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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Murder of Grabwell Grommet

People are so worried
about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year,
but they really should be worried
about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.
~Author Unknown

Mary McDougall shared this essay at the end of the McDougall Clinic's 10-Day Live-In Program, to great acclaim. Given the common holiday (and, with alarming frequency, the everyday) unhealthy bingeing with its ruinous repercussions and standard regrets, and the typical resolutions to make healthy lifestyle changes which accompany the dawn of a New Year, this seems an especially appropriate time to pass along...

The Murder of Grabwell Grommet

On the morning of his 42nd birthday, Grabwell Grommet awoke to a peal of particularly ominous thunder. Glancing out the window with his bleary eyes, he saw written in fiery letters:


With shaking hands, Grommet lit his first cigarette of the day. He didn't question the message. You don't question messages like that. His only question was, "Who?"

At breakfast as he salted his fried eggs and buttered his toast, he told his wife, Gratia, "Someone is trying to kill me."

"Who?" she asked with horror.

Grommet slowly stirred the cream and sugar into his coffee and shook his head, "I don't know," he said.

Convinced though he was, Grommet wasn't going to the police with his story. He decided his only course was to go about his daily routine and hope somehow to outwit his would-be murderer. He tried to think on the drive to the office. But the frustration of making time by beating lights and switching lanes occupied him wholly. Nor, once behind his desk, could he think a moment what with jangling phones, urgent memos and the problems and decisions piling in as they did each day.

It wasn't until his second martini at lunch that the full terror of his position struck him. It was all he could do to finish his Lasagna Milanese. "I can't panic," he said to himself, lighting his cigar. "I simply must live my life as usual."

So he worked until seven as usual. Drove home fast as usual. Studied business reports as usual. And he took his usual two Seconal capsules in order to get his usual six hours sleep. As days passed, the man fully stuck to his routine. And as the months went by, he began to take a perverse pleasure in his ability to survive. "Whoever's trying to get me," he'd say proudly to his wife, "hasn't got me yet. I'm too smart for him."

"Oh, please be careful," she'd reply, ladling him a second helping of beef stroganoff. The pride grew as he managed to go on living for years. But as it must to all men, death came at last to Grabwell. It came at his desk on a particularly busy day. He was 53.

His grief-stricken widow demanded a full autopsy. But it showed only emphysema, arteriosclerosis, duodenal ulcers, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiac necrosis, cerebrovascular aneurysm, pulmonary edema, obesity, circulatory insufficiency and a touch of lung cancer.

"How glad Grabwell would have been to know," said the widow smiling proudly through her tears, "that he died of natural causes."

~Art Hoppe

Art Hoppe, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, died of complications from lung cancer in Feb 2000.

If we do not change our direction,
we are likely to end up where we are headed.
~Chinese Proverb

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How good it is to be well-fed, healthy, and kind
all at the same time.
~Henry J. Heimlich, MD

Wishing all of you, and all beings everywhere
a safe, happy, healthy, peaceful New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I'm a little late posting these, having logged almost no internet time this week, but at least I managed to post them in 2009! (Yeah, barely!) :-)

As I mentioned in my previous post, we got a beautiful and abundant Christmas snow. It started falling on Christmas Eve, fell all Christmas Day and really came down during Christmas night. So by the morning of the 26th we had over a foot and a half of fresh, powdery, sparkly snow. We took the dogs for an early morning romp, while it was still quiet and the only tracks besides ours were made by wild critter friends. I managed to take a few photos, despite frozen fingers! :-)

BW (on snowshoes) encourages Willow (no snowshoes!)

This was the best picture I could get of Tess.
She loves racing through snow, so in almost every photo
she's either a blurry streak or a wee speck in the distance!

Just one look at Josie's expression and you know
that she is not sharing Tessa's attitude toward snow!
(Molly, I imagine your expression would be similar! lol)
This was at the start of our walk, so she wasn't cold,
and she'd been playing in the snow the night before!
(Much like a new toy, it was lots of fun on Christmas,
but by the next day it had lost its novelty, I guess!) :-)

Willow, who's ALL about fun, coaxed Josie into a wild rumpus.
(Though Josie's expression still looks a little cranky to me!) ;-)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sweets (with and without frosting!) ;-)

I hope everyone's enjoying a festive, relaxing holiday weekend!

I was expecting BW home from work on Christmas Eve at around 6:30, and by about 4:30 I was in the mood to bake and I was in the mood for chocolate. As cold as it was, I was also in the mood for spicy. That combination of moods can mean only one thing... Hearty Spiced Cocoa Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking! So I baked some as a "congratulations for making it through another grueling Christmas season as a UPS man" surprise for BW...

I make these healthier by substituting organic whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour, unsweetened organic applesauce for the oil, and I use sucanat as my sweetener. To make them even more chocolatey, for the cup of non-dairy milk I use 1/2 cup each of chocolate and vanilla soy milk. Rarely having them around, I omit the vegan chocolate chips and do add pecans. I use organic, fair trade cocoa. And while I sometimes omit the cayenne and instead add a little peppermint extract or frost the muffins with a chocolate-mint frosting (based on Bryanna Clark Grogan's "Lean Cocoa Frosting" from The (Almost) No Fat Cookbook), when I'm in a spicy mood I do use a scant 1/4 tsp of the optional cayenne. When you want spicy, the cayenne is not optional!

