My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year! (And giveaway winner!)


It's time to say goodbye to 2010, but hello to a new year, a new decade, and a new giveaway winner!
I decided for the sake of Auld Lang Syne to go low-tech for this drawing and, since I'm giving away a cookbook, to solicit the help of a kitchen gadget.

I wrote the names of the three giveaway entrants (participation in my giveaways may be low, but the odds of winning are high!) on festive pieces of paper....


...then looked around for a kitchen gadget that would help with a random name draw.

The hot air popcorn popper looks good! I'll just dump the three pieces of paper in the hopper and turn it on, and the winner will be the one whose name flies out of it first!



Oops.

Well okey dokey then, we'll go with the salad spinner. No fire hazards there! Just dump the names in and give them a spin before drawing one.

And the cookbook goes to...


Congratulations, Rose!


And now that the flames have been extinguished* and the cookbook winner selected and announced, let's ring in the New Year with some music! (Gosh, you'll never guess what song I've chosen. LOL)


I love this singer's voice and his wonderful, moving performance of Auld Lang Syne (complete with the original Scottish lyrics sung in a lovely Scottish burr!) My thanks to Barbara for sharing her brilliant find!


Dougie MacLean, from the album Tribute

And if that left you hankering for more, here are several versions of Auld Lang Syne sure to satisfy every musical taste. There's even one as a consolation prize for you, Carissa, in honor of your own (not-so-auld) lang syne in spot #9! :-)

Get a playlist!

Happy New Year and new decade, everybody!
Blog on!


*Photos are simulations only. Do not attempt.


No, I didn't really put pieces of paper in a hot air corn popper! Not even I am stupid enough (or drunk enough) to do that! ;-)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Punky's Polar Patio Picnic


It's been snowing and temperatures have plummeted since last night. It's currently -5ºF with windchills closer to -15º, so I wasn't surprised to look out onto our patio a few minutes ago and see these frosty faces peering back at me. They know they get alfalfa treats when it's this cold out...


And you just know Punky was here! She shows up on the patio even on nice days!...

Don't you love how she just steps in front of the camera? :)

Word gets out quickly. These ladies must be Tweeting and texting each other. "Alfalfa treats @ Laloofah's!"...

Punky always claims a front row seat. I love her expressions!
"MY cookie."

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Psst... just one day left to enter the giveaway!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lights, camera, giveaway action!


I hope everyone enjoyed a festive, happy holiday weekend! Ours was restful and ridiculously balmy (shorts-and-tank-top-on-the-deck-balmy!) We enjoyed some good hikes with the dogs, cooked, baked, and ate lots of goodies, and on Christmas night we took the girls (decked out in their snowman bandanas, of course) and drove around looking at people's lights and decorations. I did my best to get good photos, but in such low light without a tripod I fear I mostly got unintended special effects. :-) Still, I think they're pretty, so here are three of my favorites from three different neighborhoods...




While Christmas is over for another 363 days, the pretty lights are still aglow and so is the spirit of giving. One of my Christmas gifts from my friend Jo was
Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews by Nava Atlas (and boy am I eager to dig into it!), we bought Viva Vegan last month, and I plan to buy Color Me Vegan with Christmas money from my mom. So to make some room and keep our cookbook collection under some semblance of control, at least one of my previous cookbooks must go!


Vegan Delights by Jeanne Marie Martin is one of the many vegan cookbooks I got early on, but it's one I just never found myself using. So it's
in pristine condition and I'm offering it as a Happy New Year giveaway, just in time for all those resolutions, fresh starts and new experiences. Perfect time to explore vegan cooking and baking if it's new to you (and a great time to sign up for PCRM's third 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, which begins on Jan 3)... or a great time to add to your recipe repertoire if you're already vegan. Actually, any time of year is a great time to do these things, but the beginning of a new year is especially auspicious.
A caveat: since this cookbook was published in 1993, some of its nutritional advice is outdated or questionable, and her lists of vegan web sites and cookbooks are quaintly brief since there has been an explosion of both since 1993. But plenty of the information in it is enduring and always useful, especially for beginning vegans.

Since I've never made any of the recipes, I can't speak to how easy or tasty they are. For anyone with food allergies, intolerances or other concerns about certain ingredients, several of her recipes contain soy, a few contain wheat (or other gluten-containing grains), and many contain oil (sometimes in large quantities), which in most cases can simply be omitted or easily substituted. And plenty of recipes contain none of those ingredients.

If you'd like to enter the giveaway (open to US and Canadian residents), please leave a comment about your favorite vegan delight: recipe, cookbook, food blog, web site, restaurant, city, animal sanctuary, quote, person, vegan-friendly kitchen gadget, vegetable, fruit, bean, nut, seed, legume ... well, you get the idea. :-) And if I don't already know it, please leave a way to contact you.

