My Blog Has Moved

Well folks, I've finally done it. I've switched to WordPress and my blog is now on my own domain. So say good-bye to Blogger and good-bye to the bling. But don't be sad. Life is full of change. Change is a good thing. It keeps us on our toes. It challanges us and makes us stronger. And as your next President... oops, I got a little speechy there, didn't I?

Anyway, check me out at:

http://www.meandtheblueskies.com/

I'll look for you there.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Red & Blue Coffee Cake Recipe


Heather made an absolutely wonderful coffee cake the other day and I was fortunate enough to still have Linda’s camera so I took a picture of it. I assisted her a little bit so I also had the opportunity to see how the cake was made. The batter itself is very thick so I was expecting to experience a rather dense cake. But this cake bakes up very light and luscious. Even with all the sugar, it is not a very sweet cake; however, the mixture of berries adds a nice tartness that is counterbalanced by the very sweet, crunchy topping. It is a very pretty cake to serve and tastes every bit as good as it looks. This cake would be ideal for breakfast or brunch served along with a good, strong cup of coffee. This coffee cake is a variation of a blueberry coffee cake Heather found on Allrecipes.com.

Cake Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 pint blueberries
2 handfuls raspberries

Topping Ingredients
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened
¾ cup slivered almonds, crushed

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 inch pan. Heather used Bakers Joy (non-stick baking spray with flour) and it worked great. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour over berries and toss to lightly coat. This prevents the berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, and egg. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Batter will be thick. It is important that you do not over mix. Fold in the berries. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Prepare topping. In a bowl, combine 1/3 cup flour, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With your hands, crush slivered almonds over topping mixture and toss to incorporate. Evenly cover batter with topping.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool another 20 minutes.

This is a heavily fruit-laden recipe and I do not recommend scaling down the amount of berries used. I've eaten it warm and cold and it is delicious either way. I bet if you try this recipe it will fast become your favorite coffee cake recipe.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Nation of Whiners or I'm Stupid and it's Your Fault!

Everyone’s heard the recent comment from former Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) that “we sort of become a nation of whiners.” Of course the press had a field day with this comment forcing poor ole Phil to do a two-step and clarify that he was referring to our leaders and not the general public. Yet I think Phil was half-correct. We have become a nation of whiners but not about the economy. Actually, we have become a nation of stupid whiners and the proof is in the pudding--or at least in the warning label on the pudding container.

That’s right. I think warning labels are a good reflection of Big Business’s concept of the consuming public’s intelligence. Here’s a few examples:

What a unique concept--food very hot after cooking it?

Do dogs drive? Well after they saw that commercial where the dog got the beer bottle out of the fridge and opened it...

What can I say!?

Cause it's human instinct to grab the moving sharp end.

Do not use for personal hygiene? But those bubbles feel soooo good!
Want to see more? Simply google "stupid warning labels" and you will find pages and pages of this stuff. Does Big Business really think we are that dumb? I don't think Big Business cares if we are dumb or not. In fact, I don't believe they think we are dumb at all. I think they are simply protecting their asses...er um assets.

So then why have we become a nation of people who need to be warned that food is hot after you cook it? or that products designed to clean your toilet should not be used to clean your body? What happened to common sense and accountability? I'll tell you what happened. It was drowned in the muck and mire of a legal system chock full of frivolous lawsuits by greedy lawyers and half-witted "victims" looking to make a buck from their own stupidity.

Case in point. Everyone has heard of the McDonald's coffee lawsuit. Stella Liebeck sued McDonald's because she spilled their coffee all over her lap and wound up in the hospital with 3rd degree burns. Now McDonald's wasn't completely blameless because the coffee was way too hot but Stella made the decision to put a hot cup of coffee between her legs. It wasn't like the McDonald's employee screamed, "here's your coffee, you stupid beotch!" and then threw it in her face. (That happened the first time she went to McDonald's for coffee after the lawsuit.)

