Search This Blog

Monday, October 31, 2016

Have a Prideful Hallowe'en

It has been a difficult year for tolerance of any sort and the widespread emergence of transgendered people coming out and their incredibly varied reception depending on the geographical location has me thinking that on this day, the one day of the year when lots of people cross dress, that it is a good time to think about our culture shift.
I think that the bottom line is that change is difficult and when change happens that is out of step with one's personal beliefs then it is very disturbing, maybe even unmooring, and that is the underpinning of the recent rise in popularity of someone who does not follow the social norms.  I personally want to go back to a time when open it was not ok to talk openly about homophobia, racist viewpoints, misogyny, and the opinion that women are asking for it.  Enough already.  I can tell from the jokes you tell and the things that you say in polite conversation that you do not share my world view.  I do not need to get into a conversation with you about how "law and order" is code for racial profiling and that focusing on Hillary Clinton's email when virtually every other government official has done exactly the same thing does reveal a gender bias (unless you have been pained by the misuse of email for all other government officials and are working diligently to lobby for reform).  We don't share values, but we can work side by side, just so long as you don't tell me that violating people's civil rights is ok or that you are voting for some wing nut who threatens democracy.  Keep that to yourself, and try to dig more deeply into what your personal biases are.  We all have them.  Denying them doesn't make it go away. 
Seriously, figure out why you want are amused by cross-dressing, at least today.  Oh, and Happy Hallowe'en. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Quilt Week: Red Applique on White

I have always loved quilts that have red on white.  I like the traditional red embroidery that was prevalent before World War II.  I even have several squares of it embroidered in an unfinished projects box that I have yet to go through and finish.  And I have spent some time appliqueing over the past decade or so.
The thing about this quilt that I love (and that I have never done myself) is the applique design that is overall, with an elaborate border which I assume was pieced all at once on each of the edges of the quilt and that the center is appliqued as an enormous piece.  I am almost certain that I would have to be in a class in order for me to get this started, but it is something that I love the look of and think is within the range of my abilities.  I actually like to do needle turn applique, and I might struggle with the perfection of lay out that this quilt achieves, it is on my to do list.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bod Dylan and the Nobel Prize for Literature

I am not going to defend or even comment on the Nobel Committees choice, for this or other awards.  What do I know? I pretty much do not get quite a lot of poetry, but I am not going to say that a poet is undeserving of the award.  I can say that in the past week or so that I have listened to quite a lot of his music and it speaks to me.  And apparently I am not alone.  But I also may not have as much company as I might have thought.
There have certainly been recipients that I don't admire as much as others, but this is the Swedish Academy's prize to give.  Their usual one line reason was this: "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".  I can't argue with that.  What a lot of people have argued is that this is not a good reason to get an award for literature, but I don't see it as my place to comment on that.  The award has its own prestige, which has been amassed over the decades that it has been given, and it speaks for itself.  It is simply not my choice.
What this does do is to change the way that I view the hours and hours that I spent as a youth listening to Dylan.  He has been prolific throughout his lifetime as a songwriter and even in my teens I had a dozen albums of his work.  The sixties and into the seventies were an era of ballad writing and I love that genre.  Dylan was the hands down master of it, and there are so many lines from his songs that I think when I am summing up situations in my head.  He is a genius in my book and he becomes more impressive to me the older I get.  He is a complicated man, but an unusually gifted artist.  So I toast my youthful self for seeing that so clearly.  I was so much older then, I am younger than that now.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Truth (2016)

This is a movie filled with heavy hitting actors, that bills itself as being about Dan Rather, but is really about the 60 Minutes producer that lost her job at the same time that he did as a result of a story that didn't turn out to have as much in the way of bullet proof armor as was required.  It is a cautionary tale about the danger in taking on a sitting president and it is told from that stand point.
The film is a scathing indictment on the state of journalism today, where the process is really secondary.  The film makes the contention that this began with makes the case that this state of journalistic being really got underway with the railroading of Mary Mapes and Dan Rather in 2004, over a  story that purported that then-president-and-candidate George W. Bush not only dodged service in Vietnam, but didn’t serve his duty on the Texas Air National Guard. It was a blockbuster story that literally blew up in the face of CBS when it was revealed that some of the documents used as evidence were not thoroughly verified. The movie makes the case that no one asked if the story was true or not, merely using the furor over the documents as a way to tear down the rest of the piece.  The ongoing problem with journalism and following the truth is certainly evident in the current presidential election, where in the primaries almost all of the Republican candidates for president could not reach the point where 50% of what they said was truthful.  Unbelievable.  But the problem is that it is believed by an undiscerning public.  That is where we stand right now.  Uneducated and no end in sight.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Quilt Week: Bright Modern Abstract

