Food, Uncategorized

Cheesecake Project

The following is one of many examples of how businesses view American consumers as brainless buying machines. There’s a new product from Philadelphia brands called “No Bake Cheesecake”.


It costs $4.48 for one unit. I suppose it’s meant to convince those who buy this that they’ve actually concocted a homemade cheesecake because it comes with directions that list three distinct steps in the process.

IMG_1110.jpg First step includes pouring the cheesecake glop into a prepared pie crust. The Keebler pie crust shown in the photo sells for $3.49 at the same supermarket.

IMG_1112.jpgSecond step says smooth the glop with a spatula. Third step says wait 2 minutes then eat.  Personally, I think they could have added a step in the beginning that recommends opening the container. Maybe they could have followed this up with a final step that instructs the consumer to discard the container.  Five steps rather than three steps certainly imparts the idea of more work accomplished in order to “create” the cheesecake. 

Well, over in the freezer section I found a Sarah Lee cheesecake in a graham cracker crust. It costs $6.99. 


So let’s see, the total cost of the “homemade” cheesecake is $7.97. That’s nearly one dollar more than the Sarah Lee cheesecake that’s already made. So those who get sucked into this new Philadelphia product have the opportunity to give the company an additional $1.00 for the privilege of pretending they made a cheesecake all by themselves, for the privilege of wasting plastic packaging material, for the privilege of washing a spatula, and for the privilege of being chumps.

If there’s any moral to this story, it’s Don’t be a chump and cheesecake is bad for you.



bad grammar

My children say that I’m a grammar Nazi. They’re probably right but I just can’t help myself. Sometimes I need to make a choice between friends and good grammar. I generally overcome my linguistic OCD and choose friends, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not wincing internally.

Whatever happened to adverbs? Why is “impact” used as a verb? Aren’t objective and subjective cases important anymore? Isn’t it clear that the word “myself” may only be used as a reflexive or intensive pronoun?  Why do people claim that they are nauseous when they’re really nauseated? Why can’t I forget the little green grammar book that I had in 7th grade? And… who cares anyway?

I need to remember that English is a living language. Living languages evolve. That’s just normal and it’s really quite interesting. Nevertheless, I have a neurotic need to resist these changes as much as I possibly can.

Obviously I’m not totally serious about this and I know perfectly well that I make errors too.  I do like languages and I enjoy hearing different dialects of our rich English speech. However, sometimes grammar idiosyncrasies can cause confusion. For instance, a few years ago a colleague brought some lovely fresh pineapple to our office. There were two plates of it. One was nearly empty and the plate in back of it was full. However, the plate with big chunks of pineapple was partially hidden by books and office equipment . A fellow employee entered the office and looked at the fruit.  He said, “I didn’t know we had no pineapple.” I responded, “Oh yes, we have lots of  pineapple left. It’s on the plate in back of the books.” My co-worker was expressing his surprise at seeing pineapple, but I understood that he was disappointed because all of the pineapple had been eaten.

The following boring story contains many of the grammatical and spelling errors that we all hear on a daily basis. I added “unpack it” simply because it annoys me.

By the way, I don’t really believe that the French are all thieves!


Karen drug the heavy suitcase up the stairs.

“I didn’t know we had no suitcases,” remarked Louis, her roommate.

“Yeah, it’s for the trip I was planning for.”

“Your still going?”

“Yeah, I’m going to France because the article I read about it really impacted me a lot and it was one of the most impactful articles I ever read.” 

“Karen, I didn’t know anything could impact you like that!”

“Yes, I’ll make any sacrafice needed to see France.”

“Well, make sure the clasps on you’re suitcase aren’t too lose because their all thieves over there. Theifs make me absolutely nauseous!”

“OK, don’t worry.”

Karen packed her suitcase.

“Karen, why come your going to France?”

“Thier are so many wierd reasons.”

“What are they?”

“Well, let me unpack the situation for you, OK?”

Her and Louis exchanged glances.

“Louis, do you remember when my Mother gave you and I the article about France?”


“Well, I wasn’t feeling very well and I thought that I could do with a vacation.”

“Its always like that with you.”

“Yes, I know, but this time its different because before I didn’t even no where France was at.”

Louis looked puzzled.

“You see, me and her had always planned too take a foreign vacation, but we had never had the time after we had gotten our new jobs and we had never made enough money.”

