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


Monday, January 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Seasons: smoothies to soup


We experienced two seasons this weekend. With sunshine and temps around 40ºF, it was spring on Saturday; with freezing fog, snow and a high of 5º, it was winter on Sunday. Such extreme and sudden changes in weather and temps aren't that unusual here, so one must always be prepared with changes of clothing and changes of menus!

Saturday's temps called for Green Smoothies, the first recipe we've tried out of our newest cookbook, Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goodreau of Compassionate Cooks...

Green Smoothies from Color Me Vegan

Made with frozen bananas and pineapple, fresh spinach, ginger, apples and apple juice, dates and ground flaxseeds, they were thick, creamy and refreshing with just the right amount of sweetness.

You can also use kale or chard in this recipe, but since we only had one bunch of some truly perfect organic kale left we saved it for our wintery Sunday meal and ate it steamed with walnut dressing - our favorite way to enjoy our favorite veggie. You can also use pineapple or orange juice in this, but delicious organic unfiltered apple juice is what we had on hand so that's what went into these. :-)


Saturday night this cold front/winter storm system that seems to be sweeping across most of the nation blew into our neighborhood. We didn't get nearly the predicted amount of snow, but we sure got the brutal temps (which as you can see were even more wicked this morning)...


Weather like this clearly calls for homemade soup. Especially homemade soup from the winter chapter of Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas, a Christmas gift from AdventureJo (who used my "Happy List" on this post to inspire all her gifts to me! Isn't she clever?) We chose Nava's Tomato, Lentil and Barley Soup for Sunday's main meal, served with some of BW's whole wheat rosemary boule.


This soup was delicious, thick, fragrant, hearty and healthy! Wonderful with just a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper and some nutritional yeast flakes, and perfect for a wintery day. It's chock-full of good stuff: tomatoes, onion, garlic, green cabbage, carrots, barley, lentils, celery and fresh parsley, along with apple cider vinegar and some seasonings. The recipe also calls for a small amount of dry red wine as an optional addition. Optional, schmoptional - in it went! :-)


I couldn't resist posting both of these photos ~
look at all the different goodies you get in each spoonful!
Yum!

This soup requires some planning ahead as there's a fair bit of prep involved (I only used my food processor to shred the cabbage; I usually prefer to slice and dice my veggies by hand), it cooked for about an hour, and it's best if you can let it sit another hour after that to let it thicken while the flavors marry. (We got hungry before the soup was ready so we ate our steamed kale while we waited, which is why it's not pictured with the soup!) :-)

This recipe made a huge batch, so even after we both had seconds, we still have a lot of leftovers (which we love!), so guess what I'm having for lunch today? :-)

I can't share the recipe for this soup since it's not published online, (it is now!) Nava does share her recipe for Four-Grain Tomato Soup, which is the one from her Soups & Stews cookbook we plan to try next!

Of course, one does often want a bit of sugah after a hearty meal of soup and bread, so continuing with my unintended theme of foods that start with the letter S, we enjoyed some orange oatmeal cranberry scones with some very special Seattle tea. But I must save that for my next post, later this week. In the meantime, stay safe and snuggly! (My but I'm in a sibilant mood today!) :-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ron McNair: One Challenger Astronaut's story


I'd considered it, but honestly didn't plan to write a post about the 25th anniversary of the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, figuring it would be all over the news and probably on plenty of blogs as well. And it is. But BW got today off (yay!) and was listening to NPR this morning while I was off doing other things, and while we were hiking with the dogs a little while ago he was telling me about one of the stories he'd been listening to. I found it moving and inspiring and definitely worth sharing.

It's a part of the project by StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit who has been recording the personal stories of Americans from all walks of life since 2003 (one of the largest oral history project of its kind), and preserving them in The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

This particular interview was with Carl McNair, older brother of Dr. Ronald McNair, one of the Challenger astronauts and only the second African American to visit space. In it, he recalls the time when Ron was nine years old and tried to check out books from the then-segregated library in their hometown of Lake City, SC. The librarian refused to let him check the books out because he was black, and threatened to call the police if he didn't leave. He politely told her he'd stay and wait, so call the police she did. The police arrived, but didn't quite respond the way the librarian had expected. :-) You can read or listen to the interview for details of this wonderful story and more about the courageous little boy who saw possibilities where others didn't, created doorways where others had built barriers, and grew up to be an astronaut. Ron was just 35 years old when he was killed, and today Lake City is dedicating the building that housed that library as The Dr. Ronald E. McNair Life History Center in his honor.