This is a quilt that has some elements of the two quilt classes that I took when I was at quilt week.  One was not having an exact pattern and getting to cut out in a somewhat controlled but still random way, so that there is a sense of order and a sense of chaos all in one quilt.
I love the bright colors in this quilt, which is something that I do not often for for in my design elements, but I really like in this quilt.  I bought a number of 1/2 yard lengths of fabric while I was there (it is impossible to leave quilt Week without fabric, that is just a given.  Please do not distract me with details about how much fabric I have at home.  I know that).  So I am really well equipped to make something like this.  Once I finish the other projects that I have in progress, that is!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sauce, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

We had to go to Cedar Rapids on another matter, and we needed to be there for about an hour waiting, and so we decided to try this restaurant, which has been open for about a year, and just got a very nice review in their local free paper.
It is on the south side of Cedar Rapids, which is generally good for us (although not perfectly convenient the night we went).  It is a casual place with lots of space inside and plenty of parking outside.  The menu is medium sized and changes with the seasons.  There are also specials each night.  We had two salads, both of which were exceptionally good.  The seasonal salad had apples and honeyed walnuts and a balanced dressing, and the Czarina Salad (their version of a Caesar) was equally satisfying.  I went with the Fish and Chips off the casual fare menu and it was both delicious and enormous.  My companion and I took home his pasta dinner and shared it.  The pasta is homemade and it was very good.  This is definitely a place that we would return to and the prices are quite reasonable for the amount that you get and for a bit of an upscale dining experience.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Race (2016)

The story of Jesse Owens' rise to international fame, and the little good that it did him, is chronicled here for all to see.  It is ironic that a movie that is likely meant to look dated in its attitudes towards racial prejudice actually doesn't seem at all out of step with the current times.
Owens decided to go to Ohio State University for college because of the reputation of the track and field coach there.  Ohio was not quite the deep South, but it certainly wasn't desegregated either, and Owens faced discrimination in his own locker room in addition to  on and off the field.  His coach was not that way.  He was the shining star of the whole story (besides Owens himself of course), the one who did everything that he could for Owens and gave him his due.
The very ugly sub story that I did not know about involved Avery Brundage and the US Olympic committee being complicit in excluding US Jewish sprinters from the games.  The action contributed to Owen's 4th gold medal but was an ugly stain on the IOC.  Maybe no surprise there.  Brundage was involved with the Olympics for decades to come, and the taint has certainly continued to stain the organization over the 80 years since the Berlin games.  Owens story ends sadly, which is entirely foreseeable but no less unfortunate.  Well done telling of the story, which sticks largely to the facts.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Step Afrika!

When my spouse and I were negotiating the decision about what tickets to buy for the upcoming theater season at our wonderful local venue, we each chose something that we wanted to see based on the description but in reality  knew nothing about. Step Afrika was my choice.
There were two things about this that worked very much in my favor.  One is that the group is a step group--I did not know that from the short identifying paragraph about them in the season's program, but both I and my youngest son love to watch step dancing in movies, and it was even better in person.  The other was that given the fact that I was buying tickets early, I was able to get truly excellent up close seats, where we could be absorbed in the pieces.

I really loved everything about the performance.  The group did interpretive dances, some with music and some without, and all were based on the paintings of Jacob Lawrence.  Lawrence's sixty or more panels worth of paintings about the African American migration northward in America won him recognition at a very young age, and images of the paintings that inspired each dance sequence were projected on screens behind them.  Stunning.  And the history of the migration and the changes that came about as a result are important to remember and think about as we move forward in a time renewed visible racial discord in our country.

Tomato Lentil Soup

This recipe is absolutely better the next day, and since it doesn't take much time to cook lentils, it can definitely be made in the evening for the following day.  The other thing about it is that you can add or subtract lots of vegetables to this, and it is always good.  This time of year I have some straggling vegetables in my refrigerator, not at their best, but still usable.  This is a great way to use them all up and have a satisfying meal.

