Friday, February 29, 2008

Orange Spice Cake


I made Kelli's delicious Orange Spice Loaf today for dessert. I bought the flower shaped pan at a local housewares store recently, so I decided to use it for the first time instead of a loaf pan as Kelli did when she made the recipe. I think it came out great! I just dusted the cake with confectioners sugar this time, but next time I make it I might try to do an colored icing and emphasize the flower design.

I used Kelli's recipe as seen on her beautiful Seasonal Delights Magazine web page, but I added the zest from 2 oranges and some chopped pecans to the batter at the last step. The cake had a nice sweet citrus flavor, and had a pound cake consistency... just perfect to accompany a cup of tea!

The china in my picture are some of my few cherished pieces of Irish Belleek China. I bought the teapot when I was on a vacation in Ireland two years ago. Now that the dollar to Euro exchange is so bad, I'm glad I bought it then!

I can't believe tomorrow will be March 1! This year there will be St Patrick's Day decorations along side Easter decorations. Thankfully it means Spring will finally be here soon!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What I Know Now

I was browsing through some catalogs that came in my mail today, and I came upon this book title in one of them: "What I Know Now: Letters To My Younger Self."

It is a compilation of short letters written by 40 well know women such as Maya Angelou, Senator Barbara Boxer, clothing designer Eileen Fisher,etc. They were asked to pass on their current wisdom to a younger self.

I found this idea intriguing, and I wondered would I feel able to impart the wisdom I've learned in my life to my younger self?

One of my all time favorite philosophical passages is this:

"It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. And if one thinks over that proposition it becomes more and more evident that life can never really understood in time simply because at no particular moment can I find the necessary resting place from which to understand it—backwards."~ Søren Kierkegaard

At what age do we rest and reflect backwards? Is it mid life? Is it when we retire? At what age do we consider ourselves "wise" ?

On today's Oprah show, "The Age Of Miracles: The New Midlife," a similar theme was discussed by Oprah's guest, Marianne Williamson, about recognizing midlife not as a point of change, but as a right of passage to celebrate and embrace.

At 50, 60 or older, we are not finished living, we are entering an age of new wisdom. We may be able to pass on what we've learned so far to the young, but we are also still learning, still exploring, still discovering new abilities, and taking new opportunities. We do not have to dread becoming older. We can accept in our hearts and minds that we have much more of life ahead to enjoy.

"I want you to begin to believe that 50 and beyond will literally be the most miraculous—and I do mean miracles occurring in your life," Oprah says.

Since I am in my middle 50's I can appreciate that concept. I may have weaker eyes, creakier knees, and a thicker waist line than when I was in my earlier years, but I also feel less concern about what others think of me, and I am enjoying life more. I feel happy about all my past accomplishments and I look forward to appreciating each new day as a special gift, as I realize good health is not to be taken for granted anymore. I want to travel, read, learn to paint, have fun, and worry less. I don't think I would change that much of my past. I had an interesting career, spent wonderful years enjoying raising my children, and, along with my husband, have provided for the future. I might have not be what I am now if I did not live the life I did.

So when I stop to think about what wisdom I would write in a letter to my younger self, all I can think of is to be less worried about what others think, and just enjoy life!

What would you write in your letter to your younger self? Are you looking forward to the miracles yet to be?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Teacher Resources

I am very proud of my children.

My son works for a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators of our nation's 50 states, as a representative in the field of education, and his wife, my daughter-in-law, is a kindergarten teacher, and now my daughter, who has been in a high powered business job for five years, has almost completed a Master Degree program in elementary education.
My daughter had her first official day of class room observation in a NYC public school yesterday. She was very touched because a little girl in the class made a card for her which said: "I like you! Please come back soon." That made my daughter's resolve to teach someday all the stronger

Teaching is a noble profession that requires much stamina, dedication and creativity.
Luckily, for today's teachers, the Internet has a wealth of information available to help them plan and enhance their lessons, to do arts and crafts to decorate their classrooms, and suggest many topics for their students to explore.

I've been collecting teacher resource web sites for a long time to share with my daughter-in-law and my daughter, and I'd love to share them with you.

I also have a request that if you have any in your favorite files that I don't mention, please put a link in your comments, and I'll edit my post to add it.

Thanks so much!



