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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spaghetti Squash and Potato Gratin

We had this Thanksgiving weekend, as an alternative potato dish that incorporated some of the squash of the season (we are a family that had butternut squash and sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving day and did not have a huge amount left over, so we do like our squash).  The dish really tastes like potatoes!

1  spaghetti squash
2 cups half and half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 pounds potatoes

Roast the squash.

Meanwhile, combine the cream, butter, garlic, thyme, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large saucepan. Peel the potatoes, then slice them paper thin on a mandoline, placing them in the cream mixture as you slice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, then scrape out the flesh with a fork into a medium bowl. Discard the skin and seeds.

Layer the bottom of the prepared baking dish with 1/2 the potatoes. Top with 1/2 the squash, then the remaining potatoes, then the remaining squash. Pour all the liquid from the potato mixture into the baking dish, and press the vegetables down to submerge. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan on top. Put the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden brown and a knife slides easily into the potatoes, about 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding Dory (2016)

On my recent trip I watched some sequels, and while this was no where near as great as Finding Nemo, it was cleverly scripted with endearing characters and it did not fail to entertain.
The Dory character stole the show in the original movie, and so it seems reasonable for her to star in this one.  The story itself is the weakest link in the whole movie.  Dory suddenly remembers that she has parents and sets out to find them.  She has the usual adventures that you would expect in a competently made Disney movie, and it comes to the logical conclusion with a brief period of cliff hanging, all of which is very pleasant.
It is definitely a movie that delivers exactly what you would expect.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

I am still struggling with what the appropriate amount of activism is going to work for me. The choice of a neo-Nazi to head Trump's transition team is very disturbing.  He has said that the problem with women could be solved by prohibiting washing machines and birth control.  He actually said it would make us happier if we were saddled with a dozen kids and the lack of modern conveniences.  I am pretty sure that he wants to go back to the 1850's not the 1950's.  Back when white men actually thought they invented everything in the world and had every right to keep it.  Such thinking demonstrates a shockingly poor education and a dangerous outlook for someone in power.  Bannon has also proven his fellow 'alt right' (really, neo-Nazis with better PR) folks are superb trolls (no surprise there.  Meanness becomes them) and so there should be overt and covert operations to undermine such people.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise and Caramel Sauce

My eldest son made this for Thanksgiving dinner (he made it with gluten free flour and it was fabulous).  Took forever, but it was delicious.

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons bourbon
Pumpkin Bread, toasted and cubed, recipe follows
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, recipe follows
Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, recipe follows
Freshly whipped cream

Pumpkin Bread:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 3/4 cups  flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
2/3 cup water
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup pure cane sugar

Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup apple juice
1 star anise
1 -inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Custard for Bread Pudding:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Scatter the pumpkin bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Spoon some of the Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise into a shallow bowl, top with some of the bread pudding and drizzle with the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce. Top with freshly whipped cream. Bread pudding is best served warm.

Pumpkin Bread:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 4 tablespoons softened butter, sugar, and oil at high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Once the bread is cool, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a large baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven until lightly toasted, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise:

Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until at the pale ribbon stage. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half, return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl and set over an ice bath. Stir until chilled. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce:

Combine the cream, apple juice, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, water and, vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it's a deep amber color, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Add the apple schnapps and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

There are a few things that you need to accept before you watch this movie.  The first is that this is not The Godfather.  The movies that come later do not exceed the first one in either quality or enjoyment.  The second is that while you do not need to be a fan of the first Ghostbuster movie, it doesn't hurt, because there are numerous references made to it throughout.  The third is that if the idea of women being just as capable of looking silly while fighting ghosts as men do offends you (and it turns out there are a whole heck of a lot of people who feel that way), then you should definitely skip this movie.
If I haven't dissuaded you yet from watching this, then I think it is an enjoyable distracting movie.  I watched it on a transoceanic flight and was not unhappy with my choice.  It is a movie that will not make you think and it will not keep you up late.  Just for fun, nothing more.

Friday, November 25, 2016


It has been a couple weeks since the election and I have had a media break while I was out of the country.  But coming home it is clear to me that moving on is not an option for me.  The news just keeps on coming and none of it is good.

