Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New Year's Eve Musings

This was most certainly the year that consumer use of internet shopping finally became commonplace. On a busy holiday season 2003 day, Amazon set its all-time one-day record of 2.1 milliion sales transactions. 19 million items are now listed for sale on eBay. Amazon sold 70,000 e-gift certificates just on December 24. Analysts think that holiday 2003 internet sales easily exceeded $12 billion.

My family's choice for the year's top weekly email newsletter is NASA's Earth Observatory Weekly mailing, that links us to a plethora of fascinating photos taken recently by a NASA satellite. It gives one a whole new perspective of life on planet Earth. You can subscribe to it at

Excellent words of wisdom for the new year come from Rick Warren, author of the best-selling "The Purpose-Driven Life" and pastor of an Orange County mega-church:

"New Year's Resolution: Do it now! That's the best time advice I can give you. Three little words: Do it now!

Don't procrastinate. If you had a bank account, and I were to tell you that every morning someone was going to put $86,400 into that bank account-- you could spend it any way you wanted to, but at the end of the day, whatever money you had not spent in that account you lost-- do you think you'd try to spend it? Or do you think you'd let it go to waste?

But here's the thing-- You have 86,400 seconds every day. You've got to draw them out. You've got to take advantage of them. Utilize the present by doing it now. Sometimes I get stuff in the mail that says 'For a limited time only.' We should write that over a lot of possibilities in life, because they are for a limited time only."

Another sign that Ron and I must be getting older.....we are ready to throw a small party at home this evening, but our closest friends all want to stay home and either not drive or go to bed early. We will probably find a fun local restaurant with good food and music while our 12 year old parties with her friends.

Our prayer for you is for a blessed New Year!

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Monday, December 29, 2003

Nutty Paranoia and Almanacs

News services reported today that the FBI has contacted 18,000 police organizations nationwide to warn them to be alert for people carrying almanacs. The FBI said that "terrorists may use almanacs to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning." Seriously, almanacs. The FBI said that information typically found in almanacs that would be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks.

Said John Pierce, publisher of The Old Farmers Almanac, "While we doubt that our editorial content would be of particular interest to people who would wish to do us harm, we will certainly cooperate to the fullest with the national authorities."

Here's my concern......they forgot encyclopedias. Also, reference websites. In fact, the whole internet. And what about National Geographic magazines and books? For Christmas, my 12 year old budding engineer received a fabulous National Geographic book about marvels of engineering. It has lots of lavish photos and details about bridges, buildings, pipelines, skyscrapers...even the Great Wall of China. I guess we need to throw that subversive book out before she decides to blow up a building after reading about its construction. I should also toss her World Almanac for Kids. I mean, what will the neighbors think? What if a police officer sees her with it?

Hmmmm...maybe we should ban pesky public information altogether. People just can't be trusted. And we can then somehow find a way to ban curiosity. If it weren't for curiosity, we probably wouldn't need info at all.


When will the US government's current nutty thinking-in-a-vacuum paranoia end? Soon, I pray, because it now threatens the very principles that our great country was founded on: individual freedom and personal liberty for all.

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Friday, December 26, 2003

An Unexpected Christmas Gift

My new son-in-law's mother passed away a few years ago, as his father did many years before her. At the end of a fun, long and loving Christmas Day, he hugged me and said "Merry Christmas, Mom." He had never before called me mom.

I am deeply touched, and so grateful that God led he and my daughter to be married this year. It's such a blessing to have a new son. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

Hope you enjoyed a Merry Christmas, full of wonder at the miracles only God can bring...the miracle of the birth of His Son who came to save us, and the miracle of the blessings and gifts God has given to you.

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Christmas Day Menu

For my foodie friends, here is the menu at our home for Christmas Day:

Breakfast - cinnamon bundt coffee cake, fresh melons, French roast coffee and apple juice.

Munchies - fresh veggie tray, mixed salted and honey-roasted nuts, and yes, my fudge that will be submitted to publishers in January. Fudge flavors I have on hand for tomorrow are margarita, cinnamon, peanut butter, chocolate creme de menthe and traditional milk chocolate walnut fudge.

Dinner - roast beef, cooked medium rare, creamed spinach with bacon, old-fashioned scalloped potatoes, raspberry-cranberry sour cream mold, sourdough rolls, and for dessert, pumpkin and pumpkin chocolate chip cheesecake. Wines served will be a merlot from Paso Robles (bought by my new son-in-law one day before the earthquake this week) and Kendall-Jackson chardonnay.

It will all be served on holly-edged white Christmas china on an olive holly-patterned tablecloth, by candlelight.

Christmas dinner is my heartfelt gift to all who attend and enjoy the festivities.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

A Peaceful Vision for the Christmas Season

This month's issue of Sunset magazine features an article called "Peace in the Desert" about a young Nevada couple with two boys who have a refreshingly different way to spend the Christmas holidays. They are gardners and nature lovers who enjoy nothing more than a peaceful day in quiet, desert landscape. Here are a few quotes from the article:

"There's so much excess associated with the holidays. It's nice to get out and take the emphasis off of stuff. And the boys just love it....We have beautiful clear blue skies then. The light plays on the chollas and grasses. And we've been out there on the rare occasion when the cactus and yuccas were dusted with snow. It was downright magical."

"We buy one gift for each child, not a huge thing. There's a critical mass of toys beyond which more doesn't make anyone happier. Little children especially can't handle all the hype. We try to avoid creating a big buildup for one day and instead enjoy the season day by day. Heading to the post office the week before Christmas with young kids and boxes is not fun. Shopping online can keep kids away from the hyperactivity of malls."

After a hectic day spent driving in heavy around-town traffic, shopping for last-minute gifts, braving the crowded aisles and long long lines at Stater Brothers, wrapping presents, cutting and packaging fudge and cookies for neighbors, not to mention paying a few bills, this couple's vision of a peaceful, centered Christmas season sounds inviting and healthy.

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Monday, December 22, 2003

Brushing Up for Christmas

This weekend, my friend Jeanile and I reminded each other of something quite important: it's that time of the year......time to dust off our copies of "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend and brush up on the basics before our extended families descend on our homes for Christmas celebrations. :)

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Sunday, December 21, 2003

Raising a Christmas Traditionalist

To our surprise, Ron and I are raising a strict Christmas traditionalist. No offbeat, post-modern approach to the holidays for this 12 year old. Yesterday, after her annual Saturday-before-Christmas cookie baking marathon (peppermint chocolate chip meringues, sugared ginger snaps and cookie-cutter butter cookies), she insisted that the three of us sit together with fireplace ablaze to watch the movie "It's a Wonderful Life."

She eagerly anticipates the start of the holiday season, which is marked by her and Ron putting Christmas lights on our house, usually over Thanksgiving weekend. She selects just the right Christmas tree for our family every year, and Ron may not put lights on the tree without her, either This year, she wanted to put ALL the ornaments on the tree. Radio Christmas music plays continually in her bedroom or the family room. And for the first time this year, she made origami ornaments for a small second tree in our living room.

Tonight we're going to a caroling and cookie party given by dear friends. Her next few days will be filled with shopping, present wrapping, and visiting with her older sister and new brother-in-law. On Christmas Eve, she and I will take festive homemade fudge to various neighbors. We will attend evening Christmas Eve church services, followed by an hour's drive to look at Christmas lights. Christmas Day will be a potpourri of family, gifts, fudge, picture-taking, dinner and lots of love.

She will never want a Hawaiian vacation over Christmas. She will never opt for Christmas Day skiing and a hillside picnic. She will never spend Christmas Day without family.

And Ron and I wouldn't have her any other way.

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Thursday, December 18, 2003

Favorite Christmas Gift

My all-time favorite Christmas gift was dinner and a show. No, not just any dinner and a show, but an elegant December dinner in a trendy San Francisco restaurant with my oldest daughter, and two highly sought after tickets to the San Francisco Opera. The dinner was original and fun, and the opera was a cultural treat almost beyond compare. But what I remember most about that night a few years ago was walking through the chilly city later that evening with my daughter....laughing, talking, savoring the lights of nighttime San Francisco, just being together.

It was a gift of time....a gift of thoughtfulness....a gift of memories. That's what I loved most about her gift to me. I pray that someday when she is a mother, one of her children is kind and loving enough to give her such a gift.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Wilbur and Orville Wright, Great American Innovators

Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle manufacturers with a dream bigger than their day-to-day jobs and putting bread on their tables. Their dream of flying through the air was not has dreamed of flying for all of recorded history. The Wright brothers' dream was born of curiosity, excitement and their technical knowledge, prime ingredients for a stew of innovation.

They studied, by scouring what little literature existed on flight and wrote to the so-called experts of the day. They experimented endlessly for years by building prototype after prototype in their bike shop at their own expense. They created models, full-sized gliders and a clever ahead-of-its-time wind tunnel before developing a powered craft in 1903. They were obsessed with manned flight, in the grand American tradition of stubborn, obsessive, hard-working innovators Thomas Edison and George Washington Carver, Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Meg Whitman (eBay), and so many more.

The Wright brothers tested gliders on the shores of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for several years before daring to put their Wright Flyer to the test. One hundred years ago today, Orville Wright, 32 years old, held a rudimentary motion picture camera while his older brother, Wilbur, 36 years old, climbed aboard the flying machine and laid prone across the lower wing surface.

Their risk taking was astonishing, and their blind confidence was equally astonishing. Odds were that the Wright Flyer would crash, and Wilbur would have perished along with his machine. Think about had NEVER flown before. Modern statistics would give them absolutely no chance for success. Interesting that these bright men knew to record this event not to glorify their achievements, but to provide proof to a skeptical world of the first manned-flight.

