Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nasty Cold Day But Perfect for Baking

We are under a winter storm watch but it looks like most of it will stay North. I just talked to my Mom in far Western Virgina and they have about 8 inches and it is still coming down. The temp here is 34F right now so I think we are safe.
I spent an hour this morning adding a stage to my worm bed. Now I just have to wait and see if they 'move up' into the new digs so I can harvest the castings. They seem to be happy and are reproducing as there are a bunch of very tiny worms and I can see more 'eggs' all around. Madam laughs at me cutting up vege scraps into tiny bits to feed them but it is amazing how much they can go through.
The first little broccoli plant is popping through the soil this morning which is always good sign. It is absolutely amazing that you can create a living plant out of a seed no larger than a grain of sand. It never fails to renew me when I have the first garden plants on  the way.
So, since anything outside is not in the picture I am going to bake some biscotti and get a batch of sour dough bread going. I should have a fresh batch biscotti just ready for tea this afternoon. I picked up a bad habit from my English friends and the day just doesn't seem complete without an afternoon tea and biscuits. I drink green tea during the day but in the afternoon I like a nice cup of Twinings English Afternoon Tea blend.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Where Are We With Health Care Reform

In spite of the comments by the President during the SOTU progress on reforming the nation's health care problems seemed to move further into the future this week and possibly out into the 'never' zone. OK, let's take one more crack at figuring out the likely fate of healthcare reform.  According to the Washington Post, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are still far apart and "congressional Democrats remained in disarray Thursday about how to move forward, with at least some pointing at the White House as the cause of the legislative standstill gripping Capitol Hill." . So what's the White House saying? According to the New York Times:
With Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul stalled on Capitol Hill, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview that Democrats would try to act first on job creation, reducing the deficit and imposing tighter regulation on banks before returning to the health measure, the president’s top priority from last year.
....Mr. Emanuel, the chief of staff, said he hoped Congressional Democrats would take up the jobs bill next week. Then, in his view, Congress would move to the president’s plan to impose a fee on banks to help offset losses to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the fund used to bail out banks and automakers.
Lawmakers would next deal with a financial regulatory overhaul, and then pick up where they left off on health care. “All these things start and lead to one place: J-O-B-S,” Mr. Emanuel said.
So, according to Rahm, health care has moved into at least 4th place behind jobs, bank reform and the deficit in White House priority. When you look at the ability of the Congress to move anything forward over the last year thanks to, mostly but not completely Republican obstruction, the best case scenario on health care action would be a couple of months off but realistically more like four or five months and with this being an election year 'never' could be a real possibility.

Things are changing daily and it is too soon to pronounce anything probable in this Congressional cycle but my gut feeling tells me that if health care reform is moving down in priority then chances get worse daily and the whole thing is dead for the near future. Jobs and financial reform and the deficit are important but I think getting a handle on the health care crisis still should be the number one priority. Jeebus, Congress has been working on it for a little over a year now and while the results are still far from adequate they at least address some of the big issues. Putting this issue to bed will go a long way in finding some light to shine on the other big issues as well. I'm still waiting and have my fingers crossed but I beginning to get that hollow feeling.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Technology

I'll be off the net for a while today while AT&T switches me over to fiber. Fiber optic has just been installed down my street and AT&T is offering a good deal on switching the whole deal over. No more DSL and no more satellite TV and now voice over IP. There really hasn't been anything wrong with Direct TV (except that it goes missing in heavy weather) and DSL has been pretty good since I had all the issues with noise fixed but bundling all my needs under one vendor and getting the reduced rates for long distance is going to save me money and improve reliability and give me more internet speed. I think it's a win. Evidently the DVR that comes with the fiber can record 4 programs at once and the recorded programs are available to any TV in the house which is pretty cool.

One more bonus is that I won't have to hear Madam comment about how ugly the satellite dish is every time we come into the driveway. I do have a fear that Direct TV will just take back the DVR and tuners and leave the dish for me to remove and if that is the case then I'll have to have my daughter come and do the roof work since Madam gets screamy when I make noises about climbing on the roof. Minimonk the firefighter does a pretty good job with ladders and scrambling around on the roof and maybe we can trade me tilling their yard for removing the dish.

The Reality

I watched the SOTU last night and thought the President did what he needed to do. He could have been more forceful by laying out some plans for getting his agenda through Congress especially the disaster that is health care reform. I was glad to see him call out the GOP for their obstruction and partisan bullshit.
Regardless, I just have to keep reminding myself that, even in light of what I feel President Obama's failures so far have been, it could be John McCain as CIC. That, in and of itself, gives me some hope that we will move forward.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are Half of Us This Stupid? I Guess So

 This is very scary:

Fox is the most trusted television news network in the country, according to a new poll out Tuesday.

A Public Policy Polling nationwide survey of 1,151 registered voters Jan. 18-19 found that 49 percent of Americans trusted Fox News, 10 percentage points more than any other network.

Thirty-seven percent said they didn’t trust Fox, also the lowest level of distrust that any of the networks recorded.
I don't watch FAUX News ever but I know plenty of people that do. I just thought that my acquaintances were a little dim but it seems I was wrong. I just can't believe that effectively half the people in the nation turn to FAUX for their news. This does not augur well for our future.

The Cycle Begins Again

The 2010 gardening season is starting again. I planted broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, parsley, chard, and celery in seed trays and will finish with the Chinese cabbage and assorted lettuces today. Still too early to get the tomatoes and peppers going but I will in a few weeks. I am trying something new this year. We and friends have been saving the cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper all winter and I am cutting the TP tubes in half and using them to hold my potting soil for starting seeds. Much cheaper than buying the peat pots and it is finding something useful to do with all that cardboard. It allows me to get sixty plants started in a standard flat. Not absolutely 'organic' but close and it is recycling. The worms don't seem to have a problem with shredded newspaper so I figure the cardboard tubes couldn't be that far away. We shall see.