Louis waited.

“She and myself had realized that we didn’t have no time left in our lives and should travel now.”

“You had a mid-life crises and your only in you’re 30’s?”

“That’s right, it had just snuck right up on me.”

“Karen, their have been plenty of other things you would of done.”

“Thanks, Louis, but if I don’t go now I may loose my mind.”



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     Juliet is my second child.  She spoke very early and could even pronounce about 20 words when she was only 6 months old.  Her physical development was much slower.  She couldn’t sit up without support until she was nearly 8 months old, and she didn’t walk until 15 months.  Since she was not my first child, I wasn’t concerned.  In view of these disparate abilities, Juliet used to lie on a blanket and simply talk.  That’s really all she could do by herself.  And did she talk!  She never stopped and she spoke loudly to the point at which her voice was always hoarse.  Her pediatrician checked her hearing (normal) and said that there was nothing to do for the hoarseness until she decided to speak more softly and less often.  He advised that I encourage her to do so.  Sure….. try reasoning with a 1-year-old. 

     My mother visited us in Houston in the 80s, and one morning while I was at work she called a cab to bring  Juliet and her older brother Brian to visit my Uncle Bobby – Mom’s brother who also lived in Houston.  Juliet was almost 2 at the time and Mom said that the taxi driver was clearly exasperated with our little motor mouth.  He even asked my mother, “Doesn’t she ever stop talking?”  This was about the time that she started learning a few French words including “moulin à paroles” which means “windmill of words” – the French equivalent of “motor mouth”.  Isn’t that cute, and wasn’t that appropriate?  Juliet  even referred to herself as a moulin.  Mom told me that  Uncle Bobby and Aunt Mae could just barely tolerate the constant chatter, but they were very polite about the whole thing and just said, “Isn’t she sweet?”  Those from the South will understand the double-entendre of this phrase.  Of course my mother thought everything my children did was delightful and was (and is) completely incapable of suspecting that not everyone was as charmed with them as she.

     About two months later, I took Brian and Juliet to visit my mother in New Jersey.  We boarded the plane early since our party consisted of small children.  Our seats were at the front of the plane and I held Juliet in my lap next to the aisle.  Immediately after taking our seats, Juliet started to make comments, sing, and ask questions – all very LOUDLY.  I really tried to distract her, to put an end to her songs, and I told her how much fun it would be to whisper.  She tried, but she could never keep it up for long.  I could see that those seated nearby were already scouting for possible unoccupied seats at a safer distance.  Oh hell!  This turned out to be a prescient sentiment because suddenly and without warning, a long line of Catholic nuns in full habits filed down the aisle.  Juliet stopped speaking abruptly.  She spun her head around in order to scrutinize them.  The other passengers appeared relieved at the respite from baby talk, but they didn’t know her as I did.  I powerlessly waited for the other shoe to drop.

      Juliet was completely silent.  Her eyes were fixed on the nuns. She was mesmerized.  Suddenly, when approximately half of the nuns had passed us, she turned to me.  Oh no, here it comes, I just knew it!”  She took her little hand and pushed my face around so that she could look directly at me.  In the loudest voice she could muster, she asked, “ARE THOSE WITCHES MOMMY?”  

     That comment did elicit a few laughs from the other passengers, but I felt my face turn hot as I noticed that the nuns did not seem to think it was funny.  I think I still had a trace of PTSD after catechism classes with Sister Veronica Mary – the most frightening nun I ever met – when I was 7 years old.  Fortunately, at the end of the flight, we were some of the first to deboard. 

     I gathered the kids up near the gate as I exited, put Juliet in her stroller, and held on tight to Brian’s hand.  The nuns caught up to us.  Oh nooooo!  Then one of them smiled and waved at me.  I felt so much better, that is until the next shoe dropped, and believe me there were many shoes in the years to come.

     I’m pleased to say that as an adult, Juliet is an excellent listener, she doesn’t interrupt, her voice is not hoarse, her speaking volume is quite normal, and she speaks 4 languages eloquently.   However,  she definitely still speaks her mind!





HW-TrafficSigns-RoadTrip     It was 1960, the summer of my 8th birthday.  I was about to learn some life lessons that I’ve never forgotten.  These lessons remain quite clear in my memory, mainly because of the bizarre and ironic fashion in which they were taught.