A lot of people have been quoting Edmund Burke, who said that all that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  So while I am not the least bit ready to let go of my anger and the gender bias and outright misogyny that surrounded the election--I am in fact fighting my urge to create memes that echo the Hillary memes for Trump.  Because while her critics have no factual basis for their claims, all of the slings and arrows that have been aimed at her are actually true about him.  That part I do need to move on about. But when Trump put a Nazi in charge of his transition team, it became time to decide how to fight rather than when.  Because that represents real evil.  I have no doubt that they will start to use trolling to intimidate those who oppose them, but again, don't let evil triumph.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ode to Autumn by John Keats

Having just been in Rome, Keats final resting place, I am thinking of his way of giving thanks today.

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,         5
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease;  10
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;  15
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;  20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day  25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;  30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016)

This is a really interesting story that is well told with two great actors.  Dev Patel plays Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-taught Indian mathematician whose contributions to the field were considered massive enough to have inspired a Google doodle on the 125th anniversary of his birth in 2012.  Jeremy Irons plays a Cambridge fellow, G.H. Hardy who on the one hand recognizes the genius of Ramanujan, but on the other wants him to follow a rigor that does not settle well with him.  He sees mathematical formulas, and writes furiously in notebooks about these insights, but he doesn't do well within the structure of proofs, which is the bread and butter of Hardy's world.  hardy fails to recognize the myriad of obstacles that Ramanujan faces.  They include being a vegetarian in a meat loving culture, being Indian in the British Empire, where he is subject to almost constant racism.  Then there is Hardy's atheism juxtaposed against Ramanujan's devout faith.  They just do not connect, and the film lays those layers out, and displays the obstacles that could have led to even more.  So it is sad and hard to watch and a good story all in one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Quilt Week: Modern Applique

 I am going to post a few of the quilts that I saw at Quilt Week in Des Moines that were memorable to me.  Some of them will be prize winners and some will not.  There was a much broader showing of quilts that I saw there than that I will talk about, but this is a slice of it.  This was one of the quilts that I saw there that fascinated me, and that I thought I could make and make it well.  I have a lot of short comings as a quilter, but color, design balance and embroidery are all strengths for me.
This detail shows what I am talking about. The decorative embroidery is so whimsical and pleasing.  I love the playfulness of the sewing and embellishment.  It is a quilt that would take a year to do, but in the end it would be an heirloom.  I feel like I need to get a few easier quilts under my belt (I am working on number three, and I have number four started).  Maybe when I hit 10 it will be time to think along these lines.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Marinated London Broil

I really like marinated cuts of meat that are them grilled and cut across the grain.  This transforms them from tough pieces of meat into something quite delicious to have.  We had this with some grilled vegetables, a green salad, and the delicate squash recipe I posted last month.  Quite delicious.
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 (2 to 2 1/2 pound) London broil

  • To make marinade: In a bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients until combined well. Put London broil in a large resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over it. Seal bag, pressing out excess air, and set in a shallow dish. Marinate meat, chilled, turning bag once or twice, for 8 hours.
  • Remove meat from the marinade, discarded the marinade, and pat the meat dry.
  • Preheat a grill and on an oiled rack set about 4-inches over glowing coals, grill the meat, turning each once, 9 to 10 minutes on each side, or until it registers 125 to 130 degrees for medium-rare meat.
  • Transfer meat to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. Cut meat diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Me Before You (2016)

My family was not all that happy with this movie.  I had read the book, and so I knew the outcome, but suffice it to say that while there are most definitely elements of Pygmalion here, it is not a Happily Ever After story.
Will is  devil may care man.  He has grown up in a privileged home, and while he would most certainly acknowledge that, he has absolutely no interest in leveling the playing field.  His world is irrevocably changed when he is hit by a motor scooter and left a quadriplegic.  Now everything is a struggle for him and he wavers between pain and depression.  Enter Louisa.  She is hired by his mother to cheer him up and provide him with entertainment.  She is much more successful than others have been in her role, but she does not change his mood.  The story is about their growing friendship, the role of care giver, and then what happens when it is all just too much to bear.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim

This book was the book that the Iowa City read as a community this fall.  It is a first hand account of a woman of South Korean ancestry who worked in North Korea as a teacher.  You might think that as a journalist she was bent on exposing the seedy underbelly of a totalitarian dictatorship, that she would convey her experience in a very unflattering light in order to reinforce what our preconceived notions are.  And some of that does happen but the overwhelming take away message that came through for me is that of just how sad a country it is.  Kim is teaching the children of the North Korean elite, the best of the best in the north, and they are hopelessly behind the times.  They have absolutely no concept of what the world outside their borders holds.  Their world view is provincial to the point of being almost unbelievable, and Kim does an excellent job of making it believable to us.  A very eye opening read.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bayonet and Black Horse, Seaside, CA