I'll randomly draw a name at 9pm MST on Dec 31 (I'm getting too old to commit to staying up till midnight, lol) and will announce the winner shortly thereafter.

So let's get cookin'! :-)


Unrelated P.S. - I hope everyone in the path of the huge nor'easter blizzard is staying safe and warm!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa's Workshop!


Your patience while this busy page loads
will make a favorable impression on Santa.
I'm just sayin'. ;-)


Pssst... I hear from my inside sources that Santa has left his workshop for a bit. Last seen going into the North Pole Bar for a little fortification before his grueling journey tonight, he should be gone just long enough for us take a little tour around the workshop and see what he and the elves have been up to...


As I mentioned in this post and some of my comments on it, when I was 13 my mom (with some help from my dad) created a miniature Santa's workshop inside the wood case of an old mantle clock. A few years earlier when we'd lived in Norfolk, Virginia, my dad had gone for an evening bike ride around our neighborhood of older homes when he spied the non-functioning clock left out with someone's garbage at the curb. So he plucked it off their pile of trash and rode home with it under his arm, presenting it to my mother with the remark (as many people often did as they handed her odd objects), "I thought you might be able to use this for something with your miniatures." Immediately mom thought the case would be perfect for a Santa's workshop (that's just how her brain worked), but she didn't start on it for a few more years. Meanwhile, though, she gathered illustrations of Santa's workshop from magazines and Christmas cards for ideas and inspiration.


But real inspiration came a couple of moves and a few years later, goosed by the nagging of my friends and the littler kids in our neighborhood whom she'd made the mistake of telling about her Santa's workshop plans. They were relentless (and to be honest, so was I) in their questioning, begging and cajoling. Probably to shut us all up, she and dad completed it in secret, and I only found out when I discovered it as my main gift under the tree on Christmas morning. Now, the Santa's workshop is undeniably awesome, but getting it as my main Christmas present dissipated much of the thrill. Thirteen was a long time ago, but I remember pretty clearly wanting cool clothes, jewelry, record albums and a bean bag chair (it was 1975, after all). A miniature Santa's workshop had never been remotely considered for a spot on my wish list. It took many years for me to come around and fully appreciate it (once I'd left home I didn't even take possession of it until I was in my 30's!) All the kids on our block, on the other hand, were utterly delighted. Of course they could afford to be, I'm sure they all got 10-speed bikes for Christmas! ;-)


This year we performed some electrical repairs and other maintenance on it and it's now proudly displayed in our refurbished living room, surrounded by a few... what else? Santas...

(Eeek! Creepy Santa's back!)

The original mantel clock case was dark brown and had a single door on the back that provided access to the clock's springs, gears and other inner workings. My folks removed the clock innards, painted the case an antiqued red, split the back door and added another set of hinges and a set of doorknobs. Painted alphabet soup noodles spell out Santa's Workshop. :-) (Looks like a mouse might have sampled a wee bit of the W at some point!)

Mom originally had two miniature evergreen wreaths on the doors, but the dried air fern-type material used to make them disintegrated over time and I had to toss them. So this year I made these new wreaths out of green pipe cleaners and decorated them with gold ribbons and miniature gold bells (that actually jingle!)


Okay, enough of the babbling tour guide making you stand outside in the cold snow! Let's go in! Though it will cause this page to load much more slowly, the following photos are the originals. There is a lot of tiny detail and I wanted you to be able to see as much of it as possible as clearly as possible. So click on any of the photos below for a larger, more detailed version.


My dad electrified the case with two miniature lights in the workshop and another little light bulb in the top of the diorama outside the window (what used to be the clock's face), which Mom colored with a blue magic marker to simulate winter moonlight. The diorama itself is a Crisco can that Dad cut in half and Mom painted and decorated in a winter scene, then screwed onto the front of the clock case....


I like the soft glow of this one taken without a flash...


It's not easy to get in there with my camera and photograph this miniature world in closeup! One bit will be focused and clear, while a nearby bit will be blurry. So I'm sharing multiple interior views to maximize some of the clear bits. :-)

That, of course, is Rudolph, accompanied by a young friend, peeking in the window (which is what makes him a reliable source of information regarding Santa's trip to the pub!) Note the cottonball "snow" on the window panes...