On December 17, 1903, Wilbur Wright first flew his rickety invention 120 feet, with a last successive flight that day of 852 feet, for 59 seconds, while his co-inventor brother recorded it for all ages. Mankind was changed forever.

The next time you hear of some bold and bright, creative, over-confident risk-taker with a wildly different idea, remember the Wright brothers and their crazy dream. Take a moment to listen, to care, to support. Honor them and their dreams as God-inspired. These are the ones who change our world. Innovation is the genius and great accomplishment, the true legacy, of our United States.

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Monday, December 15, 2003

Saddam Hussein, Wizard of Iraqi Oz

The symbolism of the capture of former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein is powerful. As a result, his image is splashed across every major world newspaper and starts every telecast. Political leaders exult in his downfall, and Iraqis dance again in their streets.

The reality is that, without shot or struggle, a young US soldier and his commander found a disheveled, confused old man in a dusty rat hole. He looked just like the long-time homeless in any major city. He was living in a small mud-brick hut without indoor plumbing, subsisting on candy bars, rice, hot dogs and 7-Up. He had $750,000 that was useless to him. He was harmless, it turned out, unable or unwilling to even use his small pistol.

One veteran journalist said that Iraqis are in shock over Saddam's appearance. They are trying to reconcile the image of this scruffy, mild man with the feared, arrogant, omniscient dictator who ran and terrorized their country and the world for 25 years.

Saddam reminds me of the Wizard of Oz...a feared ruler who worked behind the scenes, intimidating all with bluffs and bluster, smoke and mirrors and tricks, until the curtain was pulled back to reveal just an ordinary little man with a penchant for power and palaces.

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Sunday, December 14, 2003

Aztec Corn Soup with Monterey Jack Cheese

My family always loves this easy homemade soup. I made a huge pot of it on Friday evening...they ate it all and asked for more. Saute 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, 4 cups of corn and 7 oz chopped mild Ortega chiles in 4 tbspns of butter for about 15 minutes. (Fresh, canned or frozen corn all work well in this recipe. I use good-quality canned.) Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of veggie broth and 2.5 cups of low-fat milk, salt and lemon pepper to taste, and let simmer for 20 more minutes. I also add a tspn of Tabasco, and a generous sprinkling of white pepper for extra depth of flavor. Five minutes before serving, add 1 fresh bunch of chopped cilantro. Top with Monterey jack cheese and sour cream. It's delicious served with a salad and warm tortillas.

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Thursday, December 11, 2003

A Misogynist Kosher Take on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, director of the L'Chaim Society, author and national syndicated radio host, has been watching TV show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," and he has some opinions about it. For one, he believes that it shows straight men as "today's coarse savages and bad-mannered brutes" who can only be redeemed by gay men as "the straight man's messiah." (You can't make this stuff up.)

After watching the Fab Five for a while. Rabbi Boteach had an epiphany....this is all women's fault. Of course.

Women are supposed to teach manners to men, "how to act like a gentleman, straighten my tie, take lint off my jacket." But, the good rabbi laments, how can women teach anyone anything these days? I mean, look what has happened to women.

"Raised in a world where they get attention by flashing a thong strap rather than a kind smile....What can a college girl who flashes her breasts for the 'Girls Gone Wild' videos teach a man about civility? What can a woman who prances around in her underwear on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show teach a guy about dignified bearing? Men no longer believe that women have class. And while they date them and bed them, fat chance they're going to be preached to them about not belching."

Here is what we now know about Rabbi Boteach: he watches "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," "Girls Gone Wild" videos and the Victoria Secret Fashion Show, and as a result, he no longer respects women. Duh!!!

Rabbi, what about the men who produced and directed the programs? What about the men who made big money off this entertainment, off people like you who are watching this garbage? What about all the men on these make no mention of them. Do you disrespect them too, or are they just there as more victims of wicked women? None of these shows would exist unless men watched them, men like you, Rabbi Boteach.

And Rabbi, you seem to extend these stereotypes to all women. He continues in his article at, "Reality TV and the internet package women in 4 foul stereotypes: 1. the greedy gold-digger; 2. the brainless bimbo; 3. the publicity-seeking prostitute; 4. the bitchy backstabber."

Rabbi, turn on Oprah and you will see televised good and humanity beyond your imagination. Turn on lighter weight Christian fare "Seventh Heaven" or "Touched by an Angel." Turn on a symphony, a kosher cooking show, maybe even a golf tournament or tennis match.

Or better yet, Rabbi, turn off your TV and stop surfing the net. You need to get a real life and meet some real people. God bless you.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Masterpiece

The most satisfying of all creative endeavors must be to design a building that is a bold artistic statement, a monumental construction project, and a stunning functional showcase for present and future generations of musical expression. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is all that, and yet, like the grandest photo that still doesn't do justice to the Grand Canyon, words are inadequate to describe the magnetic grandeur that is architect Frank Gehry's masterpiece.

At a block's distance, WDCH is all sensuous curves of buffed stainless steel, a continuously changing play of light and shadow in asymmetrical symmetry. It is perfect abstract balance. It is Kandinsky in his geometric phase, especially when colorfully lit up at night. As a mere art object....WDCH would have been genius.

But this is an acoustically-perfect, elegant 2,265 seat concert hall. The Hall was constructed of 12,500 pieces of steel which weigh over 11,000 tons, 300 tons of bolts and welds, and 18,000 cubic yards of concrete. Because of the building's curved surfaces and exacting design specifications, structural beams had to be placed by a 750,000 lb crane using the most sophisticated aerospace software. The interior is equally stunning....8 skylights with 3-inch thick glass were designed to retain natural lighting. The large "tree trunk" columns in the lobby are made entirely of straight-grained Douglas fir, as this material closely approximates the wood used in musical instruments. A list of fascinating details and touches would go on and on.

When WDCH opened in October 2003, the New York Times gushed, "Clad in a shimmering skin of stainless steel, the hall's volumptuous swirling forms evoke the contours of full-blown sails tacking in the wind, but Gehry rises above literal representation and ascends into poetic abstraction. He has given Los Angeles its long-awaited crowning glory."

WDCH is one of the world's great architectural marvels, an American counterpart to Egypt's ancient pyramids. How delightful that it was built as a home for and monument to fine music.

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Madonna's Self-diagnosed Problem

"I used to leave my yoga class...and go to Krispy Kreme and get two hot, fresh, glazed donuts and have a sugar rush---and then crash and be depressed for the rest of the day," confessed pop superstar Madonna recently about her former addiction to sugar.

Madonna thinks her problem is a couple of donuts?

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Sunday, December 07, 2003


The search engines have found this column of musings! Hooray and praise God.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Of Donut Shops and Starbucks

Despite smart urban decor and multiple laptop stations, trendy coffees and gourmet noshes, soft jazz music and Euro coffee-pub atmosphere, Starbucks and its cousins will never replace a great old-fashioned neighborhood donut shop. In fact, they are two entirely different animals. A sleek leopard and a friendly golden retriever.

There is a corner donut shop in our neighborhood situated in the same large strip mall as a Starbucks. (A highly unusual arrangement, it should be noted. It was a very early Starbucks location. Leases now inked by the Seattle-based corp mandate that no other coffee retailer can occupy the same strip mall. No exceptions.) Both Donut Star and Starbucks have plenty of business, albeit at different times. Starbucks customers plan to linger, to read, to chat with friends on the small front patio. Every morning, Donut Star customers line up out the plain glass door, eager for freshly made donuts and a hot cup of joe to go in white styrofoam cups.

The husband and wife owners of Donut Star keep their shop open 24/7, 365 days a year. Yup, they never close. They work together there every day of the year, and family or local teenagers man the small store during quieter hours. The coffee is newly brewed, delicious and inexpensive. During peak times, they keep fancier flavored coffees in thermoses on the counter...butterscotch, hazelnut, French vanilla, chocolate almond. No lattes with soy milk, no caramel macchiattos, no triple-shot expressos.

The glass cases are chock-full of fresh, sweet and but not sickly-sweet, traditional cinnamon rolls, croissants, danishes, blueberry and banana walnut muffins, cream-filled horns, maple and chocolate bars, and donuts, donuts, donuts....plumply raised, chocolate and delicate yellow cake, crusty old-fashioneds, airy French crullers. Not just chocolate icing, but also orange, strawberry, rich maple, a rainbow of sprinkles, nuts, coconut, cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar. All with nary a day-old bite in sight.

The owners and employees are invariably pleasant and attentive to each customer. I go in there perhaps 3 times a month, and it is astonishing that they remember my coffee preference. (Tall butterscotch, black.) He even apologizes humbly when they are out of my fave. The shop is always clean and brightly lit with 4 small 1980s table-and-chair fixtures attached to the floor beyond the cash register. A well-read copy of today's local newspaper is there for anyone with a few spare minutes. Under the window are notices for a kids' soccer league and senior citizens news.

No music, no hyper-cool merchandise, no pretensions.

I would love to see comparative sales data for the Donut Star and Starbucks in this same strip mall near our home. My educated hunch is that Donut Star's sales of coffee and fare outstrip those of Starbucks.

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Friday, December 05, 2003

Sweet Joy, 7th Grade Style

Oh, to be a 7th grader anticipating her first school dance. She could barely contain her excitement...kept showing me her dance ticket, talking about the food, planning "being cool" strategies with her girlfriends, carefully selecting her clothes. Her sweet, adorable joy was a sight to savor and behold.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Santa Takes a Fall

Santa stood in front of his chair and waved to the crowd from atop his float in a Quebec parade early this week. 70,000 had turned out for the popular local event on the cold but beautiful winter day. Santa's float abruptly stopped, though, early in the parade. Santa fell off the float, and hit the street 10 feet below on his head. Samantha, an adorable movie-perfect 3 year old, started crying when she saw Santa fall. She sobbed to her parents that she was afraid and sad that Christmas would no longer take place because Santa got hurt. Turns out Santa was rushed to the hospital where he got 10 stitches, and is healing with no problems. A fast-thinking city employee donned Santa's hat and large jacket, hopped onto the float and waved to the crowds for the rest of the route.