Education World -- lesson planning, professional development, technology integration, school issues, the administrator's desk.
The Educator's Reference Desk -- resource guides, lesson plans, question archives, search GEM and ERIC
I Love That Teaching Idea -- We inspire teachers with practical, teacher-created ideas and resources that you can use in your classroom immediately.
Teachnet.com -- lesson plans, power tools, sharing, help
Teachers Net -- teaching ideas and lesson plans
Federal Resources For Educational Excellence -- teaching and learning resources from Federal Agencies
Teacher Vision -- dedicated to helping teachers save time. Find 15,000 pages of classroom-ready lesson plans, printables, and resources. Some are free, some require subscription
The Teacher's Corner -- lesson plans, thematic units, seasonal items, printable worksheets,message boards, bulletin boards, book nook, etc.
Teacher Tube -- an online community for sharing instructional videos.
Embracing the Child -- literature for learning and shared reading
DLTK's Printable Crafts for Kids -- a variety of fun, printable children's crafts, coloring pages and more including projects for holidays, educational themes and some of our children's favorite cartoon characters
New York Times Learning Network -- grades 3 -12 connections for parents student and teachers
Scholastic -- teacher resources, student activities, books and authors
Homework NYC -- New York City Library resources for students and teachers
National Geographic Educator's Site -- geography resources for educators
Atlapedia Online -- full color physical maps, political maps as well as key facts and statistics on countries of the world
The History Place -- dedicated to students, educators, and all who enjoy history
A to Z Teacher Stuff -- teacher resources, lesson plans, themes, tips, printable,and more
The Teacher's Room -- sharing teaching ideas with other kindergarten teachers online
Exploratorium -- the museum of science, art and human perception
Crayola -- free coloring pages, crafts, creative resources for teachers
Kids Printables -- kids crafts, song lyrics, jokes and recipes
Sites for Teachers -- hundreds of educational web sites rated by popularity
Time for Kids -Teachers -- worksheets,mini lessons, graphic organizers
PBS Teachers -- PBS's national web destination for high-quality preK-12 educational resources

ETA: 2/27
Teacher's Net Gazette -- features education news, commentary, teaching tips, lessons, pedagogy, classroom crafts, recipes, inspiration, humor, and free printables for the classroom
Administrator's Net -- topics for school administrators
Project Impact -- K to 12 resources for teachers -- many helpful web site links
2/28
Children's Books -- This site is a resource for parents, teachers, librarians, collectors, writers, illustrators, and others who value children and children's books
Teacher Wide -- hundreds of low cost books for children listed by grade level and special interests,some as low as one dollar, bargain bundles, and teacher resource books, classroom supplies
Jan Brett -- projects to extend Jan Brett books to Reading/Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies and Music/Art/Drama. The web projects are ongoing adventures. The goal is to provide educational information that can enhance and enrich any elementary school curriculum
Children's Book Council --a nonprofit trade association and our members are publishers of trade books for children and young adults in the United States
3/4/08
Education Oasis --a not-for-profit, non-commercial siteof free teaching resources created by teachers, for teachers.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

National Clam Chowder Day

I got an e-mail from Boudin Bread that today is "National Clam Chowder Day"



One of the most delicious clam chowders I've ever eaten was on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco that I bought at Boudin's Cafe . It was served in a sourghdough bread bowl that was overflowing with the creamy soup as you can see in this picture:


It was a beautiful day when I was visiting San Francisco, so I sat outside on the dock to eat my soup, and had a row of big frisky seagulls watching my every move in the chance I would throw them some crumbs of bread. They were disappointed because I ate it all, and was so full afterwards I didn't have dinner that night! Just look at the size of that bread bowl!

The Boudin's Bakery was full of beautiful loafs of a variety of breads, but their most famous is the sourghdough bread.
It has been made the same way since 1848 using a portion of the original dough starter nurtured for over 150 years to begin each batch.
Information from the Boudin web site : "Wild yeasts in the San Francisco air had imparted a unique tang to their traditional French bread, giving rise to San Francisco sourdough French bread.....made with just unbleached flour, water, salt and a portion of mother dough; no fats sugars, preservatives or dough conditioners are ever introduced." It has a unique and delicious taste.

The very interesting history of clam chowder is as varied as the region it is made, but the New England clam chowder version is the most commonly known.

Some good clam chowder recipes can be found here:

Hope you enjoy some clam chowder tonight!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

2008 Oscars!

The 80 TH Annual Academy Awards will be televised on Sunday, February 24, 2008, at 8PM EST on ABC. John Stewart will be the host.

Will you be watching?

For a little pre-awards warm up you can go to the official YouTube's Oscar Channel where there are presently 68 past Oscar moment videos to watch.

Having an Oscar party?

Jenny Cisney has some nice "How to throw a movie awards party" tips in her section of Kodak's 1,000 Words Blog, including links to PDF's of invitations and place cards to print.