Here's another. A lady from Madison County sued Mazda for 150k for not providing instructions on the use of seatbelts. She had been passenger in a Mazda and suffered severe injuries when the Mazda got wrecked. She wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Of course, we all know how confusing those new-fangled seatbelts can be...

These are just two examples of the plethora of frivolous lawsuits since the early 80's. (Yes, Betty, I said "plethora") I believe that for every action there is a reaction and the silly warning labels are a direct reaction to the silly lawsuits. These lawsuits may sound silly, but they cost Big Business big bucks. And in the long run, the cost is passed on to the consumer.

So the next time you read the warning label on your hairdryer and it says, "Do not use while sleeping", don't think that some idiot put that there for fun. It probably was a reaction to a lawsuit by some Gerry-Springer-Guest-Wannabe who left the dryer blowing on her head while she took a nap, burned off all her hair, and sued the manufacturer for 32 million dollars because her hair never grew back the right color and she couldn't sell her trailer because nobody wanted to move into it with that "burnt hair" smell. Well you never, know. It could happen...

For more stupid lawsuits, check out legalzoom.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Anomaly Shmanomaly - The Continuing Sunflower Saga

So it turns out that the multi-bloom sunflower stalk that is growing in front of my house is not an anomaly. It is simply the wild version of the domestic Sunflower. When I was researching the various Sunflower plants on Google, I had a brain fart. Instead of searching for multi-“bloom” Sunflowers, I searched for multi-“bulb” Sunflowers. Doing that obviously resulted in no results.

After making the correct search, I came up with dozens of websites containing information about multi-bloom sunflowers. On www.sunflowernsa.com they explain the multi-bloom sunflowers in their FAQ section:

“The cultivated sunflower has only one flower or head. But the wild cousins found growing in ditches and other areas throughout much of North America have multiple flowers and heads. Multiples of 20 and more heads are common. The 'wilds' are the genetic basis of today's domesticated sunflower.”

Well there you have it. The mystery is solved. Since I was so interested in the Sunflowers growing in my yard, I did a little foraging around to see what else was growing.


Heather was growing some peppers in a little pot and I took a picture of the plant. You can see two tiny peppers just starting to grow.

Believe this or not, this is a very tiny strawberry growing right next to my walkway to the front door. Apparently somebody was eating a strawberry and dropped a seed or two. Cute, isn’t it?

At another corner of my property, these pretty yellow flowers are flourishing. They are flourishing simply because it’s been dry and I haven’t mowed the lawn in a while. We did not plant these flowers; however, Heather does have a bird feeder so it is possible that birds dropped some seeds and this is how they started. I don’t know what kind of flowers they are but I figured I would get a picture of them before I mow this weekend. Hey, at least the peppers and Sunflowers are safe…

Note: A special thanks to Linda Fanelli, for letting me borrow her really nice digital camera. I only have a web cam and it is difficult to take pictures anywhere except directly in front of the pc. (The picture of the peanut butter dream bar was taken with my web cam.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mediterranean Meatloaf - Comfort Food with Flair


I love comfort food. Who can’t resist home-made mac and cheese, creamy mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies, and meatloaf. So when Heather surprised me with meatloaf for dinner tonight, I was very excited. And meatloaf from Heather is not your ordinary, every-day meatloaf. Heather is always trying new variations of tastes and textures. Today was no exception. Today we had Mediterranean meatloaf.

Heather likes to make her meatloaf in individual loaf pans. This provides each person with their own equal serving and it looks damned pretty on the plate, too! Yes, I said it. Meatloaf can look pretty! Anyway, if you don’t have mini-loaf pans, you can make it as one big meatloaf or Heather suggest just make individual loaf shapes and bake it all on a cookie sheet. Here’s her recipe.