I was recently on the Monterrey Peninsula for work, but still managed to enjoy quite a bit of the beautiful views that are so famous in this part of the world.  The regimen that our team was on left us pretty hungry and without a clear culinary opportunity, when one of the project engineers suggested that we go to this country club for lunch.  It was an uncharacteristically clear day and the sun was shining bright.  We sat out on the deck, which overlooked a recently renovated golf course, but beyond that was the gorgeous Central California coast line dotted with cypress trees.  The lunch was sandwiches that are the large size you associate with clubs, and the side salad was enough for a meal in itself.  The price was reasonable, and I had enough left over that I had it for dinner, and the meal was memorable for both the view and the company.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wolf Hall (2015)

I loved the book by Hilary Mantel of the same title, and the BBC miniseries based on the book is exceptionally good.  that is based on the outstanding acting of Mark Rylance as Cromwell.  He is a great foil to the demands and idiosyncrasies of King Henry (who is also ably played).  The story is a well known one, that of King Henry VIII ditching his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who was unable to produce a son for him and marrying the calculating Anne Boleyn.  She knew based on her sister's treatment as a concubine that while you got some privileges, it was a life where people talked about you behind your back and it made returning to your husband a bit of a challenge.  Anne would have none of that, and while there was some movement in Europe as a whole away from the Catholic church, it was a very bold move on her part.  She does not come off looking all that great in this version, but she is mother to one of the greatest monarchs of all time.  It was the beginning of the British Empire.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

This is an unusual book, and while there were certainly parts of it that I didn't care for, overall I would recommend it.  The story takes place in the aftermath of WWI, which sets it up perfectly for the story that it tells, and  much of it focuses on the profound social change that was going on at the time.  The two main characters come from very different social classes.  Frances and her mother are left without financial resources after both father and brother are killed in the war.  The brother in battle and the father from illness but Frances is quite sure there is an element of both grief and regret at play as well.  Frances works like mad to clean the house, fix it up, and to cook on a shoestring budget for their boarders, who are a middle class couple seeking work in the city.  So it is a role reversal, but that is more of a backdrop to the story than the tale itself.  Suffice it to say that there is a torrid lesbian affair that alludes to the changing social norms, and then there is an accidental death that leads to a moral quandary.  Never a dull moment, you can say that.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Grilled Broccoli

I usually roast broccoli, but recently we were having grilled steak and I thought while it was up and running, maybe we should do the broccoli that way too.  It is a bit more work, and I am not sure that you can tell by the end result, but certainly during the summer months when it is hot, and you might want to keep the oven off, this would be a very good alternative.
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 head broccoli, approximately 2 pounds, cored and cut into 1-inch florets
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Flaky sea salt (optional)         
  1. Build a fire in your grill, leaving about 1/3 of grill free of coals, or set a gas grill to high.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the tamari or soy sauce with the vinegar. Add the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Add the broccoli and toss to coat. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
  3. Place a grill basket on the grill and add the broccoli to it. Grill, tossing frequently, until the florets are crisp at the edges and tender within, with just a little bit of bite to them, approximately 10 to 12 minutes

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hank and Asha (2014)

Yes, this is an unusual romantic comedy, but if you are a fan of the genre and do not feel that every movie had to adhere to a strict formula in terms of outcome, this is a good option.  It has the added benefit of being available for free download on Amazon Prime, which is a plus for me when I am traveling and do not want to pay for either wi-fi or content.  I have found that I have seen some very pleasant movies this way that I might have skipped otherwise.  This movie is one such.  An Indian film student is studying in Prague for the year and she sees a movie that intrigues her.  The filmmaker is not at the festival so she does a video of herself asking questions about the film, and so begins a charming love affair.  The film is told almost entirely within the context of these videos, and as their friendship deepens, Hank wants to meet Asha.  She guiltily and reluctantly tell shim that she is in fact engaged to be married to a man when her year in Prague is up, and that it is an arrangement made between their two families.  It is yet another variation on the theme that once someone makes the choice for you, you see other possibilities.  Charmingly done.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Chaata and Curry, Sunnyvale, CA

