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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eating a Different Pyramid

I have been doing the super low carbohydrate diet for just over a month, and overall it is a lot easier than I thought it would be to manage, once you get used to the fact that the food pyramid is now almost upside down from where I started.  Fruits? Bad.  Vegetables?  Mostly okay.  Even cabbage has to be tracked, though.  And fat and protein galore!  Which is a bit of a challenge for me when left to my own devices because I have almost no experience cooking meat.
The hardest things are two-fold.  The first is that when cooking for a crowd, you really do need a side dish that is a carb or the meal seems lopsided.  We had a dinner for an out-of-town guest and the people who invited him to come this week and my spouse took a large scoop of risotto before he realized that is off the list of acceptable foods.  Oops!  The other is that eating in restaurants can be a little tricky.  Interestingly, the higher end the restaurant, the better the choices.  In some places, salad is the only real option.  In others, where there are good low carb meat options, but you can get caught.  I ordered scallops and they came with a bit of bread crumbs on them.  I ate them, because I am not going to be a crazy woman when it comes to all this, but my first thought was "what??".  And my second thought was that the prosciutto and spinach deviled eggs were delicious and that I am going to have to make them at home.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Grand Canal, As Seen from Souzhou, China

The Grand Canal is the longest man made waterway in the world.  It was built in the Sui dynasty (600 CE) and runs between Hanzhou and Beijing.  In the Song dynasty (10th C) an engineer, Qiao Weiyue, invented the lock, and allowed ships to navigate the length of the canal.  Is it any wonder that when the Chinese sailed the world, long before Europeans did, that they saw nothing that impressed them?  No, it really isn't.  They were just so far ahead of the rest of us.  This canal was used to transport goods up and down China, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  And very lovely to sit along side and watch the boats go by.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tian'ai, The Shanghai Road of Love

 Graffiti is not widely tolerated on China, but this street in the Hongkuo district is an exception to that rule.  Hongkuo has long been home to the different in Shanghai.  It is where immigrants are drawn to today, but there was a time when that was where they were allowed to be.  So a street that is all about love does seem to belong there.  On one side of the street there are these bold paintings that are loosely love themed.  Some of them are gentle and romantic, and others, like the one pictured on the right, are bold and challenging.  The street is not very long, but it holds a lot of visual stimuli.
The left side of the street is decorated with love poems.  These are printed on plaques with traditional shapes.  The poetry is from around the world.  I found one by Pablo Neruda.  This side of the street is delicate and almost tender.  And then, at the very end of the street, is a green freestanding mailbox, where it is traditional to mail your love letter from.  We saw people stopping in front of it to have their picture taken there.  It is all a bit of free fun and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Make Earth Day About Science

The new administration has been very successful at activating the usually somewhat lackadaisical amongst us to be more involved in telling our legislators what it is that we want.  And that is just about the only good thing that I can see having come out of the most recent election. The terrible horrible no good thing about it is that many of the efforts  the Obama administration made to help prepare us for a future where renewable sources of energy are highly sought after have been cut off at the knees.  The effect of climate denial is not just a poor choice for the planet, it is a poor choice for those who hope to see a manufacturing resurgence in the United States.  Coal may or may not make a brief comeback, but it is just that.  A short term solution to very deep and long problem that won't go away by making fun of it, as #45 is doing.  Sadly, it is the people who voted hi in as their savior who are most likely to suffer the consequences.  So today, stand up for science.  And pray for a better tomorrow.

Friday, April 21, 2017

It is New Year's Everywhere


 So much celebrating!  I had no idea what a huge holiday New Year's (or what is also known as the Spring Festival) is in China until spending two weeks there in the midst of it.  The whole country is taken up with it for weeks.  The only thing that I have seen that is similar is Christmas time in Latin America.  The whole country is on the move, everyone returning home to spend time with family and to celebrate.  The decorations abound and the shops are closed, or at least half of them are.  Even the street vendors are away.
The peacefulness of the crowded streets, and the sensation of being very close to others without feeling pushed or shoved is very nice.  I was at a tea house in a crowded part of the old town in Shanghai, and it was just packed, with a long slow line to look at various decorations.  But not once did I feel uncomfortable, and when the line wound it's way to the front of the tea house, we went in and enjoyed an interlude there, looking down on the crowd.  It was quietly joyous, and it was very nice to be a part of that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

