The story of the lamb shank and cold water pasta

March 5th, 2009

Do you know the story of the newly married wife who goes to buy a leg of lamb? “And cut off the shank end of it please” she asks the butcher. He does what she wants done and the wife proceeds to make a delicious roast. When her mother sees that the roast is in two pieces in the roasting pan she asks her daughter why. “Because you always did it this way” the daughter replied. The mother burst out laughing, sputtering “only because my pan was too short”.

A cute story which does raise one point though: how often do we do things without ever questioning the ‘why’ of it? JG pointed me to a story that deals with exactly that issue and how best to cook pasta. This method needs a little bit more attention while things are cooking but it does save energy. Well worth a read, and something I will definitely try next time it’s spaghetti day at our house.

Fill ‘er up – from the deep fryer ?

February 26th, 2009

If you happen to live in Sarasota, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix or Dallas – or any place in between, you might want to keep your eyes open for a blue Mercedes station wagon with plenty of advertisement stickers on it. And if you see it – give a big wave and a holler!

The driver will be Colin Coon, 18 years old, who had the guts, the know-how and organizational skills to convert a diesel engine to run on used oil which will be donated by various restaurants along the way. Colin  plans to be on the road Feb. 28 through April 18. Why does Colin do it? To show the power of alternative energy. Now tell me that young people have nothing but parties on their mind!

Eat vegetables, prevent cancer?

February 24th, 2009

After years of mothers telling their kids to eat their veggies there are finally studies that back us up. Hallelujah I say!

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara laboratories have discovered that vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are influential in healing at a cellular level and are especially good for women as they might actually prevent certain kinds of cancer.

If you live in a part of the world that struggles through winter this time of year as I do, and if you want to eat what is grown in your area, cabbage type vegetables and potatoes are pretty much at the top of the list. And now we find out what mothers seem to have know all along, that these vegetables are especially beneficial. A very good reason to eat local.

I have never quite figured out why cabbage type veggies elicit such a high yuck factor with quite a number of people. They are tasty and do not smell up the kitchen unless you overcook them until they lose their texture. Steamed or stir fried broccoli or cabbage, cooked only long enough until they turn a bright green, taste excellent. Guess what’s for dinner ? :)

Time for some good news …

February 20th, 2009

Just as I was getting ready to give up hope that anything positive would ever again come out of the news reports, along comes a story that goes a long way in restoring my faith in humanity. Lately it seem the news is mostly depressing. If it isn’t about factories that must close their doors, or people getting laid off, or the high rate of foreclosures, it is about crooks that line their pockets with money that is not their own. So it is truly uplifting to see that there are some good people out there who do care for others. Here is an amazing story that might just give us hope again.

Musings for a happy day

February 16th, 2009

We roll out of bed in the morning with a fuzzy head, somehow muddle through it all and end the day many hours later with a tired and exhausted feeling. Sounds about right? Yep. I have days like that at times too. This overwhelming feeling that it simply cannot all be accomplished in the hours that are available in a day. The lump that sits in the stomach and gets bigger and heavier as the day gets on, the tiredness that overcomes us and won’t go away.

The reasons for stress seem made to order to suit each of us – aren’t we the lucky ones – and while some of us are stronger than others to resist that little devil that whispers in our ear ‘you’ll never get it all done’, we all at one time or another have fallen into this same deplorable pit of misery. Maybe looking at things from a slightly different angle is the charm, or it might be a change of scenery that does the trick. A few moments taken from our busy schedules to have only to ourselves, egotistical as it might appear. All really simple ideas that can help us get through each day a little bit more at ease.

I watched a butterfly yesterday, orange with yellow spots, as it fluttered between blossoms. I saw a gull lift its wings and soar into the blue sky. A tiny white bloom among blades of dried out grass. The melody of a bird that sings its heart out high in a tree. Take a minute and really listen to it. A smile, a hug. So many little things that can be islands of peace in our hectic lives. If only we look for them. So let’s keep our eyes open and collect these special moments for ourselves. Then pass them on to the people around us. But most of all – give it your best do make today a happy day for yourself! Then watch it spread out from there.

JG captured this sunflower balloon as it boobed in the warm breeze at the entrance to a spice shop. So, close your eyes, imagine the aroma of clove and cinnamon, curry and lemons infusing the air around you. Now, take a deep breath, and smile.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day . . .

February 3rd, 2009

If you are a bit like me things tend to creep up on you. Before you had a reasonable chance to let the date sink in, here it is and it is already too late to prepare for it. Take for instance Valentine’s day. Just recently I began to notice heart balloons bobbing in shop windows, candy boxes all in red, and who knows all the special items I missed along the way. Had I ignored or failed to see all the blunt directives that show you how to spend in order to express your love I also happened upon a great article at the Sierra Club site this morning with great ideas specifically for a green Valentine’s Day. It shows that we do have a choice in the way we give. It does not have to be hot house flowers or candy or the formerly ‘unmentionables’ – which usually do more for the giver than the recipient anyway ;)

Let’s not blindly reach for an item without considering the impact that item has on our environment. It takes practice and there might not always be a green alternative to what we want to buy, but let’s at least try and give it a fair shot. After all, how do the suppliers, growers, manufacturers know what we really want if we do not express our wants and needs in the way we make our selections.