Of course, most of us of a certain age vividly remember the day the Challenger exploded. Its one of those indelible memories that, for me at least, feels as surreal as the day it occurred and is still so graphic it's almost as if it just happened. It was probably made more profound for me because I was in USAF Space Command at the time (feel free to insert your space cadet jokes here, we all did it plenty back in the day!) :-) Although I wasn't an astronaut (by ANY stretch!) and we didn't work with astronauts, these were, to some degree, our colleagues. And in the weeks that followed, when any of us in my squadron would be out shopping or eating on base or in town in our uniforms with our Space Command insignia, we'd often be asked questions about our reaction to and connection with the Challenger (in reality, it wasn't much more than any other citizen's connection, but there was definitely a sense of community with the astronauts, and I know from our conversations with each other that we all took the tragedy a little more personally than we would have otherwise). In addition, I'd graduated from the University of New Hampshire just a year and a half before, and that was the home state of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher and the Challenger crew member most of us probably remember best. It still hurts the heart to think about that day.


Anyway, I just wanted to write a little remembrance today, and share Ron's sweet story of the time he gently but firmly wouldn't take no for an answer and went home with some books from his public library tucked under his brave, nine-year old arm. :-)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

So super cool :-)

I found this video a while back but for the life of me I can't remember where. An ad for the Los Angeles Animal Services Adopt-A-Pet program, I thought it was cute, clever and ~ just like adopting a homeless furbaby from a shelter or rescue organization ~ definitely super cool! :-)

(The poem bit especially cracked me up!)

Speaking of shelters and rescue organizations, here are two super cool things you can do...


The Animal Rescue Site, in collaboration with Petfinder (which is where we found Tessa!), is conducting its $300,000 Shelter Challenge for 2011. Choose a shelter, rescue organization, foster network or humane society from those listed and vote for your favorite(s) once a day. This round ends March 20, with more rounds to be held throughout the year. Several cash grants to help animals will be awarded in each round, with a grand prize winner announced at the end of the year.

In the Holiday Shelter Challenge during the last three months of last year I voted for Rolling Dog Ranch in New Hampshire, and they were awarded a $5000 grant as the second place winner which they'll use to help dogs, cats, horses and other animals who are blind, deaf, or suffering from neurological or orthopedic problems. This round, I'm voting for SASHA Farm in Michigan, the midwest's largest farm animal sanctuary. Not only do they rescue and provide loving care for farm animals (as well as dogs and cats), they also do vegan outreach. Which I think is definitely super cool! :-)

Besides voting in the Shelter Contest, you can also help shelter critters by clicking once a day at the Animal Rescue Site...




I think Dan Piraro and his Bizarro cartoons are also super cool...

:-)

I've got a post in the works starring our own super cool rescued dogs, and the local super cool deer, that I'll post soon. As well as a recipe or two. And Georgia tagged me to provide Four Fun Facts about myself, so I'll be doing that soon, too. (I've been struggling with "Four Words/Phrases I use too much," but I think this post just took care of one of them! Super cool, just three to go! LOL)

Have a super cool Friday! (Or, if you'd prefer, a super warm one!) :-)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Marina Raye


My massage therapist, May, almost always plays the lush, beautiful recordings of Marina Raye while she performs her massage, reflexology and Reiki magic on me. The combination of her therapeutic techniques and the deeply relaxing sound of Marina's music is sheer bliss.

Marina, who was born in The Congo and has studied music since childhood, plays beautiful five-holed Native style flutes made by her husband, Charlie Oakwind. On some of her CDs her flute music is accompanied by nature sounds (doves, owls, whales, loons, songbirds, babbling streams), and on several other CDs she's accompanied beautifully by another musician, either on drums, cello, acoustic guitar, Peruvian harp or keyboard. And some of her CDs are just pure Marina and her soulful flute.


I've gathered a collection of seven of her CDs since learning of her from May and have exchanged some delightful emails with Marina in the process. She has a beautiful, gentle spirit that shines through her web site, her emails, and especially her music. She and Charlie are committed to bringing peace and compassion to others through their music, and also to living in gentle harmony with the land. (You can see and read about their labyrinth and stunning off-grid green home in the mountains of western North Carolina here).


You probably live too far away to get massages from May at Sacred Buffalo Massage ;-) but you can enjoy Marina's music easily enough. You can read descriptions and listen to sample tracks of all her CDs on her web site, and order online, via fax or by phone. She's offering a "buy two, get one free" deal, and through January 31st she's also offering free shipping (details and the coupon code are on her January newsletter). You can also purchase (or, like me, just longingly admire) Charlie's awesome flutes, which are works of art.