Chiff.com has a printable Oscar party pool sheet with check off boxes next to each person or movie nominated for an award. The Oscar web site also has a printable ballet to download here

All Recipes.com -has many fun party tips and different theme menus for each of the nominated movies for the "Best Motion Picture" category.

It may be too late to buy the suggested items for an Oscar party at Party Shelf , but you might be able to match their suggestions with items you already own or can make.

Oscar party conversational tips on ReelzChannel will "help you fake your way through any Oscar talk without actually having seen the movies," or so they advise.

Snag some menu ideas from the 80th Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball Menu
by Wolfgang Puck Catering, or the Food Net Work has Wolfgang Puck recipes that you can try.

Choose an Oscar worhty dress, hairstyle, makeup and jewelry in this interactive "Dress Up For Oscar" video on MSNBC.

Finally, take the Oscar Quiz to see if you are "red carpet ready" for show.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Word Magic

I've always loved to learn new words. I'll be the first to admit I am not a scholar, or the most erudite, and crossword puzzles or scrabble are not my passions, but I've always found myself enthralled by vocabulary and the meanings and usage of words.

I think it began in elementary school where I had a language arts teacher who told us to always reach higher and strive to use a more descriptive word. She would tell us "Don't say big, say ASTRONOMICAL!" As a class assignment we had to keep a journal, and write down all the new words we heard and read each day, with their definition, and sometimes the teacher would make us write a composition using ten words from our journal. It created a habit for me to keep a dictionary nearby when ever I read, and I believe I passed on this trait to my children, much to my delight.





Here are some of my favorite linguaphile web sites and newsletters that I've discovered over the years:


Wordsmith Wordsmith.org is a worldwide online community of some half-million people who share a love for words, wordplay, language, and literature.

Wordsmith.org was founded in 1994 by Anu Garg, while studying as a graduate student in computer science. I have subscribed to, and enjoyed, Mr. Garg's free A Word A Day newsletter for years. He usually has a theme for the week, sends a word a day with it's definition, part of speech, an example of its use in a sentence, with a link to hear its pronunciation, and as an added bonus he adds a daily quotation.

AlphaDictionary Enter a word on this web page's search box and it searches 992 online English dictionaries at once! There a quite a few fun features on their web site to explore. I have subscribed to the daily free "What's The Good Word ?" newsletter for years and here, too, a daily word is sent with its definition, parts of speech, pronunciation, "in play" where it is shown how it is used, and "word history" where its etymology is shown.

Vocabulary.com Has root word lesson plans, thematic puzzles, word lists, and test prep/assessment. They have a monthly newsletter which I have recently signed up for. This is a fascinating web site to explore, and has a wealth of information for teachers to use as a resource.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary and thesaurus, word games, “Word of the Day” and the “Word for the Wise” podcasts

The Visual Thesaurus The Visual Thesaurus is an interactive dictionary and thesaurus which creates word maps that visually blossoms with meanings and branches to related words.

LawGuru A searchable dictionary of over 6,500 commonly used legal terms

Acronymfinder A searchable database to find out what any acronym, abbreviation, or initialism stands for.

Ask Oxford Among all the information about English usage and writing resources there is a section called "World of Words" with information about new words and their usage.

Abbreviations Since many abbreviations and acronyms are learned on a need-to-know basis, visit this site for thousands of entries, including Internet emoticons.

Fun With Words Just that! Anagrams, oxymorons, spoonerisms, malapropisms, and word games to play online. Some annoying pop up ads, but I guess that is how they pay for their bandwidth.

Online Spell Check Not a vocabulary web site, but very helpful to me since the spell check function on blogger hasn't been working lately. I might love words, but I never did well in spelling bees! :-)

Even though I've enjoyed words my whole life, as I am getting older I often find that a word I need at a specific time flies right out of my consciousness, only to pop back in hours later when it's no longer needed! It can be very frustrating. Hmmmmm...... I think I just might have to start exercising my brain by doing those crossword puzzles I've been avoiding for so long.

Anyone know an eleven letter word for "writer's cramp"?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bolognese Ragu alla Batali and Brooklyn

I finally was able to upload my pictures from the Valentine's day dinner I made for my husband. He is a native born Italian, so of course his favorite food is pasta, and he especially loves a meat sauce or "ragu," as they say in Italian.

I use a variation of Mario Batali's Ragu Bologonese.