Sounds like the seeds for a Hollywood movie plot.

It also sounds like someone needs to explain to Samantha the true meaning of Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Secret Luxuries

There is secret luxury in being mildly sick. Last night as my temperature rose above 101 degrees, Ron made dinner, rubbed my back, ran out to SavOn for some medicine, was saintly patient about my tossing and turning. If only we didn't have to feel so miserable to earn such luxuries.

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Monday, December 01, 2003

You've Got to Change Your Evil Ways....

"The only thing I know (about war) is all wars are wrong. There is no such thing as a 'holy war' because it is a contradiction. I believe that if we declare war against anything, it should be war against poverty and ignorance."

Carlos Santana, musician

Sunday, November 30, 2003

From the Cardinal's Chair

The Cardinal's chair in the glorious new $200 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is set apart from all other chairs and pews, juxtapositioned between the choir loft and the Native American Memorial section, facing most of the 2,800 sanctuary seats, and per tradition, to the left of the altar. The chair, called a cathedra in Latin, is the formal seat of the Catholic archdiocese leader of 5 million Los Angeles-area Catholics, from which he exercises his "responsibiities of teaching, governing and sanctifying."

This cathedra is not oversized and throne-like, as are most older cathedras. It is a simple design, stands 74 inches tall, weighs 800 lbs, and is set at the top of two short steps on its own platform. The back of the chair is composed of interlinked crosses, each made from different woods from around the world: olive wood from Israel, carob wood from Lebanon, coca bola from Central America, ebony from Africa, holly from the US, lacewood from Australia and buena burro from Thailand. The woods symbolize the various communities and ethnicities that compose the Los Angeles community.

One would think that it must feel powerful for Cardinal Roger Mahoney, 18-year head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, to sit in this majestic symbol of church authority. I had the privilege yesterday to sit in the Cardinal's chair and to view the sanctuary from the cathedra's lofty location. To my awe, it didn't feel powerful or lofty at all. Like all pastors I've ever seen, his chair is positioned so that he can still study the face of every person in the complex and large, yet intimate sanctuary. Despite all the trappings, Roger Mahoney remains connected to the people, and they to him.

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Thursday, November 27, 2003

'Twas the Night of Thanksgiving

'Twas the night of Thanksgiving, I just couldn't sleep.
I tried counting backwards, I tried counting sheep.
The leftovers beckoned...the dark meat and white.
But I fought the temptation with all of my might.

Tossing and turning with anticipation
The thought of a snack became infatuation.
So I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.

I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
Pickles and carrots, beans and tomatoes.
I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
"Til all of a sudden, I rose off the ground.

I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouthful of pudding and a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees
Happy eating to all...pass the cranberries please.

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes and gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize.
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

Courtesy of Art Guyer,, an internet recipe newsletter.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thanksgiving Thought from Billy Graham

"This year as we observe our season of Thanksgiving, let us be grateful not only in word but also in deed. Let our gratitude find expression in a resolve to live a life more unselfish and more consecrated to Jesus Christ. When we sit around our tables laden with sumptuous delicacies, let us not forget that half the world will go to bed hungry. As we enjoy the comforts of our cozy homes, let us not forget that great numbers in other parts of the world have no homes to go to. When we step into our sleek automobiles, let us not forget that most of the people in the world cannot even afford a bicycle.

In the Lord's Prayer as recorded in Matthew 6, we read, "Give us this day our daily bread." Scripture teaches that the good things of this life are the gifts of God., and that He is the donor of all our blessings. Thanksgiving? Yes. Let us get down on our knees and humbly thank God for the blessings He has given us, both material and spiritual. They have come from His hands."

Billy Graham in his Decision email devotional, November 25, 2003

55 Years of Marriage

When I was 12, my grandmother pulled me aside and told me that my parents would always be together...that they were best friends. She said that every night after they go to bed, they talk long into the night...that they have always done that. "I'm not worried about their marriage," Grandma said, looking at me. I guess she knew I was worrying, because there had been fights lately, and what I now know was one of several rough patches in their marriage.

My parents celebrated 55 years of marriage yesterday by shopping together at a local store in their Colorado small town, and then sharing a quiet dinner at home, like they always do. They have never been ones for expensive restaurants or big parties. They did consent to dinner out on their 50th anniversary with their children and grandchildren. My brother and I, our spouses, and 4 of the grandchildren took them to a pricey but small restaurant. Mom ordered foods she had never tried before, which was unusual. Dad wore a smart bolo tie that none of us knew he owned. They both smiled with a serenity that we had never seen before.

Truth is I never understood their marriage...times were not always easy. My brother, sister and I know very little about their private relationship, or events of their marriage. They seemed to have their own universe, and still do. At their 50th anniversary, I asked Mom about the secret to a long marriage. She shrugged and said, "I don't really know. We just take it one day at a time. And don't get too upset over anything. " Then she added, "Divorce wasn't an option in our generation. You just didn't give up. You worked it out."

When we visit them now, Ron and I still hear them talking late into the night. Grandma was right.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

In Search of a Caring Solution

Before dawn today, the California State Senate voted 33 to 0 to repeal a law that would allow illegal immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses. The State Assembly is expected to also repeal SB 60, thus returning illegal immigrants back to status quo. This is a difficult and complex issue for caring citizens.

From one viewpoint, illegal immigrants are...well, illegal. By definition, they don't have rights in a country they're not supposed to be in. Already-overburdened citizen-taxpayers should not be required to foot the living expenses bill for non-citizens who violate US immigration laws. Taxpayers have their proverbial hands full just taking care of their own, which includes millions of legal immigrants from every country in the world. Schools and hospitals, in particular, are stretched beyond imagination to meet the needs of illegals.

Speaking from the heart, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, asks "When you sit down to eat those vegetables and that turkey, remember that many undocumented people are working on those farms and those poultry places." As anyone who has worked in Southern California manufacturing or agriculture industries knows, illegal immigrants do contribute greatly to our economy. Yes, they are routinely, and often calllously, exploited by greedy employers seeking to pay less to hard workers grateful for any job. Sadly, California has rich history of shamelessly exploiting immigrants, legal or illegal...the Indians by Father Serra, the Chinese to build the state's first railroads, Mexicans to pick San Joaquin valley crops, all origins to perform the majority of current blue collar manufacturing jobs.

Then there is the pragmatic viewpoint. LA Police Chief William Bratton told a State Senate committee that "driver's licenses will spur more motorists to take the state driving test and become insured." Translated: they're here...let's make the best of it. There's no time to deal with the bigger picture. This approach is understandably espoused by those who provide public services directly to citizens: police officers, teachers, judges, social workers, emergency room doctors. They are overwhelmed by demand, and they care. I recently renewed my drivers license in person at the DMV. I hadn't visited a DMV office in perhaps a decade. The wait was nightmarish, despite helpful and courteous DMV employees. I can't fathom the overloading that will occur if illegals are added to the DMV wait lines.

There are no easy answers or quick solutions. It should be noted, though, that this situation would not exist if the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service had been remotely effective at border enforcement. The INS has been a dismal failure and an admitted bureaucratic nightmare. Also, this situation was created by unfettered capitalism at its greediest. Illegals come here for work, and employers looking to illegally pay below minimum wage standards and to circumvent employment law eagerly hire and then hide them. Punishment is minimal for employers caught with illegals on staff, and frankly, it's worth the economic risk.

State Senator Gil Cedillo speculated in the Sacramento Bee that Gov. Schwarzenegger might consider a bill that would allow illegal immigrants in the process of obtaining legal status to qualify for a driver's license once they have completed a criminal background check and submitted proof of employment. At first glance, this sounds like a reasonable, practical and caring solution.

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Monday, November 24, 2003

Sensational Easy-To-Make Pumpkin Cheesecake

My autumn potluck dessert this year is an extra-easy-to-make pumpkin cheesecake. Our Friday night family group raved about it, and my family jockeys for the last piece. Mix together 16 oz. of cream cheese (softened to room temperature), a half cup of canned pure pumpkin, a half cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of real vanilla, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ground cloves and nutmeg to taste. When mixed well, add 2 eggs, and mix again until blended to a smooth consistency. Pour into a crust, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. The cheesecake is done when a small sharp knife comes cleanly out of center.

Crusts made from gingersnaps, Oreo cookies or graham crackers all have an amazing taste synergy with pumpkin cheesecake. Store-bought crusts actually taste fine, but homemade is a bit richer. Crush plenty of cookies (remove the Oreo filling and crush only the chocolate wafers), combine with a half to 1 cup of sugar, and moisten with melted butter. Press into a pie plate.

Cheesecakes must be refrigerated overnight to have the proper texture. After it has set overnight, top with crumbled gingersnaps, Oreo coookies or a graham cracker streusel, to match the crust. For a richer touch, top with pecan pralines or hand-dipped chocolate walnuts. For an even richer flavor, stir a half cup of miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips into the batter, and sprinkle the top with even more chips.

Guaranteed to be the most popular dessert at your family Thanksgiving or church potluck.

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Saturday, November 22, 2003

Another November 22, 1963 Death

Let's take time to remember the life and great works of a person who died 40 years ago today, on November 22, 1963. No, it isn't the news media darling of this date, the late President Kennedy. It is the passing of C.S. Lewis, regarded as probably the 20th century's most influential Christian writer. Lewis' earthly death was largely unheralded, of course, overshadowed as it was by the same-date assassination of JFK.