     Mom, my older brother Richard, and I hopped into the car and began our trip from northern New Jersey to Lakeland, Florida to visit Grandma and Grandpa. This was my first trip out of the state.  It was my first trip anywhere.  For a little girl whose favorite pastime was to browse atlases and imagine that she was traveling to distant venues, this was the ultimate excitement.  The South!  This seemed so exotic to me.  I couldn’t wait to hear a southern accent, to see palm trees, and to feel the warmth of a tropical climate.  My mother told me that Grandma and Grandpa had an avocado tree, a mango tree, and a papaya tree and that I could taste these curious fruits; I could pick them right off the tree and eat them.  “Are they good Mom?”  “Yes, and they’re very good for you.”  I naively wondered if Southerners would have a different appearance than those of us in the North. Would they dress differently?  What did they eat?  What did they wear?  Did alligators roam the streets?

     What an adventure!  We began the odyssey by zooming down the Garden State Parkway in our new Mercury – a blue and white marvel with whitewall tires, chrome details, and wings in the back in which the red cone tail lights were embedded.  Wind blew in through the half-open windows (air conditioning of the era)  and gave some relief from the stifling July heat.  Richard and I sang songs, played “Mad Libs”, read comic books, and took turns lying down on the ledge beneath the rear window.  We snacked on some sandwiches, fruit and juice that Mom had packed in the cooler that she placed on the front passenger seat.  Seat belts were not part of the public consciousness back then and Richard and I bounced about with joyous, youthful, and expectant exuberance.

     Early that evening we stopped at a motel.  This was another first and we were overflowing with excitement.  Even better, there was a swimming pool!  Richard and I donned our swim suits and jumped in the pool with several other children who appeared to be fellow travelers on the long asphalt river that flowed down the eastern seaboard.  After the swim, we had dinner at the motel’s small restaurant, then back to the motel room, pajamas, TV, and then sleep.

     We resumed our journey very early in the morning. Mom said that we’d probably arrive at Grandma and Grandpa’s house about the time that lightening bugs come out.  We started to pay more attention to the landscape.  The first striking difference is that we began to see billboards that advertised an establishment called Stuckey’s.  At first, these signs would periodically appear every 10 miles or so, and advised us that we shouldn’t miss Stuckey’s because it sold the best pecan rolls in the South.  Each successive billboard told us that we were getting “closer and closer” to Stuckey’s.  They continued to remind us  that we just couldn’t forget to try their famous pecan rolls.  We seemed to be getting “closer and closer” to Stuckey’s (according to the billboards) for at least 3-4 hours.  What could a pecan roll be?  We were fascinated.  Anticipation had nearly reached a fever pitch.  Finally, the billboards appeared with much-increased frequency.  “Is that it?”  “Stuckey’s!”  “I see it!”   “Could that be it?”  I felt a twinge of disappointment when we finally arrived at the famous Stuckey’s.  After all of the advertisement, I expected something grander than this small store at the side of the road with an oversized American flag and yet another billboard on the premises that announced that we had arrived at Stuckey’s.  A smaller billboard displayed a red painted arrow that pointed to the store. However, our spirits weren’t dampened and we were thrilled when Mom turned into the Stuckey’s parking lot.  Many other families were there, no doubt for the famous pecan rolls.  Richard and I jumped out of the car and ran into Stuckey’s – the Stuckey’s.  The pecan rolls weren’t immediately visible.  We meandered through the aisles of souvenirs until we found them.  We’d seen so many billboards that extolled the sumptuousness of these delectable treats!  But instead of seeing magical candy that floated in the air suspended by fairy lights, instead of seeing world-renowned pecan rolls that brought tears to my eyes and made me hear ethereal music in the background, instead of seeing a display of these elegant confections surrounded by crowds of people ooh-ing and aah-ing, we saw only an unexpectedly small number of pecan rolls that were piled on a wire rack in the back of the store and wrapped in white paper that said only, “Stuckey’s Pecan Roll”.  That was it?  Mom bought one for both of us.  As soon as I got in the car I unwrapped my treat and immediately bit into it.  It was hard, stiff, and the nuts were too salty.  There was some white nougat-type filling that was tooth-achingly sweet and sticky.  I looked over at Richard and he looked at me; accurate communication sometimes requires no words, especially when one’s mouth is filled with stale gooey candy.  What a let-down!  It was an unexpected and excellent lesson about false advertising and the consumer’s (my) willingness to be manipulated.   It taught me that skepticism can be a healthy and helpful attribute.  When we returned home after our trip and I fell back into my comic book reading ways, thoughts of Stuckey’s flashed through my mind whenever I read the ads in the back of the comics that touted x-ray vision glasses, magic beans, and other fantastic products.  Still fell for the Sea Monkeys though!