Watch Mario make a very enticing Ragu Bologonese in this video. Click on the arrow on screen to start:



Or, if you prefer, here is the same video on this link on YouTube:


This is Mario Batali's famous Ragu Bolognese recipe that he cooks in the video:

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
4 stalks celery, very finely chopped
4 carrots, very finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 pound ground veal
3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground beef
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste

1 pound spinach tagliatelle, cooked and drained
serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Procedure:
1. Heat the oil and butter in a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed pot, set over medium heat, until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the veal, pork and beef. Increase the heat to high, and brown the meat, stirring frequently, for about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook and stir for another 20 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for another 30 minutes. Add the milk, and cook over high heat for five minutes. Add the wine, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, adding a splash of water if necessary to keep the sauce from drying out.
2. Season the ragù with salt. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool. To serve with pasta, add 2 cups of the ragù to the tagliatelle, and toss briefly over high heat. Divide among four serving bowls, and garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serves 4. (The remaining ragù can be refrigerated for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.)

To paraphrase Mario from this video, every Italian mother and grandmother, sister, Aunt and brother in Italy can have a different version of this recipe, and all are correct. Italy is made up of many different regions, and each region very often has their own unique variation of a popular recipe incorporating the influences of past generations.
In my Valentine Day dinner I used an imported Calabrese tricolore Schiaffoni pasta (translation of tricolore: "three colored," consisting of a blend of three flavors of pasta noodle traditionally one orange colored and flavored with carrot, one red colored and flavored with tomato, and one white or plain in color)

I also used the pork, veal and beef ground meat to make meatballs, which I cooked in my sauce. We prefer to eat it that way, yet the sauce retains a delicious meat flavor. I also added some browned pork sausage, and because I was adding all this meat which I wanted to cook submerged in the sauce I also added 2, 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes in addition to the tomato paste that the recipe calls for. Everything simmers slowly for over two hours and the sauce condenses quite a bit. At the end of cooking I remove the meatballs and sausage and serve it on the side with the pasta dish. And, of course, a big crusty piece of Italian bread is required to sop up any remaining sauce left in you dish after you eat the pasta. Add a salad and some red wine and this meal will have you saying ... Lasciati andare in cucina! (Love and cook with wild abandon!)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Calling all Bibliophiles!

I've learned about two wonderful places to read whole books on the Internet recently.

One site is HarperCollins.com. They are offering a free service where every month they will profile a few novels and non fiction books that can be read entirely online through your computer or I Phone.

This month the entire contents of the following books are available to read in their entirety:

  • “The Witch of Portobello” by Mr. Coelho
  • “Mission: Cook! My Life, My Recipes and Making the Impossible Easy” by Mr. Irvine
  • “I Dream in Blue: Life, Death and the New York Giants” by Roger Director
  • “The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Where They Come from and How You Can Choose” by Mark Halperin
  • “Warriors: Into the Wild” the first volume in a children’s series by Erin Hunter.
HarperCollins has plans to upload a different title by Mr. Coelho each month for the rest of the year.

This was done in an effort by Hapers Collins to increase book sales, and although the entire book will online for a month, it will not be available for download or be able to be printed off the computer, or to be read through an electronic reader such as Amazon's Kindle Reader, but there will be a direct link to order the book from Amazon.com, among other book seller web sites.

This new feature is very similar to the "browse inside" feature that Amazon and Harper Collins has been offering for sometime to promote their books, but now instead of just a few pages to view, the entire book is available.
In a New York Times article, Jane Friedman, the chief executive of HarpersCollins Worldwide said: “The best way to sell books is to have the consumer be able to read some of that content.” She also doubted that readers would read the entire book online, but HarpersCollins would track whether the editions actually helped increase sales.


Another free online book service is located on the Open Access Text Archive of Open Source Books on The Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive is a non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. It has an amazing collection of texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in their collections.

I spent hours this weekend browsing and reading on this fascinating web site. Most of the books are old and copyright free. I used the "flip book" selection to read which is similar to the "browse inside" technology that Amazon uses, but there are other formats with which you can choose to read the book you select from the site's vast collection.

They also have a blog that highlights new collections and interesting items from the Movies, Audio, and Education collections.

Be warned --- if you enjoy old books and films you will find this web site addicting! Happy exploring!

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Orleans - The City of Dreams

This fall I visited New Orleans for the very first time with my husband and daughter. It was a wonderful trip full of beautiful sights, fabulous food, warm friendly people, and touching and poignant experiences.

Above -- The Pontalba apartments in New Orleans near Jackson Square.


Above -- Saint Louis Catherdral and Jackson Square.