To commemorate his great body of work, I thought I would tell you a few little known, interesting facts about Clive Staples Lewis, or Jack, as he preferred to be called:

- He was born in Ireland in 1898.
- His mother died when he was 10 years old.
- He first read the Bible when his mother died, but abandoned Christianity when he was a teen.
- He was accepted into both Oxford and Cambridge Universities at the age of 18, but instead chose to fight in World War I. He served for two years in the British Army, fighting in the muddy trenches of France.
- He returned to Oxford, and graduated in 1925 with top honors in Greek and Latin Literature, Philosophy and Ancient History, and English Literature.
- He remained at Oxford for another 29 years as Professor of English, then became Professor of Literature at Cambridge University until his death.
- He was neither a theologian nor preacher. He never attended seminary.
- He considered himself an atheist until his early 30s, although his parents were Protestants.
- In 1929, while riding on a London double-decker bus, he had an overwhelming feeling that he needed to acknowledge God. He returned to his room at Oxford, and alone, knelt and prayed to God.
- He later explained in a letter to his brother that he became a Christian because for him, "there was nothing else to do."
- Despite great derision by his academic colleagues, he gave talks about theology on BBC that were a national sensation.
- Among his closest friends was J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the The Hobbit classic book series.
- Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia book series has sold more than 100 million books.

One of his best known book quotes, " If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this." From Mere Christianity.

This and every November 22, let's say our praises for a man whose faith and works made God, sin and redemption real for so many in the past, present and future.

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Friday, November 21, 2003

Curious Omission

Former President Bill Clinton just released his list of his 21 favorite books. Funny....I don't see the Bible listed there.

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"Cat in the Hat" and "Bad Santa" Panned

The newly released "Cat in the Hat" movie starring brilliant comedian Mike Myers was panned today as "a vulgar, uninspired lump of poisoned eye candy" by no less than the New York Times. Per Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, parts of the film are "creepy and offensive..making fun of old people in general, in a cruel way." The film was produced by Universal Pictures, now owned by NBC.

"Bad Santa," a film starring Billy Bob Thornton, is about two criminals disguised as Santa Claus and his helper so they can steal from people who bring children to visit Santa at major malls. In this film still slated to be released in early December, Santa drinks, smokes, behaves boorishly and, of course, steals. Lou Dobbs, the mannered CNN anchor, set aside time on his news and financial program to decry this film as "mean-spirited and uncalled for, unnecessary." ("Still slated" because pre-release protests have been so vociferous, that the studio may hold it back or re-edit it....that is, unless it can make lots of money as is.) This film was produced by Dimension Films, a division of Miramax Pictures, which is wholly owned by Disney, which is now trying to distance itself from the film. ("We had no idea. They make their own decisions," said a spokesman for perhaps the most micro-managing studio in the industry.)

Why the corporate animosity toward children? Why the need to trash beloved imaginary childhood icons? Or does "mean-spirited" and "poisoned eye candy" appeal to children now? Both scenarios are chilling.

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Thursday, November 20, 2003


Read this today:

"If you've got a good attitude, you can feel fine about a thousand unfair things. If you've got a bad one, you can miss a million magical moments."

In IKEA I Trust?

The world press was surprised when Swedes recently ranked trust in IKEA, the purveyor of affordable stylish furnishings, as higher than their trust in the Swedish government, politicians, media and trade unions. Even higher than that ubiquitous Swedish institution, Volvo, maker of safe family cars.

Have you shopped lately at IKEA? Their products are accurately described, reasonably priced, simple and durable, and you can view all inventory at their cheery showrooms or in colorful catalogs. Product prices and info are clearly marked and explained. Customer service is responsive, friendly and fast. Store hours are customer-convenient. Delivery service is reliable. Young kids can be left for 30 minutes, free of charge, at the supervised Chucky Cheese-style ball pit. The food is good at their brightly lit cafeteria restaurants. IKEA stores are what retailers call destination shopping....people look forward to a visit as an experience and a fun family activity.

When was the last time you got that kind of service, reliability, convenience or respect from a government institution, politicians, media or trade unions? Such organizations could learn solid lessons from smart retailers like IKEA.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Thanksgiving Rebels, Part II

And I thought the story (Nov 17) about my brother-in-law, Thanksgiving rebel who served ham instead of turkey, was original....

Taken from today's New York Times Food Section:

"Almost everybody has a story about the year the family rebel tried to overthrow the tradition of turkey on Thanksgiving. The story never ends well for the transgressor. His revolt is crushed, he is mocked, and now he spends most of the holiday muttering to himself.

Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is guided by conformity. This may frustrate cooks with creative hearts and eaters with adventurous palates, but a culinary battle is like any other. The battlefield must be chosen carefully. Forget the turkey and pumpkin pie: side dishes are the platform for change. You can introduce new flavors, try different techniques and slowly phase out your aunt's insipid green beans."

Can't wait to make and serve my new recipe for cranberry onion relish instead of over-sugared, over-preserved, food-colored canned cranberry sauce.

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Monday, November 17, 2003

The Dirty Secret of Thanksgiving

Gourmet cooks should savor Thanksgiving: a chance to show off culinary skills to a captive, appreciative audience....a time to spoil loved ones with the fruits of their gifts and passions. Our ancestors originated the occasion solely to prepare a lavish annual feast to give thanks for God's goodness to their harvests. No American holiday is more associated with delicious, aromatic food shared with family and friends.

And Thanksgiving is big business: it's the top shopping period for grocers. Newspapers, gourmet magazines and culinary websites publish thousands of trendy twists on the traditional recipes. FoodTV has been celebrating Thanksgiving since...well, since Halloween was over....with homey programs festooned with autumn leaves, golden turkeys and every conceivable take on stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce.

The dirty secret of Thanksgiving is that hosts and hostesses everywhere quietly dread cooking for their guests. Read a few comments from my Tuesday morning womens' group:

"Thanksgiving is so, uh....complex" she sighed, shaking her head. "There are only 8 of us, but everyone wants things a little differently....their own way."

"Fun?? My sister and I cook for 50 people. What's fun about that?" one exclaimed with a good-humored laugh of resignation.

"My in-laws quibble over gravy every year," I elaborated. "There is a giblet gravy group, and a non-giblet gravy group. And they make sniping comments about the other group every Thanksgiving."

"It's a big mess afterwards," several women nodded. "And who really helps us clean up? It's a lot of work."

"To my family, it's not cranberry sauce unless it has the wavy lines from the can" I added.

My brother-in-law Bob, my family's colorful rebel, used to insist on serving ham at Thanksgiving. A top-quality ham...honey-roasted with all the side dishes, generously prepared and served. My mother, always one to stand her ground, would make a turkey, bring it with her on a platter and serve it at Bob and Teri's house. Made them both angry with the other, but they both got their ways. Ham for the rebel, turkey for the traditionalist. We all had to be sure not to take too much ham lest we offend Mom. Truth is that they never liked each other much, and the Thanksgiving dinner became their annual battleground.

Our ideas of the perfect Thanksgiving feast are taken from our mothers and grandmothers. They never had to make tofu pesto turkey for vegetarian relatives. They didn't make accommodatons for others...Thanksgiving was roast turkey with their family stuffing recipe, mashed potatoes with brown turkey gravy, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, yams with butter and assorted candy-like toppings, perhaps a jello mold salad, pumpkin and mince pies, followed by coffee for the adults.

Now I admit that many of the recipes in the November 2003 issue of Bon Appetit magazine sound a tad exotic (and even silly) for most family Thanksgivings....haricot verts (translation: green beans) with goat cheese and warm bacon dressing; succotash soup wih black pepper croutons; autumn trifle with roasted apples, pears and pumpkin-caramel sauce; cranberry-port gelatin with crystallized ginger and celery; country-style bread dressing with dried apricots, pistachios and mint; roast turkey with parsley pomegranate glaze; balsamic-roasted acorn squash with hot chiles and honey.

I once heard a pastor preach that "Life is change, so get used to it. Life changes." Wise words, indeed, although too radical for most families at Thanksgiving. However, wouldn't some compromise in our Thanksgiving dinner expectations be a wonderful way to express thankfulness and gratitude to our families, our hosts and to God this holiday? And how about helping clean up after the festivities, too?

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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Canned, Non-fat, Low Sodium and Non-selling

Can something described as canned, non-fat low sodium chicken broth actually have taste at all?

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Smiles for You on My Birthday

A few smile-inducing quotes from a sweet little book I found at a rummage sale today:

"If you add a word a day to your vocabulary, at the end of the year your friends will wonder who you think you are."
--- Anonymous

"I can live for two months on a good compliment."
--- Mark Twain

"A friend should bear his friend's infirmities."
--- William Shakespeare

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
--- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Nostalgia is remembering the pleasures of our old kitchen when we were kids, without remembering how long it took to wash the dishes."
--- Caroline Brownlow

"Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."
--- Psalm 68:19

The smiles are my gift to you on my birthday. Thanks for reading my "column."

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Friday, November 14, 2003

The Great Equalizer and Humbler

The California DMV is the great equalizer of people. It treats all of us exactly the same, regardless of race, origin, gender, religion, orientation, disabliility, size, intelligence, wealth or manner of dress or appearance. It doesn't matter what you say or will be treated with the same cold indifference and bureaucratic red tape as everyone else.

The DMV is also the great humbler of egos and all such self-importance. Where else do you feel grateful for having waited only 3 hours for service?

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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Mayberry, California?

Our city, population 45,000, has been considering contracting with the county for police services and no longer operating/funding its own police force. Revenues are tight for California cities these days, and all avenues are being explored to save costs.

