Monday, January 31, 2011

Some Updates

I seem to have bronchitis AGAIN, so I'm a bit behind.  So, some random updates:

*  Since without processed foods we really don't have lots of easy breakfast options available, I have started mixing up my own single-serving yogurts for us:
and while I don't think anyone actually eats yogurt for the taste of it, they've been pretty good so far, though you'd be surprised how much wheat germ will flavor yogurt in a day or so....

*  I am ready for dried bananas again!  Remember those live shots of pantry moth infestation that I shared earlier?  Those were of pantry moths infesting our dehydrated bananas.  Even though it's my favorite dried fruit, I have to admit that I haven't been willing to face the things for the last few months.  But last week I found bags of need-to-sell-fast bananas at the grocery store, so
 *  I tried my monthly sourdough-bread-without-a-book challenge
and had the bread actually risen it probably would have been quite tremendous.  It isn't bad flat & dumpy, but you wouldn't want to let it get too stale or one might break a tooth.  I think I let it ferment too long without re-feeding the yeast.  


*  Free event of the week:  Last week I attended a knitting club at the library, and Andy ended up taking a free guided tour of our state capitol building, which he said was quite interesting.  We aren't sure what the project for this week will be, but it will depend on when I shake this nasty virus.  Though at least if we go to something while I'm still on cold medicine, I won't notice if it's a bit on the boring side, so this could really be a good thing......................

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finally Standing Up To Big, Ignorant Bully

Today 400 rabbis called for Rupert Murdoch to sanction Fox News and Glenn Beck for his basic "if-you-don't-agree-with-me-you're-a-Nazi" and blatant misrepresentations of what happened during the Holocaust and what the Nazis actually did (which was not, incidentally, about health care)  They took out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal, which I haven't actually read since Murdoch bought it, because I assume it can no longer be trusted to be at all factual.

The full article can be read here in the Guardian, which is a United Kingdom paper.  I haven't seen anything about it in any American papers as of yet, which in itself is interesting.

I hope they follow with an all-out advertising ban and product boycott of anything that advertises on Fox News.  I am going to start emailing companies directly to make sure they are not supportive of such hate-mongering before we continue to do business with them.  Freedom of speech should not include hate speech and bully pulpit badgering, nor lies and rewriting history.  You can't have a bully pulpit without a bully, and Glenn Beck and Fox News is nothing but bullying and propaganda.  Which, incidentally, IS very similar to what the Nazis did, which just shows you why those who fail to study history are Fox News's best demographic....

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Poster Children

Recently we had a very delightful evening with some friends in their new home, and I was highly amused when one of them told us that because of some of the difficulties we have had with parties--especially Soup Night--that we were sort of the poster children for their worst entertaining nightmares.  And what makes this even funnier, is I was sort of starting to feel the same way about what we were going through with entertaining.  I've even had long conversations with friends usually along the lines of, "is it just me, or did I miss the memo that said we were all going to discard social graces for the next few years, or at least when we attend functions at Chateau Sutton-Goar?"  Seriously.  It has gotten so bad that we have cut off Soup Night for this year, creating special "invitation-only" soup events that will occur much less often.

I admit, I turned 40 this year, so maybe I'm getting a bit grumpy in my old age.  Let me just share a few of the choice moments with you:

*  Guest A:  Attending Soup Night for I believe the first or second time, but certainly with people the guest didn't know.  I walk another guest to the door, chat for a bit, and return to the main room to find that Guest A has, for whatever reason, turned the conversation to discussing pornography.  Sheer morbid curiosity makes me wonder what her family discusses at Thanksgiving when everyone knows each other.

*  Guest B:  Gets drunk and starts bashing all liberals and Democrats, even after being told that the hosts happen to be both.


*  Guest C:  Call to cancel dinner plans because there's a football game on that they want to watch instead.  Repeats a second time when we reschedule.


*  Guest D:  The Cumin Nazi.  Came to soup night in our home and spent most of the night correcting my pronunciation of the word "cumin."  For the record, cumin actually has three or four acceptable pronunciations (depending upon the dictionary) and mine is among them.  And I have to think that Emily Post might have frowned upon badgering one's host for the entire evening.  Just a guess.

*  Guest E:  Likes to criticize everyone else's cooking, including mine.  Brings her own food and tries to force it on everyone else WHILE explaining how much better it is than whatever it is that anyone else has made.