I been getting all the seed catalogs for weeks now and am just about ready to start ordering seeds. I saved a lot of seeds from last year for tomatoes, peppers, okra, squash, beans, etc. but things like cucumbers and such don't reliably save since I have multiple varieties planted and they cross. I would still get cukes but who knows what would come out in the end.

Biscotti Mistake

Back in September I posted a recipe for biscotti and I left out the 2 tsp of baking powder. I apologize to anyone that made some rather heavy biscotti as a result. They really are much better with the baking powder. My daughter the other day complained that her biscotti weren't as light as mine. I asked here if her baking powder was reasonably fresh and she said "What baking powder?" Whoops! The recipe has been corrected.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Joe On Socialism and Tea Partys

Joe Bageant has another response to a reader up and I think it is worth a read. The reader challenges Joe's previous arguments for socialism and, as usual, Joe responds with wit and a deep insight into exactly what is wrong with our world today. In response to the reader's challenge on there being no successful demonstrations in the world of socialism working (citing China and Russia as examples) Joe responds, in part, with his definition of socialism:
To my mind, socialism is this:
A community and national philosophy, a commonly shared and not necessarily politicized way of life wherein the first priority is the fundamental well-being of the people (also known as "the masses," a term you have probably been programmed to wrinkle your brow in ominous suspicion of.) "Fundamental well-being" means that everyone eats well, enjoys safe and adequate homes and a common standard of good health. It means that children are educated to do more than just the rote tasks that serve corporate empires. It means the man actually doing the work man negotiates the value of his labor. It means that somewhere in the last third or quarter of his life, that working man, after enjoying his freedom, bacon and common work, and diligently sustaining his fellow men, is released from his toil. Released into security and peace and modest but guaranteed sustenance. He is free to nurse his aches, chase old women or take up Bourbon or Buddhism. Or both, as I have. Whatever he chooses as a free man in a free and benevolent socialist society.
I sure don't have any arguments with it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burns Night

Bryan at Why Now? reminds us that tonight is Burns Night. It is the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns the famous Scot poet who was born this day in 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. It is traditional among those lovers of Burns to gather on this night and recite his poems and raise a 'wee dram' of good malt whisky.

I won't be doing the celebration with other Scotsman or be having haggis but I will raise a toast to him this evening. The picture is of one my prized bottles of single malt (sadly almost empty). This is a special bottling of 24 year old single malt from the Royal Lochnagar distillery in Crathie, Aberdeenshire near Balmoral castle in the Eastern Highlands. This is bottled at cask strength and is a whopping 55.7% alcohol. It was distilled in 1972 and bottled in 1997. This distillery(1845) is one of the only ones ever to receive an appointment by the British Crown and was given the 'Royal' designation by Queen Victoria and King Edward VII as well as George V.

The little wooden cup next to the bottle is an antique Scottish quaich which is a traditional cup for whisky in the Highlands. This one is a treen cup and is made of light and dark wood put together like a barrel and lashed together. I acquired it in an antique shop in Dumfries, Scotland which also happens to be where Burns died in 1796 at the young age of 37.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Futurist Talks About What's Next

I can recommend highly an article by Sara Robinson, the wonderful futurist writer at A World of Progress. In it she covers 10 cherished progressive 'truths' that we need to seriously reconsider if we are going to successfully navigate the new landscape of life and politics in this new century. It's definitely worth a read. Here is a bit of the introduction:

Being progressive in the Second Year of Obama is going to mean something very different than it did even just a few weeks ago. We're in a whole new territory now, and the maps we've been using since the 1960s don't even begin to match the new terrain we're now wandering in. In particular, there are several key assumptions that have been central to progressivism in the past that we should seriously consider leaving by the trailside before we head out into this new wilderness. They have served us well in the past; but now, they're just old baggage that will bog us down.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pain Poilâne

Yeah, I know it is National Pie day and I did the pie thing but I decided yesterday that this weekend I would try once again to make a traditional pain Poilâne. My other attempts were good but not great so I try again for the great loaf. This is a real bread baking challenge since it is a huge loaf (2Kg) and almost all whole wheat and naturally fermented. The truth is that even though it is called 'whole wheat it is actually made from what the French call 'gray flour' or 85% extraction flour(some but not all of the wheat bran is retained). We can't get that here in the U.S. easily so I make my own using a blend of mostly King Arthur White Whole Wheat and King Arthur bread flour.
The bread is named after Lionel Poilâne whose bakery or boulangerie is most famous for a round, two-kilogram sourdough country bread referred to as a miche or pain Poilâne. I was fortunate enough to actually visit the original boulangerie on rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris. It took Madam and I 3 days to eat just the half loaf I bought but it was one of the highlights of our trip to Paris. A lot of people consider the pain Poilâne the standard by which all other bread should be judged. I make sourdough whole wheat bread every week but I cheat and use a little yeast and regular whole wheat and all purpose flour. Making a loaf of bread with only a sourdough starter for leavening is another challenge altogether. Add the additional challenge of almost all whole wheat and the low gluten and you really are talking baking.

I made the first phase levain (firm starter) yesterday and this morning made the final dough which is fermenting(rising) now. Since it is so large it can't be made in the big Kitchen Aid mixer and all of the kneading had to be done by hand. It is one large loaf. I am actually going to make two boules instead of the one large one so I can freeze one. It is only Madam and I after all.

If anyone is interested in a real bread baking challenge I will share my recipe and method.

I did manage to find a picture of the giant pain Poilâne resting in the shop in Paris....isn't it gorgeous? Notice that all are scored with a big 'P'. Cool!

Rethinking the Escape

I've considered the UK a potential alternative to staying in the states after the meltdown but with some of the latest developments in 'big brother' I might have to rethink that whole scenario. The thought of spy drones circling over the Cotswold's or the Peaks just doesn't seem proper.

Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the ­"routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers,1 in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.
The arms manufacturer BAE Systems, which produces a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for war zones, is adapting the military-style planes for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police.
....Five other police forces have signed up to the scheme, which is considered a pilot preceding the countrywide adoption of the technology for "surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering". The partnership's stated mission is to introduce drones "into the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies" across the UK.
1British slang for people who illegally dump trash anywhere other than an authorized landfill.