We received the latest city Neighborhood Watch Newsletter, reporting 15 burglaries citywide for May, June and July 2003. Ten occurred through unlocked doors and windows; 4 involved the use of force, although none resulted in injuries; 3 entailed minimal or unknown losses; 7 were in morning, 3 in afternoon and just 5 were at night.

The most serious burglary losses were described as follows:
- US currency, carton of cigarettes, 15 CDs and a tree saw

- backpack, Game Boy, Harry Potter books and hearing aids (That kid thought the hearing aids were ear phones for the Game Boy.)

- air conditioner (Stolen at night. Must have been quite hot that night.)

- digital pictures (Would be interesting to know what was in those pics. Was that really a random burglary?)

- Sony digital receivers, 2 Play Stations, DVD player, telephone

- cell phone, bottled water, Top Ramen cup-o-noodles (It really says that.)

It's hard to imagine that this low level need for law enforcement justifies the cost of an entire police force. If citizens had locked their doors and windows, only 5 of these burglaries would have occurred in the 3-month time span.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Stick, Stones and Nuclear Weapons

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

--- Albert Einstein

The Pleasures of Homemade Cake

Cakes taste better when they're homemade. They're fresher and moister, and they're made exactly the way we like them...our favorite flavors and spices, that special frosting, the personal touches. And the aroma of a cake baking satisfies like few other scents.

I've made a few cakes lately for family and friends: a rich pumpkin chocolate-chip bundt cake glazed with cinnamon and a pinch of ginger (twice) and a simple old-fashioned coffee cake topped with brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon crumbles. Their hunger for a homemade cake extends beyond mere's also about the loving hands that made it for them; about tiring of store bought baked goods laden with preservatives and food colorings; about desire for simplicity.

I have a few recommendations for cake cookbooks to create unusually delicious, quick-to-make, crowd pleasing cakes for your loved ones:

- "Bundt Cakes" by Karen Plageman and Susan Herbert. Published in 1973 by Owlswood Productions. You mght be able to find a copy on eBay or Amazon.

- Betty Crocker's "Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook" first published in 1963. It's never been out of print, but you might find a treasured early edition at eBay or Amazon. (No, you may not borrow my First Edition, First Printing of this classic. One of the few books I don't loan to anyone.)

- "The Cake Mix Doctor" by Anne Byrn. This woman is a genius. Buy the Deluxe Edition with extra recipes and photos of every single cake. Published in 2003 by Rodale Press and Workman Publishing, you can find it everywhere.

Make a cake this week for your family, friends or that new neighbor down the street. And remember to save a piece of yourself.

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Monday, November 10, 2003

Poppies and Poverty

Beautiful fire-orange poppies are blooming again in Afghanistan. That is, opium poppies.

Two years ago, Afghanistan was virtually poppy-free. The strict Islamic militia group, the Taliban, banned its growth under the most dire consequences for non-compliance. The UN-backed Afghan democracy has attempted to curb poppy production and trade, but with little success. Some claim that deterrence efforts have been weak and sporadic because...well, poppies bring a steady, strong flow of cash into the country, something that Afghanistan sorely needs. The government doesn't have funds to aid poor Afghanis, or to establish effective law enforcement.

The crop is being grown mainly by the poorest farmers so that they can feed their families. They work long and hard with their oxen and rudimentary tools, load up their donkeys and drive them to the border where they sell their harvests to the highest bidder. Growing wheat on a half-acre of land may yield a farmer $70 a year, which barely pays for next year's fertilizer. Growing poppies on that same half-acre will earn about $1,230, which is enough to feed their families, buy fertilizer and "maybe even buy a refrigerator."

Said one farmer to the Washington Post, "We know that poppy is harmful and it is against Islam. We are not enemies of humanity, but we have no factories or roads....Everything we have comes from poppy. Before, people were eating spinach, and now they are eating meat." Some families have been able to buy concrete blocks to build houses after decades of living in mud-walled huts.

Small farmers become indebted to opium traders to buy fertilizer and equipment, though. Officials at road checkpoints commonly extort cash from travelers to the border. And sadly, Afghanis themselves often become users of their opium harvest. The violence, corrupton and sophisticated dealing associated with drug production is not yet present in Afghanistan, but can be expected to grow in this fertile climate.

Until the United Nations more strongly supports Afghanistan's and other country's fledging attempts at democracy, people will continue to do what they can to support their families. Half-measures rarely ensure success.

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Sunday, November 09, 2003


So many recipes, and so little time. So many books to read and write, and so little time. So many roses to admire, and so little time. So much art and music to savor, and so little time. So much to do for, and so little time. So many people to encourage and comfort, and so little time. So much love from and for Ron, Andrea and family, and never ever enough time. So much to learn about Jesus, and so little time...but maybe I CAN save a few of those questions for later. :)

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Friday, November 07, 2003

A Holiday to Truly Celebrate

Today is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day. It's certainly as deserving a holiday as most others. So let's all toast with candy bars held high....Cheers to a day with chocolate! :)

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Thursday, November 06, 2003

The Cupcake Corp., a NASDAQ Listing

It's all about cupcakes right now. Cupcakes are the new candy bar, but Starbuckized. Cupcakes are the new Ben & Jerry's ice cream cone. Cupcakes are even the new wedding cakes, replacing multi-tiered creations with individual concoctions for each wedding goer. "In New York, cupcakes are not lopsided schoolbake-sale affairs. They are art, they are fashion, they are a tourist attraction and they can be big business," gushes the New York Times.

These supersized, candy-laden, intensely flavored indulgences sell for $2.95 and up. They are purchased mainly by adults in the largest cities who, some theorize, don't realize how easy they are to make. One bakery, The Magnolia in New York City, sells 3,000 per day, and brings in about $40,000 per week from sales of these creations. At the busiest times of a weekday, a line of customers can snake out the door and up the street.

New cupcakes, as I call them, fall into two categories: retro "back to basics" and nouveau cuisine. The "back to basics" cupcake is essentially an extravagant version of mom's homebaked variety, but the yellow cake is more intensely buttery, the chocolate is richer, and the frosting is piled higher and deeper. It is mom's cupcakes on steriods. Nouveau cuisine cupcakes follow the culinary path trod by Ben & Jerry's and TGIFriday's drinks menu...Cuban mojito cupcakes with rum flavoring and lime, Callebaut chocolate ganache cupcakes filled with bits of Godiva chocolate or fine peppermint chips. One baker says she keeps a customer suggestion box that quickly fills with cupcake concept proposals.

New cupcakes are also blank canvases for elaborate decorations, such as sculpted butter cream flowers and any holiday theme. (One baker topped cupcakes with tiny Israeli flags for Jewish High Holy Days.) As every midwestern homekeeper can tell you, fancy cake decorating is nothing new. The Wilton Corp. has taught every conceivable cake decorating scheme for the last 40+ years with its esteemed Wilton Method of Cake Decorating Course. The generation now inhabiting our large cities and haunting its bakeries, though, apparently have never heard of the Wilton family. Uniquely and fashionably decorated cupcakes command premium prices. They are status symbols, albeit temporary, and are often ordered to match one's outfit.

You may laugh at me when I say that cupcakes could soon spawn the hottest new stock on NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange. But remember....that's exactly how Krispy Kreme started. In 2002, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts rang up worldwide sales of $779 million and are expected to surpass $1 billion in 2003.

Cupcake futures, anyone?

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World Events, Imelda Marcos-Style

"Every so often, an enormous event renders the world silent for one brief moment before all hell breaks loose. This is one such moment."

"....hold a place of honor on the long list of cult objects he's created. How high do they rank? Women have been treating their remaining pairs like classic cars, taking them out only for low-stress occasions, weather permitting. Now, in a thrilling development, the style has returned. For how long? The company is keeping mum--- all the more reason to get your hunting done now."

This bit of hyperbole, taken from spam for, is for a pair of shoes. Honest, it really is.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2003

My Day at Traffic & Minor Offenses Court

Went to Traffic & Minor Offenses Court today for a non-moving violation ticket for incorrect home address for....$450....that the DMV says I received in 2001. The subject came up because I had not heard from the DMV about my mid-November license renewal, and had called to inquire about its status. Seems that my "failure to appear" to pay for this ticket caused my license to be suspended more than two years ago, unbeknownst to me. The Court Clerk urged me to go over to the Court, pay the $450 plus an additional fee, and my record and license would be free of this blemish. Nothing else would be required. Of course, I could always go see the Judge if I had anything to say about this situation....:)

Anyone who knows me knows I went to see the Judge. He is clearly a man exhausted by his 55 or so years of life and work. His opening remarks showed him to be direct, plain-spoken and a man of quite strong views. He wanted to only hear one of three phrases from each person's mouth: guilty, not guilty or traffic school, and he wanted each case completed in one minute. Period.

Please understand that I AM guilty of having an incorrect address on my drivers license, and I intend to remedy that when I get my license renewed next week. (I emphatically do not remember, and would not have signed, a $450 ticket for said offense. I believe that a young police officer did not fully explain a "fix your equipment and this ticket will cost you nothing" citation she issued to me about that time. )

Judge: "Mrs. White, have you fixed the address on your license to drive your Maserati?" (He also used the Maserati reference for several before me who looked middle class affluent in relation to the other offenders.)

"Sir, it was a Jeep, not a Maserati."

"They look about the same."

", no. I am nervous, sir."

"We are all nervous, Mrs. White.

"Sir, I have my license here. I have not changed the address yet."

"So you didn't tell me the truth the first time I asked?" the judge glared at me.

The judge looks down and then comments, " I see your license is suspended."

"That was a surprise to me, Sir."

Uncomfortable pause.....and more uncomfortable pause.

