Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coffee Cut-back

So the economic pinch is finally rattling the Starbucks crowd. Welcome to my world. Well, almost. You're not quite there yet. I was never a Starbucks groupie, but used to frequent DD on regular basis. That was back when their mascot was the guy with the mustache who had to get up in the wee hours to "make the donuts". When DD went public, raised their prices and then got rid of Fred, I stopped visiting DD on a regular basis. Their objective shifted from the customer to the stockholder. Now, if I go there 6 times in year, that's a lot. We buy Chock-full-o-nuts at $1.68 per 13 oz. can on sale at Discount Foods. That's less than a cup at DD Starbucks or the 7-11 and it makes a week's worth of coffee. My only regret is that this is most probably not "fair-trade" coffee, so it comes with a guilty conscience. It does take some level of financial security to drink coffee that was paid for fairly and thus support the coffee farmers who barely survive to keep the rest of us awake.

Those of us in a lower income bracket than the Starbucks crowd, without any academic training in macro or micro or any other economics could have predicted the trends that the media is finally reporting on now. It doesn't take a genius to tell us that the economy is in a downturn. We're spending a zillion dollars on a friggin war while our domestic infrastructure crumbles and our most critical needs are becoming unaffordable, and I don't mean Starbucks coffee. Don't get me started. There are other blogs for that.

All I really want to express is my sentiment, "God, my heart bleeds for all those who must cut corners by foregoing a twice a day Starbucks habit!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Watching PBS's Nova documentary Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial last night gave me a dose of adrenalin that kept me awake. For someone who's a light sleeper and has had a problem with insomnia, the program should have come with a warning: "May cause rapid heartbeat and sleeplessness in most educated, rational humans especially those who have experienced psychological and/or physical violence or other prejudice (e.g. homosexuals) at the hands of irrational, close-minded, fundamentalist, so-called "christians".

The movie follows the story of a school board in a Pennsylvania town which tried to interject "intellegent design" into the high school science curriculum and the science teachers that opposed the measure. Those on the school board pushing "intelligent design/creationism" as a legitimate scientific theory along side that of evolution, are of the same ilk as those who refused to believe Galileo , and those who today condemn gay and lesbian persons on the basis of some misinterpreted biblical passages and in the face of so much scientific and psycho-social evidence demonstrating that sexual orientation is a natural, morally neutral, human variation.

Seeing them twist language to make things fit their predefined mold was both frustrating and upsetting. These "true believers" are closed to any possibility of discovery, of learning, of actually changing their concrete, black and white, blinder-constricted view of the world. At least most intellectual religions have long ago reconciled reason/science with scriptural allegory.

I think these fundamentalists should forego taking advantage of any medical or scientific discovery that has been made on the basis of the theory of evolution or on the basis of the origin of species or on the basis of the related science of genetics. That would include most of the food they eat.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Anti-Christmas Tree

Our Tree- December 2006.
We have this tradition that we don't have very traditional Christmas Trees. We especially don't pay more than $15 for a tree, unless it can be planted outdoors. Last year we had a tall thin Juniper that we planted in the corner where the sun-room juts out from the house. One year I used an inverted wire tomato cage and wired all kinds of greens to it that I gathered from 2+ acres of woods on our property.

This year we've already got our tree - fresh cut and for free, AND we did not purposely destroy a tree for this purpose AND its already in its recycle stage.

Two women across town asked Leon to help them with a dump run. We went to their house on Saturday morning to load up our truck with branches and trunks of two trees they had cut down in their yard. One happened to be a nice spruce tree. I had visions of wreaths and the prospect of selling them for $10 each, but the amount of work, or more importantly, time, that would be required made it unrealistic.

The tree-top however would make a perfect tree, well, our definition of perfect: less than $15 and preferably with an element of recyclability and a "Charlie Brown" homeliness. Leon wants to decorate it with baby's breath. He'd better not spend more than $15 on it, that's all.