     Mom made an announcement every time we entered a new state.  I first saw Spanish moss when we were in Georgia.  It was exquisitely beautiful, airy, and graceful.  The trees were dressed in gossamer drapes of silvery-green lace that drooped to the ground in masses of gauzy loveliness.  I was transfixed, mesmerized by the splendor, but I noticed that trees that had the most luxuriant displays of Spanish moss often appeared to be sickly.  They had many bare, black, leafless branches.  My mother explained that Spanish moss was a parasite.  Although beautiful, it saps the life from its host and eventually can harm the tree.  This was another life lesson and was a clear metaphor for what real beauty demands; it’s not simply a graceful appearance, but a gracious nature.

     We reached Lakeland in the late afternoon.  It was uncomfortably hot and sticky but we were all very excited about seeing Grandma and Grandpa.  When we finally arrived, my mother cried when she hugged her parents.  I could tell she was tired but happy.  Grandma made dinner and Grandpa sat in his favorite chair while he puffed on his pipe, making tiny clouds of bluish-gray, sweet-smelling smoke.  After dinner, Grandma told Richard and me to go outside to play but ordered us to stay away from her fruit trees; we tried unsuccessfully. 

     There was a five & dime store directly across the street from my grandparents’ home.  I went there with Mom to buy some ice cream.  While there, my mother took me to the restroom and I was astonished to see that there were restrooms that were labeled “colored” or “white”.  There were even two water fountains – one for “coloreds” and one for “whites”.  Mom said that this is what was done in the South.  We both stared at the water fountains for a while and I could tell that Mom was uncomfortable.  I thought back to my atlas and realized that I might have, for the first time in my life, traveled to a different world.  Mom uttered the word “prejudice” but I really didn’t understand or question at the time.  I just used the correct bathroom.  When I exited the toilet I furtively looked about, flirted with the idea of drinking from the “coloreds” water fountain and then running away, but finally decided against it, thinking that I could possibly go to jail if I broke the law. 

     The next morning Mom gave me a quarter and said that I could go to the five & dime all by myself to buy whatever I could purchase for 25 cents.  I was in heaven!  I got to cross the street myself and go shopping in this unfamiliar world.  I scrutinized everything I saw.  Everybody looked the same as Northerners.  They wore the same clothes.  Their behavior was the same.  The commonplace was disappointing for this atlas-toting 8-year-old who yearned for the strange and alien.  However, this blow was softened when I listened to the interesting southern dialect spoken by the other patrons in the store.  I freely admit that I was a weird little kid, and I wandered about the store just listening and watching and making mental notes.  I did choose a purchase – a tiny wooden clown that spun on a stick when I twirled the knob at its base.  It cost 10 cents. 

     I went to the check-out line.  It was moving slowly, but I had fun playing with my wooden clown.  Suddenly, a woman in front of me turned and saw me.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!” she said.  Then she got in back of me in the line.  I froze.  What did I do?  I thought I must have made some terrible cultural faux-pas (still my particular speciality).  The atlas girl abruptly felt very uncomfortable.  I remained silent, waited in line, paid for my toy, and ran home.

     I explained the situation to my mother.  I was confused.  Why did the lady apologize to me and let me go ahead of her?  The woman was black.  Even though she was an adult and I was a child, and even though she entered the line first, she felt that she needed to be deferential to me – a child playing with a toy and paying no attention to anything else – simply because I was white.  Mom mentioned the word “prejudice” again.  She explained it to me and told me that it was nonsensical, but I didn’t completely grasp the full meaning.   “Why do people in the South do that, Mom?”    “Because everyone in the South is crazy.”  Suddenly I got it.  I knew precisely what prejudice was and why it was nonsensical.  I just heard it right from my mother!    This was another great life lesson taught by my mother who meant well but had no idea how funny she was!

P.S.  She didn’t really mean it.