Houses along Bourbon Street in New Orleans painted in the traditional colors of salmon pink and green.

My daughter and I awaiting our caffe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter.


The terrible devastation of Hurricane Katrina was still in evidence in many places, and we felt such sadness viewing that, knowing that the lives of many were lost and for others it will never be the same.

Above -- A house that was completely washed off its foundation from the broken levee flood aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Ninth Ward neighborhood.


There was still a strong spirit prevelent in the city, however, of the need to survive and prosper again, and we hope that all will be able to soon rise up, rebuild, and flourish.



Above -- A FEMA trailer on a destroyed house's property with testimonial signs about how they strongly want to rebuild.


Visiting the beautiful old sugar cane plantations along River Road which were over an hour's drive away from New Orleans, reminded me that history will always survive to tell a story, and to create an awareness of both the triumphs and struggles of our developing country.



Above -- the magnificent Oak Alley Plantation

The beautiful 300 hundred year old trees leading up the walkway to the front of Oak Alley Plantation.


During our stay I collected quite a bit of promotional brochures with tourist information and sightseeing tours, which I brought home with me as I was so enthralled with the city that I wanted to review everything again. There were so many unique words associated with New Orleans in the brochures that I got the idea to cut them out and make a collage card for my daughter as a memento of our trip, which you can view here:

New Orleans really was a city of dreams. We fell in love with it, and hope to return again someday. So much has yet to be done to help rebuild it after the 2005 hurricane's destruction, and we will continue to contribute to organizations that help, such as Habitat for Humanity and Musicians Village. Please consider helping too. Help to keep the dream alive.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wishing everyone a day full of love and sweetness. My husband and I will celebrate at home tonight. I'll make a nice dinner and cook some of his favorite foods -- homemade tomato bolognese sauce with pasta, meatballs & sausages, roasted vegetables, and a cherry cheese pie. He already gave me my Valentine's Day gift, by buying me one of my favorite things -- books from my Amazon.com wish list!

To celebrate today, here is a compilation of goodies to enjoy:

A nice history of St.Valentine's Day can be found on Old Fashioned Living

An abundance of Valentine sweets recipes and craft ideas here:

Find how to care for fresh flowers at The Garden Guide

Take the Hershey Candy Kiss quiz on the AOL Food Blog

Lots of love songs in Music To Fall In Love With on NPR

Buy a cuddly blanket covered with love sayings at Affirmagy

Chicken Food For The Soul has stories about secrets to make mealtime sweeter

How to make a Love and Roses cocktail.

Need ideas for aphrodisiacs to spice up your romance? The Food Network has them, and of course lots of Valentine themed recipes too!

Good Housekeeping has tips to make over your love life

Some interesting printables on LovingYou.com and DLTK-Holidays

How to say "I love you" in 100 languages here

Take the animal mating game quiz and see who you resemble. I was a red winged black bird!

True Love Quote

Valentine Love Quotes

Hope these little goodies were fun to see!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vegetable Tripe Soup

I knew it was going to be very cold here in New York this past weekend, so I decided to make a hearty pot of soup on Friday. I went to the butcher to look for inspiration as to what to use to make a stock, and saw a nice piece of tripe. Tripe is a cow's first stomach and in the USA is usualy sold slightly pre-cooked. It's clean, white and honeycombed in appearance.

I grew up eating Campbell's Pepper Pot Soup whose main ingredient was tripe, as my Dad was a Pennsylvania native, and I've learned that it was a favorite soup of Philadelphian's. So therefore I had acquired a taste for it, although I haven't made it in years.
Tradition says that George Washington's cook made it for the first time for the Continental Army at Valley Forge in 1777-78, during the bitter winter when supplies were low.
My husband is Italian, and his mother use to cook tripe frequently when he was a child. It became one of his favorite foods, and I knew he would adore it if I made Tripe soup, so as an early Valentine's Day treat for him that's what I decided to make. To keep it heart healthy I used quite a bit of fresh vegetables. This made a large amount of soup, and I froze half for another cold winter day.