This next one gives a clearer view of Santa's workbench. I love the tiny tubes of paint and paintbrushes, the candle in the windowsill (with an actual blackened wick, no less), Santa's coffee pot and mug, and the plug, plugged into an outlet, on the far right by the teddy bear clown. That plug actually goes to a miniature soldering iron that's not visible in the photo (no, it's not an actual working soldering iron, and dad didn't electrify the workshop with working outlets! Even my parents had their limits!) ;-)

And your eyes do not deceive you, that is my name topping the "Good Girls" list. Scandalous in its inaccuracy, isn't it? Santa had incompetent bookkeepers. ;-) Also on the list, "Joni" and "Patty," two of my best friends (and top "when are you going to finish Santa's workshop?" nags). On the "Boys" list are Chris, a boy in school I had a mad crush on at the time; Brian, another friend down the block (and subject of the "stringing popcorn" story I told Molly in the comments section of this post), and "Sweets," my nickname for Marty, the boy next door. (But since it was Chris I was infatuated with, he won the top spot on the Good Boys list!) If your name doesn't appear on the list, don't despair - the book may be tiny, but it's thick! (Just to be on the safe side, though, you should be aware that Santa and I worked out a deal in which he awards extra goodness points to anyone who leaves a fun comment on my blog. No, really! It's one of the percs of topping the Good Girls list!) ;-)


Before you start poking around the workshop to find the toys that most delight you, I want to tell you about the pair of skis. I made them in my 7th grade shop class as a surprise Christmas present for Mom that year. As I was pressing one of the skis to the disc sander to make it nice and thin, that fast-spinning wheel grabbed the ski and flung it across the room and I ended up sanding part of the tip and pad of my finger off instead. It bled profusely and hurt beyond words, and I was sent to the school nurse who insisted on calling my mother to make sure I was up on my shots. I was belligerent in my insistence that she spill no beans about how it happened. In my pain-addled brain, I guess I thought my mother would immediately figure out that if I'd been injured by a sander in shop class, I must have been making her a miniature. :-) Anyway, the nurse kept my secret, my finger flesh grew back, and the skis were both a surprise and a big hit that ended up in Santa's workshop, and so my gift to Mom ended up a year later in a gift to me. Huh.


I know she's blurry, but see the Raggedy Ann on the far left of the top shelf, next to the clown? Mom painted her and made her hair out of craft-type bread dough. Dyed it red and pushed it through a very fine strainer to get those yarny-looking Raggedy-Ann locks of hair. My family is seriously demented. LOL...


Uh-oh, I hear jingling bells, ho-ho-ho'ing and the tinkling clank of beer bottles, so Santa must be back! We'd better Dasher on out of here (reindeer humor, nyuck) before we're busted. I hope you enjoyed your tour of the workshop, and that Santa brings you the toy you love best! :-)

with love and best wishes from the gang at Chez Laloofah ~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Flakey snow business


Because there just aren't enough flakes in the world already...

let's make more! ;-)

Need a Snow Day?

Have fun but be warned - both the making and the viewing of snowflakes can be habit-forming!


(I'm especially fond of the lacy-looking ones and the many with nice vegan outreach messages on them!) :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice: Eclipse & Meditations


This year's Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, which coincides with a full moon, will occur tomorrow (Dec 21) at 11:38 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), which is 4:38 pm my time. But I'm posting this a day early because this year the Solstice also coincides with a total lunar eclipse that begins tonight in some places (11:33 pm here in Mountain Standard time). The entire eclipse, with a totality phase lasting 72 minutes, will be visible in North America, western South America and the northern Scandanavian countries, and during its early or later stages in several other parts of the world. So here's hoping for clear skies for a good viewing of the coppery Solstice full moon in its eclipse! (But if it's cloudy where you or you'd just rather watch it from the comfort of your computer, you're in luck. NASA will have a live video feed of the eclipse starting at about 6 pm EST).

Updates:
In case you missed it (and even if you didn't!): here's a gallery of terrific photos of the eclipse taken from various places around the world.

BW made it till midnight and I stayed up till 1am to watch it through the skylight in our sunroom, and went to bed while the moon was still fully in the earth's shadow. There's a photo in the above collection, taken in the Bronx, of an icebow surrounding the moon and we saw one here, too. The interior of the ring here was crystal clear, the ring itself was really huge and just beautiful, and made it look like the eclipse was mounted inside a giant round frame for our viewing pleasure. :-)

As any of you who read my Winter Solstice post from last year know, I love both winter and its solstice, always accepting with gratitude their invitation to enjoy some serene stillness, quiet reflection, deep peace and sacred solitude. Since those can be hard to come by on any regular day, but especially during these last mad-dash days before Christmas, I've gathered a few beautiful Winter Solstice meditation videos, with lovely music and images, to help. I hope you will grant yourself a few moments of tranquility any time you're in need of it, but particularly at Solstice.