"Here is what I'll do. Your fine will be $153, Mrs. White. I will make this an infraction and not a misdemeanor, so it will not go on your record."

(On my record as what? Failure to stand in line for 6 hours at the DMV when I move less than one mile and retain the same phone number? I don't know anyone who changes their address with the DMV between license renewal dates. And $153? For only $19 more, one twentysomething man was cited for carrying marijuana. A probable illegal was fined just $325 for driving without license, insurance or car registration. $153 for an incorrect address? What? That guy over there ran a red light and had no insurance and his fine was.... )

"Thank you, sir," I gratefully said, using my intelligence and not my emotions.

Ron and I headed out of the courtroom to the 10-window cashier and ATM area for Traffic & Minor Offenses Court to immediately pay $153 to satisfy the demands of our justice system and to lift the suspension from my license.

"Hi" I smile at the clerk. "I just want to pay this." I handed her the info summary from the court balif.

"Today?" she paused. "But you have 30 days to pay this."

"I want to take care of this today. I don't want to come back here, and I want to have a receipt for my payment. I need to get the suspension lifted from my license."

"You can mail it in, you know."

"I want to pay this today. I want to take care of it now. I want to know this is all taken care of." Not good when I get hyper like this.

"Ok" she sighed. "Go to window 9 and wait for your name to be called." She warns, "You'll have to wait a few minutes."

We walk down to window 9, and we wait. And we wait. And we wait even more. Everyone waiting is called but me. Finally, the clerk, Mr. Chan, leans out his window.

"I have no more paperwork to do, but come on over, and maybe I can help you."

God bless Mr. Chan.

He researches and locates my case. "That will be $136."

"$136? But the Judge said $153. The paper slip from the balif says $153. I want to pay all I owe. Could you check that again? " Still hyper. Leaking hyper.

Mr. Chan is confused, "The computer says $136. It must be $136. It IS $136. "

"Here is $136," I said, now thoroughly defeated in my search for truth and equity at Traffic & Minor Offenses Court.

I add, "Could you please make sure that the suspension is lifed from my license, too?"

"Yes" he smiles. "Please take a seat."

Mr. Chan closes his window, calls over a colleague, and they labor over his computer for 10 minutes. He motions me back.

"All taken care of, Mrs. White. It's good you asked. We had to look at many screens. Your license is now cleared. You can go to the DMV at anytime."

"Thank you again, Mr. Chan. Have a good day Thank you."

Ahhh...I learn again the value of persistence, patience and humility. And how very very hard they are to do. Next stop: the DMV!

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Monday, November 03, 2003

Breaking Bread Together

Friends, laughter, delicious food, people meeting people, lingering over a good glass of wine, shared passions, confided dreams....there is nothing quite like the warmth and quiet delight of an intimate dinner party at home. That is what entertaining and good cooking is all about: setting the stage for enjoying times and making memories with family and friends. Opening your home to break bread together and enjoy the fellowship of each other's company.

We all need more of that in our lives today.

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Thursday, October 30, 2003

Barbie, Pagan Witch

Christian moms who think Barbie is a benign influence and perhaps even a cute toy, please take note: there is a new Barbie in town, and she is a bona fide witch.

Yup, it's true. This fall, Mattel is offering a new Barbie, Secret Spells Barbie, along with two companions, Christie and Kayla. Barbie comes with two glamorous caped outfits, a spellbook with secret compartment, a dragonfly, mixing pot, stand, spoon, three bottles and two packets of magic powder (sugar-based mixes). The other two dolls also come with two glittery outfits, spell book, edible potions and potion cups.

Sample a few of the hundreds of comments about Secret Spells Barbie at, a consumer product review website:

"Hello, people. It is a toy. No need to get your pants in a bunch, Wiccans, Pagans and Christians alike. I am a witch. I am not a Barbie fan at all...never have been. But it is still a toy. By the way, way to go Mattel."

"Secret Spells Barbie is a great way to celebrate the holidays; I just wish she looked more like Morticia Addams than Samantha (of American Girls dolls)."

"I'm a Wiccan and I have a sense of humor. You can darn well bet that I and a number of my coveners are going to have these in our homes soon. And no, not for my kid (I don't have any!) It'll be for ME!"

"Oh my stars! Now the Mattel people are infringing upon my family's ancient belief sytem. How can they get away with this? ....I intend to track down and purchase a few samples of these Barbies, to add to my world-wide collection of the art-form depiction of the Feminine Goddess aspect in today's society."

How can anyone be surprised?

I can't say it better than one quote from "Great job, Mattel, adding more evil and confusion to little girls' worlds."

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Foodie Vocab Word of the Week

Microcheesery - a small-scale maker of a regional artisan cheese; similar to microbrewery, except for cheese instead of beer.

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Turkey Black Bean Chili Fit for Foodies

Tried out an interesting new chili recipe last night that uses pumpkin as an ingredient. It was superb and quick to make, fit for serious foodies as well as the just-give-me-my football, beer and bowl o' chilli crowd.

Main chili makings are 2 cups of cooked turkey, 2 15-oz cans of black beans (I recommend Bush's), 2 cups of chicken broth, 1 chopped yellow onion, minced garlic to taste (lots in our home!) 1 can of Mexican stewed tomatoes chopped, and the surprise ingredient of 1 16-oz can of pure pumpkin. For spices, I used 2 tspns of cumin (absolutely essential, but use to taste), 1 tspn of chili pepper, 1 tspn of white pepper and several generous sprinkles of garlic salt. I omitted the 1/2 cup of cream sherry specified by the recipe, but it would have enhanced this delicious dish. Saute the onion and garlic in veggie oil; stir in the broth, beans, turkey, pumpkin and Mexican tomatoes, in that order. Let simmer for 5 minutes, and then add all spices. Sherry should be added early if you want the alcohol to burn off, and later if you want a full-bodied sherry flavor. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes; occasionally stir.

This hearty fare has a complexity rarely found in chili. The turkey, pumpkin, black beans and cumin simmered together were a surprising match made in culinary heaven. I served it with dollops of sour cream and freshly baked corn bread.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Husband and and wife of 25 years, Narinder Badwal and Lilla Singh, were jubilant recently when their Santa Clara 7-11 store sold one of two winning California Lotto tickets last Wednesday, each worth $49 milion. After 16 years of owning their franchise store, they were thrilled that they had finally hit their big jackpot with the commission of $250,000. They celebrated by giving out free Slurpees to their customers.

To everyones' surprise, by Thursday, no one had stepped forward to claim their share of the sixth largest jackpot in Lotto history. As he always does later on Thursdays and Sundays, Mr. Badwal took out the 12 tickets he bought for themselves and checked them against the winning numbers. He was shocked to discover that he had sold the winning ticket to himself.

The couple had chosen to receive the proceeds in 26 annual payments of about $2 million. Some of the money will go toward their three childrens' college educations, and to the Sankara Eye Foundation, a charity that provides eye surgeries in India. Mrs. Singh has admitted to having always wanted a diamond ring from her husband.

They said, though, that being millionaires wouldn't change their early retirement, no elaborate homes, no fancy cars. They plan to keep running their 7-11 store in Santa Clara. "We will be doing our regular activities so we can stay healthy and live longer," said Singh. "We want to stay the way we were."

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Monday, October 27, 2003

The Wildlfire of Hell

Hell must be like the inferno of a raging Californa wildfire.....terrifying, infinitely destructive, tragic. Please pray for our friends who have been evacuated from their home just beyond Crestline.

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Sunday, October 26, 2003

Grab That Bag of Chips, Too!

An ABC reporter covering the Southern California wildfires this morning asked one middle-aged couple evacuated from their home, "How much notice did you have to evacuate your home?"

"About a half hour, I guess." the woman replied.

"What did you decide to take with you?"

"The bean dip," she said in all seriousness.

Startled, the reporter paused and then asked, "Why bean dip?"

She laughed, "I didn't want to waste it."

Not often you can stun a reporter into stammering, awkward silence, but she did.

She added, "Then I took my Bible."

You just can't make this stuff up.

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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Cigars and Tequila Shots

The room was jammed with women at a Women's Cigar Dinner recently held in Denver by Morton's of Chicago, the high-end steak restaurant. In fact, the event was such a great success for the restaurant that on November 11, another Denver upscale eatery will host a Women's Tequila Dinner and Tasting.

Here is my we really need to engage in unhealthy behavior to feel empowered?

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Friday, October 24, 2003

Bumper Sticker of the Month

Seen on a big rig truck based in Champlaign, Illinois:

"Start your week right....Attend the church of your choice."

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Mario Batali, Food Hall-of-Famer

It was evening, and Nigella Lawson, former journalist and now of "Nigella Bites" cookbook and TV show fame, wore a half-buttoned man's shirt as she drizzled syrup on a stack of at least ten pancakes. She gazed at the pancakes as if surveying a great work of art. She carefully cut a huge bite, tossed back her hair, and closed her eyes as she revelled in its glory. She was taking a second monster bite as program credits rolled over her TV image.

Martha Stewart, one-time stockbroker, samples every edible made on her show lately. Bobby Flay can't resist taking hearty televised noshes of his spicy southwest dishes. Rachael Ray tastes all of her 30-minute meals at program end, athough actor/chef Emeril feeds his clamoring audience more than himself. Possible anorexic Sandra Lee of the new "Semi Homemade" cooking show cheerily munches her ultra-quick-and-yummy snacks, desserts and odd cocktails (a beer margarita? why?). Paula Deen, the TV queen of indulgent southern cooking, luxuriates in sensuous bites of her down-home concoctions.