It's National Pie Day

I made the classic lemon meringue with Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. It's one of my favorites. I do increase the eggs to three yolks and three whites though. I also sometimes take a little of the meringue and mix it into the lemon egg mixture just to lighten it a bit. Regardless it is great pie and very easy to whip up.

It's always a tough choice when it comes to pie. Libby's Famous Pumpkin pie is also hard to beat.

I am also a sucker for a great apple pie.

What's your favorite pie?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pulling Life Support?

 Not good news:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just told reporters that she does not believe she has enough votes in the House to pass the Senate health care reform bill as-is—at least not yet. “I don’t see the votes for it at this time,” Pelosi said. “The members have been very clear in our caucus about the fact that they didn’t like it before it had the Nebraska provision and some of the other provisions that are unpalatable to them.”
“In every meeting that we have had, there would be nothing to give me any thought that that bill could pass right now the way that it is,” she said. “There isn’t a market right now for proceeding with the full bill unless some big changes are made.”

Since Madam Pelosi has been the only person in Washington to regularly deliver the votes, you can asssume that the rest of the agenda is in serious danger. The two big ones climate change and financial regulation are surely going to be tough in the current atmosphere. Unless something changes, in a big way, the Dems in Congress are going to spend the rest of their time this year running for cover and moving to the right and all because they are misreading the election results in Massachusetts. It was about a failure to lead effectively and not about the so called 'overreach'. People wanted what was's as simple as that.

I am serious when I say I don't want to hear the word 'bipartisanship' uttered anymore. The GOP is going to say no to anything and everything that is offered unless it lowering taxes on the rich and screwing the middle class. They might approve another war or two but that is about all you can expect. So far, their campaign of saying NO to everything is working for them and I am sure they see no reason to change after Mass.

NO Good For You

Here I go talking about 'Franken foods' again. Since about a billion pounds of potato and corn chips are about to be consumed on Super Bowl day I figured it would be a good time to remind everyone that the simple fact is that about 75 percent of all processed foods in this country contain some GM ingredients. I will almost guarantee that that chip you dip during the game is at least partially GM unless it is organic. No matter how hard you try you are going to get some GM food in your diet in the U.S. It's in just about everything.

New research shows that when GM corn is fed to mice and pigs they show organ and blood abnormalities, as well as immune dysfunction. Scientists have discovered reproductive problems in pigs and cows with GM food in their diets.  There is a reason one of the main rules in Michael Pollan's new book Food Rules is 'Don't eat anything advertised on TV'. and I still try and live by the rule 'If your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, it probably isn't.'

Since there are no laws requiring GM labeling it's tough to know what's has GM ingredients and what doesn't?  The most prevalent GM crops are corn, soy, cottonseed and canola. You definitely want to look for organic food that contain those ingredients. By definition, an organic food or crop cannot be genetically modified or contain GM ingredients. It is not just the 'Big 4' though. Things that you might pick up in the store such as sugar, zucchini or yellow squash have a good chance of being GM as well.

Like I said, you are not going to be able to avoid 100% of the GM stuff, it's just too prevalent, but you can reduce the amount you eat by growing your own food and shopping wisely. The Institute for Responsible Technology has compiled an excellent Non-GMO Shopping Guide that you can download for free.

SCOTUS Changes the Game

The Supreme Court has opened the corporate money floodgates for the next election:
In a ruling that radically reshapes campaign-finance law, the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the McCain-Feingold measure that bars corporations and unions from pouring money into political ads.
Can you imagine the difficulty of a small reform focused candidate going against the kind of money that corporations will be able to drive into a campaign. While it is still early I am tempted to believe Russ Feingold when he says this will take us back to age of robber barons. Corporate money will be able to silence any voice that runs counter to the interests of big business. We are so screwed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Way Ahead is Forward Not Backward

It is very much a waste of time to try and say this in any other way so let's just say I agree with every word quoted here from Jon Walker at FDL:
Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now. They control the White House. They have a huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly. Not only will Democrats lose badly if they adopt this strategy, but they will be laughed at. Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.
Absolutely!  Let's quit fighting with the people that agree with us on 80-90% of  pretty much the entire progressive agenda and focus our effort and our aggression on the Republicans and push ever so much harder at moving the agenda forward. 

That Went Well

Been busy all morning with doctor, groceries etc. so I am just now getting around to seeing the circular firing squad that is the Democratic party point their fingers at everybody about the 'disturbance' in Massachusetts yesterday. I've already said all I am going to say and that is shame on you  Massachusetts.
If there is anything at all to say about yesterday that is positive it might be that this better wake up the White House and get them seriously thinking about finding some other job for good ole Rahm. The only other positive thing to not is that Holy Joe isn't the 60th vote anymore.

The reality is that this should not change the dynamics of the Congress all that much. With Joe in the mix we really never had the vaunted 'filibuster proof' majority anyway and the Dems still control all three parts of the government. Now they just have to figure out how to actually govern. The GOP never had this much control and they still managed to get their agenda driven through(wars, tax cuts for the rich, etc.).

Let's get with the program.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Massachusetts Voters

If Massachusetts voters think punishing the Democrats, for whatever reason, by not voting tomorrow in the special election for Ted Kennedy's seat thereby enabling the victory of a Republican who has vowed  to halt any chance at health care reform and is a big supporter of Wall Street then they need to think again. It is nothing more than cutting off your nose to spite your face. Turning this seat over to the GOP will be a tragedy for Massachusetts and the nation. Please get out and vote for Martha Coakley. Ted Kennedy spent his life fighting against the likes of Brown and for the American people and to see his seat given to a shit like Brown would be the greatest insult to the Kennedy legacy one could imagine.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cheerful Thoughts from Joe

Joe Bageant:
Still, there are always those citizens who will not settle for simply voting based on what they have been fed. They detect the odor of swill, but cannot quite name the ingredients. So they feel they must test democracy, exercise their uncontrolled “freedom of choice” as fully as possible through activism. So they turn to one of the two controlling political parties to put them to work. After all, anyone who doesn’t is considered a kook. Right?
In a marvelous bit of Mobius strip logic, the activists end up working toward the success of some minute difference in national policy that serves the purposes of the established power cartels. The main difference is in the degree of profitability for the corporate state. More profit or a helluva lot more profit. In the end, the activists find themselves working for the election of someone who, by the very nature of being selected as a candidate by the system, has been vetted by his or her own elite peers as one who will — ta ta! — preserve the system from change.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti's Story

Truthout has thoughtfully provided Noam Chomsky's history of Haiti from his book Year 501.