  • 1 cup lentils, washed and picked over
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced or some winter squash diced, or both
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 sweet pepper, chopped 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 c. chopped tomatoes
  •   6 cups stock
  • Thyme and a bay leaf
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables, and a generous pinch of salt, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes and spices, and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the lentils, water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently one hour. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the bay leaf, and stir in the parsley. Serve, garnishing each bowl with Parmesan or Gruyère.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

La Mie Bakery, Des Moines, IA

This wonderful bakery is also in a wonderful strip mall, which is very unassuming to look at, you would just drive on by rather that take a second look.  That would be a mistake, though.  The bakery makes some very delicious pastries and breads, as well as sandwiches and salads.  You can take out or dine in and either is a good option.  We were in a bit of a hurry so we ordered sandwiches to go.  All four of them were excellent.  I also bought a few desserts which were worth trying too.  I did not know this but "mie" is French for the soft part of the bread, the part that isn't the crust.  Pain la mie is a sandwich bread, and I can tell you they make an excellent version.  The thing that I loved the most though was the epi loaf that we bought there--it is the bread that looks a bit like sheafs of wheat, or like small rolls that can be broken off and eaten.  Very good.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Maple Roasted Delicata Squash

It is officially fall (even though one day in the past week it has been pretty darn close to 90 degrees, we have also had our first frost and the nights are cool enough to require a sweatshirt).
That means it is time to add winter squash to the dinner menu.  I love delicata because in a lot of ways it is the least fussy.  You don't have to peel it, it cooks quickly, and in this case, you get hot and sweet tones.  Reduce the maple syrup if you want to focus more on the heat.

  • 1 1/2 pounds Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 red onion, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Arrange the racks in the upper and lower rungs in the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F degrees. Place the squash, red onion, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat.
Spread vegetables evenly onto two large, rimmed baking sheets. Bake the squash on the upper and lower racks of the oven, tossing, rotating, and switching the pan positions half way through cooking, until tender and browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Taste and season again with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Starting a New Life

Happy Birthday to my daughter-in-law.  I hope that she is celebrating in the style that the event requires, and that we start all over again when I see her next.
She and my son have embarked on a new adventure, moving across Iowa late this summer.  They are slowly but surely getting their house situated the way they want it, getting to know the new town, and figuring out where to do all the things that make life routine.  It is all a bit overwhelming, of course, but the two of them have kept their spirits high and are approaching it with the sort of enthusiasm that will make it work.
It has been a rough year for all of us and no one escaped unscathed.  Especially not her.  About a month after this picture was taken I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer, and then in early summer her brother was diagnosed with leukemia and has since undergone a bone marrow transplant.  Yikes.  It is just a lot to deal with, and then to move on top of it all!  I am hoping for all our sake that the upcoming year is a bit quieter in terms of bad news, and holds more fun and adventure.  May it be so.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Flying Mango, Des Moines, Iowa

When I was at Quilt Week in Des Moines my family came over to have dinner with me between the first and second day that I was there.  It was such a treat to have them do that, and it made me feel like I was really on vacation.  The restaurant has a combination of Cajun food and barbecue and we had a mixture of the two at our table.  The thing that we liked the most was the Andouille sausage.  It was flavorful, smoky, and not too spicy.  The texture and the flavor were perfect, and that is what I would order next time, with a side order of corn bread and red beans and rice.  The salad that we had before dinner was very good, and the rest of it was good (which included the brisket, the ribs, and the chicken wings).  I had the potato of the day and my spouse had the grits of the day, and they were both excellent.  All in all, a very good choice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pickled Green Tomato Relish

 We have been having green tomatoes off and on all summer, and this week we decided to go out to our CSA farm and pick a few for the winter.  It is remarkably easy to go overboard when you are on a farm that feeds about 500 people with vegetables.  They have tomato plants the height that we are, and rows of them.  No trouble at all to get way too many way too fast.  So we made some Green Tomato Relish to
can, so that we address our profound lack of refrigerator space.
  • 7 pounds green tomatoes 
  • 4 large onions
  • 2 large red onions
  • 3 large green peppers
  • 2 large sweet red peppers
  • 4 teaspoons canning salt
  • 5 cups cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seed
  • 4 teaspoons mustard seed 
  1. Cut tomatoes, onions and peppers into wedges. In a food processor, cover and process vegetables in batches until finely chopped. Stir in salt. Divide mixture between two strainers and place each over a bowl. Let stand 3 hours.
  2. Discard liquid from bowls. Place vegetables in a stockpot; stir in vinegar, sugar, celery seed and mustard seed. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Carefully ladle hot mixture into eight hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Yield: 8 pints.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ego Mechanisms of Defense in Narcissists