*  Guest F:  Gets incredibly drunk at a party that is so obviously not that sort of party that the only type of alcohol being served is wine (not to mention the fact that we NEVER have parties where getting drunk is even appropriate).  Proceeds to get very obnoxious and crude, forces the hosts to threaten to bodily restrain and/or call the cops when guest won't surrender keys and tries to insist on driving home, THEN jokes on Facebook the next day about having gotten totally smashed at the party and having a hangover. I truly and sincerely hope it was the MOTHER of all hangovers.

*  Guest H:  Agrees to come to a murder-mystery party we are hosting using an on-line murder mystery service.  As we do with all the other confirmed guests, we give them the log-in information so they can get their character information & costume ideas.  A week goes by and the guest hasn't logged in, so we remind him.  Nothing.  We ask again, because his character is necessary, and everyone else is already talking costume ideas.  Nothing.  Finally a few days before the party, I switch him with another less-involved character, so if he stands us up it won't matter.  He isn't thrilled, but he still has a part to play.  Five minutes before guests are scheduled to arrive, he calls to say he won't be coming to the party after all.  

*  Guests I-Y:  RSVP to our wedding, usually saying he or she is bringing a guest.  Not only doesn't show up, but has never to this day called or written to apologize or explain why they didn't attend, just leaving us to pay $90 for the two meals uneaten but that we were charged for regardless.

*  Guest Z:  The guest I had to tell that she wasn't invited to our home ever again because she was so belligerent to our guests.  This has pretty much made me famous now as Boise's own Soup Nazi, but parties sure are a lot more pleasant without her.

Okay.  I guess maybe I see my friend's point.........................

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And The Free Event of the Week Is.....

A bit problematic this week.  There are some recurring events--open mike night, musicians at local restaurants, that sort of thing--that we could attend, but we were hoping to hold those until we're at least a month or two into this experiment, or at least not use them up in the very first month.  So, we don't actually have anything we can BOTH attend this week.  There's a lecture on water-efficient landscaping, but it is the same night as my book club.  Andy, however, can attend.  That leaves me without an event, though, so I'm going to attend a knitting club at our local library tomorrow night. It's been on my calendar for quite some time, but I tried joining a knitting club once and fled after the inaugural meeting.  Because of the strong internet-based knitting community, I actually thought knitting would be enough in common for a group to be together.  Turns out, this may not the case, or I might have just tried the wrong knitting group.  But, I will give it another shot tomorrow night.  In all fairness, Andy is free tomorrow night and could come with me, but (heavily edited) he said that was taking this experiment just a bit too far.  We'll see.  If it's anything like the last knitting club, I might agree with him.............

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some Interesting Numbers Worth Sharing

The 1916 Coke bottles held 6.5 ounces.
           which would provide approximately 75 calories based on current caloric information from Coca-Cola for their regular soda

1980 - 7-Eleven introduces the 32-ounce Big Gulp
          373 calories 

1987 - 7-Eleven introduces the 44-ounce Super Big Gulp
          513 calories

1992 - 7-Eleven introduces the 64-ounce Double Big Gulp
          747 calories

2009 - 63.1% of Americans were either obese or overweight

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Theo and I

After we went through the ordeal of Theo and the broken leg, he and I have formed a rather unique relationship, and I have grown to accept that Theo now believes my sole function in life is to entertain him. Fine.  Not that I'm going to, but I accept that he believes it.  He seems to also believe I cannot do anything without him,
I have also come to accept the fact that if Andy and I dare to go out in the evening, we will be greeted at the garage door by a strongly disapproving kitty--complete with twitching tail and usually lots of complaining meows.  Theo also has such strong associations between things that after the kitty physical therapist tried using a little bell for aversion therapy to get him to use his bad leg more, I have to remove the bell from all new collars, or else he runs around the house in terror.  After they brushed him each time he finished the kitty hydrotherapy, he is afraid of being brushed and I can only do it while he's sleeping.  I can live with all of that.

What I really wish we could get past is Theo's certainty that I need to know when he uses the litterbox.

When he first came home from the hospital, I had to saran-wrap his cast and hold him up in the litter box so he could use it, and then later had to keep an eye on him to make sure he wasn't developing a bladder infection or kitty constipation for a second time, so I really did pay a lot of attention to his litter box habits--I admit.  Unfortunately, Theo is an unusual animal with very strong associations, so if I do something once or twice, he automatically assumes it will continue indefinitely.  So here we are--two years later--and during the winter months when it's too cold for the cats to use the garden as humongous outdoor litter boxes, Theo thinks he needs to tell me every time he's about to use the litter box.  Every. Single. Time.  