Current Events, Free Speech, RELIGION



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George Washington at Historic Christ Church – Easter 1795


     George Washington was one of the founding members of Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, buying pew No. 5 when the church opened in 1773 and attending for more than two decades whenever he rode north from Mount Vernon to do business in town.  This week, the church leaders elected to tear down the memorial to our first president (along with a memorial plaque dedicated to Robert E. Lee) because George Washington was a slave owner.

     Yes, George Washington did own slaves as many Virginia landowners in that period did.  But this didn’t define him in his entirety.  People come in three dimensions.  For example, Washington was very supportive of the homosexual community.  Revolutionary War hero, Baron von Steuben was an openly gay military expert who was thrown out of the Prussian army due to his sexual identity.  About this time, General George Washington was dealing with an army of ragtag colonial patriots who were beaten back by the British and who were starving and dying of cold and disease.  Washington wanted the best, and he asked the best – Baron von Steuben – to help him.   Von Steuben stepped in and turned the poorly-trained American soldiers into the Continental Army.  Von Steuben is credited with instilling the military essentials of drills, tactics, and discipline which he later wrote down as Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.  Commonly referred to as the “Blue Book,” it served as the standard drill manual for the US military for nearly a century. 

     Washington was quite aware why Von Steuben was expelled from the Prussian army.  He didn’t care.  Von Steuben’s sexuality was not a factor.  Washington wanted the best and that’s what he got to Prussia’s and Britain’s loss. Later on, Von Steuben served as George Washington’s Chief of Staff.  I think we can admire not only Von Steuben for his military prowess, but George Washington for his intelligent, progressive (and Christian)  thinking which was way ahead of its time.

     Unfortunately, George Washington lived for only a short while after his presidency.  In his will, he stipulated that his personal slave, William, be freed immediately with a $30 grant of money (about $1000 in today’s currency) to be paid him every year for life, and he ordered the rest of his slaves freed upon his wife Martha’s death.  Washington left some of his wealth to a school for poor and orphaned children and other amounts to support the construction of a national university in Washington, D.C..

     Like Cincinnatus, he remained in command of the Continental Army only until the British had been defeated. Thereafter, he returned as quickly as possible to cultivating his lands instead of seeking great political power.  Some of Washington’s contemporaries actually suggested that Washington become the first king of our country; however, he was duly elected as our first president and returned to his farm at Mount Vernon after two terms, setting a precedent which held fast until President Roosevelt’s four terms in the 20th century. 

    Washington also regarded the divisiveness of his countrymen’s feelings about slavery as a potentially mortal threat to the unity of the nation.  He never publicly challenged the institution of slavery,  possibly because he wanted to avoid provoking a split in the new republic over so inflammatory an issue.  However, he did sign into law the Slave Trade Act of 1794 which limited American involvement in the Atlantic slave trade.  In an attempt to erode support for slavery, he discouraged the cultivation of crops heavily dependent on slave labor -specifically tobacco – and encouraged the introduction of crops that needed little or no slave labor such as wheat. Washington refused to separate families amongst his slaves.  A deist, he nevertheless was a member of the Anglican Church and opined that any great nation could not survive without a strong adherence to morality.  Scholarly polling consistently ranks him among the top three presidents in American history.

     Was George Washington blameless with regards to slavery?  Of course not.  He even allowed for corporal punishment for some of his own slaves.  But like his contemporary Thomas Jefferson (who tried to prohibit slavery in one of his first drafts of our Constitution but was nixed by other founding fathers), he considered slavery a moral depravity and a hideous blot upon which our nation could fail.  Washington felt that the abolition of slavery required a democratic process.  Sadly, this meant that manumission could legally be accomplished only by agreement of the states.  Was this a moral shortcoming?  Was this cowardice?  Perhaps it was, but it is very difficult to place oneself in the 18th century mindset and political landscape.   