It is true that politicians in general are not completely honest in their feelings and motivations and may say one thing to one audience and another to a different one.  But that can be said of me at work.  I do not share my full feelings nor is it in the least bit appropriate to do so.  I wish there was more transparency and that politicians were less beholden to big money, but I think that is inevitable in a democracy.  It is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.  By which I mean that while it is terrible flawed in almost every sense, that we have yet to find something that is more functional.
This political season we have someone who is a complete outside running for president in a major party who appears to a be bird of another feather.
Here is what I mean.  A true narcissist is someone who is flamboyant and  braggadocios on the outside, to the point of being intolerable, but who is really quite fragile on the inside.  When a narcissist is challenged, their thin eggshell exterior can quite easily crack and they fall apart or explode.  The ways that they maintain peace within themselves are several fold.  The first mechanism that they use is repression, which means that they keep unpleasant facts about themselves out of their conscious mind.  So it is possible that they would say that they respect women at one point and yet say demeaning things about women's weight, looks, intelligence and abilities on the other.  They would not see a connection between these two.  If repression fails, then there is outright denial, which means just that.  They will assert that an incident that is distressing to them did not happen.  No, I did not assault a woman, that did not happen.  The denial of facts is common for a narcissist.  Another ego defense used is distortion and lies.  There can be an almost compulsive nature to it.  Finally, the narcissist uses projection to shield themselves from realizing unpleasant facts about themselves.  So instead of seeing that he is a liar he calls his opponent crooked.  When people speculate that his persistent sniffing in the first two debates was evidence he was using cocaine he says that his opponent should be drug tested.  Instead of admitting his own affairs and unwanted sexual advances he points to the behavior of his opponents spouse.  It is almost as if the public should look at his latest accusations of his opponent to figure out what he is now afraid that we will find out about him. Oh, and these mechanisms of defense, while normal in young children, are not normal even by the teenage years, and adults largely grow out of them and move on to more mature mechanisms like altruism.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Chemotherapy Blues: A Mild Case

Can I take a moment and feel a bit sorry for myself?  I have been getting chemotherapy on a regular basis for a year. A year is a very long time when you are getting cytotoxic agents on a regular basis.
The good news is that I finished up 5+ months of what for me was fairly intense chemotherapy in the spring.  I had a handful of unplanned hospitalizations that added up to about an extra month in the hospital, and I lost a lot of strength and the ability to do much more than the bare minimum during that time.  So I had a small life during that time that included my house, my family, and a few friends.  When that was over, at the recommendation of my oncologist, I began a year of maintenance chemotherapy with Lamparza and Taxol, and today was my 9th treatment.  It is so much better than what I was doing before, but the side effects, while much subtler and easier to tolerate, are just a bit much of a muchness.
 Why?  There are a number of things going on, and while I have managed to not have the peripheral neuropathy that plagues many who get lots of Taxol, I have this, that, and now I have the other thing, and before you know it, it all adds up.  Boo hoo.
What to do?  When the going gets tough, the modestly blue woman takes a trip. not this week, but pretty soon.  And I am postponing my next chemo until I get back (I was going to do it two days before I left and then take the oral agent while I was gone, but I am boldly putting it all off until I get back).  I think that will do the trick for me, but I definitely get why people who get chemotherapy longitudinally tire of it.  It beats the alternative, but it is no walk in the park.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Tree Fell in the Driveway