And here's another way to enjoy Marina's music ~ these two lovely videos are set to a couple of Marina's recordings. Enjoy, take deep, slow breaths, relax, and let any Monday stresses float far, far away...


A (Spiritual Journey) with Horses, featuring the song, "Playing on the Wind" from Marina's CD Blissful Journey ~



A Meditation with Horses, featuring Marina Raye's song "Deep Peace" from her CD Snow Falling on Silence (this CD is in my own collection, and is one of my absolute favorites) ~



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bald Eagles


For several weeks I've been trying to remember to take my camera with me when I go to town to run my weekly errands, hoping for an opportunity to photograph the Bald Eagles who sometimes hang out in a big, dead cottonwood in the middle of a large field about three miles from our house. Whenever I saw an eagle, I'd forgotten my camera; whenever I remembered my camera, I'd see no eagle. Until this past Wednesday, when I hit the Bald Eagle motherlode and saw not the usual one or two Bald Eagles but five or six, perched in and flying back and forth between three big trees, including the lone cottonwood, along about a hundred yard stretch of the road. AND I had my camera with me!

Unfortunately, conditions for photographing them were less than ideal. It was snowing hard with poor visibility; the dogs would get rambunctious and make the Jeep bounce and rock every time I stopped to take a photo as the eagles flew from tree to tree, making it difficult to keep the camera steady; the eagles were mostly perched among trees with lots of branches, so my poor camera didn't know whether to focus on the falling snowflakes, the branches or the birds; and because of the deep snow I was unable to pull very far off the road (and I was mostly on a sharp curve), so I had to keep watching behind and ahead of me for oncoming cars while also keeping track of the restless, ever-moving eagles, while telling my restless, ever-moving dogs to knock it OFF already, will ya? :-)

The life of an amateur wild raptor photographer is not without its challenges. (Right, Andrea?) :-)

So while I hardly count these among my best efforts, I thought you might enjoy seeing them. It was very pretty with the snowfall, and they are such magnificent birds! And to have seen five of them, FINALLY, with camera in hand - hey, who am I to complain about the snow, the branches, and the yaw, pitch and roll of my Jeep? :-) Seeing these guys was magical...

(Click on photos for larger versions)

A juvenile Bald Eagle sizing me up

The Eagle has landed! (Almost on top of one of his buddies!)
I love the eagle on the upper left, watching the commotion
like an Olympic ski jumping judge appraising the landing!

I cropped the photo so you could see the landing better.
(What do you think, about a 6.4 for technical ability?) :-)

One of the four eagles then few off to join another,
already perched majestically in the dead Cottonwood...

before taking off again.

Leaving behind this lone eagle, who seems to be thinking,
"Gee, was it something I said?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Listening to animals (with the ear of your heart)


Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.
~Saint Benedict

I've had this post in the works since last summer when I found a wonderful A.A. Milne quote about listening to animals. I knew I wanted to build a post around it, and got most of it done but never got around to finishing it. (I have several posts like that, I'm afraid!) But this morning as I was doing the dishes, I heard on the radio that A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, was born on this date in 1882. So I thought, what better day to finish and share this post? :-)

I've added a song that I think makes a great accompaniment to the photos...



Whether you choose to listen to it or not, darling Piglet and I do hope you'll still listen to the animals - all animals - with the ear of your heart! :-)

Lots of people talk to animals.
Not that many listen though.
That's the problem.
~Piglet (A.A. Milne)

But some do...

Judy Woods of Pigs Peace listens to Bailey the blind pig
(photo by Harley Soltes)

My friend Robyn listens to the Peaceful Prairie goats

Joan Jett listens to Will on her visit to Farm Sanctuary
(Joan rocks!)


Someone who listens - and really relates - to a chicken pal!

BW listens with intense focus to Willow's secrets
(while a butterfly eavesdrops overhead!)

And I always listen to the deer's requests for treats. :-)

Without a doubt, this is the most adorable photo of someone listening to someone else that I have ever seen...


I am committed to cultivating loving speech
and deep listening
in order to bring joy and happiness to others
and relieve others of their suffering.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

My choice of the song, "When You Say Nothing at All" was completely inspired by Ashley, a lovely young woman I got to know in January 2008 during an online competition to raise money for charity, while we were competing on behalf of Farm Sanctuary. Ashley had interned at their Orland, California sanctuary that summer and shared a video (posted below) that she'd made of her experience. I thought her choice of "When You Say Nothing at All" was perfect, and remembered it as I was finishing this post. So thanks for the inspiration, Ashley!