I was on a trip that was planned in a hurry and that I was added to at the very last minute in northern California.  The short story is that for no good reason we ended up staying in Silicon Valley, and because we needed to find a place at the last minute and we all wanted to stay together, we were not at an establishment that would have been any of our first choices.  Then, to make matters worse, the majority of the people that I traveled with did not have food as a priority.  What?!?  How can that be?  We were also putting in very long days so that when we were finally done we were not really all that energetic.  So despite superb dining within shouting distance, that was not my fate.  I ordered take out food from this place and it was excellent.  Really good, and very reasonably priced.  The thing that I liked about it is that the dinner came with rice, naan, dal, and a side dish, so that as a person dining with only one other person I could actually get exactly what I wanted.  It was spiced appropriately (on the edge of what is too hot for me, which is perfect and hard to attain), and weirdly, if I was in the neighborhood, I would go back.

The Book of Mormon

I know that I am late to seeing this show, but in my defense, I was not alone.  The eight shows that ran recently in my small college town were sold out each and every one, so there is still interest in this wildly entertaining musical.  I knew remarkably little about the show.  All that I really knew was that it made fun not just of Mormonism, but really all religions, because for any given part of the play you can substitute some other tenet of some other religion and it sounds just as far fetched.
So imagine my surprise when I loved it.  Not that I am one to be offended by irreverence, I am not, but I usually do not find it funny.  This play is all about playfulness and while it uses some language that falls well within Donald Trump's much touted foul mouth repertoire, that doesn't offend me either.  I was very much entertained throughout the show, and a little bit let down when it all came to a well drawn conclusion. I would really recommend this and was quite pleased that I ventured back into the realm of the touring Broadway play (something I have not done in at least a decade, I am afraid).

Friday, November 11, 2016

Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Tennyson

On this Veterans Day, remembering that was is age old and poets have captured it quite vividly.  Today and everyday, remember veterans.  This one comes from the Crimean War.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Love and Friendship (2016)

This is an 18th century period piece that reflects the concepts of women and their wily ways.  while I am not totally on board with that concept of feminine wiles, this is a pretty enjoyable movie to watch, with lots of period costumes and backdrops.  This is unsurprisingly based on an unfinished Jane Austen novella entitled Lady Susan.  Kate Beckinsale plays the lovely but conniving Lady Susan, who uses all sorts of means to get the man that she wants for herself and to wed her daughter to a man who has fortune but nothing to recommend him as a companion.  As the daughter says, he is not objectionable as a person, just as a husband.  The daughter has allies, and she has wit as well, and she is able to outmaneuver her mother and still appear quite charming while doing so.  This is streaming on Amazon Prime, so downloadable.  I watched it on a long flight where I had elected to go in a middle seat with the chance of getting home earlier rather than wait for a more comfortable seat on a less convenient flight. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

No Matter How Hard, Move On

There is no other way to say it.  It is time to move on.  It will be very hard indeed.  I have been so dismayed this election season, and the main reasons are two fold. The first is that I really struggle with the idea that half of Americans think that Trump is qualified to be our president.  That is very worrisome indeed.  No matter what you think the immediate future holds for America, there is absolutely no evidence that Trump will do anything to make it better.  The economy?  The man made a hash of his businesses and if it weren't for the generous laws around taxation and bankruptcy and his family's personal fortune to bail him out, he would have folded.  Unfortunately we do not hold those cards as a country.  The military and security? He talked gleefully about how he would commit war crimes.  Global warming.  Sadly, his understanding of science is if possible below his knowledge of foreign policy.  Abortion?  The democrats are far more likely to have fewer abortions because they fund birth control, which not so weirdly, actually works.  The social conservatives are literally dying out so forget going back to the days before gay marriage.  So we dodged a bullet there, but not by a comfortable margin.  The second thing is the woman thing.  It really pains me how many people close to me spoke real misogyny without so much as batting an eye.  These carried the day, and we have to live with that as a people and a country.  We are a very flawed people.  So I get why it is hard to move on, I do.  The future is very grim indeed, and yet, the reality is something that we will all have to live with.  Our only comfort is that we are not alone in our perplexing mix of mess ups.  Brexit, after all.  Now we have to work hard to prevent totalitarianism and support every effort to redress gerrymandering.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On Voting by Annette Jones White

During the week we honored Dr. King,
I often found myself remembering
SCLC's Citizenship School —
A proponent of the vote as a tool.
Many youths went there for a week-long class;
I learned how to teach my elders to pass
The registrar's reading and writing test
So their votes could be cast with all the rest.