     Christ Church in Alexandria is a beautiful and historic edifice and as a Christian church I assume there are some depictions of Jesus on the property.  Now let’s examine the ironic morality of some of Jesus’ teachings.  When it comes to Jesus’ thoughts on slavery he merely suggests that one should not beat their slaves too brutally but according to what they deserve (Luke 12:45-48).  He never made any objection or condemning remarks on slavery.  And Jesus doesn’t just kill people as done in the Old Testament. As pathologically brutal as are many parts of the Old Testament, they pale in comparison to Jesus’ introduction of the concept of Hell.  Jesus declared “I have come to cast fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49).  He promised the death and suffering, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the burning of flesh for anyone who was against him (Matt. 12:30, Matt. 13:4-42, 50, Luke 11:23).  Quick execution seems so much more compassionate than an eternity of torture.  Jesus had a volatile temper.  He cursed fig trees, kicked over tables, drove a herd of innocent animals (pigs) off of a cliff so that they could drown in the sea below, encouraged the separation of families, and was haughty and disrespectful to his family when he announced that he had a new family as the son of God.  New Testament apocrypha even describe the child Jesus as a killer.  He slew other children who annoyed him, and for minor infractions such as accidentally bumping into him or splashing about in the same waters in which he played.

     For believers in the literal truth of the bible, these actions do not diminish the importance of the overall morality of Jesus’ teachings and are excused as being taken out of context.  Jesus taught peace (usually, see Matthew 10:34) forgiveness, and love.  This appears to have been revolutionary at the time.  Jesus and the Bible provide support, comfort and meaning to their lives.  I applaud this and recognize this as good and valuable (occasionally). For those of us who view Jesus and the Bible as allegorical, reflection upon these allegories can illuminate and guide our lives.  For some, this provides structure and teaches humility and compassion.   Even non-believers who do not regard the Bible as a particularly superior guide for ethical behavior don’t insist upon the removal of statues of saints and gods.  

     In verse John 8:7, Jesus says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone [at her].”  I think that this should apply to all of us, and that includes Washington, and yes, that includes the historical or mythological Jesus.  We’re all imperfect beings who can only try as best we can to make the world better in spite of our frailties.  We can admire the efforts that others make to do this and learn from their faults.  The only other option is to tear down each and every statue, plaque and commemorative item of saints and sinners all, because we’ll never find perfection.  We can only strive for the process and the path to improvement.

     And the removal of the Robert E. Lee plaque?  Well, that’s another story, another opinion and another blog.








ThisSaudi Woman
     This young Saudi woman pictured above has  been arrested for her “immodest” attire. An activist known for previous protests on social media, she has previously filmed herself driving a car – illegal for Saudi women.  Two days ago she posted a video of herself on Facebook as she walked through an apparently deserted part of a town while wearing a Western-style skirt, a summer shirt and sandals.  She chose to eschew the abaya. and her long tresses were exposed to the view of any men who may have been lurking about the quarter. The Saudis have deemed this immoral behavior.  
     I “audit” some Facebook sites from predominantly Muslim countries and it’s absolutely shocking to read what some of the members say about this. The overwhelming majority of comments are condemnatory, and most are hideous.  The last one I read said, “That fucking whore should get what she deserves!”  There was a huge uproar throughout the country and calls for the woman’s (and her videographer’s) arrest and punishment resounded throughout the peninsula in spite of the few brave voices of those who outwardly supported her.  
     Now she has been seized.  I hope she’s not been raped by the good upstanding men of the religious police who arrested her so that they could teach her about true morality.  

     There’s even more lovely news from this delightful little arid enclave; Mujtaba Al-Sweikat was a 17-year-old Saudi student about to go to Michigan to attend college when he attended a pro-democracy rally in his native country of Saudi Arabia. He was arrested and sentenced to beheading. This is now imminent. In response, I contacted the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC last year to express my horror. It’s very likely that Mujtaba’s death cannot be prevented in the pathologically authoritarian and fascist Saudi society, but I encourage everyone to at least email them so that those in power there understand that we’re not in complicit agreement or acceptance of their disgusting behavior.…/saudi-arabia…/482817001/…