It's quite a story.

h/t Digby 

Friday, January 15, 2010

You Know You Shouldn't Laugh

Susie Madrak over at Suburban Guerrilla has a list of Little Golden Books that didn't make it. I am shamelessly copying some of it because it is hilarious. Some of it is not 'PC" but still funny. Thanks Susie for a good laugh. I picked a few of my favorites but the whole list is a must read.

Little Golden Books that didn’t make it….
1. You Are Different and That’s Bad

8. Curious George and the High-Voltage Fence

13. Grandpa Gets a Casket
14. The Magic World Inside the Abandoned Refrigerator

17. Strangers Have the Best Candy

21. Pop! Goes The Hamster…And Other Great Microwave Games

26. Why Can’t Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Be Friends?

Best Seafood Choices

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch  has updated their recommendations on seafood to eat and avoid. They also have a 60-page report on the state of the oceans (PDF). From their research, the best seafood choices as of October 2009 are as follows:

Albacore Tuna (Troll or pole-caught)
Mussels (farmed)
Oysters (farmed)
Pacific sardines (wild-caught)
Pink shrimp (wild caught from Oregon)
Salmon (wild-caught from Alaska)
Spot Prawns (wild-caught from British Columbia)
Rainbow Trout (farmed)

Remember it is not just the species but it's geographic source and whether it is farmed or wild caught that is important in making a choice. 

H/T Jill at La Vida Locavore

Thursday, January 14, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup Again

There seems to be a new series of ads for HFCS showing up on TV. I have railed about HFCS here before and am not going to do it again. I will merely say, once again, the body preferentially metabolizes fructose into fat and not energy and that can go a long way into understanding why we keep getting fatter and fatter in this country. Recently Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food) had some additional advice for us.

"Avoid foods you see advertised on television.," Michael Pollan warns.
Food marketers are ingenious at turning criticisms of their products -- and rules like these -- into new ways to sell slightly different versions of the same processed foods: They simply reformulate (to be low-fat, have no HFCS or transfats, or to contain fewer ingredients) and then boast about their implied healthfulness, whether the boast is meaningful or not. The best way to escape these marketing ploys is to tune out the marketing itself, by refusing to buy heavily promoted foods. Only the biggest food manufacturers can afford to advertise their products on television: More than two thirds of food advertising is spent promoting processed foods (and alcohol), so if you avoid products with big ad budgets, you'll automatically be avoiding edible foodlike substances. As for the 5 percent of food ads that promote whole foods (the prune or walnut growers or the beef ranchers), common sense will, one hopes, keep you from tarring them with the same brush -- these are the exceptions that prove the rule.
Now back to HFCS. If there is no other reason to avoid it then look at it as a 'marker' for bad food. You find it in over-processed 'cheap' foods and if a product has HFCS in it then it is probably a bad food or at least a food someone felt justified in 'cutting corners' with. Read labels and don't buy food with HFCS where sugar would normally be used. A good example is in jams and jellies. A few days ago I was looking for some preserves to use a glaze for a fruit tart. Since I wasn't going to use it directly on my toast if figured I would save a few cents and buy Smucker's to cook with. You would think a company that makes a big deal out of it's fresh from the farm and family traditions would be ok. NOT! The first ingredient was HFCS. I reached for the imported Bonne Maman instead. There we go... sugar, fruit and pectin. Yes it is more expensive but it is made just like I make my own preserves. It is also the best on the shelves in taste and what I use for direct toast application anyway.

Poison Chickens

There is a two part interview with Michael Greger.M.D. over at Huffpo that I encourage everyone to read concerning the risk we all face as a result of factory farming. The article blames E. coli and salmonella on factory farms. Here is just a sample from it;
When medical researchers at the University of Minnesota took more than 1,000 food samples from multiple retail markets, they found evidence of fecal contamination in 69% of the pork and beef and 92% of the poultry samples. Nine out of ten chicken carcasses in the store may be contaminated with fecal matter. And half of the poultry samples were contaminated with the UTI-causing E. coli bacteria.
And what are you having for dinner......

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monsanto's GM Corn Safety Is In Question

I haven't read the study but it calls into question the long term safety of consuming GM corn. Rats consuming the corn show kidney, liver and spleen damage. Knowing that a huge percentage of the corn consumed in the U.S. nowadays is GM one might give pause before eating any corn that is not organic or certified non GM.

Haiti In Shambles

Haiti is in ruin after a 7.0 earthquake centered near Port-au-Prince. A great deal of the capital city is destroyed and probably thousands are dead. U.N. headquarters is said to be destroyed as is the Presidential Palace. The pictures coming out of one of the poorest countries in the world are devastating. Enigma4ever at Watergatesummer has done a yeoman's job of gathering reports, pictures and links. I can imagine the ultimate death toll is going to be horrific.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Miep Gies, Who Helped Hide Anne Frank, Dies at 100

If you are ever in Amsterdam the Anne Frank Museum is a must. You can only get a sense of what the Frank family must have gone through and the effort it must have been for people like Miep Gies to sacrifice already limited food and supplies, not to mention the personal danger during the war to protect them by being there.
The Guardian:
The office secretary who defied the Nazi occupiers of the Netherlands to help hide Anne Frank and her family for two years has died, the Anne Frank Museum announced today.