I recall how back then youths took the lead
Voter registration or some other need.
With much admiration I'm proud to say
Youths are stepping to the forefront today.
Beginning in Ferguson, youths took command
Of a quest for justice that spread through the land.
That movement, multicultural in scope,
Is self sustaining and gives us all hope.
But lately, I heard some young people say
"I'm not going to vote, not ever, no way."
They say by voting nothing is won,
That riots and violence get things done.
Some who have not registered say they won't;
Some registered who can vote say they don't.
It is clear that they do not understand
What they can do with a ballot in hand.
Let us remind those youths that people died
So that we could vote and help to decide
The vital issues that affect us all
And not have others always make the call.
When you don't exercise your voting right
You forfeit your voice, diminish your might.
When those in office are corrupt without doubt,
Your vote could be the one to turn them out.
To all of those who look but do not see
The vote can be two things and so can we:
Nonviolent weapon when we choose it.
Potential world changer when we use it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Vote Baby Vote!

This is it, the end is near.  If you haven't voted up until now, and some places you really don't have a choice in that matter, but in the majority of places you definitely do, but in any case, it is now or never.  And I am advocating for now. 
Voting is the one thing that we do that can affect our everyday lives.  The people that we elect to govern us matter.  The only way for the elite amongst us to get their way is if we don't vote.  When we vote, we get a voice in how things are done, what our priorities are as a country will be.  That is so important, for today and tomorrow, for ourselves and our children and for future generations of children.  The Greeks shunned people who did not participate in democracy.  They believed that government didn't work unless you participated in the process.
I don't mean to get corny here, but people have literally died in order that we can vote.  It took women about 70 years of really working on it to get the vote, and it took African Americans 100 years after the Civil War ended to get the Voting Rights Act.  Some of these rights have been eroded, what with gerrymandered districts and restrictions on who can vote and when they can do it.  That makes it all the more important that we vote.  Have a say.  Make the forefathers proud.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why Vote? Let Me Count the Reasons

So true.  This is it.  It is what we have as otherwise powerless people in a democracy that now and always has been very influenced by money.  One of the very few things that I have enjoyed about this election is hearing what people that I work and play with have done to do a bit more than just vote, to get out and pound the pavement.  They want to have their voices heard by people in their community, and while I am just not particularly good at that myself, I really admire that.
One of the things that has stuck me this election is that we are really lucky as women to have gotten the right to vote.  Women like Abigail Adams lobbied her husband hard to grant women the right to vote at the inception of our country, and the effort began in earnest before the Civil War.  It took less than a decade after that to pass an amendment, but there seems to still be a lot of animosity about it even today, almost 100 years later.  Why?  Because we don't vote like men, and there are a lot of angry men who want things to be the way they used to be, and they see women as standing between them and that dream.  So please, let's use our voice at the ballot box and hope that we can make a tiny step forward after a lot of horrible things were tweeted about us and our kind.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

There is a Big Difference

I like this graphic a lot.  The best of political cartoons succinctly tell a story, and do not require context.  Meaning that you do not have to be in the know about what happened this week in order to understand the message.  There has been a lot of bad press lately, a lot of it being generated by emails made public illegally, and the FBI director being blatantly partisan.  It really angers me, this Julian Assange vendetta against Hilary.  He is clearly an angry man, probably made more angry by the fact that he is self-imprisoned, and is on a rampage.  Not a good man.  Which I guess we knew because of his evasion of rape charges to the point where he literally cannot go anywhere any more.  In any case, I don't want to be judged in the way he is judging people and allowing others to judge them.  Hopefully he will be prosecuted, and hopefully the election will not be ultimately swayed by him.  I prefer the hopeful message, and prefer the establishment candidate to the gun slinging narcissist whose wife doesn't think we are smart enough to see that he is the bully rather than the bullied.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Darth Vader: Better than Trump?

