Thursday, May 27, 2004

Italy Confronts Pizza Emergency

The Italian Agriculture Ministry recently published strict new pizza guidelines in an effort to protect the good name and quality of true Neapolitan pizza from cheap, and not so cheap, imitations offered throughout Italy, Europe and the US.

Italy now recognizes only 3 types of authentic Neapolitan pizza:
- Marinara, with garlic and oregano
- Margherita, with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese from the southern Apennines region of Italy
- Extra-Margherita, with fresh tomatoes and basil, and buffalo mozzarella cheese from Italy's Campania region

The dough must be rolled out manually and baked in a wood-burning oven that can reach the requisite temperature of 485 degrees celsius. The pizza must be round, with a diameter of no more than 14 inches. It may be no more than 1 inch thick at its center with the crust comprising no more than 80% of that height.

Italian pizza restaurants wishing to claim that they serve authentic Italian pizzas will need to seek certification from the Agricultural Ministry before making that claim. It's estimated that Italy has 23,000 pizza restaurants, so this isn't a frivolous undertaking by the government.

Said one restauranteur, "These norms protect one of the most ancient and most important gastronomic traditions. We don't want the others not to make pizza...We went them to make it as we make it---as it should be done."

My semi-devoted blog-readers now probably expect me to make some bithe comment about the Italians not having their priorities in order. You know....should be worrying about Iraq and the Bush brigade of super-hawks, sanctity of life, stopping the death penalty and war forever, yada yada yada. Me stepping on my electronic soapbox for the thousandth time.

Nope........ I say hats off to the Italians. Sensational pizza is one of the universal culinary pleasures in life. Show me someone who doesn't adore a juicy bite of fresh pizza, and I'll show you someone who's just no fun. Is it even possible to have a bad time with others when you're sharing a pizza?

Three cheers for the Italians protecting the reputation of one of their most popular exports and beloved home-grown favorites. It's about time a government took care of stuff that people really care about.

And pass that pizza over here...OK? :)

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lime Cilantro Sweet Potatoes sent this recipe to me last week. The taste is absolutely sensational, and happily, it's healthy, too. Scrub 4 medium-size sweet potatoes, then cut into 1/3" slices. Toss with 2 tbspns of canola oil and 2 generous sprinkles of garlic salt. Place in a shallow baking pan and roast at 400 degrees until tender. (Should be about 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the quality and age of potatoes.)In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup lime juice, at least 1/2 tspn freshly grated lime zest, 1/2 tspn garlic salt, 2 tbspns canola oil, and cayenne to taste. Chop one bunch of cilantro, and add to lime mixture. Take sweet potatoes out of the oven and mix into the lime mixture. Place back into oven and roast for another 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

Sweet potatoes have never tasted so good...sparkling and fresh with a light sweet-sour infusion. I've always refused to serve traditional holiday sweet potatoes with all that brown sugar-marshmallow junk. I think I've finally found an original, surprising sweet potato dish for our holiday table.

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Monday, May 24, 2004

Perhaps Scales Will Fall from Eyes

The Supreme Court ruled this morning that an inmate on Alabama's death row can pursue his claim that deliberate death by lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. And miraculously, the vote was unanimous.

Praise God. Sanctity of life does matter to the court.

This could be the start....both of recognition of other sanctity of life issues by the highest court in our country, and of recognition by so-called right-to-lifers that the sanctity of life is for all mankind, not just adorable babies. Perhaps the scales will start to fall from both groups' eyes.

Prayers to God for that.

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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Weird Words to an Experience-Worn Mom

Me: I need to talk to you about something. Camp this summer is $295. It went up a lot....we were shocked. $295 for only 5 days.....(pause.....). We're not sure how this fits into the budget.

Andrea: But I really really want to go.

Me: OK...............then we have to make choices. Tennis camp is $108. We can't pay for that, too. We might have to eliminate that one.

Andrea: (quietly) OK.

Me: We have another suggestion you might want to consider.

Andrea: What?? (a tad suspiciously)

Me: You might want to use $100 of birthday money from Grandma and Grandpa to pay for part of camp. (I look at her face for reactions.)

Andrea: Yeah......that's a great idea. I WANT to do that. (I study her this sarcastic? She IS almost 13...they have attitude in capital letters. I raised 3 now-grown kids. She can't fool me.)

Me: you understand that when your birthday check arrives, we'll cash it and give you the $100? It's yours to spend or keep. (Maybe she didn't understand. Maybe I didn't explain clearly. Her answer does not compute.)

Andrea: know, I don't need $100. I don't really want anything.

Me: (clarifying......I'm in foreign waters now. There must be a catch to this.) So you want to use your $100 birthday money from your grandparents to pay for part of camp?

Andrea: (with a sunny, uncomplicated smile) Totally. I want to.