You just can't buy closeness like that. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And This Week's Free Event Was.............

A Community Cinema film called For Once In My Life.  It's a documentary about a band formed by disabled workers at Goodwill Industries in Florida, and it was fantastic.  I didn't know that much about Goodwill Industries, and was very impressed with their programs for helping the disabled find jobs, and the film was just really well done.  It's done in conjunction with Independent Lens, so if you check your local PBS schedule, you might be able to watch it on TV, or if you check out the website, it lists viewing sites all across the US, so you might be able to catch a free screening near you.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leeks

Most of the food history books I've been reading over the last two years have been really interesting, but once in a while they throw out something without enough detail.  For instance, in Martin Elkort's The Secret Life of Food, I came across the information that in 640 C.E. the Welsh army pinned leeks to their clothing before battling a British King and they won, so the leeks got the credit for the victory and that leeks have been a symbol of good luck for the Welsh ever since.

Okay.  I know that at the time--and for hundreds of years afterward--victory in battle was generally attributed to anything except army size, luck or prowess.  I get that.  But why did the entire army decide to pin leeks to their clothing in the first place?  Did they have really big pins or just really small leeks?  Was the entire onion family associated with battle, or just leeks? Were they pinned there for snack purposes?  Was the opposing army also sporting vegetable matter?      

And how "urban" did the world have to be before "urban legends" surfaced?  Call me cynical, but I'm thinking this one has to be a legend or typo somewhere along the line.......

Monday, January 17, 2011

Things I've Learned This Week

*  If your spouse suddenly takes up very strange hours, it might be time to suggest she check her watch battery.

*  She who knits the wool sweaters should probably not be the one in charge of the thermostat.

*  Just because you've kept a house plant alive for the past 4 years doesn't mean that it's going to stay alive. It could just have been a fluke.

*  Looking at pictures of a hoarder's apartment is a pretty powerful decluttering motivator, second only perhaps to the "if-I-get-rid-of-it, I-won't-have-to-move-it" incentive.

*  The onslaught of seed & gardening catalogs that come at the beginning of the year are only fun to look through if you're gotten over the horrors of last summer's garden already.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Fun Food History

While the process for canning in cans was patented in 1810 and was in pretty widespread use by 1812, the first can opener patent in the US was not issued until 1858.  Prior to that,  it was pretty common practice to go at the things with a hammer & chisel to get them open.

I will remind myself of this next time I complain about a can not having the nifty little pull-tab to open.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tomorrow Will Be Six Weeks

As of tomorrow, it will be 6 weeks since I broke my toe, and the darn thing still hurts!  And
it's still bruised!  Okay, not as badly as before:
but it's been SIX WEEKS!!!!  Don't I get a "Get Out of Pain Free" card or something? 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Little Food Trivia For You

In 1946, the enterprising frozen food company called "Maxson," which had been supplying complete meals to wartime fliers, began offering similar dinners to be served aboard commercial airlines.  

No wonder airplane food is so terrible.  Never believe taste tests conducted people who are being shot at while consuming the food.  It seems to skew the perspective...... 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chocolate

I managed to miss my non-fiction finds in my earlier post, so last but not least, I found these at the booksale:
Guns, Germs, and Steel has been on my to-read list for a long time, but I hadn't heard of the chocolate book before, but I think we all know how much I love food history by now.

Of course, I chose to start reading the chocolate book (Emperors of Chocolate) first as one should ALWAYS choose chocolate over guns, and while the author is a journalist who tries to sensationalize everything,  includes some food history urban legends that have either been disproved or are at least highly suspect, and could have used an editor to catch an incredible amount of repetition, it is a fun read.