If you are wrinkling your nose and making "ewww" sounds over the thought of combining cayenne and chocolate, you don't know what you're missing! It sounds odd, I know... but its piquant flavor is sublime. And if you know of what I speak and want more of this chocolate-chili tastebud fiesta, try this...

I'd be smiling too, gazing out over a sea of vegan dark chocolate!

I'm not the one with the sweet tooth... BW is. Our chocolate treats are a rare high-fat indulgence, but Christmas was a good excuse to both indulge and to surprise my cold, tired, over-worked sweetie with a favorite treat. But he managed to surprise me too, by arriving home an hour early! I had just taken the muffins out of the oven when he walked in the door, so he had to endure the agonizing wait while they cooled. :-)

Three ways to think of chocolate:

1. As a reward for having done something good.
2. As a consolation for having done something bad.
3. As a diversion from not having done anything at all.

And that wasn't our only Christmas surprise! I'd been pouting for a few days over a Christmas Day forecast that called for sunny skies and warm temps. I wanted cozy, dadgummit, but the forecast remained relentlessly, appallingly "nice." Until Thursday evening, when it suddenly changed (as it is wont to do here) to a winter weather advisory. We ended up yesterday with single-digit temps, fog, blustery winds and snow. Lots and lots and lots of snow! Pretty Christmas snow, no less... the fluffy kind with diamonds glinting in it! Josie had a jolly time wallowing in it, and she was uncharacteristically cooperative about posing for a photo before coming back inside (children are always such angels at Christmastime, aren't they?) So although our chocolate spiced cocoa muffins weren't frosted, our Josie muffin sure was! :-)

BW is off until Jan 4 (with the possible exception of Wednesday) ~ another VERY fun surprise! And we have lots going on, so my posts will be scant for a while. But I'll try to pop in again at least once before 2009 turns to 2010 (<--- am I the only one who thinks that looks weirdly futuristic?)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Decked Halls & Decked-Out Critters

Well, the halls being decked, and inspired by Molly at It's a Vegan Dog's Life who graciously invited us in to sit by the fire and enjoy her pretty decorations and fun critter-kids, I'm putting out the welcome mat as well. We're having a winter storm, snowing and 1ºF with gusty winds, so come on in, take off your boots and snow-covered coats and toast your frozen buns in front of the pellet stove. :-) I've made some tea (it's an especially good day for a peppermint-spearmint-chamomile blend, don't you think?) and some pumpkin-cranberry bread, so relax, warm up, and enjoy our little nod to this festive season...

Though the birdhouse collection is in our living room bay window all year, come December several snowmen and a gingerbread man or two populate Birdhouse Village, along with a lighted Christmas tree (the only one in the house!) in the "village square." (If you want a better view of some of the snowmen, click on the photo or view the close-up of a few of them gazing longingly at my bowl of oatmeal in my spurtle post). The Santa fence below the window guards a basket of VegNews magazines. ;-)

The mantle over our pellet stove.

My great-grandmother's quilt hanging in the garland-festooned hallway. The kitchen is to the left (you can see a bit of the cupboards) if you're needing a refill on your tea. Go heppasef, as I used to say as a wee tot. :-)

My talented quilter friend Joanne made me this sweet Santa quilt one year, which greets visitors in the front hall.

Peanut always seems fascinated with the bay window's holiday decorations, and stops by to peer in every year. This time he seems to be noting with some contempt that the star on top of the Christmas tree is slightly askew! ;-)

This is Punky, born this past spring. She's named for her spiky punk hairstyle, which in this photo is covered in thick frost and snow, as is the rest of her! (I took this photo just this morning while dispensing treats to my cold little feathered and frosted friends!) Punky is adorable with flocking, but I wish I could bring her in by the fire with us! Is she not the cutest? (Seriously, click on the photo for a larger view of that precious face!) Don't you just want to scratch her behind her ears and tousle her punky hair? :-)

Tess loves to wear hats and the Santa hat seems to be her favorite. She'll wear it happily till it eventually slides off. Her expression doesn't seem to go with the hat much though, unless she's compiling her list of naughty children and calculating how many coal lumps to order! I sure hope I'm not on that list...

But uh-oh. Looks like Josie is! "I've been keeping a list of who's been naughty and who's been nice, you know," says Santa Paws. "And it's not looking good for you, kid!" Josie receives this news with an alarmed roll of her eye! ;-)

Dear, sweet, patient Willow is less fond of wearing hats, especially when they're so big they slide down over her eyes, but she's a good sport (for a few seconds, anyway!) as she doesn't want to be on that list with Josie! ;-)

Poor Tessa. "All this decorating, all this list-making, all this photographing, all this being irresistibly adorable all day...
the holidays are just so exhausting!"

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Still-Point of Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice to my fellow residents of Earth's northern hemisphere! (And happy Summer Solstice to our southern hemisphere neighbors!)