Mediterranean Meatloaf
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup crushed Ritz crackers
3 minced jalepenos
½ cup minced onion
¼ cup chopped black olives
¼ cup chopped chives
1 packet dry Italian dressing mix
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Pre-heat oven to 350° . Mix beef, eggs, and crackers. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide into three mini-loaf pans. (Can easily be divided into 4 loaf pans.) Place pans on cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet in middle rack of oven. Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour until tops are crispy and meat has slightly pulled away from sides of pan. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before removing meatloaf from pan. Serve with couscous and a Greek salad.
Note: Do not invert pan onto plate. Run a knife around the inside edges of the meatloaf to insure the loaf is not attached to the pan. Use a fork or mini-spatula to remove loaf from pan.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Plastic Bags are Very, Very Bad!


Plastic bags are very, very bad. I know this because my daughter told me so and believe you me, when she says something is bad, then it’s bad. She’s the one who’s gotten me to stop drinking soda, eating fast food, and eating anything with high-fructose corn syrup in it. So when she said we needed to use recyclable bags when we went food shopping, I had no other choice.

Now I was planning to blog about the evils of plastic bags for quite a while but I never did it. Then last week I was checking out LobsterSquad, and I was beaten to the punch with Tote Bags and Summery Dishes along with a very cool illustration titled, Plastic Bags Blow. I must admit that is one way to get your point across.

The point is that plastic bags really do blow. In fact, they are killing us. Check out these startling facts:
  • Plastic bags start as crude oil, natural gas, or other petrochemical derivatives, which are transformed into chains of hydrogen and carbon molecules known as polymers or polymer resins. After being heated, shaped, and cooled, the plastic is ready to be flattened, sealed, punched, or printed on.
  • North America and Western Europe account for 80 percent of plastic bag use--though the bags are becoming increasingly more common in developing countries.
  • Each year, Americans through away 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags while only 0.6 percent are recycled.
  • In a landfill, plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade. As litter, they breakdown into tiny bits, contaminating our soil and water.

So what can you do? It’s easy. Use recyclable bags like we do. Not only will you help our planet stay healthy a little bit longer, it will make your grocery shopping much easier. Most of the recyclable bags we purchased cost us only 99 cents each. The most we paid for a bag was $2.99 for a thermal bag. These bags are much tougher than those flimsy free bags so they hold more food without the fear of the bag breaking. They come with short and long handles so they are easier to carry. And specialty bags, like our thermal bag, ensure that frozen foods make it home frozen.

Some supermarkets are getting into recyclable bags. The Superfresh down the street from me prominently sells the bags at the beginning of each check out counter. We’ve purchased many there. Shop Rite sells them, too, but they take it a step further. They give 2 cents back for each plastic bag you reuse and 8 cents for each recyclable bag you use. If you use six bags, you’re saving 48 cents. But you’re saving a lot more than money, too.

So don’t be lazy. Don’t be cheap. And don’t be apathetic. Get yourself some recyclable bags and use them the next time you go shopping. If you forget to bring them in with you, like Heather and I did the first few times we used them, don’t let it bother you. Just run out to the parking lot and get them. After a few shopping trips, bringing your bags with you will be a regular habit, just like bringing your coupons or savings card. If I can do it, so can you.

For more information regarding the plastic bag problem, check out www.reusablebags.com. To learn more about Shop Rite’s recycling habits, go to www.shoprite.com and click on the link titled Our Environment. And if your supermarket is not promoting recyclable bags, complain to the manager or write a letter to the corporate office. Or better yet, just switch to one that pushes recyclable bags like Shop Rite.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Sunflower Anomaly














My daughter, Heather, planted a half dozen sunflowers in front of the steps that lead to the front door of our house. They've just started to bloom and are a beautiful and yet imposing greeting as you walk towards my doorway. I don't know much about sunflowers, in fact, I don't know much about anything that is green and sprouts from the ground. I don't even water the lawn for fear it might grow. I even run around the yard yelling, "Die!" at the top of my lungs. After all, a growing lawn needs mowing and who has time for that?