     I’m no Social Justice Warrior.  I don’t give a damn about Pocahontas Halloween costumes, proper pronoun assignments, micro-aggressions, or any other snowflake babble like that. I also understand that it is unlikely that anything can put a halt to Saudi Arabia’s plans to abuse and/or kill two of their own citizens, even those not far removed from childhood.  However, being entirely complacent about true crimes against humanity which are about to be committed, is as bad as being complicit. This should never be viewed with a shoulder shrug, a so-what attitude, a none-of-my-business chuckle, or a morally-lazy non response.  This is especially true when atrocities like this take place among the supposed allies of the United States, and in a nation recently visited and praised by our president.
     Please email the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington DC.  It takes very little time.  Send a copy to our president and to your political representatives.  My email follows.  If you agree, you can also copy and paste.  Then send to
     “I’ve written to you before about Mujtaba Al-Sweikat, a young man who was just 17 when he attended a pro-democracy rally and was sentenced to beheading. I have just read that the beheading is imminent. I implore you to act in a humane manner. The barbarism involved in this sentence is horrific, and clemency in this matter would not only spare the life of someone who was a child when he committed this crime (although not a crime in the US or in my assessment), but would at the very least portray Saudi Arabia as a nation with some iota of decency.
     In addition, the very recent arrest of a Saudi woman who violated the Saudi Arabian dress code is guilty of no crime whatsoever in the civilized world. Please demonstrate that you are also civilized and show some clemency. I fear that she may have already been raped by upstanding men of the religious police who are attempting to teach her the meaning of true morality. 
     It’s time to change. It’s useless to try to stop social change, especially when you have such a large percentage of the population under the age of 25. More intelligent management would be to allow for some flexibility. Save your children even when they “misbehave” according to your rules. But killing and abusing your own people will lead to the end of your current regime….. sooner rather than later. Your citizens will protest and you will lose.”

Easy Filled Pastry Roll

     This is a dessert or breakfast pastry recipe that’s foolproof and amazingly quick and easy to make.  It takes less than 10 minutes at most to prepare and 1/2 hour to bake.  It’s versatile too.  I plan to try it without any sugar and with a savory filling.

Pastry Dough:

-1 1/2 C self-rising flour (OR make your own with 1 1/2 C flour 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt).

-1 T sugar – I use brown sugar, but any sugar is optional.

-4 T shortening – I use vegetable shortening, but you can use butter, vegetable oil or margarine.

-Water, enough to make a pliable dough – I used very slightly more than 1/2 C.


Anything can be used:

-Sugar and cinnamon

-Jam, jelly or other sweet conserves

-Fruit pie filling – For the photos I used apple pie filling sprinkled with cinnamon

-Chopped nuts, raisins, honey



1. Place flour, sugar (if used), and shortening in bowl. Mix with fingers until grainy.


2. Add water.


3. Place on lightly floured surface and pat down or roll until about 1/4” thick.  The shape does not need to be perfect.

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4. Spread filling, leaving ~1/2” of edges clean.

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5. Roll it up and tuck in the ends.

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6. This next step is optional, but if you’d like to dress up the recipe a little, you can brush the top with an egg wash (1 egg yolk thinned in half with water or milk), butter, or milk.  This can be then sprinkled with poppy seeds if you’d like.  In this photo, I’ve brushed the pastry with 1 T of ground flax seeds soaked for 10 minutes in 1/2 C of water.

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7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

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Lemony Snacking Cake



     I made this lemony snacking cake this morning.  It was actually a “use up some stuff in the refrigerator cake”, but it turned out very nice, light and delicious.  It was just wonderful with tea.


-2 eggs

-1 cup of sugar

-4 T vegetable oil or melted butter

-1/3 cup of leftover juice from canned fruit – I used the juice from pears in light syrup, but I’ll bet that orange juice would be good.

-Juice from 1/2 lemon

-Zest from 1 lemon

-1 C flour

-1/2 tsp salt

-1/2 tsp baking soda

  1. Add the first 6 ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  2. Add the last 3 ingredients (don’t need to pre-sift together) and beat until smooth.
  3. Bake at 325 degrees in a 8×8” well-greased pan for 30-35 minutes.

Yield: 9 servings, 164 calories per serving





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My husband’s first edition “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”


     I’ve recently re-read “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). What a marvelous chef d’œuvre!   I’m a big fan of Twain.  He was a free-thinker, a talented comedian, and a fine writer.  I think there are two main themes in the book.  It’s Twain’s explanation of where and how we understand what is moral and what is not, and it’s a sharp condamnation of racism.

    If you’ve read the novel you know that Huck knew it was not okay to turn in his friend, the escaped slave Jim,  to the authorities.  Huck was aware that if discovered, his friend would be severely punished and/or killed.  Here it was, the end of the 19th century, and virtually everyone would be against Huck’s decision.  Even the clergy at Huck’s church were against aiding and abetting “escaped negro slaves” and preached that those who did would go to hell.  The Huckleberry Finn character was only about 13 years old and believed with every fiber in his body that he would go to hell if he helped Jim.  He decided to do so anyway.  He did it because it was the right thing to do.  Mark Twain was not a religious man and this was his way of saying that our morality does not come from the Bible, that without the Bible we would not be heartless raping, killing reprobates.  He says that our morality is innate.  It’s biologic and comes from the amity and loving responsibility that we feel for others. 