Vegetable Tripe Soup

Ingredients:

2 1/4 pounds pre-cooked tripe
16 ounces package cannellini beans, soaked overnight
one large onion - chopped into small pieces
four cloves garlic - chopped into small pieces (more or less to your taste)
one bag 16 oz carrots, chopped into small pieces
Four red peppers, chopped into small pieces
Four celery stalks and heads - chopped small pieces
2 bay leaves
one 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
one 32 oz organic broth -- chicken or beef, or veal - or you own home made stock of choice.
Two bunches of Swiss chard -- chopped well
6 large potatoes, diced
Red pepper -- one tbsp -- we like it hot -- use less, or none, if you don't
marjoram or oregano --one tsp dried
basil -- one bunch of leaves if fresh, one tbsp if dried
thyme -- one tsp dried
salt to taste

Preperation:
Take the boiled tripe and cut it into thin strips; simmer it covered with just enough water to cover it for another hour (it will shrink considerably) When the hour is almost up heat the olive oil in a large casserole or pot, and sauté the onions, garlic, celery, peppers and carrots. Strain the tripe, reserving the strained liquid. When the sauteed vegetables have become soft add the tripe. Add the strained tripe broth, and the beans which have their soaking liquid discarded, the tomatoes, and the stock of your choice. Cover and simmer over a gentle flame, stirring from time to time and adding small amounts of water if needed during simmering to keep beans and vegetable submerged, cook for about 2 1/2 hours

Remove bay leaves, add chopped Swiss chard, diced potatoes, all spices and salt to taste. Stir well and simmer uncovered another half hour, until potatoes are tender.

Serve it steaming hot, with a dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
I served it with corn bread, but a big loaf of Italian bread would be nice also.

This the basic corn bread recipe that I've used for years:

Easy Corn Bread

Ingredients:

1- 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites, or one beaten egg

Preperation:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 8 - or 9 inch pan --I use my 9 inch cast iron skillet. Combine all dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing until just dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown, and wooden tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

We enjoyed our soup, and I hope if you never tried tripe before you might consider it the next time you encounter it. In Mexico tripe soup is called Menudo, in Greece it would be called
Soupa Patsas, and in the Carribean you would have Sopi Mondongo. I'm sure there is a recipe for a tripe soup in almost every cuisine.
If you've eaten it, I'd love if you tell me about the version you've had, and I hope you like mine!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Otello at The Met

My husband and I enjoy opera, and have been season subscribers to the New York Metropolitan opera at Lincoln Center for many years. Tomorrow, February 11, 2008, we will be seeing Guiseppe Verdi's Otello.(click on the link to read the Met's synopsis of the four act opera)

Information about the performance we will be seeing from the the Met's web site:

"Otello is often considered Verdi’s towering achievement. The composer’s profound musical insights into Shakespeare’s tragedy illuminate the hero’s tragic journey to self-destruction.
Johan Botha brings his clarion tenor to the title role, and the extraordinary Renée Fleming returns to one of her most celebrated parts, the doomed Desdemona. Semyon Bychkov conducts"

A picture of the Metropolitan Opera lobby taken inside from the balcony tier level.


You can join us by clicking on the "Listen Live" connection that will connect you to a real player pop up that will stream the opera live form the Met from 8pm EST, or you listen live on Sirius Radio channel 85 if you subscribe.

I am especially looking forward to hearing Renee Fleming sing the role of Desdemona. I've seen her in another Verdi opera, La Traviata, and her portrayal of the very demanding soprano role of Violetta was sublime.

Here is a picture I took of the last opera we saw in December; Sergei Prokofiev's "War and Peace". I think it had the most performers on stage of any opera we've ever seen. I had to sneak the camera out of my bag to take the picture ......shhhhh.......because the Met does not allow photography during a performance. I did wait until the last few seconds of the ending aria to take it.


There is such beauty and emotion in every opera, and the music and pagentry of the productions at the Met are among the best in the world. If you visit NYC during opera season I hope you will consider a visit to Lincoln Center and enjoy one! You will truly be seeing a masterpiece.

Friday, February 8, 2008

10,000 Steps A Day

I have been making an effort become more fit, and I have been trying to be more conscious of taking 10,000 steps a day.

The average American takes only 3,000-5000 steps a day, and such a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing one or more of the following: high blood pressure, diabetes, excess weight, stroke, heart disease, and high cholesterol levels.

I started to wear a pedometer in December, and I was surprised to learn that on average I was only taking about 6,000 steps a day, even though I usually meet friends in a local park every morning where we walk on a path that is measured to be almost a mile in circumference, and we try to walk around two to three times. Also, there are stairs in my house, which I walk up and down numerous times during the day, and I usually walk to the local stores to do shopping.

Since one mile is considered to be on the average 2,000 steps, I realized I have not been as active as I should be, and I've been trying to make more of an effort to get out for a brisk walk more times during the day.

It does take a conscious effort some days to push away from the computer, or a good book, and get out and walk, but I'm hoping that I can reach this minimal goal and improve my health.