 When a tree falls in your driveway, it definitely makes a noise.  And when it is over a hundred years old, it makes a very big noise indeed.  I have two very strong emotional responses to this event.  The first and foremost is that we felt very lucky.  Our house sustained some damage, but this is one gigantic tree that was living in very close proximity to a number of structures, including the bedroom where our youngest son was when the tree fell.  Our cars, things that you would expect to find in the driveway, were largely unscathed, as was our garage.  The power that such a huge tree exerts when it comes down to earth is astounding.  It crushed everything in its direct path and lots of things with it's much smaller branches. 
The sad thing is that this very old tree, which is certainly as old as the house itself, is gone.  It took up a lot of real estate in the sky, and that is all opened up to sunlight now.  The tree had been alive for many events, both local and far afield.  It witnessed a significant part of the history of our young country, and now it will be warming houses in the place wehre it once thrived.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is a book about occupied France during World War II.  It covers the water front of the difficulties associated with war, and the reality of giving up rather than fighting.  Occupation is not at all pretty, and this book brings out all the gritty details of the lives of those who are civilians.  There is no war, no battlegrounds, nothing at all associated with the acts of war other than an occasional execution by soldiers of village people and bombs falling on towns.  The book is largely about how war affects women, and that is told in the story of two sisters.  One, The Nightingale, is a brash and brave woman who throws herself into the resistance movement and lives and acts very much like a man.  She moves more freely because she is a woman, but that is where it ends.  Her sister, Vianne, is much more easily identified with.  She is not brave.  She wants to keep her children safe.  She does not start out being a troublemaker, but as the realities of was unfold, she sees that she doesn't have a morally acceptable choice not to help.  It dawns on her and she is her own kind of heroine.  Very thought provoking book.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Pho All Seasons, Des Moines, IA

 This is the best Vietnamese food that I have had in Des Moines.  I am still finding my way with Vietnamese food, mostly because there is a lot about it that is a little too meaty.  I love the abundance of vegetables in the cuisine, but there is an equal part that includes organ meat and sinew and fat that I am trying to figure out a way around.  I am sure that I will get there, and the journey has been fun.  This is a place that I would definitely stop at again.
The bahn mi is excellent.  This is the litmus test for a Vietnamese place, and Pho All Seasons passed with flying colors.  The sandwich comes in wide variety of meats, and that is always a good sign.  We got the traditional pork filling and it was very good.  Fresh bread, liver pate, and a good balance of heat with slices of jalapenos, herbal with the cilantro, and sour with the carrot and daikon pickled vegetables. The spring rolls were also excellent and come with a number of flavored meat fillings.  The dumplings were good as were the egg rolls.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Royal Night Out (2014)

On one level this movie is cute and charming, and on another it is sad, and on a third it is downright irritating.  It is a movie that revolves around a true event.  When peace was declared at the end of WWII, Elizabeth and her sister are let out of the palace for one night and one night only.  While they are on an adventure that takes them through all sorts of socioeconomic classes and all sorts of experiences, the bottom line is that Elizabeth did this on a one time basis (or so the legend goes).  She is depicted as smart, kind, charming, and all about doing the dutiful thing for god and country, she is also quite unappealing in that the outside world held so little interest for her that she failed to enter it again unless she was absolutely the queen.  Nothing else would do, and that just doesn't seem like a great life.  The movie does immerse the viewer in a particular time and place, as well as with a person, and that is all very interesting.  It is streaming on Netflix and certainly worth a watch if you are an Anglophile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Day of Atoning Comes Around Again

It is yet again time to atone for sins.  And to fast.  And to think about life.  This last several months has been so busy for me that I haven't really been able to slow down enough for the high holidays, but as I have sat around a number of different tables with various members of my community, I have definitely had time to think about the things that are good in my life.  I think this election season has unleashed a lot of behavior that leaves a lot to be desired.  I am not at all sure that those folks are seeking atonement, mores the pity.  As is so often the case, those that need it most are least likely to seek it.  I myself am working on my own foibles, and in the absence of making big changes, at least trying to down size my life to what I think are important elements of it.  That, and trying to get to November 8th without losing the friends that I share values with.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pick Up Sticks

 I took two classes at the recent American Quilt Society's Quilt Week in Des Moines.  It was a wonderful experience just to be there, but ever so much fun to be in classes with other quilters.  I have not done much of that in a long time, and the intensity of quilters who go to Quilt Week is above my own, so somehow it is comforting to me that  I am not alone in my obsession with fabric and the idea that cutting big pieces of material up into small pieces of material and ten sewing them back together into big pieces of fabric really is something wonderful.  My teacher for the second workshop that I did was Becky Goldsmith, and the quilt we did was different from the applique quilts that I know her for.
The quilt is called Pick Up Sticks for reasons that are pretty clear.  I think there is a lot of fun in this quilt and it can come out a number of different ways.  There were people in the class who were like me, using one color palate for the sticks and a plain background.  My table mate had a white background and all the colors of the rainbow for the sticks and that worked really well.  Another woman had a very busy background and plain sticks.  This quilt has some wonderful elements to it and you can make it a number of different ways--and a quick and pretty easy baby quilt.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Vote! Please, Everybody, Vote!