I don't get it. This isn't in the how-to-parent manual. I am confused.

Honestly...I mean this. We're good parents, but something inside her didn't come from us.

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Friday, May 21, 2004

Sail Away From the Safe Harbor....

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off your bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

-- Mark Twain, American writer and humorist

Thursday, May 20, 2004

From Conception to Nurturance to Birth

Just entered a 3,500-word essay into an international essay contest. I researched and labored over it for months. I learned so much from both the essay subject and the writing process. It was a blessing. Odd how one can invest hundreds of hours into a project....from conception, to nurturing, to final birth...and then it's gone in a split-second with the click of a mouse. I think I feel loss.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

We Are Still Winners

We munched popcorn and shouted, booed, clapped and cheered for our Anaheim Angels to beat the feared New York Yankees last night. We screamed when our pitcher struck out uber-talents Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. And when the Angels won at the bottom of the 11th inning with a couple solid hits, we looked like Howard Dean raising a ruckus after the Iowa caucuses.

For a couple hours, the Iraq war didn't exist. There was no shameful behavior by American soldiers. There was no lawsuit by a former investor in our defunct business. There were no concerns over our parents' health. No heavy workload, and no outlandish demands by professors. No looming deadline for a writing project, and no impatient eBayers. No 7th grade tests or papers, and no middle school social pressures.

There was comraderie, emotional release and escape from reality. There was popcorn with our choice of seasonings. And we won. We beat our dreaded foe in a hard-fought battle. We are still winners.

It's easy to understand the popularity of sports.

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Friday, May 14, 2004

Reading Tea Leaves at a Garage Sale

Went to a garage sale today, hoping to buy a few book bargains for my eBay store. Lots of neatly organized everything in the driveway and garage, and on the manicured front lawn. The 40ish couple had done a thorough clean-up of their sunny two-story suburban home.

I found some brand-new books stacked carefully in boxes...."Boundaries in Marriage" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend; "A Good Marriage" by Mary Englebreit; "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" by Dr. Laura Schlessinger; "Why True Love Waits - The Definitive Book on How to Help Your Kids Resist Sexual Pressure" by Josh McDowell; and "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey.

Me (to the woman): Wow...this Dr.Laura book was just published. And the books look brand new. Are you sure you only want fifty cents each for them?

Woman: Yes, fifty cents is fine.

Me: Sure you want to sell them?

Woman (not smiling): Let's just say they don't work for me. I don't need them ....anymore.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

A Slip Is Showing Beneath a Hemline

The National Organization for Women lost its credibility in the 1990s when it failed to support several conservative women (Paula Jones for one) who had been sexually or otherwise harassed by Bill Clinton and a couple other liberal politicians. NOW leadership was shown to be hypocritical. Protection of their political base...of the political leaders of their party... turned out to be a higher priority than standing behind their professed beliefs and values. NOW has rightfully faded in influence and regard. It's now a largely-irrelevant minor political splinter group.

Likewise, Evangelical Christians have failed to protest the extraordinary abuse, sexual perversions and extreme violence...the blatant disrespect for their God-created fellow man....obviously caused by the attitudes and atmosphere emanating from the highest levels of leadership. (Some have tried to pin it all on a handful of twentysomethings who they apparently believe packed digital cameras and dog leashes in anticipation of perversions while on duty.)

The National Council of Churches, comprised of 36 mainline Prostestant denominations, and the Catholic Church have publicly decried these gross departures from behavior promulgated by Christianity and the Bible. We know where Jewish congregations fall on the issue of horrific prisons and concentration camps.

Evangelicals remain silent. It whiffs suspiciously of protection of their political base...of leaders of their political party... as a priority over standing behind their professed Christian beliefs and values. I've heard a few Evangelicals pass off the abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanemo as just politics...doesn't really fall under the religious realm.

Wrong. Ignoring it falls under the political realm. Just ask NOW. Just ask Germans who remained silent while Nazis built and run their prison camps.

I, for one, am disappointed. The richness and heartfelt deepness, the consistency of the moral high-road taken taken by Evangelical Christians has been inspiring over recent decades. It's caused us to take a fresh look at the so-called "separation of church and state" doctrine that handicaps our country. It's given us moral clarity on the subjects of abortion and homosexuality. Evangelicals have played an important part in the national dialogue.

But sadly, Evangelical Christians are showing their political colors rather than their moral indignation. Their slip of hypocrisy is showing beneath the hemline of their dress.

The result will be political irrelevance and loss of credibility.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

He Makes Wars Cease to the Ends of the Earth

It was frightening to hear a respected longtime journalist comment wistfully yesterday that "This may be the last era of modern man. This conflict has gone too far may be unresolveable." As a Christian, I intellectually know the striking similarity between current events and End times described in the Bible. Her comments caused me to feel the emotional impact that these days, indeed, may be...probably are...End Times. I got it.