One of the interesting points she raises is that no one EVER goes to the store with "buy a Snickers bar" on their grocery list.  Candy is 100% impulse buy, so the competition is insane.  According to the figure in the book, every year the average American consumes more than 25 pounds of candy, and adults actually consume more than children.  That's a lot of "impulsing."  Again, according to the book, the industry averages about 150 new products a year, and only a handful of them will be popular enough to stay on the shelf, and most of those will just be a variation on a new theme.  At the candy display in my grocery store, there were no less than NINE variations of Reese's candy.  The standard peanut butter cups, white chocolate cups, dark chocolate cups, crunchy ones, something involving sticks....seriously, I had no idea one could do so much with chocolate & peanut butter.  And those were just the Reese's options.  She also points out that Americans are nostalgic about their candy.  Ever heard of a Bounty bar?  It was a Mars coconut candy bar that supposedly beat Mounds 2 to 1 in a blind taste test, but the Bounty bar failed after just two years because to Americans, a coconut candy bar is EITHER an Almond Joy or a Mounds.  While I actually hate Almond Joys and Mounds, I do understand the nostalgia factor.  I don't eat a lot of candy, but when I do, it's something from my childhood:  M&Ms, Snickers, Reese's (the plain boring ones), Whoppers, Dots, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, cinnamon bears, or licorice.  I don't branch out to try new things.  I might be on the far side of compulsive on this front (as Andy will attest) as the last time someone gave me a box of chocolates I actually cut them all in half to see what the centers were in order to GUARANTEE I would actually like the chocolate before biting into it.  Judging by the look on Andy's face when I offered him his choice of dissected chocolates, this is not normal chocolate behavior.

So, breaking out of my little candy rut, I decided to pick out a candy bar that I had never even heard of:
Hershey's 5th Avenue bar.  Anyone know this one?  We split it over our afternoon coffee, and both thought it tasted almost exactly like a Butterfinger bar, which is made by Nestle.  Butterfinger might have the slight edge both on flavor & scary orangish coloring, but had Butterfinger not been first for us, this one might have been the one we preferred.  As one can't patent a recipe and getting there first seems to be the make-or-break for a candy bar, it's little wonder why companies spend so much money in advertising and product promotion.

Interesting side note, do you notice those small white letters on the bottom of the package, "crunchy peanut butter in a rich, chocolatey coating?"  "Chocolately coating" seems to be American industry speak for "not actually chocolate."  To be called chocolate in America, it can't have any other fat besides cocoa butter, but according to a story on MSNBC in 2008, Hershey is now using vegetable oil, though I have no idea how much of the cocoa butter they are replacing.  They appear to be still using chocolate for the actual Hershey chocolate bar, which makes sense as it would be quite difficult to find allowable industry speak for "hunk of near-chocolate substance," though I guess it's worked for Velveeta for years.

Who would have believed that one would have to pay such close attention to labels even when buying junk food???

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We Found Webbing In The Oat Bran Today!!!!

TWO MONTHS after we tentatively declared victory over the little pantry moth beasts, we found webbing in the jar of oat bran today.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Technically, it could be from beasts that somehow survived from the earlier infestation, but we are back on high creepy little bastards alert.


I checked everything near the problem jar, and nothing looks contaminated and no evil worm beasts are crawling on any of the walls, so we're hoping it was just an anomaly.  And we didn't want oat bran that badly anyway.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Second Week, Second Event

 Yesterday after breakfast we drove down to the local university to catch the final day of the free photography exhibition,
and you would be seeing more details if my camera battery hadn't died right after taking this picture, which is sort of ironic at a photography exhibit.  The exhibit was black and white photographs of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Japan taken by Ishimoto Yasuhiro.  There was a very nice handout available which explained why we were looking at pictures of empty rooms and how the black & white photography was expressive of a modern art movement.  Certainly an interesting thing to see, and I think we both enjoyed it, and it was certainly worth free.  That's such an amazing thing-here is an exhibit of a famous photographer just sitting here open to the public.  What a great thing.  They even had a preschool program about Japanese building, and the preschool artwork results were also displayed:

though they are a lot less blurry than the camera on my phone would lead you to believe.  All quite cool & a nice way to spend 30 minutes on a Sunday. 

And now that I have a recharged camera battery, our book sale haul:
The one on the left is a collection of Christmas stories by Charles Dickens (yeah, apparently he wrote more than one), and the one on the right is Marco Polo's own accounts of his travels.  We thought that might be interesting as the ORIGINAL travel book.
For $1, I'm hoping this little houseplant book (with color pictures, thankfully) will help me NOT kill so many houseplants--or at least kill them more slowly. 
I love mysteries, and some authors are so good I really can read them over & over. 
Some woodworking books for Andy.  The one on the left is actually a furniture making text book, complete with discussion questions such as "What is the purpose of a V-block and how is it used?" and "What is the difference between a clamp nail and a corrugated fastener?"  Whoo hoo!  Wild nights ahead at Chateau Sutton Goar!!
I was excited to find books by two of my favorite authors, Doris Lessing and P.G. Wodehouse, who have absolutely nothing in common,
and some books that we thought others might like, and last but not least
because all intellectual events really should end with the Muppets.