It has been a month since I had my end of treatment visit.  We did not have a big talk.  In many ways, it was a long time coming and chemotherapy was definitely taking its toll on me in a lot of little ways.  But the thing about getting it is that you feel like you are actively doing something.  Intellectually I know that is faulty thinking.  It is certainly true that I have been pretty beat up by chemo this past year and a half, and a break in that has been a long time coming.  People ask me if it is fatiguing, and I really can't say with certainty.  But the fact of the matter is that when you finish, all there is left to do is wait, and that is very hard indeed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Framing Nature in a Chinese Garden

 On my recent trip to China I spent a lot of time walking, period.  The two days that we spent with people who had grown up in China, the very first thing that we did was to walk through gardens.  If you want to know something about the culture of China, pay attention to what they want their visitors to see.  The ingenuity and artistry of these gardens in creating spaces that are intentionally staged but remarkably beautiful and restful abounds in the Shanghai area.
This is just one of literally hundreds of examples that I saw of beautiful frames the natural world.  Chinese gardens have a lot of imported rock formations that are designed to accentuate and in some cases, to create a focal point for the framing.  These rocks are interesting in and of themselves, and they also work well with trees and flowers to create memorable peaceful portraits that can change with the season.
In one garden we were in, I saw people getting photographs of loved ones that utilized these beautiful frames for the portrait.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Saw The Light (2016)

This is a painful movie to watch, but is still well worth it, especially if you have a soft spot for some of his music.   Hank Williams Jr, had a lot of self confidence and a dream of performing at the Grand Ole Opry from an early age.  He also had a need to be married but not the concomitant need to be faithful to said wife.  His first marriage was very tumultuous as a result.  He also had a very bad drinking problem at a very young age, which led to a number of other problems, none of which are side stepped in the movie.
Williams was a songwriter and a performer with equal parts talent at both.  He wrote memorable songs with his own stamp on them--but the drink is what took him down, and he died at the young age of 29 years.  I had no idea the scope of what he wrote that I like, and no idea that he died so young.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sage Cherry Vodka Cocktail

My kids got a cocktail of the month kit for my spouse for his birthday this year and April is vodka month.  This cocktail, called "Under Sage Drinking", was a very good start.

2 oz. Vodka
1 Tbsp. Cherry Preserves
1/4 oz. Elderflower Syrup
1 oz. Meyer Lemon Juice
4 Sage leaves

Add ingredients to an ice filled cocktail shaker, saving two of the sage leaves out.  Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into ice filled glasses and serve.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Shanghai Longtangs

I love this picture, because while their time may be limited in the new China, the longtang or alley, is an oft seen phenomenon, and they also have a much more urban landscape (see the skyscraper in the background?  That is the norm, not the exception).  The old ways mixed in with the new.  These alleyways bustle with activity.  The comings and goings are frequent, but the longtang forms a neighborhood of sorts, a community that is not the same as what you would have if you moved into and apartment building.
The thing that I do not know is how does a person rate such a dwelling, versus those that live in more modern but also more congested apartment buildings.  I would be far happier myself living with less newness and more tradition. Here, amidst China's impressive surge of urbanizing its population over a very short time period, there are still vestiges of the way things used to be in the 1930's heyday of Old Shanghai.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

This is a great young adult book about growing up poor and black and smart.  I think that there is a lot to learn from the main character, Jade, about why African Americans get mad and stay mad.  Jade is a girl who has a whole lot going for her.  She is smart and she knows that in order to escape poverty she needs to escape where she lives.  Not just the neighborhood but the whole place.  She needs to create the new her, and she can't do it in too familiar an environment.  That has the downstream problem of stripping her of her support system, and I think that is underappreciated.  Then there is the burden of being an underrepresented minority when you do get out of your neighborhood.  Jade gets a scholarship to a good private school, which is a huge plus for her, but the downside is that they, not her, decide what is the best "opportunity" for her to receive, and it is not always a great fit for her.  Which leaves her angry and those who are affording her these advantages interpret that as being ungrateful.  She has a tough line to walk and the book really nicely points that out.  Highly recommended.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Handmade Life