I am not a rabid debate watcher in general, but this election cycle is so unpredictable that I have changed my usual behavior.  It is so scary that a man so wholly unsuited for public office is even in contention for winning is extremely scary.  So I have watched the two presidential debates and the vie-presidential debate as well.
I don't understand the choice of Mike Pence as a running mate.  He doesn't bring much to the table.  It is unlikely that Indiana will be the state that will put him over the top, but then again you never know.  In any case, I found him offensive before I heard him debate because of his views on gays and women, but hearing it from his own lips was appalling.
He literally described bringing America together on the issue of abortion by eliminating abortion and putting those children up for adoption.  That would be his idea of compromise.  How is that any sort of compromise?  When Tim Kaine talked about a woman's right to make choices about her own body, he almost scoffed.  His response was so patronizing to women that it was painful to watch.  I felt quite sincerely that he wanted us to not go back merely to the 1950's but to the 1850's.  He wanted a chance to squelch the right for women to vote right at the inception of the movement and have men control it start to finish.  So please, voting is a privilege that should not be ignored.  I have already voted, and urge you to also.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Timer (2009)

Really, the best thing about this movie is that it is a light romantic comedy that is streaming on
Netflix.  It is accessible in every sense of the word.  The story is an unusual one.  It is in the near future and everyone has the option of getting a timer, which alerts them to how long it will be until they meet their true love.  This is something that is supremely unattractive to me, and at the same time something that I think is literally impossible to do.  The things that life throws at you make a difference in the quality and quantity of relationships that one has.  In the eye of 'Timer', there is one true person for you, and you have to wait for that person--then you find them, through the miracle of your timer going off, and then it is very awkward because while you now know this is your life love, you don't know the at all.  So it is kind of like an arranged marriage.   Weird.  Despite all this, I enjoyed the movie and the tensions that it created around themes of love.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

James Beard Dinner Experience

I had never been to an actual James Beard dinner, but was privileged to do so last weekend in Kansas City.  It was a wonderful experience of being around all sorts of people who love food and who support the ever burgeoning fine food movement in the United States.  My friends at Green Dirt Farm were serving their wonderful cheese during the appetizer portion of the evening and it was spectacular.  The display of cheeses amongst artisanal charcuterie from the Midwest, dried fruits, nuts, and pickled vegetables was the best appetizer out there.  Competing with them was Howard Hannah's sardine appetizer and the cocktails prepared by the Rieger, with wonderful flavor and balance.  The meal itself was very good and prepared with an eye towards feeding 300 guests all at once in a venue that was used primarily for catering rather than as a restaurant.  The first course and the dessert were cold dishes, and the second course was served at room temperature.  The advantage being that only the main course had to be served hot, and so the entire focus could be on that.  I think it is very smart, and if I am ever in a position to serve a large fancy meal at my place, I am going to remember this.  We food was delicious, and the evening was a lot of fun.  I would certainly attend another and I do very much support the work that the foundation is doing.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Quilt Week in Des Moines, Iowa

This week is Quilt Week (well, really it is half a week) in Des Moines.  It is an event that is held by the American Quilt Society and While I have been quilting for over 30 years, and lived in Iowa for 26 years, I have never managed to get to this event.  This year, the year that I had way more sick leave than vacation time, this is the year that I made time for it.  Barely, mind you.  I am still struggling to make the time and commit the energy to being creative with my hands again, to get back to making things that say something about me.  I am going to be there for a say and a half, and while that is less than half of the event, it is way more than I have managed recently.
The timing is good.  I have made three quilts this summer, and I have taken seven courses at my locally owned small craft store and not only have I loved them, I have also finished every project that I have started there.  That is definitely a personal record for me.  When I was a resident I managed to take a lot of classes, but I was no where near 100% in terms of completion.  So I am on a roll, and it feels really good, so I hope these two classes go well, and that I get to see a lot of inspirational quilts!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sweet and Sour Eggplant and Tomatoes

This is a really delicious way to have eggplant and tomatoes that is not ratatouille.  It has a different kind of flavor profile and more protein for the vegetarians amongst us.  I have a lot of each of these, and this recipe will be a keeper.