Fox News Warns That Without Angry Rhetoric It Will Have 24 Hours to Fill « Borowitz Report

You know you're reading well-done satire when it is really mostly true:

Fox News Warns That Without Angry Rhetoric It Will Have 24 Hours to Fill « Borowitz Report

Saturday, January 8, 2011

First Week, First Event

The book sale yesterday was a success.  Technically, since it was free to get in it counts for one of our events, though it did cost us $16 to get OUT without being arrested for theft, but it's for a good cause.  We are not the sort of people who can walk into a room full of books selling for 50 cents to $1 and walk out empty handed, thank heavens.

Tomorrow we are taking in our second free event, a photography exhibit by  Ishimoto Yasuhiro, whom I've never heard of but I'm hardly up on these things.  It turns out there are a lot of exhibitions and things one can see for free throughout the year, so I'm guessing our artistic sensibilities are going to get a bit of prodding this year, which will be good, as they probably don't get out much otherwise. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Disney Film Festival

In the past, Andy and I have done our own little mini "film festivals."  We don't watch normal television, but occasionally we do like to watch a movie or show together.  So far we've done:

*  "As Time Goes By," the British television show that Judi Dench did years ago, which we found so witty and so charming that we chose "As Time Goes By" for our first dance at our wedding.

* All the versions of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol that we could find during one holiday season.

*  The "classic" horror films, though we kept falling asleep through most of them, and I think only made it all the way through a few of them.

This year we have decided to embark upon an "Old Disney movie" film festival.  Theoretically, it would be about one movie a week, though that may not work as well in the summer when it's so pleasant out on the patio.  It's a bit of nostalgia for both of us, as The Wonderful World of Disney was a staple of Sunday nights during both our childhoods.  Of course, so was Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" which came on right before Disney, but it's hard to be sentimental about watching Marlin Perkins repeatedly sending Jim off into danger week after week.  Come to think of it, I don't imagine that Jim gets real sentimental about it either.

Last night we kicked things off with one of my favorite Disney made-for-television movies, Blackbeard's Ghost.  Like most of the Disney movies of that era, Dean Jones is the squeaky-clean hero, there's a love interest (Suzanne Pleshette) who never has a hair out of place of mutters so much as a "dang it" no matter how bad things get, the bad guys are humorous buffoons who are really just there as a foil to a truly slap-stick climactic fight, and all turns out well in the end.  Very predictable, of course, but it does make me laugh every time I see it, so it receives two thumbs up from Chateau Sutton-Goar.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

And This Week's Free Event Is.............

Our local branch library's winter book sale!

Which is technically  a free event to attend, though I will admit that the odds of us walking out with less money than we walked in with are pretty high.  Still, our community library is fantastic & will be the source of many of our free events this year, so we buy books every year (as well as donating lots of books and movies).  We talked briefly about going to a medical lecture on the use of robotics in surgery, but I have a serious "thing" about medical stuff, and the last time I went to a lecture involving medicine, I had to dash out of the room before the "learning luncheon" became a "launched luncheon" at my table.  We decided that might not be the best way to "kick off" our new project.  We'll save that particular indignity for a slow week.............

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lessons Learned So Far This Year

*  No matter how "type A" one is, one's bones are not.  If it takes 6 weeks to heal bones, it's foolish to expect one's own bones to heal in FOUR just because they're yours.

*  No matter how much I consider watching football a pretty big waste of 4 hours of one's life, there are people who only schedule things for when there isn't a game they want to watch.  Not that there's anything wrong with it, but they aren't going to be on my friend "A" list.

*  A smart person would write down on the calendar when one made a big batch of soup so that a few days later, it doesn't take 20 minutes to decide whether having the soup as leftovers would be an invitation to food poisoning.

*  To be out of the ingredients for white chocolate martinis on a long holiday weekend is very, very sad.

*  There may be better ways to celebrate the new year than by inviting two of one's favorite people over for a champagne brunch, but I don't know what they would be.

The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...