We loaded two truckloads of wonderfully fragrant evergreens and headed to the dump. What a place to go for greens for the holidays. In addition to the beautiful spruce branches we delivered, there were holly greens and parchment hydrangeas. What a terrible waste. And people will be paying maybe $75 for a wreath or spray during the holidays. I'm keeping this in mind for next year!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Keeping warm

Baking biscotti tonight to keep the house warm. We've had a mild autumn so far, with a few cold nights here and there, mostly this past week. So roasting a chicken in the oven or a pot roast or oatmeal cookies or biscotti help take the chill off.

Here's the recipe:


2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp of salt
¼ cup oil
2 eggs
1 orange, juice and rind or ¼ cup frozen OJ

Substitutions: Anisette
Preheat oven to 375o
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange rind and salt in a bowl
Combine the eggs with the orange juice and oil
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients
Mix till soft dough forms
Divide the dough in two and form into two flat loaves, placed side by side on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with granulated sugar
Bake for 25 minutes

Slice the loaf and turn slices on the side on the cookie sheet
Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes
For extra crispness, turn biscotti over and bake another 8-10 minutes.
(Does this make them triscotti?)


2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp of salt
1 stick of butter
2 eggs
¼ cup of hazelnut liqueur (Fra Angelico) (for almond use almond extract or Amaretto)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup of toasted hazelnuts (or almonds, toasted)

Preheat oven to 350
Toast the hazelnuts in a skillet, do not allow to burn
Chop the hazelnuts
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl
Cut in the butter
Add the chopped hazelnuts
Combine the eggs with the liqueur and vanilla
Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients
Mix till a soft dry dough forms (add a bit of flour if too wet)
Divide the dough in two and form into two flat loaves, placed side by side on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with granulated sugar
Bake for 25 minutes

Slice the loaf and turn slices on the side on the cookie sheet
Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes
(For a crisper biscotti turn over the slices and bake another 8-10 minutes)

VARIATIONS: dried cranberries, honey, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pistachio, chocolate chips

Tonight I made anisette walnut chocolate chip biscotti AND orange cranberry walnut biscotti.

Warm and delicious!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reluctant Reflections

I don’t know if it is just the time of year or the fact that a number of events have coincided, but in recent weeks I, and those close to me, have had cause to consider life and death. During this season we celebrate All Hallows Eve, All Saints and All Souls, which just about covers everyone who has passed away, at least in Christendom in the two thousand plus years AD. People seem to talk more about loved ones who have died, recounting their last days over the lunch table at work.

The tragic and sudden loss of a dear friend in the prime of life, just weeks ago, seems so unfair, so random and so cruel. And this past week, a close relative suddenly and without warning, developed a rare autoimmune blood disorder that ravished her platelets overnight and left her susceptible to a host of serious, life threatening complications. Though she is recovering, it was touch and go for a while. She had the “last rites” as the sacrament was once called, signifying the seriousness of the circumstances under which it is administered.

While this was all transpiring, we learned of a senseless and deadly accident on the Interstate involving two tractor trailers and several vehicles and leaving at least six dead and more seriously injured. It is the randomness and unforeseen nature of these happenings that make them so frightening, so unfair, so cruel.

These events remind us of how fragile life is. They shake us up. They cause us to pause. But rarely do they make us change course. Not that they should, but it is curious: in the face of death, we consider how trivial our pursuits really are, how silly in fact they look from the perspective of death. And yet we immediately return to our meetings and reports, our laundry and grocery shopping, watching TV and complaining about the price of gasoline. For most of us, life is a series of more or less ordinary activities.

Thornton Wilder in The Bridge of San Luis Rey explored the randomness of death. As I recall, the good Brother who investigated the lives of those who were “precipitated to their deaths” when the bridge broke sometime in 16th century Peru, came to no great revelations about the meaning or purpose of the event, about those who lost their lives or about life and death. I think we, in our reflections here and now have no more insightful conclusions to share. Life goes on.


Related Posts with Thumbnails