Mart results in death. This is sad on so many levels. A temporary worker, hired to help out at Wal-Mart for Black Friday, was thrown to the floor and trampled by early-bird shoppers. Mobs scare me.
  • More and more Americans are volunteering to fill the needs of communities. This makes me so happy, and so hopeful, in ways I have trouble articulating.
  • The annual Run to Feed the Hungry raised about $750,000 for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. There were over 28,000 runners (at least 4,000 more than last year). I was encouraged by the sheer numbers, by the positive attitudes of those competing, and the fun atmosphere. I didn't see any tantrums, littering, poor sportsmanship, or other negativity. Amazing, in a group that size. Just enough to restore my hope in humanity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Cameron

Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day. ~Robert Caspar Lintner

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him, all creatures here below,

Praise Him, above, ye heavenly hosts,

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. - Traditional Doxology (song of thanks)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful it's 2008.

From, some information about eating in the 1600's.

Seventeenth Century Table Manners:
The pilgrims didn't use forks; they ate with spoons, knives, and their fingers. They wiped their hands on large cloth napkins which they also used to pick up hot morsels of food. Salt would have been on the table at the harvest feast, and people would have sprinkled it on their food. Pepper, however, was something that they used for cooking but wasn't available on the table.

In the seventeenth century, a person's social standing determined what he or she ate. The best food was placed next to the most important people. People didn't tend to sample everything that was on the table (as we do today), they just ate what was closest to them.

More Meat, Less Vegetables
Our modern Thanksgiving repast is centered around the turkey, but that certainly wasn't the case at the pilgrims's feasts. Their meals included many different meats. Vegetable dishes, one of the main components of our modern celebration, didn't really play a large part in the feast mentality of the seventeenth century. Depending on the time of year, many vegetables weren't available to the colonists.

The pilgrims probably didn't have pies or anything sweet at the harvest feast. They had brought some sugar with them on the Mayflower but by the time of the feast, the supply had dwindled. Also, they didn't have an oven so pies and cakes and breads were not possible at all. The food that was eaten at the harvest feast would have seemed fatty by 1990's standards, but it was probably more healthy for the pilgrims than it would be for people today. The colonists were more active and needed more protein. Heart attack was the least of their worries. They were more concerned about the plague and pox.

Surprisingly Spicy Cooking
People tend to think of English food as bland, but, in fact, the pilgrims used many spices, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and dried fruit, in sauces for meats. In the seventeenth century, cooks did not use proportions or talk about teaspoons and tablespoons. Instead, they just improvised. The best way to cook things in the seventeenth century was to roast them. Among the pilgrims, someone was assigned to sit for hours at a time and turn the spit to make sure the meat was evenly done.

Dinner for Breakfast: Pilgrim Meals:
The biggest meal of the day for the colonists was eaten at noon and it was called noonmeat or dinner. The housewives would spend part of their morning cooking that meal. Supper was a smaller meal that they had at the end of the day. Breakfast tended to be leftovers from the previous day's noonmeat.

In a pilgrim household, the adults sat down to eat and the children and servants waited on them. The foods that the colonists and Wampanoag Indians ate were very similar, but their eating patterns were different. While the colonists had set eating patterns—breakfast, dinner, and supper—the Wampanoags tended to eat when they were hungry and to have pots cooking throughout the day.

Source: Kathleen Curtin, Food Historian at Plimoth Plantation

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin scones

My latest fun in the kitchen! A new pumpkin scone recipe. I'm not sure if I'll use this recipe again. The scones came together a little crumbly, and they seem to be of the "shortbread/flaky" variety, rather than the "biscuit/cakey" variety that I prefer. Interestingly, there was not a lot of sugar to this recipe. So I added my own glaze on the top - butter, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and a little heavy cream. That should help.

We'll see what my coworkers think tomorrow!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm thankful for DESSERT

I went online at lunch today to find a recipe for Thanksgiving dessert. It's just going to be TH and me this year (for the first time EVAH!! No driving, hallelujah AMEN) - so we're planning our perfect Turkey-Day meal. I will be making gingerbread for dessert and I found a super easy recipe that sounds delicious. It will also make nice leftovers for day-after-Thanksgiving breakfast.

But in the search, I also found a few other desserts that I really want to try. How do sweet potato cookies with pecans and orange glaze sound? Uh-huh. Or how about sweet potato Bundt cake with brown-sugar glaze? Yeah. And since I've been making scones all year, how about pumpkin scones? Mmmm-mm-MMM. There will be some bake night fun in my future.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm just sayin'.

Sometimes I forget how important it is to me (personally) to be physically active.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Autumn Flavor

One of the best parts of Autumn is seasonal ice cream: Pumpkin flavor, from Dreyer's. I grew up in the neighborhood of the Dreyer's factory, and going to their ice cream parlor was always a treat and something that still pops up in my dreams and memories of childhood.

It's not November without pumpkin ice cream!