Miep Gies, who was 100, saved the teenager's diary. Her website reported that she died on Monday after a brief illness. Maatje Mostar, an Anne Frank museum spokeswoman, confirmed the report but gave no further details.

Gies was the last survivor of the few non-Jews who supplied food, books and company at the secret annexe, above an Amsterdam canal warehouse, where Anne, her parents, her sister and four other Jews hid for 25 months during the second world war.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Have A Burger With That Soda

I was just thinking... maybe the ammonia in the burger will counteract the E.Coli in the soda and everything will be fine.

Nearly half of the 90 beverages from soda fountain machines in one area in Virginia tested positive for coliform bacteria -- which could indicate possible fecal contamination, according to a study published in the January issue of International Journal of Food Microbiology.

Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.
With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.
 Just another reason not to eat ground beef or drink fountain sodas.

Same Old Lizards

Joe Bageant has a go at the Tea Party. It isn't pretty but it is sad.
Presently surfacing from the frothing drek we call our political system is a thing called the Tea Party. Whether advertised as such or not, the Tea Party is viewed by millions as an emerging third party, or the functional equivalent of one. In some dark recess of the American consciousness -- hard to tell which one because it's all darkness and recession -- millions have figured out that nobody is getting what they want or need from Congress, except the corporations that own Congress. Actually, dedicated voters on the far right are getting exactly what they have voted for -- a police state -- but do not recognize it yet. No matter. Millions are unhappy and one way or another, think a third party, or the threat of one at least, offers a solution. And how could you go wrong with a brand evoking hallowed images from Ms. Jenkins fourth grade history class of the Boston Tea Party?
The Tea Party is the latest neoconservative end run around the possibility of a real third party emerging to threaten the status quo. To be honest, it's a brilliant political move, absorbing any energies that might have propelled a real third party. And, in true neocon fashion, it capitalizes on the working class' inchoate anger at the ongoing screwjob they've been getting from both parties for thirty years. The one escalated by Clinton's NAFTA, institutionalized as corporate theft by G.W. Bush, and polished to a high sheen by Obama's bailouts, as he brings home the bacon for those Wall Street syndicates running the economy.

Our Food Is Not the Safest

Your hear it constantly from all the mouthpieces that shill for the big agriculture crowd. "The U.S. has the world's safest and most abundant food supply". While there may be a lot of it, it isn't the safest by a long shot. Finally there has been some study and the published statistics show that America's food supply is NOT the safest. I guess there is some good news and that is that Canada's worse off that we are. 
The U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, but the report card is mixed, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker. Every year 33 percent of Canadians get sick from what they eat. In the U.S., it's 25 percent. But in England it's only 2 percent and in France just 1 percent. In both places food is grown more locally and on a smaller scale than in North America. [emphasis mine]
While I didn't have my statistician hat on while working over there it was obvious to a cook that the food supply was intrinsically safer. You could often look the actual producer/farmer in the eye while you shopped. The food was likely produced within just a few miles of where you were buying it. It was fresh and you could touch it and smell it before you bought it. If it wasn't properly handled and made you ill then you could look the vendor in the eye the next week and let him or her know. Every time I am able to go to Europe (mostly England) I revel in the markets. Local butchers, farmers and grocers that respect the relationship with their customers and take the relationship seriously. I so miss that here in the U.S.

h/t Jill at La Vida Locavore

It's Not That Bad

Krugman talks about the great conservative/GOP bugaboo today. We constantly here from the right about the disaster of social democracy and how the EU is a prime example of what happens when you have higher taxes, universal healthcare and a wider social safety net.

Paul Krugman:
Strange to say, however, what everyone knows isn’t true. Europe has its economic troubles; who doesn’t? But the story you hear all the time — of a stagnant economy in which high taxes and generous social benefits have undermined incentives, stalling growth and innovation — bears little resemblance to the surprisingly positive facts. The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works.
Update: Steven Benen has more

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Health Insurance As Slavery

Glenn W. Smith has an interesting and thought provoking post over at FDL today.

Just one of the bizarre ironies of the current debate is the libertarian view that universal health care threatens our freedom. If libertarian-minded Americans would open their eyes, they’d see that just the opposite is true. How many Americans remain in dead-end jobs for the health benefits, however meager they might be? How many entrepreneurs never launch their independent initiatives because they can’t risk the loss of health care?
Food, shelter, clothing etc. are things we can provide for ourselves for the most part. Health care and health insurance are not. The staggering cost of health care today in the U.S. requires we have insurance or be independently wealthy. One bit of bad luck in the health arena and without insurance you and or your family is bankrupt. Like Glenn says...we remain tied to a job we don't like because of health insurance and the security it provides. Some of us are lucky to have jobs or careers we love and health insurance but there are many of us who don't or hesitate to strike out on our own for fear of what even a minor health emergency might do to us.
This really needs to change. We are not a free country as long this situation exists.

Maybe Above Freezing

We may actually get above freezing today. It almost made it yesterday when it hit 30F at about 4pm. Getting a little cabin crazy but it is just too damn cold to go for a walk. I'm not good with cold or a wimp...whatever.

In a fit of boredom I made soft pretzels yesterday afternoon and they wound up being dinner along with a couple of glasses of 3 Buck Chuck. It's not like there wasn't plenty of actual food in the house including some very good Navy beans in the fridge but two of these pretzels and anything else to eat was out of the question. Everybody stay warm. Maybe make some pretzels.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Nutty Memory

For some reason I have been thinking about roasted nuts this morning. Specifically, the old time roasted nut counter at the five and dime store. For most of my teen years I had a paper route and every afternoon and Sunday mornings I would ride my bicycle downtown to the Roanoke Herald offices and pick up my load of about 130 papers. It was a small paper and all the daily papers would fit in my big front basket and the two 'saddlebag' baskets on my big old JC Higgins bike. Sundays would require two trips usually, as the paper normally doubled in size. Here is where the nuts come in. Just a few doors down from the newspaper office was McCrory's five and dime and when I had an extra quarter or two I would stop in and go to the nut counter. I loved the nut counter. Big glass bins, a little greasy and salty, filled with freshly roasted nuts. I can still remember the smell of those nuts. When I think back on it they might have actually deep fried the nuts but regardless, the smell of the just cooked cashews, peanuts, pecans and the rest was heavenly. I would hand over my quarter or half dollar and the lady behind the counter would let me select which nuts would go onto the scale until they added up to the purchased weight. Always some cashews(still my favorite nut) and some pecans and then maybe a filbert or two and some peanuts. She would then pour them into a little bag and I would stuff the still warm nuts into my pocket and head down to pick up my papers.