Here is an aerial shot of the circular park path which I walk almost every morning in
Marine Park:

It's a pretty path lined with trees, and there are many regular walkers and dog walkers who we've come to know and greet every moning.

Across the street from the park is another beautiful area in which to walk called the Salt Marsh Nature Center. The salt marsh is a birdwatcher's paradise. Ducks, geese, cormorants, sandpipers, herons, egrets, red-winged blackbirds, and marsh hawks are just a few of the birds that can be seen here.

I love a picture that I took recently of a portion of the walking path in the salt marsh that reminds me of a Vincent Van Gogh painting:

What do you think?

Please join me in 10,000 steps today, and enjoy your view!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today, February 7th, 2008 is the Year of the Rat, which is also known by its former name of Wu Zi. In China, the lunar calendar is still used to determine traditional holidays like Chinese New Year. Since the lunar calendar is based on the phases of the moon, which has a shorter cycle than the sun, the Chinese New Year is never on the same day each year, but typically falls somewhere between January 21st and February 20th.
Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality
The Chinese New Year animals are the following: rat (shu), ox (niu), tiger (hu), hare (tu), dragon (long), snake (she), horse (ma), sheep (yang), monkey (hou), rooster (ji), dog (gou), and pig (zhu).
This is the year of the Rat, and people born this year are said to be charming, hard-working, passionate, and practical.

To prepare for the New Year, Chinese clean their houses, repay any money they owe, get their hair cut, and buy new clothes. They decorate their houses with signs that wish peace and luck for the coming year.
Chinese New Year celebrations last for 15 days with plenty of activities scattered throughout. Among the more popular Chinese New Year activities are the “Welcoming of the Gods of Wealth and Prosperity,” dragon dances, and the “Festival of Lanterns.”
The Welcoming of the Gods of Prosperity, or Jie Cai Ceng, occurs on the fifth day of Chinese New Year when it is believed that those gods come down. Firecrackers are set off in hopes of attracting prosperity and good fortune. Dragon dancing also occurs on this day as well as on the final day.

The Festival of Lanterns marks the final day of festivities. A variety of lanterns are lit creating a visual feast for the eyes. Paper lanterns are made in the form of the animal of the year or in the shape of a rabbit. The rabbit lantern represents a Chinese myth about a goddess who jumped to the moon with her rabbit companion. Those with pure hearts are said to be able to see this goddess and her rabbit on the moon on this final day of Chinese New Year.

One of the prominent Chinese New Year decorations is called “chun lian.” A chun lian is a temporary decoration placed outside the home at the entrance used only during Chinese New Year. Vertical strips of red paper contain Chinese characters expressing happy, uplifting messages about the coming new year. The characters are typically hand painted using Chinese calligraphy. These strips of paper are then posted on the front door with the first chun lian hanging vertically on the right side of the door, a second on the left and an optional third posted horizontally

One very important tradition of the Chinese New Year is exchanging gifts. A traditional gift that is given is small red envelopes filled with "lucky money". These envelopes are given to children by their family and friends. The red color is used to bring good fortune, and the money inside is used by the children to buy holiday treats. These envelopes symbolize the giving of good fortune.



The dragon is another popular symbol for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of strength, goodness, and good luck, and supernatural forces. The dragon is said to be a mythical combination of many animals. During New Years, one of the main events is a large parade down the city streets. As part of this parade, people dress up in dragon costumes and dance down the streets. These costumes are made of brightly colored silk and decorated very extravagantly. Some of the dragons are 100 feet long! Men and boys perform intricate dragon dances with one person manipulating the head of the dragon and the rest moving the body.


Some delightful traditional Chinese New Year recipes can be found at these links:
Food Network
All Recipes
Razzledazzle Recipes

Cantonese: Gung Hay Fat Choy! (may prosperity be with you)
Mandarin: Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year)


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Papercuts





I found the web sites of two amazing paper cut artists today.






Peter Callesen is a Danish artist whose small and room size paper cut works become astoundingly 3-D in appearance. The skeletons emerging from the body silhouettes on his web site are not to be missed, and his framed series of paper cut pictures were very imaginative as they each told their own story with just one sheet of A-4 paper.


The next was Sharyn Sowell, whose beautiful and intricate handcut silhouettes were featured in the January/February issue of Victoria Magazine . It is hard to believe that paper can be cut so delicately, and her images are so vintage looking in style, and so romantic.



Tuesday, February 5, 2008

You Make My Day Award


I was honored to receive a You Make My Day Award today on the Junie Moon blog!