Thoughts to Ponder

From Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul:
"This is the 'goal' of the soul path - to feel existence; not to overcome life's struggles and anxieites, but to know life first hand, to exist fully in context. ... [T]he only thing to do is to be where you are at this moment, sometimes looking about in the full light of consciousness, other times standing comfortably in the deep shadows of mystery and the unknown. ... It is probably not quite correct to speak of the soul's path. It is more a meandering and wandering. The soul path is marked by neurotic tendencies as well as by high ideals, by ignorance as well as by knowledge, and by daily incarnated life as well as by high levels of consciousness. ... The soul becomes greater and deeper through the living out of messes and the gaps...To the soul, this is the 'negative way' of the mystics, an opening into divinity only made possible by giving up the pursuit of perfection."

What does it mean to be in the moment? How does the pursuit of perfection help us, and how does it hinder us?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Historic Moment

Congratulations to Four-star General Anne Dunwoody! The first woman four-star general in the US Army.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Operation Whip-My-Butt-Into-Shape Update

I finally stepped up the workouts today - I've moved into Week 2 of the Couch to 5K plan. In reality, this is week three? Four?* But I haven't felt strong enough or ready to move forward. Today I felt strong, limber, and smooth. I loved my workout. The only thing is, they've closed the track at work. So I had to run on the bike trail. I thought this would be a problem, until I noticed how much more interesting it is to run on a trail than on a track. The scenery on the bike trail is beautiful this time of year. And I actually felt like I was going somewhere, instead of hamster-wheelin'. On the other hand, the track is much more friendly to my feet. Crunchy asphalt is a little dangerous.

All things considered, today was a great workout.

*I had to scroll back to old posts...but I started on October 15.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Calm after the Storm

So, last week was the election, the results of which are still percolating in my mind, and the minds of many of my friends. Not just the results for President, mind my state there were several propositions that garnered support, dissent, and a firestorm of opinions. Probably the most notable of these was Proposition 8. Proposition 8 proposed that language be added to amend the California State Constitution to indicate that marriage is only recognized between a man and a woman. (This is in response to a court decision that ruled that a proposition enacted in 2000 was unconstitutional.) It passed (meaning the majority of people in CA voted to restrict marriage to traditional, heterosexual unions).

Let me indicate right now that this blog post is not going to discuss this proposition, or which side is right or wrong. There are many other places on the internet where that debate can, will, and does take place. What I am trying to do here is sort through what happened last week in another forum, and my thoughts about it. If you want a debate, go make the space for one.

An interesting thing happened when I posted a statement on my facebook page, regarding Prop 8. Many of my friends responded passionately, and a huge discussion ensued. I learned a lot. I hope my friends learned a lot. You see, my friends are a diverse political continuum from conservative to liberal; they are a tossed salad of faiths and religious (or not) walks. Each of them came at this issue with a slightly different perspective. It was both scary and an honor for me to "host" the conversation.

What I'm processing for myself are the following:

1. It was a bold step for me to invite a discussion that would surely become contentious.
I am not someone who invites conflict. I value harmony, sometimes to the point of disregarding my own feelings. Even as I write about this third-person discussion, I am tense in my shoulders. I feel my heart beating faster. This response is interesting to me. Where does this "fear" of debate come from? So knowing this about myself, I don't think I'm bragging to say that I'm proud that I opened up the can of worms, in spite of my fears. I'm proud to have mediated a conversation where there was so much disagreement. I feel like that was a big step for me in my growth. I think that this really brought home this quote: The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. -- M. Scott Peck

2. It was interesting to see people on either side of the issue eschew hatred, then display hatred.
At least, that is what I observed.

3. Is the act of discussion and debate truly valuable? Or do people just entrench themselves deeper in their opinions?
For myself, I didn't change my opinions, but the debate did change my understanding of the issues and why people voted the way they say they did. It was profound to watch my friends struggle to express their values.

What do you think? Does debate help?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Women I admire - Alice Walker

Alice Walker is amazing. This is a beautiful letter.

An Open Letter to Barack Obama
Nov 5 2008
Dear Brother Obama:
You have no idea really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bake Night Returns!

November has arrived, bringing refreshingly cooler weather, darker evenings, and BAKE NIGHT!!! Oh yeah, and some election or something....

It's been a roller coaster week, and I'm tired. I've got lots of reflections on the major events of this week, and I'll get to those in a later post. Tonight is about a quiet evening.

OK, so they're not from scratch, but they taste good.

Snickerdoodles. Just the name makes me smile.

This was an impulse buy, and I think it's meant to be holiday music. But I find it infinitely soothing right now. The versions of "Dona Nobis Pacem" are really speaking to me right now. Also, James Taylor singing the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" in 3-3 time is genius.

Have a lovely evening and a good weekend!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Weekend on the Coast

Back from another glorious weekend on the "Mendonoma" coast, outside of Gualala CA.

Beautiful area. If you go, be sure to visit my favorite indie bookstore, Four-Eyed Frog Books. This place is fantastic and, while small, has a great book selection. We also lucked into a sale - 50% off hardbacks, 40% off paperbacks. Woo-hoo! Also in Gualala, a shout-out to the ladies at Cafe Lala. Warm cafe, fast service, and good fresh food. Not to mention home-made blackberry pie. And, to finish out my advertisements (I always like to plug local businesses), rent from Coasting Home. The houses are lovely, and so is the staff.