But seriously, I am enjoying the sunflowers. And like everything else around here and in my life, one of them is a bit odd. As far as my understanding about sunflowers goes, they are a rather tall, single green-stalked plant with a beautiful golden flower on top. There are some variations of colors and sizes but the key was a single stalk with a single flower. So why does one of the sunflowers have around a dozen buds on it?

I checked with my official source, Wikipedia, and nowhere does it mention that sunflowers have multiple blooms. I googled sunflowers and checked verious websites, but to no avail. It seems that no one has ever seen or taken a picture of a multiple bloom sunflower. I was talking with Betty tonight and I told her about the unusual flower. As far as she knows, she's never heard of a sunflower with more than one bloom. I told her that I decided that it must be an anomaly.

That got a big chuckle out of Betty. "Throwing big words at me, are you?" she asked quite amused with herself. Even though anomaly is not a word I use often, I didn't think it was THAT big of a word. But before I could defend myself or tell her I had to look it up in the dictionary to make sure I was using and spelling it correctly, Betty continued, "But don't you see that anomaly is the perfect word here. It accurately describes your flower!" I sighed and just said, "Yea, it's unusual."

If anyone out there knows anything about sunflowers, please clue me in as to whether or not this mutliple-budded sunflower is an anomaly or simply just unusual. Or maybe it's a mutation, like a two-headed snake or someone with an extra toe. But isn't a mutation an anomaly? Does being a mutation or an anomaly automatically mean it's unusual? I just don't know. Where's Betty when you need her?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mr. Know-It-All Strikes Again!

I spoke with Betty today. I have to admit I was a bit worried about Betty‘s reaction to the article I wrote about her. I absolutely adore Betty and I would be very upset if I had hurt her feelings. Fortunately, Betty is a bigger person than I am and was quite amused by the whole thing. (Although I believe she absolutely hated the pseudonym “Betty”) She admitted that as soon as she read the title, she thought to herself, “That bitch is writing about me!” Bitch!? I was surprised! I was shocked! I was also quite amused. Betty assured me she that she meant “bitch” in as endearing a way as the word could possibly be used. But it sure got me thinking.

Why am I so critical of others? Why do I take it upon myself to point out the flaws of those around me and then have the audacity to offer the perfect solution? Who made me king? What real business is it of mine if Betty uses big words or not. She pointed out to me that she doesn’t really do it to me. Yet I feel compelled to help those around me to be better people, as if I know what is better. Is it because I have a Mary Poppins complex--practically perfect in every way? Or maybe I’m just a plain old Mr. Know-It-All.

Ask my friend, Linda. In grade school speak, Linda is one of my bestest friends ever. She knows me better than anyone and she’d probably tell you that I’m all three: A bitchy, Mary Poppins-ish Know-It-All. Of course, if anyone has a right to call me that, it would be Linda. Just today, I assured Linda that if I was to blog about her, I would refer to her as Ralph. But then I realized that anybody who knows me, would know Linda, and it would become rather obvious that she would be Ralph. Besides, I’ve already nicknamed Linda with “Evil” and I don’t know whether she’d appreciate Ralph as a replacement. But I digress.

Linda is subjected to my practically-perfect-in-every-way rantings on a daily basis. I torture Linda about everything she does from her aggressive driving to her excessive use of salt. (I couldn’t resist putting in those two jabs) And she listens to my diatribes about others with sincere interest and genuine amazement. I think she does realize that I often have a pretty good knack at getting to the heart of the matter or perhaps, I think, she just enjoys that fact that I am picking on someone else instead of her. You know, the better-you-than me philosophy.

While I was talking on the phone to Betty today, she pointed out that she does listen to me when I make comments or suggestions, much like Linda does. She feels that I am very good at analyzing the foibles of others. And I really don’t think she was placating me. (See, I can use big words, too) But if you read between the lines, you’ll see that the key point here is not that I am good at analyzing faults, just the faults of “others.” It seems that like the Emperor, Mr. Know-It-All has a new set of clothes. Ouch.