What most people love about this first day of winter is that after tonight, the days grow longer, the nights shorter. Although I also love sunshine and warm days, I am atypical, for I adore winter and its hibernation-inspiring dormancy and darkness. Maybe it's due to my strong introversion or the fact I'm a child of winter, born in its depths. But I celebrate Winter Solstice not so much for the return of the sun and longer days as for the powerful silence, sweet peace, inner reflection and necessary restoration winter's cozy days and long, dark nights can bring. (No wonder Still, Still, Still is one of my favorite carols!) :-)

I hope you'll enjoy the quotes and images I've gathered as a tribute to winter and her Solstice. Since the holiday season has been made unnaturally contrarian with its clamor and cacophony, chaos and crowds, obligations and acquisitiveness, moments of blessed stillness can be impossible to find and challenging to create. But it is stillness that this serene and slumbering season invites us to embrace, so here's a chance to savor a few moments of quiet meditation on the sweet and simple gifts of winter...

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice 2009
Dec 21, 5:47 pm Universal Time (GMT)

What fire could ever equal
the sunshine of a winter's day?
~Henry David Thoreau

Winter Solstice: A time to let the longest night of the year
seduce you into stillness.
Time to silence inner voices,
listen to the beating of your own heart.
Time to breathe slowly, become the breath.
Linger here. The night is long.

There is a privacy about it
which no other season gives you...
In spring, summer and fall
people sort of have an open season on each other;
only in the winter, in the country,
can you have longer, quiet stretches
when you can savor belonging to yourself.
~Ruth Stout

Winter solitude—
In a world of one color
The sound of wind.

O Winter! ruler of the inverted year...
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
fireside enjoyments,
home-born happiness, and all the comforts
that the lowly roof of undisturb'd retirement,
and the hours of long, uninterrupted evening, know.
~William Cowper

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do ~
or because you can now and then permit yourself
the luxury of thinking so.
~Stanley Crawford

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
~Pietro Aretino

The color of springtime is in the flowers,
The color of winter is in the imagination.
~Ward Elliot Hour

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~Bill Morgan, Jr.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind as man's ingratitude.
~William Shakespeare

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.
~Edith Sitwell

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
~William Blake

"Hear! hear!" screamed the jay from a neighboring tree,
where I had heard a tittering for some time,
"winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel,
if you know where to look for it."
~Henry David Thoreau, 28 November 1858 journal entry

Friday, December 18, 2009

Your Final Friday KISS - The Spurtle!

For your final Friday KISS, I've chosen a kitchen gadget that's unique and rather obscure (at least in the US), that I don't own, have never used, nor had even heard of until it was featured in Wordsmith's A.Word.A.Day a while back. (Now, if you've not only heard of it but have one in your drawer and use it often, I'm going to feel pathetic. So just pretend ignorance, mmmkay?) ;-)

Introducing... the spurtle!

Used to stir porridge since the 16th century, the spurtle is considered superior to a spoon because its shape prevents clumping and mushiness.

Both pictures are from Lee Valley Tools, where you can buy one for your own gadget collection. (Of course, you can always use the handle of a wooden spoon instead, but that wouldn't make for much of a gadget post now, would it?)

My mother always made me eat oatmeal when I was a kid and I detested it. I thought it looked (and tasted, though I was guessing on that) like wallpaper paste. But when BW and I stayed at a B&B in Edinburgh twelve years ago, I - rather reluctantly, but "when in Rome..." - ate a bowl of "pinhead porridge" (oatmeal made with steel-cut oats) for breakfast and had to take back every bad thing I'd ever said or thought about oatmeal!

We also enjoy oat groats ~ whole oats that, unlike steel-cut oats, have not been steamed and coarsely chopped, so they take longer to cook but our crockpot does it brilliantly overnight while we slumber. And BW enjoys thick-cut rolled oats, but thick though they may be, they still give me wallpaper paste flashbacks. So I'll stick with the groats and the steel-cut, thank you! I enjoy my pinhead porridge with a little vanilla hemp or soy milk, maple syrup, whole flaxseeds, cinnamon and nutmeg, and fresh fruit like blueberries, apples or bananas, and/or dried fruit like raisins, currants or dried cranberries.

Oatmeal is such a hearty, healthy breakfast, especially in the cold winter months, so here are a few recipes to warm your innards and give your spurtle a workout...

From FatFreeVegan:
Oatmeal: It's What's For Breakfast
If your appetite for spurtle-lore and all things oatmeal still isn't satisfied, check out The Tradition and Trivia of Scottish Porridge from Seafoam Woodturning (where you can also buy yourself another spurtle!)

And if you're so inclined, once armed with a spurtle and having mastered the knowledge and skills of oats and porridge-making, you can put your talents to the test and perhaps become the next...

Yes, Virginia, there is a world porridge-making championship. Next one is in October 2010, so you've got plenty of time to get your game on. ;-)
(Meanwhile, I'm off to plan oat-intensive dishes for Hogmanay and Bobby Burns' birthday next month, while eating pinhead porridge and drinking oatmeal stout!) ;-)


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  • 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"

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