It was such a nice surprise, as I have not been a blogger for very long, and I am humbled to think my little blog means something to someone besides myself. :-)
June has become a wonderful blog friend in the short time I've known her, and I am always so impressed at the beautiful creations she shares on her blog, plus her beautiful altruistic nature and outreach towards good causes. Thank you June!

Now that I have received the award the rules that go along with it are such:


  • Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make me think and/or make my day


  • Acknowledge the post of the award giver.


  • Display the “You Make my Day Award” logo.


  • Tell the award winners that they have won by commenting on their blogs with the news.

I hereby give the You Make My Day Award to the following blogs:


  • BlueberryMoon's Journal - a blog by a wonderful folk artist who lives in Nova Scotia. She shares her whimsical paintings, beautiful photography, delicious recipes and snippets of her everyday life. This is one of the first blogs I encountered on the internet, and I have been reading and enjoying it for years!


  • Pomegranates and Paper - a blog written by another NY compatriot, and a columnist for the Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine. I love how "Mrs Pom" writes about her family, her neighborhood, her job, her house, and her artwork with humor and candor, and I only wish I had a tenth of her energy, talent, and joie de vivre!


  • ljcfyi - this is Little Jenny C's "for your information" blog, and she is a treasure trove of fun everyday discoveries! She is a web designer for Kodak, and her blog is chock full of wonderful links and fun facts about herself, her family, her job, her crafts, her photos, and all the cute little things she finds everyday that bring her joy. "Joy" should be Jenny's middle name, as she not only finds joy, she gives joy!


  • An Irish Craftworkers Good Life - I have been reading Rebecca's blog for quite a long time, also. I'm not sure how I stumbled upon her, but I am so glad I did. She is a wonderful felt artist, and she and her husband gave up high stress professional jobs to go back to a rural part of Ireland and become self sustaining through their crafts and running a farm house with live stock. I guess because I am a city born and bred woman, I am fascinated by her life, and I am in awe of her determination to raise her daughters in an eco-conscious environment. Her other and newer blog, Sally Gardens, describes more clearly how long and hard they work doing this, also the happiness of their little family as they have become almost entirely self sufficient living off the land.

  • Chocolate and Zucchini - I doubt there are bloggers who do not yet know and admire Clotilde Dusoulier's blog about all things food related. In four years she has become the French "Martha Stewart" of food blogs, the expert, the one who has, through her writing and photography, captured the media's attention and has now been able to become a full time food writer and published popular cookbooks, with another on the way! Yet she has remained the same sweet, enthusiastic young woman who is interested in healthy food and ingredients, but also with a passion for anything sweet, and in particular chocolate. How could I resist her blog? I doubt I will ever be able to go to Paris, but I'm living and eating there vicariously through her blog!

So that is my choice of bloggers who "make my day," but I also want to say that every blog I read is a wonderful window that looks into another life, and the blogs I listed above are only the windows that I've been peaking through for a long, long time. I'm sure as the days, and months, and years go by I will have many more blogs that will be among my favorite. Blogging, both reading and writing, has become an exciting and full filling adventure!

If you have a few minutes I'd be thrilled if you'd please comment and tell me a few of your favorite blogs.

Thank you ....... YOU make my day! :-)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Easter Basket Give Away!


I visited a charming blog and web site last night owned by Nancy Malay. She makes a unique variety of one of a kind paper mache, paperclay, or cloth art figurines; including santas, snowmen, rabbits, chicks, Americana and Halloween items. Some are folk art style, some victorian style, and others are crafted from vintage or reproduction chocolate molds. All are fabulously hand painted and decorated.

So many of her adorable chicks and bunnies for this season have already been sold, so I'm going to be checking her website early for her Christmas selection, and adding my name to her e-mail notification list in order to purchase a Santa Claus figurine to add to my collection.

Nancy has a very generous "give away" going on at her web site now, until February 14, 2008, that is not to be missed!

She has a Easter Basket Giveaway of a Bunny & Basket valued at over $125.00!!
All you have to do is leave a comment on the already long list of comments under the post link to her blog here

Please go to view and enjoy Nancy's beautiful work. Good luck to all who enter her contest!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Six More Weeks of Winter


The famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil , of Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, declared this morning at sunrise before an estimated 30,000 hardy viewers, the following:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.Six more weeks of winter it will be!"

Goundhog Day has been held in Punxsutawney, PA at Gobbler's Knob since 1887, and is based mainly on a German superstition that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow February 2 -- the Christian holiday of Candlemas -- winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will be early.

In any event, it is only 46 days until Spring -- March 20, 2008!