This month marks a year that I have been actively taking classes and making things by hand.  I have made many things over the years, and benefited greatly from taking classes.  It all started in earnest when I lived in Fresno many years ago.  There was (and still is) a great quilting shop with excellent workshops, and a fiber guild which supports fiber arts of all kinds.  I can't say that I loved every class that I took, but I learned something from each of them (which was sometimes that I would never take such a class again!), and occasionally learned something that I then did over and over again.  So it turns out that in order to get my handmade life back on track, I really need to take a class.  So despite having made great strides in that direction, I am still taking a class a month on average to keep that momentum on track.  And truly, if I could do it as a resident, when I was working long and crazy hours, I should be able to do so now.  So if this is something you have been struggling with doing on your own, seek out a local business to help you get back in the groove.  I also try to finish what I started be fore the next class, which I have been almost 100% successful with. Thank you, Home Ec.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ho Feng Shan

 I vaguely knew about this man before I went to Shanghai, because my spouse has two great uncles who were able to escape Austria in World War II by going to Shanghai.
After Austria’s annexation to Nazi Germany in March 1938, the 185,000 Jews there were subjected to what amounted to terrorism, which resulted in intense pressure to leave the country. In order to do so, the Nazis required that Jews have entry visas or boat tickets to another country. However, the majority of the world’s nations refused to budge from their restrictive immigration policies.
Unlike his fellow-diplomats, Ho Feng-Shan, who served as the Chinese consul-general in Vienna during 1938-1940, issued visas to Shanghai to all requesting them, even to those wishing to travel elsewhere but needing a visa to leave Nazi Germany.
Many of those helped by Ho did indeed reach Shanghai, either by boat from Italy or overland via the Soviet Union. Many others made use of their visas to reach alternate destinations, including Palestine, the Philippines, and elsewhere....
Ho Feng Shan refused to abide by the instructions of his superior, Chen Jie, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, who ordered him to not issue visas. Chen Jie, hoping to cement closer ties between China and Germany, wanted to be compliant with the Germans.  That didn't work well for them anyway, as China had already been invaded by Germany's ally, Japan.
While Austrian Jews were well treated in China, it wasn't the ultimate landing place for these refugees, because when Mao ascended to power, they were all kicked out.  Not because they were Jewish but because they weren't Chinese.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Broiled Lobster Tails

We were shopping at Costco last week, which is now limited to vegetable, meat, cheese, and some nuts as our purchase options due to carbohydrates being off the menu for the time being.  So while I do not normally get much seafood there, I was unable to resist it recently.  And it was a pleasant surprise how delicious this very simple preparation of lobster tails was.  And quickly made, so another good week night menu option.


This is more of a technique than a recipe.
  1. Cut a section out of the tail.  You can do this on either side, but you want them to lay flat in the broiling pain and to have an exposed surface.  Sprinkle pepper and a seafood seasoning mix evenly over the exposed tail meat.  If you don't have seafood seasoning, you can use salt and paprika instead.  Then put about a clove of garlic, minced, on each tail, and top with a tablespoon of butter thinly sliced over each tail Some of this will melt and roll off, but a lot of it will coat and flavor the tail as it cooks.
  2. Broil 8-10 minutes.
  3. Squeeze some lemon juice over each tail and serve.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Jews in Shanghai

 Passover is the season to celebrate freedom.  The Jews who left Austria and came to Shanghai's Hong Kuo neighborhood didn't entirely leave Yiddish culture behind them, but they also blended in with the Chinese around them. 
This little museum to the ever so brief time that Jews lived in Shanghai during WWII and left when Mao came to power.  This was not the first time that Jews lived in China.  They were there as early as the 7th century, and had a trading presence through the Song, Tang, and into the Qing dynasties, but always as little communities and often times assimilating.  Jews who came from Austria worked to learn the language and be a part of the immigrant rich Hong Kuo neighborhood.  They were largely accepted as well.
The temple that was established by those refugees is now home to the Shanghai Refugee Museum, which is a very inspirational place to go.  There are lots of things that people brought with them and then left behind, as well as photographs and videotaped stories of many people who took shelter in this neighborhood after literally fleeing with their lives. They talked about all the great things that happened to them, and left out all the terror and misery.  They were very grateful for what China did for them, even though at the time, Shanghai was an occupied city.  So they didn't escape war, but they did escape concentration camps and almost certain death.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ma Nishtana