If you've been playing the song, don't forget to hit the pause button on the playlist at the top of this post before starting the video below. :-)

By the way, Ashley won a VegNews Giveaway contest later that January when she replied to the question, "How do you show your veggie pride?" by submitting this video. And I found a comment her mom left last month on the FARM Blog, sharing a link to this video along with the news that a year after she first posted it, Ashley moved from Minnesota to California to work as a full-time Farm Sanctuary animal caregiver! No surprise, really ~ I remember Ashley as a devoted animal-lover and vegan who was clearly deeply affected by her animal friends and experience there ~ but wonderful news to read just the same! I wish I had a photo of Ashley listening to the animals to include on this post, but you'll get to see several in her beautiful, heartwarming video...


Friday, January 14, 2011

John Henry lament & some LOLs for TGIF!

You can just call me "Jane" Henry, because I'll die with a paintbrush in my hand, lord, lord... 



Well, turns out that when we took down the old quarter-round ceiling molding before we painted the room, it apparently left behind a perforation in the drywall that we couldn't see but that let the new paint seep behind some of the drywall paper, creating a hand-sized blister that appeared a couple of days later up by the new ceiling molding. You can't see it in the photo but it was definitely noticeable, especially in certain light. Of course I couldn't bear it, so we had our drywall guys Dana and Gordy out to make the repair on Tuesday. Dana's pretty meticulous, so he decided the corner needed straightening out while he was at it. So here's what our pretty new living room looked like on Tuesday


And wouldn't you know the blister just had to be in the wall above the bookcase? So I spent Monday night removing most of the rocking horses and all the fragile minis (that I had just so painstakingly put in there in November!) so we could move the bookcase on Tuesday morning. We also needed Dana and Gordy to repair/redo some previously-done (not by us!) unsightly patches in our laundry room ceiling where overhead lights had been before our remodel, and repair a crack above our terrace door in the dining room. So guess what we're doing this weekend? Priming and painting in all three rooms. AGAIN. I have primed, painted, plastered and/or stained every square inch of this house at least once, and usually twice (and in the case of our deck, every flippin'-flappin' year for 18 years)... and the house before that, and the house before that... hence my prediction that I'll die with a paintbrush in my hand, lord lord, gonna die with a paintbrush in my hand!

"Dead Painter" by Frank Kallop

Or... I might die laughing instead! Because to cheer myself up, I've been visiting Cake Wrecks, which is probably familiar to many of you but which I just stumbled upon the other day and that's often had me LOL.* Some of the cakes are hysterical, some are odd, and some are sick, just sick I tell you (really). All of them will make you feel better about your WORST cake-decorating - or any other culinary - disaster. And I love Jen's captions and editorial comments. Here's an example from the post, They'll NEVER Notice (captions hers)...

How to make Al feel special:
AFTERTHOUGHTS:
Technically they're still thoughts, and that's what counts.

(So, um, Joanne - aka AdventureJo - just who the hell's "Al?" LOL)

I have barely scratched the surface, but these are three of my favorite posts so far...
(Not all of the cakes are wrecks - some posts are devoted to some amazing cake-decorating art. My favorite so far, by far, is Seussical Sweets). 

And speaking of the animal kingdom and dying laughing, you have got to check out the hilarious, priceless video Molly shared on her latest post! (But I'd go pee first, if I were you!) ;-) It had me in absolute hysterics this morning.

*And also speaking of LOL ~ and I hate to admit this but sometimes you have to confess to these sorts of things on your blog for the cathartic effect it provides ~ when I was driving home from town on Wednesday I saw something that amused me. And my response was to think - to actually THINK - "LOL." I didn't think in a laughing noise, or in words like, "That's funny!" No, indeedy. I thought the letters "L" "O" "L". Is this normal? Does it mean I need to spend some significant time offline? I wish I could remember what it was that I saw that I found funny, because oh-so-briefly - in the nanosecond before I realized I'd thought "LOL," I thought, "I need to blog about that." But my sudden comprehension that I'd thought "LOL" eclipsed everything. (If I ever remember it, I'll post it here. Assuming they allow computer access at the asylum).


Have a great weekend! Stop by and grab a paintbrush if you're not busy! We'll drink beer and listen to more Springsteen. It'll be fun, you'll see! ;-)
One more time in case you missed it - it's a great tune to take us into the weekend!

;

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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"