I opened my Bible for discernment and comfort, and these words were on the page....

"God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make the city of God, the most holy place where the High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at the break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolation he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks bows and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted aong the nations,I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress."

Psalm 46

We are...I am...incredibly blessed to have this assurance. It makes all the difference.

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

A Mom's Mixed Feelings on Mothers' Day

It's so easy when they're young. They make toast for you, and bring it to you in bed with a glass of orange juice and an adorable crayoned card. The smiles on their little faces shine with love. Maternal tears of joy swell in your eyes. They're thrilled to honor you, and you're touched beyond words. All's right with the world.

It's not so easy when they're adults, with their own lives and responsibiities and activites. They're busy making their way, and you're grateful for that. That's the way it should be. But feels so good to be remembered and loved by them. And those day when they were little are such warm memories....some of the best times of your life.

My oldest was married last fall to the greatest of guys. They came down for a visit last weekend from their Bay Area home. I got precious time and loving hugs from them, which is the ultimate gift. The still-honeymooners are out-of-town this weekend to celebrate his first married birthday at a special baseball game.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

My 25 year old son finally seems settled into a good, stable job. Like all sons, he is not the great or frequent communicator. He called a couple days ago, and it was a delight to hear from him. He expressed his love for me many times during our call, and his apologies for not calling more often. He's working Sunday, though, and not sure he can make it over for a visit. I understand. I want to support this job.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

And my 20 year old stepson, who I've known and loved since he was 4, will be here next weekend, bearing hugs and a card. One year, he surprised me with an armful of spring flowers. He should spend Mother's Day with his mother, though.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

We still have one child at home. My 12 year old plans to singlehandedly make brunch for me after church tomorrow. I hear whispers that she's making her own gift basket of my favorite things. I can hardly wait. Not for the pancakes and sausage or for the gifts, but for her face sparkling with love and the sweetness of her heart. All's right with the world.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm grateful for the blessing that each is in my life. And have a mother's mixed feelings about seeing her children grow up.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

And the Legalisms Continue....

News services report that, in regard to our armed forces' abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war, President Bush "scolded Rumsfeld for not informing him more clearly about the investigation."

He did not scold him for hiding the investigation. Apparently, Donald Rumsfeld told him about it. Just not clearly enough. And he did not scold him for the occurrence of the abuse, or for the establishment of conditions that made this abuse possible and acceptable.

The legalisms and self-serving political thinking continues, even under the most heinous and immoral of situations.

Here's my question...where's the moral outrage in this country? Why aren't Christians rising up and demanding accountability for this obvious evil? What does it take for Christians to demand obedience from our leaders to the values and morals that our pastors, our Bible, our God teach?

Or are Christians separating church and state in our thinking?

Or maybe Christians don't require moral and honest behavior of Republicans in public office.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Magic Election Year Word is.....Cuba

Election year prediction:

Iraq isn't working so well for George Bush in his re-election efforts. Certainly not achieving its intended election year goals. So it's time to divert attention from his Middle East train wrecks onto a more win/win situation for the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld fraternity.

Next frontier of political opportunity and photo ops: Cuba.

Yup. Think about's totally a win/win. Castro is a ready-made major villain to greater Florida. And Bush NEEDS Florida again to win re-election. Never mind that, like Saddam, Castro's a tired and poor old man with few weapons, lots of hot air and some alienated citizens. His threat is less now than it has been for the past 44 years. He's another toothless tiger, with little left but his pride.

And Bush would look good talking about Cuba. He knows Spanish, and our costume-loving President looks pretty comfy in psuedo-Hispanic attire.

Word has it that Mexico and Peru have suddenly recalled their ambassadors back from Cuba. For the first time in his Presidency, Bush is talking about clamping down on American cash flowing into Cuba. And Bush is scheduled to make a dramatic announcement soon about "his Cuba policy."

The sabers are starting to rattle. And Iraq is about to disappear from our televised radar.

Cynical thinking? You bet. Realistic? Absolutely.

One word of caution to Mr. Bush, though. Be careful about Mr. Castro. Urban legend has it that he's already assassinated one US president.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Tone and Morality at the Top

In any every organization...the tone and morality, the senses of responsibility and responsiveness, of compassion and honesty, are set at the top. They don't rise from the bottom. This is true for classrooms and corporations, churches and sports teams.

It's the same for government. It's the same for the Pentagon and the armed forces.

Immoral leadership must be replaced, the sooner the better.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Thinking Outside the Box, God's Way

"Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God's purpose for your life."

Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life"

Good news for those of us who naturally think outside the box.'s not easy to know if you're in obedience with God's purpose for your life when the opinions of others are so irrelevant. What about godly counsel? When should I listen and when should I disregard? What if God didn't give them the imagination and creative vision that He gave to me?

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