There were usually six or seven of us paper boys there at the same time to pick up our work and we would all head across the street to the covered parking area of the Ford car dealer to roll and rubber band our papers before setting out to deliver. A tightly rolled and banded paper was necessary for the pinpoint accuracy required to deliver the paper against the front door with a satisfying bang when sailing past the house on your bike and I might add that it was the mark of a well seasoned paper boy to never miss. Besides having to face the customer on Saturday when you made your weekly collections (45 cents for a whole week of papers) and hear complaints about lost papers, pride made you stop your bike and the rhythm of the delivery to retrieve badly thrown papers and that was a bad thing.

Anyhow back to the nuts, depending on how much money I had to spend and the resulting quantity of nuts determined how I would ration the nuts so that they would last through the whole delivery which took about 2 hours. It was always sad to realize that you had eaten all the nuts before you had tossed the last paper and still had to face the long ride home without. I can still remember the effort to grab a nut out of the bag in your pocket when sailing down the street on a heavily loaded bike and popping it in your mouth before you had to grab a paper for the next house and how you relished those spots on your route where you could skip a few doors before having to throw. Just enough time for a nut.

I don't know of anyplace, anymore, where you can get nuts that way and it makes me a little sad to think about it. I don't even think there are five and dimes anymore and that is a bit sad too. There was never anything quite like the smell when you walked into a real five and dime. The smells from the lunch counter, nut shop, perfume and who knows what else all slammed together in a cacophony of life.

The Big 75 for Elvis

Today would have been Elvis Presley's 75th birthday. Needless to say Madam has gone back to bed to watch Elvis movies for a while. I asked if she wanted a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich for breakfast but she declined. Maybe for lunch. If you haven't tried it, it's pretty tasty but definitely not diet food.

Happy Birthday Elvis - wherever you are.

The picture is the statue of Elvis at the Tennessee Welcome Center in Memphis.

Not Much, But Enough

Well, its 1030a and it has warmed to a balmy 18F. We didn't get but maybe an inch of snow but it was just enough to coat the roads and it was just warm enough to melt just a bit and then the bottom fell out of the thermometer and we got into mid teens last night and everything is now as slick as snake snot. We aren't expected to see above freezing until Monday afternoon. I'm going to have to venture out and get a prescription filled but CVS is only 2 miles away so I should be ok.
Everybody stay warm and make a big pot of soup....fresh yeast rolls would be nice as well.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Winter Wonderland?

It has begun to snow in the Northern burbs of Atlanta. About 35 degrees but surfaces and the ground is still cold enough for it to stick.
In honor of the 'winter weather' I have a pot of Navy beans in the oven in my grandmother's bean pot. It's funny, every time I get out the pot to make beans, all kinds of different memories jump out. Sometimes it is something about cooking with her and the fabulous smells and wonderful but simple food that used to come out of that kitchen or wondering how many batches of beans have actually been cooked in that pot. I'm pretty sure the pot was one she 'went to housekeeping' with in the 20's and beans were at least weekly fare as far as I can remember. My guess would be between 4000 and 5000 pots of beans in the nearly 100 years that pot has been in service. However, this time it was about my Dad who, when Navy beans were on the menu, used to almost always talk about having Navy beans while in the Pacific during WWII and how the only way they could make them edible was to load them up with ketchup which they referred to as 'red lead' after the red priming paint they used on the ships. I haven't thought about that in years and years.
Anyhow, a nice pot of beans is on the way and buttermilk cornbread won't be far away either. There won't be any 'red lead' but there is a good possibility of some Sriracha sauce. I fell in love with this hot sauce a few years ago and have a real tendency to overdo it and it really lights up a bowl of beans.

BTW I did make the French lentils with cashews dal last night for dinner and served it over Nishiki rice. It was excellent and definitely a recipe to have in the bag of tricks.

Not A Long List

On MSNBC's "Hardball" last night, Chris Matthews asked leading GOP strategist Todd Harris about what Republicans have done for the United States over the last 20 years. It didn't go well.
The only thing he could come up with was "kept the county safe". Matthews then mentioned the tiny, tiny little fact that the worst terrorist attack in our nations history occurred on the GOP watch.

Can you think of anything that the GOP has done for the country in the last 20 years? I mena besides starting 2 disastrous wars and giving the rich a tax break.

h/t Steve Benen

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Non Human Persons

Ever since I read the work of Dr. Lilly and Leo Szilard I have felt that we were doing dolphins and whales a great disservice by considering them just animals or just smart animals. Scientists are coming to realize this as well...

Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans, with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”.
Studies into dolphin behaviour have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence.
The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.

Dal for Dinner

If you are not familiar with the word 'dal' or you think it just means any number of wonderful spicy Indian lentil dishes then your understanding is incomplete. I love bean and lentils and 'dal' is a generic term for probably millions of variations on spicy bean or lentil dishes. Mark Bitten has shared 5 great sounding recipes for 'dal' in his minimalist column today in the New York Times. While I haven't tried any of these yet they all sound great...especially the one "French Lentils with Cashews" and there is a very strong chance it will be on the dinner menu for tonight.
My one comment on the recipes is that he says to use butter or oil and I think all of the recipes should use 'ghee' or at least clarified butter. It is simple to make and brings a wonderful taste to such dishes. I will substitute it for the butter in all of the recipes when I try them and I think all of them would be the better for it. Ghee brings a rich 'nutty' taste to Indian food and really adds a whole new dimension of flavor.