So I solemnly swear to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude and try to not be so critical of others. I promise that when I see Linda coat her Lean Cuisine with as much salt as I coat a rack of ribs with dry rub, I will not make any comments about using a salt lick instead. After all she’s eating it, not me. And when Betty starts to adduce her preponderance of vocabulary, I’ll simply eschew any obiter dicta. I know old habits die hard, but if I can quit smoking, then I can certainly quit being critical. I’ll just add it to my “not doing” list. And if I slip up, have patience. New clothes sometimes need to be broken in. Is it chilly in here?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Christmas in July aka Hey Ya! Charlie Brown

Big Words, Little Impact


I know someone who uses BIG words. In order to protect the not-so-innocent, I am going to call this person Betty. Betty likes using big words or as Betty would put it, she has a propensity to use big words. She doesn’t use them all the time but likes to toss one, every now and then, into casual conversation to help keep us “less learned” people on our toes. She does, however, have the habit of bringing out the “big guns” whenever there is a discussion, disagreement, or difference of opinion.

I personally have nothing against big words. When I hear a word in conversation that I don’t understand, I have no problem with asking its user for the word’s meaning. After all, knowledge is power, right? But these situations are few and far between. I am rarely ever in a conversation where I have to ask for the meaning of a word more than once EXCEPT when I am with Betty. I’ve told Betty that using big words that the average person would not understand is not only annoying and confusing, but also makes her look smug and condescending. Betty disagrees.

Betty has an excellent command of the English language and feels she should be able to use whatever words she wants whenever and wherever she pleases. She feels that there has been a deterioration of the English language in today’s world and she shouldn’t have to lower her standards simply because the rest of the world has. She takes great pride in using big words in sentences in such a way that the listener should be able to logically and intelligently construe the meaning of the word simply by how it is used in the sentence. That certainly is food for thought.

I decided to give Betty the benefit-of-the-doubt and search the internet for others who think the same way as Betty. In a blog called, Bold Words, Britt Raybould presents a very strong defense in her article, Language Crashes:

“We’ve run out patience with our language. I haven’t decided if it’s a time issue, where we think we shouldn’t have to listen as much or as closely to get the message, or if it’s a question of knowledge. I posted before about how I tend to use “big” words and some friends like to tease about my word usage. To me, it’s not a question of using big words. I’m using my vocabulary. It just happens that my vocabulary is a little larger than most.

Sometimes I feel sheepish when I get the “look” that I’ve used yet another “big” word, but at the same time, why are we so willing to put words into categories? I don’t think we should all be walking around with dictionaries, but I’m not convinced that words should go unspoken simply because they aren’t common. The same goes for the thoughts and ideas we share with one another."
She goes on to say that we need to accept the "language challenge."
"Today’s politicians aren’t necessarily any worse or better than their predecessors. The same goes for CEOs of large companies and any other individual in a position of authority. Today’s leaders, however, face the dreaded sound bite and a public with an increasingly short attention span who has little interest in hearing an opinion that differs from their own. So we hear very little that challenges us and even less that interests or moves us."

It’s a very solid argument. Are we simply being lazy with our language? Are we not challenging ourselves enough? If you know a big word, understand its meaning, and it is the right word to describe what you are saying, why not use it? But will that big word truly convey what you are trying to say? There are those who think otherwise. In How to Speak and Write Correctly, Joseph Devlin and Theodore Waters write about small words and their importance:

“Words of ‘learned length and thundering sound’ should be avoided on all possible occasions. They proclaim shallowness of intellect and vanity of mind…The plain, simple words of everyday life, to which the common people have been used around their own firesides from childhood, are the words we must use in our dealings with them. Such words are understood by them and understood by the learned as well; why then not use them universally and all the time? Why make a one-sided affair of language by using words which only one class of the people, the so-called learned class, can understand? Would it not be better to use, on all occasions, language which the both classes can understand? If we take the trouble to investigate we shall find that the men who exerted the greatest sway over the masses and the multitude as orators, lawyers, preachers and in other public capacities, were men who used very simple language.”