These are attractive people with TV-acceptable bodies and perfect TV-friendly wardrobes and grooming, yet they are constantly pictured eating fatty and sugary foods, and lots of it. I suppose they all could have superior genes and faster metalbolisms than us, but that seems unlikely. The logical guess is that they don't actually eat like that very often....that (gasp) maybe some don't even enjoy eating complex, heavy gastronomical pleasures. In other words, it is an act. It is sitcom and drama, not reality TV. They don't live like that, or they wouldn't look like that.

Which brings me to why I like Mario Batali, currently of "Molto Mario." He lives and breathes authentic Italian food, and you know it. His knowledge of all culinary things Italian is amazing, and his passion for it is unsurpassed. And he looks a man who often consumes (and is consumed by) his own cooking. He is stocky and overweight with a round, perpetually smiling face, and his impossibly orange-red hair is pulled back into a ponytail. His clothes are blandly neutral except for his tired red high-top tennis shoes. You just know that he wears those same clothes at home. Like a person driven by a single passion, his appearance is an afterthought.

In past decades, all the great chefs were a bit zaftig and not overly polished or broadcast beautiful. Think James Beard and Julia Child. Mario may be the only TV chef today in a class with these food extraordinary chef, passionate and knowledgeable about his culinary subject, utterly comfortable as mere background to his creations, and obviously delighted with consuming his own fare.

Mark me down as Mario fan. His love of cooking and food is not just an ratings-driven act. He is the real deal.

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Christmas, the WalMart Way

Nothing says Christmas like a giant, plastic 8-foot inflatable, blue-sweatered polar bear that lights up for a "glowing nighttime display."

WalMart lists it as a best-seller in today's online spam, so you better hurry or the supply will be gone. For a mere $37.82 plus shipping and sales tax, it can be yours in 1 to 2 business days.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

On Throwing out the Baby with Some Pesky Bathwater

All we think we know about headline news stories is filtered through the minds, hearts and profitability goals of reporters, editors and publishers. That is, unless we were eyewitnesses and know the involved parties, but that is rare.

The reported facts of the Terri Schiavo situation, coupled with the touching video of Terri recorded recently by her parents, are so horrifying and obviously evil that I found it easier to assume that the reporting was biased and incorrect, overhyped in relation to its importance, a la OJ and Kobe. I was wrong.

Here are the basic facts, as reported by MSNBC:
- Mrs. Schiavo survived a heart attack in 1990, but it left her substantially brain damaged.
- Mrs. Schiavo has since lived in a medical facility. She breathes on her own; she receives sustenance through a feeding tube.
- Mr. Schiavo is involved in a romantic relationship with another woman, and they have a child together.
- Mr. Schiavo declines to divorce his wife.
- If Mrs. Schiavo dies, Mr. Schiavo will inherit $750,000 that remains in a medical care trust account for Mrs. Schiavo.
- Mrs. Schiavo never signed a living will, which allows people to disconnect machines or feeding tubes should that person become comatose.
- Mr. Schiavo states that Mrs. Schiavo lives in a "persistent vegetative state."
- Two weeks ago, Mrs. Schiavo's parents made a video of her sitting with support, eyes sparkling, making sounds apparently in response to her mother.
- Many doctors have stated that with persistence, Mrs. Schiavo may be able to perform some basic care-taking tasks for herself. One of those tasks would be limited self-feeding, so that a feeding tube would be unnecessary.
- For five years, Mr. Schiavo has fought to have her feeding tube removed to cause her to die.
- Mrs. Schavio's feeding tube was removed on Oct 15, 2003, in response to a court order sought by her husband.
- Mrs. Schiavo was deprived of water and food for six days.
- Yesterday, per Florida legislation signed by the governor, Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube was reconnected.
- Mr. Schiavo's attorney stated today that "Terri Schiavo was literally abducted from her deathbed." They vow to continue this fight. As I write this, headlines state that Mr. Schiavo has forbidden her parents to visit her.

Of course, this struggle to cause Mrs. Schiavo to legally die by starvation is sickening and frighteningly evil. As I said here on Sept 5, this is to be expected in a society that does not respect each and every person's inalienable right to life.

What gives me pause here is how quick I was to blame the media and ignore the annoying hype surrounding this situation. In its drive for sensationalism to pump up sales and TV ratings, the media has cried a proverbial "wolf" thousands of times too often.

By tuning out all news and media hype, we may be throwing out our beloved baby to get rid of some pesky dirty bathwater.

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Divine Examination

Story in today's news that Dana Clark Hughes, a homeless man in Indiana, found an envelope containing $1,500 on a sidewalk Thursday. He turned the money in at a county gov't office building across the street. Hughes said he believed that God was testing him...that this was a "type of divine examination."


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Searching for Norman Rockwell

One of our neighbors thinks we live in Norman Rockwell's America. God bless them...wouldn't that be nice? We opened our front door a few mornings ago to find a scroll and sandwich bag full of dime candy rubber-banded to the door knob. The scroll had two sheets of paper, a cute cartoon ghost and a poem that read:

The Phantom Ghost has come around
To leave these goodies you have found.

And, since the Ghost has gotten you
Please read closely what you must do.

First, post the Ghost where it can be seen,
On your door or window until Halloween.

Then no other Ghost will visit again
Be sure to participate, it will make you grin.

Next, please do your part,
You have only one day,
So everyone has a chance to play.

Make two treats, two Ghosts and two notes,
Now that's the gist,
And take them to families
That may have been missed.

Deliver after dark
When there's barely a light,
Ring the doorbell and RUN!
Then stay out of sight!!!

And last but not least, have fun,
And try not to be seen,
And share the fun of Halloween!!!

Our first reaction was that this was another pseudo I'm-your-neighbor promotion by an ambitious realtor. Then headline-induced paranoia set in.....remember the children who received tainted or dangerous halloween candy....remember the teenager who put razor blades in public park sand boxes....remember the girl in San Diego who delivered Girl Scout cookies with her mother and ended up dead....remember the cranky, harrassed old man who shot and killed a 14 year old over a pumpkin prank...remember....remember...remember.

Remember when we lived for ten years on a busy corner, and how strangers would knock on our door at night for assistance? Remember the scary lessons we learned from that, and how the Fullerton police instructed us to just take the info through a closed door, and place a call to the Auto Club for the stranded motorist? Remember how the police told us to never answer our front door after dark if we are not expecting visitors?

Wouldn't it be nice to not have paranoid thoughts about friendly gestures by a neighbor?

What did we do? After too much analysis, we ate the candy as an act of nostalgic faith in a better world (and because it looked good) , and anonymously repeated this sweet seasonal deed for two neighbors. Like irritating chain letters, we felt too guilty to not pass it on, and besides, what would the neighbors think if we dropped the metaphoric ball? And then we posted the Ghost on our front door so we won't have to go through this trauma again.

New England artist Norman Rockwell lovingly painted mid- 20th century America as a place where innocence, integrity and warmth exist to transcend the inevitable imperfection of humanity to ensure happy endings. I wonder if such a place still might be worth the search just to know.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Steve Bartman, Celebrity Cub Fan

Report from CNN this afternoon is that Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who achieved notoriety and death threats after reaching for that pop foul in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, may not be in misery for long over his mistake. Revolution Studios, in Hollywood, has already received a pitch for a movie tentatively titled "Fan Interference" that recounts the story of a fan who messes up an easy out for his favorite baseball team and then has to deal with the ramifications. The movie is expected to star TV sitcom star Kevin James of the CBS show "King of Queens."

Of course. We should have known better than to feel sorry for Mr. Bartman. Next: appearances with Jay Leno and Dave Letterman.

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A Page-A-Day Pearl

A pearl from a page-a-day Max Lucado calendar here by my monitor:

"When you forgive someone, you are as close to God as you will ever be, because in that forgiveness you are demonstrating the very heart of God. If you want to understand God, if you want to draw closer to Him, then forgive someone today."

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Chicago Really Can Be a Tough Town

By reputation, Chicago can be a tough town. Guess the rumors were correct in this case. The following is taken from today's Chicago Tribune:

"Last seen, the fan who tried to catch the ball was wearing a jacket on his head and being led into the underbelly of Wrigley Field for his own protection.

He may forever be referred to as 'that fan' or any number of other names after he reached for a pop foul that Cubs left-fielder Moises Alou was about to catch for the second out in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, with the Cubs leading (the game) 3-0 and five outs away from the World Series.

But the ball struck the fan's hand and bounced free, opening the door to an eight-run Marlins rally and an eventual Cubs loss.

Within moments. the fans down the left-field line began booing and chanting, 'Get him out.' The object of their scorn still sat in his front-row seat, wearing headphones and a Cubs cap, as the Marlins began to pile up runs.

'It cost us the game, pal.' shouted one fan. Another fan tossed a beer cup toward the man's seat, but it fell short. Three security guards ejected one fan after throwing beer. 'I hope you're happy,' the man screamed. 'You cost us the (expletive) World Series.'

Another fan yelled, 'You could tell we're better than Boston or he'd be dead already.' "


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Roses and Wisdom

Early this morning, a neighbor across the street smiled, waved and commented," Nice roses. They're beautiful."

"Thank you," I replied while pruning back spent blossoms. " I'm not much of a gardner, but I've grown roses for years. "

"Well, they're beautiful. "

"Well, thanks, but they've had better years."

He laughed,"Haven't we all?"

Yes, indeed we have.

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Monday, October 13, 2003

Freshest Homemade Tomato Soup

Made a fragrant, lively tomato soup last night in only 30 minutes, and my family loved it. Combine 4 cups of chopped vine-ripened tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken broth, 1 can of Italian style stewed tomatoes, 1 chopped yellow onion (sauteed in butter or oil), 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon of oregano, and garlic to taste in a pot and boil gently for 15 minutes. In a separate pan, combine 2 tablespoons each of butter and flour until smooth. Add to the soup for thickness and stir. Season to taste: I added a teaspoon of McCormick's lemon pepper (one of my secret ingredients) and a half teaspoon of salt. Simmer and stir for 5 minutes more.