Here is the recipe for the French Lentils with Cashews:

French Lentils With Cashews
2 tablespoons butter or peanut(here is where I would use 'ghee'/clarified butter instead)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder or garam masala
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup chopped cashews
1/2 cup dried French green (Le Puy) lentils, washed and picked over
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup yogurt for garnish
1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish.
1. Put butter in a large pot over medium heat until it is melted and foamy (or shimmering if using oil). Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in spice blend and keep stirring for a few seconds, until it becomes fragrant. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it darkens, another couple of minutes.
2. Add cashews and stir to coat them in onion mixture. Cook and stir just long enough for them to warm a bit. Add lentils and enough water to cover by about an inch.
3. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium-low so mixture bubbles gently. Cook, stirring until beans are soft, 20 to 30 minutes; add more water as needed to keep everything moist. When lentils are cooked to desired tenderness and mixture has thickened, stir in some salt and pepper, then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a little parsley.

If you have never made or used clarified butter here is how to make it. It only takes about 5 minutes and this recipe makes about a cup and a half. It keeps in the fridge for weeks and you can use it intead of butter for sauteing and such. It works great for frying eggs and omelets as well as pancakes, latkes and such.

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Place the butter in a heavy saucepan and melt slowly over low heat. I usually wait until I see it sputter a bit from the water in the butter boiling off and I can see the milk solids settling on the bottom of the pot. I wait until most of the 'sputtering' stops (5 minutes tops) and remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Skim the foam from the top, and slowly pour the clear butterfat into a container leaving all of the milk solids in the bottom of the pan. The milk solids go into the trash.

Clarified butter has a much higher smoke point than butter. It allows you to cook meats and fish at a higher temperature than you can with regular butter, making it perfect for pan-frying. Clarifying the butter lets you remove the milk solids that cause butter to burn quickly.

Ghee is basically just clarified butter that has been cooked a bit longer and in which the milk solids have caramelized. To make ghee just keep heating the clarified butter over low heat until the milk solids have darkened a bit (not burned) and you begin to smell the nutty aroma that comes from the caramelized milk. It takes about 20 more minutes to make a ghee. It will keep longer than clarified butter because absolutely all of the water has been boiled off. Ghee is indispensable in Indian cooking and a lot of Mediterranean dishes as well.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Time for Pizza

I have talked about homemade pizza before but I don't think I really covered the subject as well
as I should have. With this unseasonably cold weather a fresh homemade pizza right from the oven
is just the ticket. (the dough is rising as I type) The original post made enough dough for a single 12-14 inch pizza. This is the same basic dough but the recipe makes enough for 4 pizzas. The great thing about this simple
dough is that you can make it ahead as much as two days and keep it refrigerated or you can even
freeze it for a month and just let it thaw for 24 hours in the fridge.

Basic Pizza Dough
This is the classic Neapolitan pizza dough. It is a fairly low yeast dough that doesn't rise
quickly but it has a nice texture and is very easy to work with. I've tried a bunch of variations
for pizza dough but this is the one I always come back to.

    5 cups all purpose flour
    1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
    2 teaspoons salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
    1 package of instant yeast or highly active yeast
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    1 3/4 to 2 cups room-temperature water (when it is humid use the lesser amount and when it is
      dry use more). Depending on the quality of your water you might want to use filtered water 
     or bottled water. If there is a lot of chlorine in your water it will retard the yeast.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon or mix in
an electric mixer. After everything is mixed well set the dough aside to rest(autolyse) for 15
minutes. After the rest turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for 3 or 4 minutes and
if you have to add more water or flour so that you get a dough that is wetter and stickier than
your typical bread dough. Keep your hands well floured and work with your fingertips to keep too
much dough from sticking to your hands. Kneading a 'slack' dough takes a little practice and
don't worry if it seems to stick to everything...just use a scraper or other flat tool(spatula)
to scrape it up and keep going. We aren't going to knead this as much as we would a bread dough
as we don't have to build the gluten structure as strongly.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Place each one into an oiled 1 quart zip bag. I just put a
few drops of olive oil in the bag and squish it around a bit. We are just trying to make sure we
can get the sticky dough out of the bag later.

Now you have enough dough for 4 12- 14 inch pizzas. Depending on how many pizzas you are going to
make in the next day or two you will want to throw the extra bags in the freezer where they will
stay for at least a month with no harm.  The day before you intend to bake them, move the frozen
bags of dough to the refrigerator to thaw.
The dough that you are going to use now or tomorrow needs to go into the fridge until two hours
before you are ready to use them. Just remember to take them out and let them warm to room
temperature a couple of hours before you are ready to bake.
When working with yeast doughs time is your best friend. The longer and slower the rise or
fermentation the better the flavor. This dough would actually prefer to be made the day ahead and
spend the night in the fridge but if you don't have that kind of time it is no big deal. As long
as this dough has a couple of hours fermentation it will be fine. Ideally, you want the dough to
double in size but most of the leavening in pizza making comes in the oven so even an hour rise
will still produce a nice crust.

Now let's talk about sauce. You can buy sauce but I really prefer to make make my own. If you
already have a favorite sauce, by all means go right ahead and use it. The quick little sauce
recipe below is simple and easy and the ingredients are always on hand(at least in my house).
There is also no reason in the world why you can't use anything else for topping the pizza. Pesto
is good or even a nice salsa or BBQ sauce....whatever. I won't tell the pizza police if you

Quick pizza sauce

    1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
    2 tsp dried basil
    2 tsp dried oregano
     1 tsp kosher or sea salt (this depends a little on the amount of salt in the tomatoes)
    1 TBsp garlic powder or 4 or 5 cloves of crushed garlic
    2 TBsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
    red pepper flakes to taste
Note: if you want an interesting taste substitute Herbes de Provence for the basil and oregano

Don't get hung up on the recipe though if all you have is whole canned tomatoes...use your
fingers to break them up. All you have is tomato sauce? Use it. Of course you can always use
fresh tomatoes and herbs and when they are in season. I do.