They too believe we have a responsibility to language but the responsibility lies in conveying our message in a clear and concise matter. How can you expect to convey an idea to, or impress it on, another person if that person doesn’t understand the words you are using? Words are the bodies that form our ideas. We should use words that put the idea we have in our mind into the mind of the other person. Using big or “learned” words run the risk of conveying wrong impressions or presenting your ideas in a vague or confusing manner to those whom we address.

Next time, in promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compacted comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectations.

In other words, talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely. Keep from slang; don't put on airs; say what you mean; mean what you say. And, don't use big words!

Special Note: I have to admit that I stole the “Next time” paragraph from a blog I stumbled upon quite by accident. I copied it down but neglected to write down the blog name. I wanted to give that blogger the credit he or she deserves but I couldn’t find the blog when I went deliberately searching for it. So whoever you are, blog person, I say thank you for letting me purloin your words.

To read the entire article from Britt Raybould’s blog, Bold Words, click here. For a little fun reading regarding the use of big words, check out an old article from the Desperate Working Momma blog titled, “Little people use big words, big people just say whatever the hell they want to say. Because they’re big, yo?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Food for Thought

  • In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. -- George Orwell
  • It is not that some people have will power and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and some are not. -- James Gordon, MD
  • The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. -- Ralph W. Sockman
  • I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits then strict justice. -- Abraham Lincoln (speech in Washington, DC, 1865)
  • Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him. -- Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices--just recognize them. -- Edward R. Murrow (television broadcast, Dec 31, 1955)
  • Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die. -- Anne Lemott (from Traveling Mercies)
  • Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? -- Abraham Lincoln
  • To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship. -- Thomas Moore
  • All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. -- Lucy Van Pelt (in Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz)

And last but definitely not profoundly least:

  • The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize. -- Clairee Belcher (from the movie Steel Magnolias)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Seagull

Seagull in the night,
flying towards your destiny
of black and white,
must you fly alone
and yet at night
when all those of your flock
are together
on the beaches,
waiting for a
brilliant burst
of sun
to rise from the
ocean
like a mighty underwater
island
grasping skyward?
Yet you --
you seem not to care.
You fly on,
a tiny, silhouetted
shooting star
caressing the darkened sky
with the glowing shine
the misty moon
lusters your wings with.
Fly on, my friend!
Do not look back
nor below
at the silvery road
the languid moon
has paved for you.
Just fly
where your wings
will reach.
The night
and the moon
willl follow you,
for the moon is
free,
the night is
yours,
and only those who search
will find--
--fly on!



Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Feeding Frenzy

I stepped on the scale today at work and my worst fears were realized. Ok, they weren’t my worst fears, but they were fears none-the-less. I have gained 11 pounds since I stopped smoking. I knew I had gained some extra weight. My pants are tight and my face feels bloated. I am eating bigger portions and snacking heavily throughout the night. When I smoked, I would simply light up a cigarette instead of grabbing something to eat. I don’t have that luxury now.

And that was really no luxury. Because I don’t smoke, my house and car smell better, I breathe easier, my clothes don’t stink, my teeth are getting whiter, and those around me who do smoke are cutting down when I am around. These are all good things. But I am also getting heavier.

My friends say it’s better to gain some weight and give my lungs a break. I feel that they are half right. It is a good thing I am doing for my lungs but the extra weight is not a good thing for me. My clothes are getting tight and uncomfortable. I’m hypoglycemic so this overeating has my blood sugar going crazy. I don’t sleep well and I’ve been waking up several times a night, very hungry. When I get up in the morning, I feel sick because I ate too late at night and then ate in the middle of the night. And I am starving at the same time. Why can’t I just stop one habit without replacing it with another?

I believe that recognizing a problem is half the battle. In fact, I realized I was eating way too much and I just couldn’t seem to stop myself. So knowing you have a problem and doing something about it are two different things. And half a battle won is still half a battle lost. The only way I am going to beat this thing is to step up to the plate and step away from the plate at the same time. It’s all up to me.