Take flowers as an example. They are forever popular, easy to come by, just walk into any florist’s or pick a pretty bunch up in the supermarket. But what about the impact on the environment. Most probably these blooms were grown in greenhouses where they needed to be irrigated, had to be grown under strict climate and light control, then they were shipped over great distances to finally arrive at their destination. Looks like a large carbon footprint to me. Or we might look for flowers that are grown locally and are not treated with pesticides at an organic farm in our area. The choice is ours.

And what better time to get those creative juices flowing than Valentine’s day. Some of my most treasured presents ever are those made by my children when they were still quite young. They may be basic and simple, and over the years may not have held up too well, but oh, those memories! Nothing store-bought could ever replace them. So why not give something novel this year that says I love you much better than something one picks up in a store, some item that requires us to think about what would please the person we love. Maybe something simple but from our hearts. The challenge is on . . . :)

Found on a beach in Sarasota, FL, a love message to John, written in the sand with sea shells.


January 24th, 2009

They say that one can’t ever be too rich or too thin. Not having experienced the first I would probably agree. But for the too thin part I would definitely substitute time. There simply never seems enough of that.

A few weeks ago I was rushing to get a project ready and out the door. Then came a lot of planning and juggling of priorities until it all fell into place. JG thankfully took on the job of looking for air fares, hotels and such – knowing my habits I would still be sitting at the computer at home trying to find the cheapest flight out of Vienna. There are days when I feel like one of those little furry creatures who run around on a wheel in their cages without getting anywhere at all. So you might think that finally being away from it all, time would be plentiful. Guess again. I am not one to sit at the beach or by the pool for hours on end. If I am on vacation I want to do and see things. JG and I visit nature preserves, we prowl the beach, not looking for a tan but rather to find interesting shells or birds. We walk a lot, capturing anything and anyone who does not run away from the camera, and there it is again – time. So many things to do and only a few weeks to do it all. But I am confident that we will manage to do a decent job of it.

And we already did. After all we did get to visit with our families, we talked for hours with long-time friends, visited the college campus that previously existed only in our imagination. Instead of email messages or phone calls we got to sit and talk and talk and talk . . . time, such a precious commodity!

As the man who was kicking golf balls around his backyard replied to our ‘have a good day’ recently – ‘Every day I wake up, it’s a good one‘. Something we have to remember.

Is the contraceptive pill polluting our environment?

January 4th, 2009

It is really way too early in the day to read a story like the one I just came upon. It upsets me. A great deal. It is so far fetched that at first I assumed it to be a spoof, but alas, it seems to be for real.  In the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pedro Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, claims that the pill “has for some years had devastating effects on the environment by releasing tonnes of hormones into nature” through female urine. HohKay!

But it gets better: “We have sufficient evidence to state that a non-negligible cause of male infertility in the West is the environmental pollution caused by the pill,” he continues.

Can’t you just picture the circle of purple robed men, the pope wearing Prada (the combined cost of these garbs could probably feed a small nation for a year) , saying things like “brimstone and hellfire have lost their charm, let’s try another approach”? And isn’t an implied threat to the male psyche just the thing!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against large families, I was, after all, raised Catholic, but I also saw the questionable result of preaching abstinence in the number of children our neighbors brought forth. One of my best friends in school had 18 siblings when we lost touch. The difference in that family however was the fact that the parents wanted many kids – I later heard that the cardinal came to the baptism of their 20th child. My real objection to the article in the Vatican paper in this case is not as much about the Vatican’s objection to contraception of any sort, which is another story altogether, but the underhandedness of this story.

One sentence in the above mentioned article made me somewhat happy though – “Millions of Catholics distanced themselves from Rome as a result” . Way to go!

One for the road – or maybe not?

January 1st, 2009

The time between Christmas and the end of the year is undoubtedly the season for parties. And one thing these parties all have in common is alcohol.

For most of us having a drink is not a problem, we have a glass or two, maybe a little more, then go home and wait for another occasion till we have a drink again. Bu what happens to someone who does not have the tolerance for alcohol that many of us have, to someone who must steer clear of alcohol because of an addiction. How many times have we heard the urging ‘oh come now, one drink won’t hurt you’,  ‘loosen up, have just one’? Innocent words that can do a lot of harm and at best make the person uncomfortable who in a party environment might have a heck of a time dealing as it is.

While I am generally not inclined to make any kind of New Year’s resolution I was thinking that at the start into this brand new year we could make an exception just this time. We could make an honest attempt to respect the words ‘no thank you’, ‘I don’t drink’.

With this thought I wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2009!

Happy days!

December 26th, 2008

For everyone who celebrates a Holiday this season, and for everyone who does not, I wish you happy days!

This somewhat differently shaped magnolia blossom appeared just in time for the holidays after I put the branch that had broken off the tree in a vase. Sometimes good things happen … ;)