By the way, the photo in my new header is of a Winter Solstice sunrise taken a few years ago off our deck.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Res-pear-ation Sauce


We've been enjoying such an abundance of delicious pears lately (which go delightfully with Maple Cranberry Sauce) that it's had me searching some of my older recipes for some pear concoctions. I was delighted to find one from a newsletter I got from Hugh's Acupuncture Clinic. Hugh Castor is a licensed practitioner of acupuncture, Chinese medicine and massage therapy as well as a certified Qigong and T'ai Chi Chuan instructor in Fort Collins, CO. I'd met him when I partook in one of his free beginner T'ai Chi classes at the Sustainable Living Fair there in 2005. I took one of his free newsletters home with me, and had clipped and saved this recipe from it for an unnamed pear dish for treating lung ailments. As it happened, I found this recipe just as BW was recovering from a bout of bronchitis. Nurse Laloofah to the rescue! :-)

Notice the similarity? No? Well, try harder. ;-)

Any internet search for the subject of pears and lung health will turn up a lot of web sites about the traditional benefits of pears for lung healing and disease prevention in Chinese, Ayurvedic, natural and alternative medicine, as well as findings in recent studies in The Netherlands and at the National Institutes of Health.

Here's the blurb that accompanied Hugh's recipe...

A Healing Food for the Lungs

Pears are a great medicinal food for the lungs and can help them recuperate after illness. They are especially helpful when the lungs are inflamed and irritated due to prolonged coughing and dry climates. Try this recipe the next time you or a loved one needs to heal your lungs.

In addition, pears are very high in fiber and a good source of vitamin C, as well as delicious! And so is this dish. You certainly don't need to wait till you've got a cough or cold to enjoy it!

Since Hugh's recipe had no name, started referring to it as "pear lung stuff." :-) That was not going to cut it as a blog post name, so I renamed it Res-pear-ation Sauce. It's a very easy recipe that smells wonderful while simmering, and a lot of fun to tinker with. I've made a few variations so far (two of which I've posted here) and they've all been delicious - in fact, I always make a double batch of it now. It's good hot, warm, room temperature or chilled. I eat it by itself while BW really enjoys it on his steel-cut oats in the mornings. Experiment with it, enjoy, and breath easy!


Res-pear-ation Sauce



Hugh's original version:

2-3 medium pears (any variety)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup walnuts and dates
1 TBSP honey (I used agave nectar)
1 dash each cardamom and ginger
Cut pears into small pieces, chop up walnuts and dates, and put all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to gentle simmer and cook 8-10 minutes. Serves 2.


This was the first variation I made, its name inspired by this Christmas angel I used for the photo prop. :-)


My "Sweet Angel" version:

2-3 medium pears (any variety, I used red & d'anjou)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup chopped dates
2 TBSP chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Dash cardamom
1 organic cinnamon stick

Cut pears into small pieces.
Put all ingredients in a small saucepan. (Add the chopped walnuts near or at the end of cooking if you prefer them crunchier).
Bring to a gentle simmer and cook 8-10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon stick.
Enjoy hot, warm or chilled.


This was my second version. I chose this antique metal Santa for my prop because he's pear-shaped. But the name of this version is due to the fact that BW and I agree he's also kind of creepy, specially in this photo. (I think his creepiness is due mostly to his weirdly pursed lips and the nicotine stains in his beard! LOL)...
This batch shown topping a bowl of steel-cut oats

My "Creepy Santa" version:

1 Asian pear
1 red pear
1 D'anjou pear
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup chopped dates
3 tsp maple syrup
2 1/2 TBSP chopped walnuts
2 TBSP currants
1/4 well-rounded tsp ground ginger (or 1 TBSP grated fresh ginger root)
generous pinch (or more, to taste) of cardamon
1/8 - 1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 organic cinnamon stick

Cut pears into small pieces.
Put all ingredients into a small saucepan. (Add the walnuts at or near the end of cooking if you prefer them crunchier).
Bring to a gentle simmer and cook 8-10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and remove the cinnamon stick.
Enjoy hot, warm or chilled.


Some notes: I've made this with ripe, soft pears and with firm unripe ones. The ripe ones are quite a bit sweeter so you'll need less sweetener. They also make a "saucier" sauce. The small chunks of unripe or less ripe pears will retain their shape and some crunchiness even after cooking, will need more sweetener (perhaps 3 teaspoons of maple syrup vs. 1 teaspoon for a batch made with ripe pears), and though still saucy, it will be thicker and chunkier. The results using apple-like Asian pears is similar to using unripe ones, as they are less sweet and stay crunchy even when ripe. Feel free to combine varieties and ripeness levels, that works well too!

In addition to the benefits of the pears, the dates are also a good source of dietary fiber, as are the currants (which are also high in Vitamin C and other phytonutrients), and some of the spices in this are believed or known to help fight colds, flu, coughs and/or congestion. Ginger has been used to relieve the symptoms of colds, flu and chronic coughs (among other ailments) for millennia, while cinnamon also eases cold and flu symptoms and is reputed to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties. (And cardamom sweetens the breath, handy for those times you're caught under the mistletoe!) ;-)



Enjoy playing with this recipe, and please share your own ideas for your own versions!

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"