So why am I blogging about this? It’s not because misery loves company. I’m not looking for pity or a comforting word. I just need to share it with everyone. If I say it, write it, and read it, I know I’ll do it. And it helps to know that the millions of people who read my blog are supporting me. (One can dream, can’t one?)

Just like I was able to stop myself from smoking, I know I can stop myself from overeating. I had a fourth of July party at my home and went to another one the next day and most of the people were smoking. Did I smoke? No. Did I want a cigarette? Not once, even after many drinks. I think it’s time to scratch smoking off my “not doing” list and move overeating to the top. I’ll just take it one day and one pound at a time!

Friday, July 4, 2008

The 4th of July: Independence, Freedom, & Prejudices

You may be wondering why I have a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King on my blog for Independence Day. Well I was involved in a situation recently where someone made a casual joke that I thought was sort of racist. The person involved didn’t think it was such and I am sure was not being intentionally racist. But racism, or any type of prejudice, needs to be guarded against at every level and especially at the subtle levels. I believe it’s the only time a tolerant person should be intolerant.

Anyway, Independence Day is not just about celebrating our country’s birth, it is about freedom and the fight for freedom and the right to be free from tyranny. Isn’t that what Dr. Martin Luther King embodies? He fought the peaceful fight and his tyrannies were hatred and prejudice. Those tyrannies, unfortunately, still exist today.

I experienced prejudiced at an early age. Growing up in white, middle-class south jersey suburbia in the 60’s and 70’s, prejudice was as common as conversations about the weather. My paternal grandparents owned their own business in town and were comfortably well off. My grandmother hated just about everyone and I heard all the vicious names she called blacks, Catholics, Jews, Poles, Germans, gays, and everyone else who wasn't us. Yet she was a loving women who raised 6 children. My grandparents were hard workers and provided many material things for their family. They just missed teaching one very important lesson.

In contrast, my maternal grandparents were poor. I called them Nanny and Pop-pop. My Pop-pop was ill when I was young and I remember him laying on the sofa vehemently stating that it didn’t matter what color your skin was, everyone still bleeds red. He was a staunch support of equal rights. But I learned later on in life that he was an alcoholic who didn’t take care of his family and was abusive towards my Nanny. While he may have believed in equal rights for people of color, he only meant it for the men.

So there you have it, one set of grandparents who provided everything except a moral sense of tolerance and another set that spoke of tolerance but often didn’t act on those spoken words. So what’s a young boy to do? A young boy who, by the age of 12, was being called gay and fag and didn’t even know what it meant.

Fortunately, sometimes when I visited my Nanny and Pop-pop they would let me visit with an old woman who lived around the corner. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old at most. I can still remember her face and her modest home. I especially remember the doilies that adorned her coffee and end tables. And on one end table was an 8 x 10 of Dr. King. I remember it distinctly because the picture reminded me of a picture of my Grandfather. My Grandfather was on the board of directors at our local bank and the picture of him at the bank looked like Dr. King's picture. I thought that maybe Dr. King worked for the bank, too. I was to learn differently, though.

I don’t remember her name but I do remember her face, which was kind and strong. She was half American Indian and half African. She told me stories about how her ancestors came from Africa and how her father married an American Indian. She told me about the prejudices she encountered from whites and blacks alike. Yet she managed to raise several children who were off in the world now living their lives. And she believed it was because of Dr. King that she was able to do this and that her children could now be out on their own, successes in their own right. The respect she had for Dr. King was immense and I couldn’t help but feel it myself, even with all that prejudice around me and being about 8 years old. I will never forget her and will be eternally grateful for the lesson she taught me.