Vote!  I really want everyone to vote!
This is totally not mine.  I saw Juliana Fusco's post that dates back to January of this year, when we suspected that Trump was a man with problems.  Now we have additional concrete evidence that loathing him on many levels was too good for him.  He is worse than that, worse than we can even imagine.  She made a case for Darth Vader being the lesser of two evils.  Why?
Well, first off he has political experience.  He ran a galaxy for heavens sake.  He should be able to manage a country, where as Trump has declared bankruptcy six times so he hasn't demonstrated that he can run a successful business without the loopholes that are afforded to corporate America but not the America itself.  Never run a country.  Or a galaxy.  He also has experience with foreign policy, which Trump lacks.  In fact, he seems to think that foreign policy is something trivial, that you come with your demands and you leave if they are not met.
Darth Vader is a job creator.  The Death Star alone had over a million employees.  He also would be tough on corporations.  He believes that greed is the root of at least some evil and well, enough said.
He would probably support the minimum wage.  He was once a slave, so he understands how important it is to be able to make a living wage, whereas Trump has fired people rather than pay them for the work that they have done and he does not support a minimum wage.  It has been argued that as Darth Vader understands what it is like to not be able to marry who you want to, that he might be a supporter of gay marriage.  On the other hand, he might support marrying your sister, but in any case, he has a decent shot at being more open minded than Trump.  Being the son of a single mother, he could be expected to value women more than Trump has.  And he certainly wouldn't make fun of people with disabilities!
Luckily, the choice is not between these two and we have an excellent option in November.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Salt Fork Kitchen, Solon, Iowa

We went up to our CSA farm in order to look for something that we dropped there.  It was a Hail Mary pass, something that we were not prepared to skip, but something that we were all pretty sure would be fruitless.  And it was.  On the up side, it was a beautiful day and it was beautiful to wander amongst the still thriving vegetables. 
On our way home our youngest son advocated that we stop for lunch, and that was a great idea.  The Salt Fork Kitchen is on Main St. in Solon, which has had an ever increasing number of places to eat these days.  This s a locally sourced produce place with a solid regular menu and daily specials.  They make their own things, like salad dressings and desserts, and the atmosphere is really nice.  They serve breakfast until two and start lunch at 11:00, so we mixed and matched.  The salad was outstanding, with the greens being very flavorful and the tomatoes bursting with flavor.  My son had the pumpkin pancakes, which were served with butter and maple syrup, and were delicious.  The pumpkin pie for dessert was excellent, and as we looked at the sandwiches that our fellow diners had ordered, they were inviting enough to have us plana  return visit.  Well worth a stop if you are in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Quilt Week: Balanced Modern Quilt

This quilt is entitled 'Quilting Balance' and I think that it fits.  I have done very little in the way of free piecing, with the exception of crazy quilting.  With that, I have used a square and then pieced on top of it so that i have some form and some free flow.  This quilt, which is relatively small, has very little in the way of that.  Putting it together, for me, would be a little daunting, but as I look at it I can see that the lower right part of the quilt has some straight lines, and I could start with something like that.  And maybe move on to more adventurous design.  So I can see a little bit of method in the madness, and it appeals to the same sense that the African American quilting tradition has.  My mother gave me postcards of the Gee Bend quiltmakers many years ago, and then I had a chance to see an exhibit of them later.  I see this kind of quilt, which has some very tiny elements of that, as a baby step for me in that direction.  I also have been getting into the narrow quilting lines in some of my smaller non-quilt pieces and find it attractive in this quilt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Remembering the Dead

I very much like the tradition of remembering the dead who are important to us, who shape who we are today.  It is a part of the Jewish religion.  You light a candle on the anniversary of the death of a loved one, say a mourner's prayer, and honor their memory.  The Day of the Dead is another approach to this remembering tradition.  Instead having your own day of remembrance, there is one day when everyone remembers and prays.  There is a creepy clown mask component to it, but there are some entirely beautifully painted faces that come out on this day as well.  This year I am remembering my maternal grandmother.  I had a very close relationship with her up until the last decade of her life.  Dementia is a very painful thing to watch and watching her live with it strengthened my own beliefs that for me that is not living.  My memory of her is permanently affected by her struggles with cognition at the end of her life.  However, I do have many great memories of her, and one of the things that I have been thinking about this past year as I have gotten back into doing some handwork more regularly is that I got that at least in part from her.  The thing that I love about making things is that they are tangible, and unlike pretty much everything else I do, which is largely intangible and untouchable, quilting has an output that I sleep under everyday.  So thank you for that Gram.  Happy Day of the Dead.