Perfect for a light dinner or lunch when served with a green salad and toasted slices of your favorite bread.

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Sunday, October 12, 2003

Epiphany that Few Will Believe

Friends and family would never believe that I would say such a thing, but epiphanies do happen: It is great to be middle aged. Yup, those words came from me. I spoke to my mid-20s, newlywed daughter this evening, and memories of that time in life came flooding back to me.

Now, I know who I am, and, with God's grace, how to accomplish my goals and priorities. Ron and I are long-settled into marital bliss, and have a good life together. Three of four children are raised and now adults, and the fourth is bright and easy-going. We are at peace with our parents. We have interests and passions, both shared and individual. (I still don't understand why he doesn't want me to learn golf. :) Life has its challenges and sorrows, but we know how to weather the storms. We have matured in and find joy in our faith. We are blessed and grateful.

It is exciting for my daughter and her husband to be on the brink of their new lives together...a shining blank slate just waiting for their signatures. But I, who has struggled for a decade with aging, would not trade places with them, even if given the chance. That is a soul-satisfying realization.

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Friday, October 10, 2003

Seduction by Fudge

My husband, Ron, had a "bachelor recipe" for a rich caramel chocolate fudge that he took to parties and used to capture the attention of women. He is a decent cook, but this was his show-off recipe. He served it to me on our first date. Friends continued to ask us to bring it to potlucks, and several said we could make our fortune selling this deeply delicious confection.

Eight years ago, we started our foray into the gourmet food business by making and selling Ron's richest caramel chocolate fudge. We had such fun at our first entrepreneurial venture, working together day and night through the holiday season at baking, boxing, wrapping and delivering. Supportive family and friends placed orders, and one loyal pal ordered forty pounds for Christmas gifts to his customers. In March, the Health Department came knocking, and we discovered all sorts of regulations that we unknowingly violated in our home business.

Our first small business is long gone now, and it has been years since we made that recipe. Ron's richest caramel chocolate fudge will be featured in my fudge cookbook-in-progress. But....we can't find the recipe anymore! Today, I made a caramel fudge brownie that seemed similar. It looks too brownie-ish and not fudgy enough, but I bet our Friday Evening group will devour it anyway.

At least I have a starting point to recreating the seductive fudge Ron served at our first meal together.

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A Christian American

Dr. James Dobson, a true Christian American, wrote in his August 2003 monthly bulletin, "My vision is for a society that protects religious liberties for people of all faiths. I believe in the concept of pluralism, which acknowledges the widely differing values and beliefs among our citizens. What's needed is a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of students and other citizens to voice their religious convictions and apply their faith to everyday issues."

"It would require an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to protect voluntary prayer and religious liberty generally. The wording should clearly articulate a principle of government neutrality toward religion and should explicitly restore student religious expression in public school....As I write, legislation calling for a religious-liberties amendment is being considered in Congress. Perhaps our leaders will soon give the American people an opportunity to vote on this issue."


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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Democracy in Action

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was right on target when he said that yesterday's resounding recall of California governor Gray Davis and replacement election of moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was a "non-partisan vote to protest the status-quo" perpetuated by career politicians. Translated, Californians are mad as hell and decided to not take it any more.

It's powerful and exciting when the people rise up and take back control. That is what democracy is all about, and the basic principle on which our great country was founded.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Los Angeles Times: New York Times or National Enquirer?

The US news media exists to report the news, not make and shape the news and hence, history. The editorial page is reserved as its only allotted and appropriately labelled exercise in subjectivity, and a medium's sole departure from its professional obligation and the public's expectation of objectivity.

The Los Angeles Times has been appallingly abusive in its misuse of the power of the press to control the outcome of today's California gubernatorial recall and replacement election. Front page headlines consistently referred to Mr. Schwarzenegger as "celebrity" or "actor" whereas Mr. Davis was referred to by name. Only three days prior to balloting, the Times published sensational allegations by four anonymous and two identified women charging sexual harrassment thirty years ago by Mr. Schwarzenegger. The Times published a rumor that a book proposal alleges that Arnold was once a Nazi-admirer.
Anyone at anytime can write a book proposal alleging anything....since the book has not been published, the author or publisher can't be sued for libel or defamation. The Times publishes books, and it well knows this.

The Los Angeles Times has not devoted front page or significant print space analyzing the candidates' differences on education challenges, methods planned to meet the state budget shortfall. both the needs of and burdens created by illegal aliens and undocumented workers, excessive taxation and red-tape for small businesses, and other subtantive, important issues.

In this election, the Los Angeles Times has acted more like the National Enquirer than the New York Times. The Times has lost a good measure of its credibility and community goodwill, and, I suspect, readers, too.

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How Dare They?

Groucho Marx famously remarked," I wouldn't want to be in a club that would have me for a member." My variation is this: I have learned lessons from being involved in organizations, and one is that there are many clubs and committees that I do not want to and should not be a part of...I do not fit in well; they are frustrating exercises for me; I don't meet their criteria for a good member; I get saddened or bored by misplaced priorities. But it still hurts my ego when they don't want me either. (How dare they?) :)

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Monday, October 06, 2003


Sat next to a ninety-three year old man at church yesterday, just as I have most Sundays for the past year. He sits alone in the sixth pew, although once a visiting granddaughter and her boyfriend sat with him. He fits the word spry, with his energy and wiry build. He drives himself to church.

We greet each other the same way each week. I slide into the pew, stop about eighteen inches to his right, look at him and say," Good Morning. How are you today?" He smiles widely and replies, "Always room for improvement." We laugh at our shared wittiness. He is happy for the attention, and I again feel a fleeting remembrance of my beloved grandfather. He invariably nods off during the service. He is mentally sharp, but yesterday seemed confused. He couldn't find "How Great Thou Art" in the hymnal. I found it for him, but he was unable to follow the four stanzas of lyrics. He completed a weekly attendance card, but couldn't recall what to do with it. He dozed longer than normal.

It is fall now, and children are back in school. The weather has turned cooler, and leaves are changing colors. Football season is well underway again, and baseball fans ponder the excitement of another World Series. Life and seasons move on without our permission. I look forward to seeing my friend again next week at church.

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Saturday, October 04, 2003

October Flea Market Finds

October flea markets and estate sales are usually rich with bargain treasures, and today was no exception. With a Starbucks French Roast in one hand and Yahoo maps in the other, I got an early start to browsing for cookbooks and kitchen tools to add to my collection or sell on eBay. My finds were exceptional: ninety pieces of lovely antique William Rogers silver flatware for an astounding $10; a garlic press, professional meat thermometer, an attractive top-quality stainless steel carving set and an oversized Pyrex baking dish all for $6; and two sets of 1960s fondue forks in their original boxes for fifty cents each. I couldn't resist two fascinating old books at seventy-five cents each: "Bedside Book of Famous French Short Stories," published in 1945 with stories by Honore De Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, Emile Zola, George Sand and Jean-Paul Sartre, and "Sex in Civilization," a 682-page volume published in 1929, featuring a thought-provoking diversity of viewpoints and essays on women, Christianity, sexuality, marriage and society.

It was great fun!

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Friday, October 03, 2003

Pumpkin Dessert Cake

The worst-kept secret of food writers and publishers is that the most delicious and pleasing recipes are found in local community, church and fundraiser cookbooks. This is especially true for cookies, cakes, pies, candies and assorted desserts.

Today, I made a pumpkin dessert cake from my church's cookbook, and it is simply sensational. The first layer consists of one can of pure pumpkin, one cup of evaporated milk, 3 eggs, one cup of sugar, one tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice and one teaspoon of salt, all mixed together and poured into a 9 X 12 pan. The second layer is a white cake dry mix, sprinkled on top of the pumpkin mixture. I used the Pillsbury Moist Supreme Classic White Premium Cake Mix with Double Pudding. (Amazing title.) The third layer is a melted half cup of butter, poured over the top of it all. I added a touch of cinnamon to the butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. The baking aroma is very autumn, and the taste is sure to draw smiles.

Will serve it this evening with whipped cream to our hungry Friday Evening Group.

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Joyous or Haunting?

Strange how organ music is most often heard either in Halloween scenarios or deeply traditional churches. We joked that the organist at our former church was playing variations of Disney's Haunted Mansion theme each Sunday morning.

Shouldn't Christian music be joyous and uplifting to celebrate the Good News?

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Thursday, October 02, 2003

Frank Sinatra Redux

A unique, classy new show opens next week at Radio City Music Hall, featuring rare, vintage 1950s film clips of Frank Sinatra singing many of his best tunes. The film is taken from an ABC television program that ran for one season, and has been buried in family archives. The fifty year old film was resurrected using today's technological magic.

The show is entitled "Sinatra - His Voice, His World, His Way." I have little interest or even respect for his world or his way, but his voice and artistry were otherworldly in their smooth grace and impeccable rhythm. The film is accompanied by a forty-piece big band orchestra. Sadly, Radio City couldn't resist adding dancing Rockettes in tiny skirts to this otherwise sophisticated evening. Clips of the show can be viewed at the Radio City Music Hall website.

Oh, to be in Manhattan October 8 to 19 for a romantic fall evening of elegant dining and Sinatra music.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Annoying the Middle School Pig

Saw this in the classroom of my daughter' seventh grade math teacher: "Never teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the pig."

Clever saying...I guess. Why, though, would this be good for a teacher to post in her middle school classroom? Is this a positive attitude? Am I taking this too seriously and it is actually funny?

Email me, please. I need clarity from wiser minds.

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