And so it begins.  Why is this night different from all other nights?  It is different because on this night we celebrate freedom.  Our ancestors experienced slavery but we are free.  Life may not be perfect but for one week every year it seems reasonable to look back into the past and acknowledge that in fact we have some real pluses.
Two thoughts from me on this.  The first is that human trafficking is a very real thing for women from impoverished countries.  Some are imprisoned as sex slaves, some are sold into it, but slavery is not over for everyone on the planet.  That is a very bad thing.
The other is that given the totalitarian nature of our current government that we should not take our own freedoms for granted.  The rise of racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and the open lack of tolerance for differences is just bad for us.  It gives us nothing and it takes away a lot. So speak out, support democracy, say something when you see something.  The time for silence is over.  And Happy Passover to all!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Butter Steamed Broccoli

This is definitely one for those of us who are eating ketogenically.  The original recipe call for toasted breadcrumbs, which I have omitted.  I did not add crumbled ChicharrĂ³n either, but that can be done and maintain it's ketogenic appeal.  The thing that I was incredulous of was that the steaming liquid of butter and water would get absorbed, but it does and it is delicious.
This is both very easy and very quick to make, so a perfect week night side dish.




*   1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper or     red pepper flakes             
  • Salt
  • 1 large head or 2 medium heads broccoli (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, for shaving              
    1.  Cut broccoli tops into 3-inch-long spears of approximately equal size.  Cut off thick stems of broccoli and save for another purpose, such as soup, or peel them and make them into sticks and use them.
    2. Put a large skillet over medium-high heat. Melt butter, add broccoli  and season with pepper and salt. Add 1 cup water, turn heat to high and cover skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Cook rapidly until firm-tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes. The broccoli should absorb all the butter and water. (If there is any buttery liquid left, spoon over broccoli just before serving.)
    3. Transfer broccoli to a serving platter or a large wide shallow bowl. Sprinkle shaved Parmesan into rough shards and scatter over the top if desired.


    Saturday, April 8, 2017

    Jianbing, It's What's For Breakfast

     Jianbing are incredibly delicious.  They are traditionally made on the street and cost less than a dollar.  They are fun to watch being made as well, so it is an all around great food.
    Here's how it goes.  First a wrapper is made.  A crepe maker is used, but the wrapper has the consistency of a scallion pancake.  I have made these at home using a purchased frozen scallion pancake, and rolled it out so that it is thin.  It is less eggy than a crepe and more durable (see how it is eaten, by holding in your hand.  The texture is chewier than a flour tortilla, and it is then toasted a bit so that it is also crispy.  An egg is cracked and scrambled and seasoned on the griddle once the wrapper is cooked, and then the wrapper is placed over the egg, and then flipped, so it is now egg side up.  Add something for heat that you spread about (I used a Ja Jan Sauce when I got home to try to replicate, which is a spicy bean paste), griddle some lettuce and herbs to add, and then roll it up.
    I can't understand why they have not been imported, because they are spectacular! 


    Friday, April 7, 2017

    Doulun Lu, Hong Kuo, Shanghai


     There are great statues of well known and well respected Chinese writers on this street, Doulun Lu, which is dedicated to them.  Pictured at right is Ding Ling and on the left is Lu Xun and colleagues (plus my nephew and sister-in-law).
    It is quite fitting that on this charming street should have a used bookstore.

    Thursday, April 6, 2017

    Marinated Mushrooms

    You really have to be on a low carb diet for this recipe to make any sense for you to make, but it is a really good oil based marinade that harkens back to the mid-20th century.

    1 pound mushrooms
    2 c. mild flavored oil
    1 c. white vinegar
    1 T. salt
    2 T. Worcestershire sauce
    6 cloves garlic minced
    2 tsp. dijon mustard
    1/2 c. chopped chives, sliced scallions, of small diced red onion
    1 tsp. Lemon juice
    Bay leave

    Put mushrooms in a jar, whole if they are smaller and halved or quartered if they are larger.  Mix the other ingredients together and pour over.  Let stand at least 24 hours, then try them.  If fully flavored, discard the marinade and serve.  If not, keep testing them.

    Wednesday, April 5, 2017

    Instructions Not Included (2013)

    My youngest son has continued to drive the bus on what we watch as a family these days.  He picked this one out not realizing that it is a (mostly) Spanish language film, which is a challenge for him because he then has to read the whole movie.  I am a fan, and we all agreed that this was a good one.  Which is interesting, because there is not a truly likable character in the whole film.  Everyone either is completely unlikable or has a mixture of each trait (which is maybe closer to what we are like as people, to be sure).
    The story goes that an Acapulco playboy has a ten month old baby dropped in his lap by her mother.  He has not intention of taking care of her, but on the journey to the United States he falls in love with her, so that when he can't find the mother, he gets a job that will allow them to live comfortably.  He cares very much for her, and over time he is mostly a good parent to her as well.  The mostly part is that he is more of a friend than a parent who manages the rules.  then the mother comes back into their lives and their happy equilibrium is permanently disrupted. Lots to think about, and enjoyable.