Round or square, thick or thin
If you are going for round pizzas then all you have to do is stretch and work the dough slowly
into a big circle. You can do this with a rolling pin or you can gently stretch it into a circle.
This usually takes a couple of steps since working the dough strengthens the gluten and it has to
relax somewhat before you can get it stretched fully. I start by gently pressing the dough on a
flat surface with my fingers until I have a circle about five inches across. I let the dough rest
for a few minutes and then I just hold it up by the edge and slowly turn the dough letting the
weight of the rest of the dough pull it down to stretch it out. When it starts to resist I let it
rest again for a few minutes before stretching a little more. I like my pizza very thin but you
can stop anywhere in the process to suit your own tastes as to thickness.

If you are going to make a big square pizza then the rolling pin is the answer. You can make a
really big rectangular pie by combining two of the dough balls.

I always cook my pizza on a baking stone and I always use parchment paper under the
makes life a lot simpler. I spread the dough right on the parchment then use a peel to slip the
whole thing onto the stone. If you don't have a stone then the back of a baking pan works fine as
well. Transferring a sticky pizza dough from the prep surface to the oven without parchment can
result in a disaster, especially if the pizza is piled high with toppings. I have learned the
hard way that the investment in parchment is well worth it. Trust me on this.
I like to let my dough rest for 10 - 15 minutes before I top it as it gives a little more rise in
the oven.

Like I said I use a stone and a 450 degree oven and I like the results. Professional pizza ovens
usually run to 600 or 700 degrees and you aren't going to get there with a home oven. I cook my
pie on the lowest shelf of the oven as it allows the crust to cook properly before the toppings
are burnt to a crisp. I also make sure my oven and stone have pre heated completely before I
slide in the pie.
As for toppings I am of the simple is better school. A little tomato sauce, a little cheese maybe
some shaved onions and or some sauteed mushrooms. There are no rules but I think piling on a
bunch of stuff hides the essential flavors of the crust and tomatoes. In the summer when I have
fresh tomatoes I will just spread thin slices over the crust and add some dried basil and
oregano, a dash of garlic and red pepper flakes and it makes a fine pie. Like I said there are no
rules. I also really like a simple tomato and cheese pie piled with baby arugula or spinach when
it just comes out of the oven. Nice contrast of textures and flavors.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Brit Hume is Such an Ass

Brit Hume managed to insult all of us Buddhists over the weekend by suggesting that Tiger Woods should abandon his Buddhism and turn to Christianity if he wanted to recover from his transgressions.

Since it is FOX News I am not expecting an apology but if it was any other religion that was so insulted we would be hearing much more hue and cry.

It is quite obvious Brit has no knowledge of Buddhism but interestingly in his ignorance he is somewhat correct. Since the whole idea of 'sin' is a foreign concept in Buddhism it is true that Buddhism doesn't offer the same kind of "redemption and forgiveness" as does Christianity. We do, however, offer the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths that helps us understand the reasons and solutions for such destructive behavior. Seeing as how Buddhists have been applying the precepts and practices taught by the Buddha for 25 centuries quite successfully we can comfortably tell Brit to go away until he has fully grasped the Three Pure Precepts;
I like them expressed as taught by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center
With purity of heart, I vow to refrain from ignorance.
With purity of heart, I vow to reveal beginner's mind.
With purity of heart, I vow to live, and be lived, for the benefit of all beings.

Then again there is always the other side of the coin as expressed by Elephant Journal  who vows vengeance.
Little does Brit realize that not only are we Buddhists temperamentally unable to forgive, our various secret ninja societies will hunt him down and unforgive him until he cries out in the dark for his mother.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Stupid Panic

There is still wall to wall panic over the Christmas 'Fruit of the Loom' bomber and it is getting really tiring. The thing is all the excitement about full body scanners which are being implemented in Amsterdam and other places(the U.S. supposedly has a couple of hundred on order with more planned) is tilting at windmills. There is a good possibility that even a full body scan would not have detected the explosive secreted away in the bomber's underwear. Reports are suggesting they are not effective and would not have had any impact on the Christmas day event over Detroit.
Tests by scientists in the team at Qinetiq, which Mr Wallace advised before he became an MP in 2005, showed the millimetre-wave scanners picked up shrapnel and heavy wax and metal, but plastic, chemicals and liquids were missed.

If a material is low density, such as powder, liquid or thin plastic – as well as the passenger's clothing – the millimetre waves pass through and the object is not shown on screen. High- density material such as metal knives, guns and dense plastic such as C4 explosive reflect the millimetre waves and leave an image of the object.

Balmy Atlanta

Not! Not a record cold but cold enough. Dropped to 20F this morning at sunrise and not expected to get above freezing at all today. Forecast is for 15F tonight. This officially ends the gardening season as even the radishes have given up. I don't expect anything to survive this cold snap. Almost time to start the plants for next year's garden though so I can get some dirt underneath my fingernails pretty soon. 

Had to break down and put the bird bath heater in place last night. The birds are flocking to the only liquid water this morning and are lining up to get a drink. It is nice when they seem to appreciate your efforts.  It is non stop at the bird feeders this morning as well and the suet is mobbed by bluebirds and woodpeckers.

I have been doing all my new year chores like straightening the basement and cleaning up my office a bit. Sorted through all the old tax records and pulled all the stuff more than 7 years old. Now it just needs to be shredded. Madam even pulled out all the collected Food and Wine magazines and recycled them yesterday. I did manage to convince her to keep all my Cook's Illustrated and Saveur back issues as I have them from the first issue of both. She did organize them by date and file them properly.

We both spent a while yesterday cutting toilet paper cores in half and paper towel cores into the same size. I'll fill them with potting soil and use them to start plants instead of buying expensive peat pots. We have been saving them since last summer as have friends. It is amazing how much toilet paper you go through in 6 months!

Friday, January 01, 2010

It's Here

Happy New Year everyone. No lists of the best or worst just a wish that the next decade will be better than the last and that we all get a chance to welcome 2020. No New Year's resolutions to break so I'm good.