     Mark Twain was also not a racist.  Those who say so have not read the novel.  Jim was compassionate, intelligent, and loyal to his young friend Huck.  An adult, he treated Huck with paternal tenderness.  It’s true that word “nigger” is mentioned 219 times in the book. Certainly this is an ugly word, but it describes the ugly sentiment of racism.  It’s exactly what Twain, undoubtably an antiracist,  intended to do.  He meant to capture the vitriol of the word and to illuminate its unacceptable nature.  Twain knew the importance of words and how they shape our opinions.  He said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” He knew that using a euphemism in place of the repugnant word would be the same sin only worse because it was disguised as something more palatable. 

     “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a magnificent accomplishment.  I think elementary school children may be too young to understand Twain’s intentions in writing the book, but taking it out of the curriculum for high school students and removing it from school libraries is a sad abandonment of this social satire, this philosophical commentary, this national treasure of a novel.  It’s the work of a true genius.

     If you haven’t seen this book since you were a child, it’s really worth another read as an adult.




     This morning I went to the supermarket and saw this in the pasta aisle.   

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     It is pre-cooked pasta, complete with ecologically-defying plastic packaging for $1.00 per serving as opposed to $0.125 per serving if bought  dry and then boiled by the consumer (prices as per today at my local Kroger’s).  Barilla brags that all one needs to do is “Simply heat the pouch in the microwave then add your favorite toppings for a quick and delicious dish”.

     I have four children, and having worked all of my life, I certainly understand the draw of convenience foods.  However, this crosses over into the realm of the ridiculous.  Sometimes I think that marketers in the food industry must view American consumers as P.T. Barnum’s suckers – born every minute and easily convinced that they need these ludicrous products.  If for any reason a consumer needs individual servings of cooked pasta, why not just cook it oneself and put it into little (reusable) containers?  Even little plastic bags will suffice and they too can be utilized more than once with a quick wash. In preparing these single servings oneself, sauce could even be added before sealing – what a concept!

     These Barilla Ready Pasta packages have, in my opinion, usurped the crazy consumption award from the honorable mention – Smucker’s Uncrustables. honey.png

     With this product, one has the privilege of paying $1.50 or more per one pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off.  Consumers can make their own identical sandwiches for far less expense, and in the time it would take to open all of the unnecessary plastic packaging of a box of this product.  And cut off your own damn crusts!  Use them for bread crumbs, stuffings, etc..  There’s something more than foolish and closer to unethical in this waste of resources.  Of course, if the consumer is concerned about overly processed foods, just look at the ingredients (copied from the Smucker’s label):


     Sometimes my kids make fun of me (in a kindly manner) when I bake my own bread and use my own produce from the vegetable garden.  They call me “Little Mom on the Praire” or “Pioneer Mom”.  I do enjoy cooking from scratch, but I’m also very modern as well.  I’ve used convenience foods… often, in fact.  They’re so helpful and sometimes they’re worth the extra cost, especially after a long grueling day at work and a hungry family at home.  But I do try not to be a dupe about it.  Convenience foods are niceties, not necessities.  They can be a novelty, fun for the kids on occasion, and a quick way to throw a meal together; but they shouldn’t be used routinely.  In addition to being unnecessarily expensive, convenience foods often contain a large amount of fats (including trans fats), sugars (including high-fructose corn syrup) and salt.  Most prepared dishes do not follow nutritional guidelines. They are often low in bulk fibers and their content of minerals and vitamins may be inadequate. Labeling is often misleading.  Look, for example, at the box of Uncrustables above.  It seems to contain peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  However, the label actually says peanut butter and honey spread. Notice that in the ingredients, honey is only the fourth component of the honey spread – after corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and water.  It’s unclear to me why the box indicates “NO High Fructose Corn Syrup” when it’s clearly listed as an ingredient.   In addition to all of this, processed convenience foods are almost always ecologically unsound.

     It’s rather encouraging that the Ready Pasta was marked down today.  Perhaps that means that consumers are not falling for it.