    Tuesday, April 4, 2017

    Lu Xun Park, Hong Kuo, Shanghai

     I loved this park, which is in my favorite Shanghai neighborhood, Hong Kuo.  On the one hand it is in honor of a noted modern Chinese author, and on the other it pays homage to the great writers of the West.  They are really engaging statues that invite you to go up and talk with them, or sit on the bench and chat.  They are both serious and whimsical at the same time.
    This is the tribute to Lu Xun.  He is considered to be one China's greatest modern writer for most of the 20th century. Many of the other authors of fictional works of social criticism popular during the 1920s and 1930s have been at least partially discredited or criticized during the various political movements in China since 1949, but Lu Xun's reputation has remained consistently distinguished, perhaps because he died young. Mao Zedong called him "commander of China's cultural revolution."
    H wrote int he 1920's, a much romanticized time in Shanghai.  He did not feel optimistic that radical social change would occur in China, and he did not project idealized revolutionary heroes or situations in his fiction. Yet he also did not offer  descriptions of the sufferings of the Chinese people. Instead, through vivid analogies and exaggerated characters, he presented his personal vision of Chinese society. The intensity and darkness of this vision makes reading a Lu Xun story a moving and disturbing experience.

    Monday, April 3, 2017

    Mussels in White Wine and Cream

    When eating ketogenic, do not spare the cream.  Weirdly, mussels are not the most lo carb of shellfish, but they are lo carb enough.  This was the treat that we brought home from our recent trip to Costco.

    • 2 pounds fresh mussels
    • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 2 tbsp yellow onion
    • 1 cup white wine
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1 teaspoon thyme
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • pinch of red pepper flakes
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    -In a deep stock pot, heat garlic, onion and olive oil over medium heat until fragrant.
    -Add mussels, cream, wine, chicken stock, lemon, salt, thyme and red pepper flakes.  Stir a few times, cover and and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat until mussels open.
    -When mussels open, turn off heat and transfer mussels and some of their broth into a serving bowl.  Top with fresh parsley.

    Sunday, April 2, 2017

    Star Trek Beyond (2016)

    Ok, you would right to say that this is just a repackaging of every other Star Trek movie.  In fact, it even returns to the original Star Trek ship, no less.  However, if you grew up loving the series, then I don't think you will be disappointed with this installment.  As is almost always the case, there is a new alien life form introduced, and in this one it is Jaylah, a very appealing character.  She not only saves Captain Kirk's crew, she is right on par with Scotty when it comes to mechanical chops.
    Krall is the bad guy, for a long time it looks like he is going to have his way with them, and you know how that is going to turn out.  It is all in the telling, or really, the watching, but bear in mind that Simon Pegg is not only Scotty, he is also the script writer.  We have just a few Oscar nominees left to watch, and this one amazingly did not win in the category it was nominated in, Best Makeup and Hairstyles.  So while I have seen two out of three of those nominees, I have yet to see the winner.

    Saturday, April 1, 2017

    The Lion Dance

     This was in the lobby of the hotel, which might lead you to think that it was for tourists, but other than ourselves and one other couple, the majority of the audience were hotel employees.
    The lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance that is performed on big occasions, such as the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) for good luck, as it is believed that the lion is an auspicious animal
    Performed in a lion costume, accompanied by the music of beating drums, clashing cymbals, and resounding gongs, lion dances imitate a lion's various movements or demonstrate martial arts agility, depending on the style.

    The lion was only an animal which existed in myth for the average Chinese. Before the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD), only a few lions had reached the Central Plains from the western area of ancient China (now Xinjiang), due to the Silk Roadtrade.  At that time, people mimicked the appearance and actions of the newly arrived lions in a performance, which developed into the lion dance in the Three Kingdoms Period (220–280) and then became popular with the rise of Buddhism in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420–589). In the tang (618–907), the lion dance was one of the court dances.  We saw a Southern China version of the dance, which focuses on the gyrations of the two lions who fight, and ultimately one of them grabs the dangling lettuce.  Not sure why that is such a catch, except that in modern China it is also associated with a red envelope of money.