  • 1 1/2 lb.  eggplant cut into small cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 2 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 ½ pounds tomatoes chopped
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of mint and parsley
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy lidded casserole or skillet. Add the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the eggplant and cook until softening, adding a bit of water if the pan starts to brown.  Stir in the tomatoes, salt to taste, sugar and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and simmer uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell very fragrant.
  2. Add the pomegranite molasses and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. The mixture should be thick and the eggplant should be very tender, melting into the mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle on the parsley and/or mint, and serve. Alternately, allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Take Me Home (2016)

This is a fun film to watch when you want something light but not too light.  It is streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime (so you can download it to your tablet for travel ease).  This movie follows the script for a road trip movie with a dash of romantic comedy thrown in.  Pop the popcorn and sit back for a movie where you know what to expect. 
There is an almost invariable formula to the road movie. The protagonists must travel a great distance in an impossibly short amount of time. For some reason, early on, everyone runs out of money and only realizes it at an inopportune moment, forcing the travelers to devise hare-brained schemes to fund their odyssey. At some point, their source of transportation fails, leading them from their preferred method of transport into something altogether different, and potentially perilous. And if the movie stars a man and a woman, you can bet that even if they initially despise each other or if one of them is currently romantically involved, they're going to hook up eventually.  This movie follows that exactly, but because the man and the woman, Tom and Claire in this case, are both in their mid-thirties, there is something bittersweet in their demeanor and the complications are more substantial than a younger couple would face.  Life is complicated, and yet there is still an opportunity to change it for the better.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

15 Minutes of Fame

The University of Iowa does a Dance Marathon to raise money for childhood cancer causes.  It is a student run organization that raises literally millions of dollars each year to support childhood cancer research as well as multiple endeavors that benefit children who are being treated for cancer or who have survived it.  It is a very good cause, and one that is dear to our hearts as we have a childhood cancer survivor under our roof.  Our second son, featured in this photo right under Herky, the University of Iowa mascot who is crowd surfing right over his head, spent hundreds of hours during his college career participating in Dance Marathon.  The photo is prominently featured at the local airport and has been for the past 2 1/2 years.  We love to visit it when we are there, and point him out, as we are doing here.  It is like an icon, something that represents him that we have nothing to do with.  He, however, is less fond of it.  It is the moment of fame that fails to completely fade away.  So beware of what you wish for. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Happy New Year

I has been a difficult year for me, but that is no reason to not celebrate the new year.  I have had major abdominal surgery,  been on chemotherapy almost the entire year, and I have been unexpectedly hospitalized on more than one occasion this past year.  On the traditional calendar, I had met my deductible for the year within the first few days, because I was in the ICU and those bills add up quickly.  No more niggling copayments.  Come in for a liter of fluids?  Not a problem.  Not that I would hunt for bargain basement prices for my healthcare, but it is indicative of the seriousness of the situation.
So what is there to celebrate?  Thankfully quite a lot.  One thing about being seriously ill is that I was the recipient of hundreds of acts of kindness.  I spoke early on with a woman who was a couple of years ahead of me in the ovarian cancer maze, and she told me how much the cards she received meant to her going forward, so I saved them all in a box for future inspiration.  I received lots of beautiful things that were helpful to me in terms of spirit, as well as being actually useful.  It was humbling and heart warming, and I am looking forward to what I can do this year to reciprocate some of the wonderfulness that I got last year.  So celebrate everyone!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Green Dirt Farm Creamery, Weston, Missouri

Green Dirt Farm has gotten some wonderful press.  The most recent article is from the Wall Street Journal this week, and while it highlights more of the sheep’s milk cheese that the farm produces than most articles do, it is one in a long stream of press that describe this remarkably wonderful cheese.  Unfortunately, despite the press, there are many challenges in getting the cheese into the hands of appreciative consumers, and so the opening of a creamery in Weston, where the farm resides and the cheese is produced is one of the latest efforts to increase their visibility.  The sandwiches at this shop are wonderful, especially the grilled cheese!  And to make things even better, the ice cream is absolutely the best.  It is well worth a trip to try the cheese, and there is a wine room from Vox Vinyards to try local wines as well.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Singing in the Rain (1952)

My youngest got this out of the library because it is a film that was technically difficult to make when it was done, and because it is a classic.  The one thing that I loved about it was that it pretty accurately depicted to Hollywood studio situation prior to modern day, where actors were under contract to a studio, and they had little choice about who did what for whom.  The story is very mundane, even as romantic comedies go.  A big star meets a woman who intrigues him from the beginning, and she has no interest in him.  Up until the time that she develops an interest and then they are a thing.  No big surprise there.  The singing and dancing are superb, and make the movie well worth watching, even though it is terribly dated.