Jumping back a little to my grandparents, I loved all of them and thought the world of them. While they had their faults, they were basically good people. And I’d like to end this with a quote from Harry Potter. Harry was telling his Godfather, Sirius, that he was afraid he was turning bad. Sirius replied with something like this, “The world is not divided into good and bad people. We all have light and dark within us. It is what we choose to act on that defines who we are.” And there's the rub. Sometimes we make bad choices-I know I have. But if we want, we can try harder to see the light of tolerance and act on the right choice. It’s a lot easier than you think and you and I and the world will be better for it, too.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Lovin'

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Bar
made with Melted Lindt Chocolate Truffles

My daughter loves to cook and bake, especially bake. She loves to create her own recipes or take an existing one and “tweak” it to her liking. I’ve been the lucky recipient of many of her culinary adventures from amazing soups to guacamole to delectable pastries. Tonight she treated me to a delicious desert bar that actually requires no baking whatever and has my three favorite ingredients: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Graham crackers. And although it won’t help me with my diet, it was yummy-licious.

The original recipe used only 1 cup of peanut butter but Heather feels (and so do I) that it works better with two cups of peanut butter. Here’s the recipe:

No-bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Dream Bars
2 ½ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
(about 15 whole graham crackers mashed up)
2 cups smooth Peanut Butter
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 cups chocolate chips, melted
2 ¾ cups powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, stir together the graham crackers, sugar, peanut butter, and melted butter. Press into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Spread melted chocolate chips evenly on top. Cover with wrap and refrigerator until cold and chocolate sets. Cut into squares.

The desert is quick and easy and oh-so delicious. It can be easily dressed up with very minor changes. For example, you could substitute chunky peanut butter for creamy. Heather had a bag of Lindt chocolate truffles and melted those instead of the chocolate chips. For a fancier look, dot the top with peanut butter chips or Reeses Pieces. If you do, wait until the chocolate is partially set. Remember, nothing says loving like chocolate and peanut butter!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It's a Nabisco World After All


I’ve often been afraid that my pc was going to turn into a microwave. And what I mean by that is that when microwaves first came out, they were supposed to be “THE” ultimate in modern cooking. Everything could be cooked better and quicker in a microwave. Unfortunately, we know that was a major misconception. As such, microwaves have been relegated to the world of defrosting, reheating, and popcorn popping. That big, new technology ended up being a hot plate in a box. And I was afraid that some thing like that would happen to computers.

Well computers haven’t quite turned into the equivalent of the microwave for most, but when it comes to gaming, I believe it has. Most gamers play on the play station or Xbox or the WII. PC's can't compete with those systems. Years ago, I worked part-time at Electronics Boutique and I remember when gaming was BIG on the pc. I don’t think it’s so big anymore. I think, for the most part, the only games people play on their pcs are the games that come on their pc: Solitare, Hearts, Mahjong, Minesweep, and the like. And simple game websites, like Pogo.com, have become the non-gamers game world.

I do admit I play on Pogo.com. One of my favorite games is Word Whomp. In word whomp, 7 letters appear and you must type in as many words as you can from those letters. It sounds simple but it can be difficult and is very addictive. It’s an exciting challenge to see how many words I can come up with and then see the words I missed. I am very proud of myself when I get all the words and when I miss them, I sometimes wonder how I could possibly do that. But then they come up with some word I never heard of and I realize that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. Where's a crossword dictionary you need one, anyway?

Another sight I enjoy gaming on is Nabiscoworld.com. Yes, Nabisco, that cookie and cracker company also has a website just chock full of games. You can play these games against the computer or with online players who have signed onto the website. You just have to put up with some snack food and cracker advertisements. One of my favorite games on this site is Spades. I sometimes play with on-line players but usually choose to play against computer opponents. The only reason I choose the computer opponents is because the live ones tend to bail once they see they are losing. Poor gamesmanship if you ask me.

So go and check out Nabiscoworld.com. Once you get past all the advertisements, you can play the different games. Mahjong never seemed so good when it’s done with tiles of Cheeze-Its and Triscuits. And you never know who you might meet when you play an online game. Just look for MrBlueSkies. And if you play spades, stick it out to the end. If you are going to use your pc as a microwave, at least wait till the popcorn's done popping.