Archive for November, 2010

My year of opting out

November 25, 2010

Usually, I just opt out of Black Friday. For me, Black Friday is a quasi-attonment of Thanksgiving. Here, let’s be gluttons for materialism after a day of giving thanks. The consumerist materialism drives me nuts. I’m sitting here watching a Law and Order marathon and the ads are non-stop “get to x at 4:00 am for special bargains”.  I’m done.

For the next 365 days I am boycotting all national chains, buying as much as I can that is locally made, sourced, produced or from a small business. Actions like this strengthen my local economy. I am not doing this from a point of privilege: I’ve been out of work for over a year.  After I pay my bills, my life would be easier if I shopped at Wal-Mart (which is open in most states today: the day of giving thanks).  But, this diet coke addicted person would rather go without than continue to add to the insanity of large corporations, consumerism at its worse and a host of other items.

There is much, as a nation, we have to be thankful for: shopping on Thanksgiving Day is not one of them. This past month is one that has brought our ugly side. From a hate-filled election on both sides, to low paid individuals having to work on a holiday. I’m done with it.  I’m going local. I’m only going to use chains when needed and then, only regional ones.

There are many things we all want: there are few things we need. I’m spending the year on what I need. And will blog about it. And at the end of the year? Hopefully many of my wants will have gone away.

And no, I didn’t stock up before deciding this. I just jumped off the cliff.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

November 20, 2010

 1 3/4C GF flour

1 1/2t baking soda

1 T cinnamon (ok, i like cinnamon….)

1T nutmeg

1T vanilla

1/2 c unsalted butter

1 1/3 c canned pumpkin (it’s a tad less than a can, unfortunately)

2 eggs (free range, organic)

1C sugar

1C chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350. 

Cream butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, spices. Blend in pumpkin.  Beat in flour and walnuts. Bake in a greased loaf pan for one hour (until toothpick comes out clean).  Let cool for 2.5 hours (really!).  Slice and serve.


November 10, 2010

For the past twenty hours or so, my mind has been with one person that I probably have not thought about in probably 20 years.  Not out of malice or because of an issue, but simply because she and I while we knew each other by sight in college, probably would not recognize each other today if we were to pass in an airport.

She lost her husband, suddenly and without warning. They have young children. There isn’t anybody to rage against or yell at: it was “one of those things.” When I close my mind I can see her as a college sophomore with a smile on her face. I haven’t seen her since then but the community that forms out of Hollins never ceases to amaze me.

I did the “normal” post-modern thing of sending her a Facebook message and expressed my sympathy.  What I saw on her wall was amazing: names of women I haven’t heard/thought of for years doing the same. We are sorry for your loss: know we are here for you.

I remember a few things from my orientation: one was being told that these would be my friends for life. What do you know when you are 17? Very little. I remember hearing it again at graduation and being told we were leaving but the community would remain and thinking, huh? (pre internet era!).

I’ve run into a few alumnae from a few different decades on airplanes since I graduated. The community does remain. There is a common link; the traditions, the changes, the quirks. And for a moment yesterday, I remembered somebody at 19 (including the fashion) and thought she doesn’t deserve this. Nobody does.

I hope she and her family can feel the strength, love and support in the day, weeks, months and years to follow. I know she will smile again, and laugh again without guilt. But for today, I simply wish I could hand her a magic wand, for the one last conversation I know she wishes she could have.

Farm Adventures

November 6, 2010

I recently joined a local food co-op. The Massachusetts Local Food Cooperative, founded roughly 4 years ago, provides individuals the ability to purchased locally sourced food (including sustainable, humanely raised meat) once per month. For the vendors, it is an on-demand system (they know how much of a given product to deliver) which can augment the farmers market/CSA business model.

Yesterday, I volunteered in the distribution system of packing member boxes. While I did have fun (although my shoulder is rebelling about this idea today) and am still VERY grateful I did not see a scary chicken, what I found to be the most fascinating aspect about the process was the diversity of the individuals. From the bumper stickers ON the cars, this was an unlikely group of people who would stereotypically get along. But you know what? They did. Conversations were about how to improve systems, commenting on the growing seasons: or more simply stated, working together to get the job done.

Most of the volunteers are also producers.  Everybody who purchases items through the co-op is supporting local small businesses which then provides a direct return on dollars spent into the central Massachusetts economy. One of the producers I purchased an item from is a cheese vendor. I had previously purchased their items from a national supermarket chain. I was thrilled to see the items on the food co-op list. First, they were less expensive and second, my money was going directly to the producer.

Economists and pundits have long-held that the key to economic recovery is the growth of the small/local businesses. I would also like to think that part of the recovery from the hate filled rhetoric of the past election is the growth of local ventures like the food co-op I joined. There were people there who worked with and saw “the other” and there was not an ounce of debate. There is so much more we have in common that which divides us. I really don’t care if my carrots were raised by a person whom I have divergent political views, what I do care about is the economic growth of my community and the ability to retain local industries and small farms. And, of course, the health benefits of eating locally sourced food is a bonus. I even tried goat sausage. I’ll admit, it was good. And I’m more than a little bummed I didn’t buy a jar of honey. The plus side is? There is always next month!

The election and what we need to learn

November 4, 2010

I have a few addictions in my life: cooking, Farmville (shhh), and books. Lots of books on everything from travel to Pagan’s.  The true addiction in my life, however, is dissecting the political climate and if I remember, I try to do so with a sense of perspective.  There are given axioms that make some sense: all politics are local and people vote their pocketbook.  I had told myself that I wouldn’t go off on the mid-term elections, and I won’t.  There are races I agree with and ones I disagreed with the outcome.  There were ballot initiatives that cracked me up and ones that I found appalling. In short, it was a normal political season, at least, on the surface.

I’m tired. I’m tired of the hatred that was unleashed at a personal level on candidates, supporters of candidates and the insane amount of money that was spent while our country is in a deep non-recovery but not still a recession economy. Although the numbers might never be known, 4 BILLION dollars on ad buys, posters, events is quite simply insane.

4 BILLION dollars. That would pay for eight MILLION months of health care premiums for me. (Yup, I buy my own: $500 a month). Or $13.97 PER person in this country (308 million people). Not registered voters, not likely voters just PEOPLE. For what? Hate spewed rhetoric? Dividing the country further? If I could re-invent the election rules here is what I would do:

1) Real campaign finance reform. Yes, technically anybody should be able to spend their money how they want but reform the out of control spending like this: for every $1.00 you spend in political advertising, you must, by law, donate $5.00 into the area you are purchasing the media buy (robo calls, television, radio) for agencies such as the following: 1) Social service agencies addressing at risk populations 2) Public education PreK-12 3) Agencies addressing the needs of all members of the armed services/veterans 4) Agencies addressing hunger and 5) Agencies addressing renewal/revitalization of urban and rural areas.  The donations are done without recognition but are mandated and verified by the receiving 501(c)3 organizations documents.  Based on this year alone: that would be 20 billion dollars to our social service agencies and organizations that work towards improving the lives of those who have served us, our future and those in need.

2) Some offices are should never be elected. Judges and coroners should have a state based appointment systems with internal checks. Both professions require graduate training, skill and should be well above the political fray. I do not want somebody who has had to spend part of the 4 billion dollars to decide guilt or innocence or cause of death!

3) Our election system has become like the never-ending NBA and NHL seasons. We are roughly 730 days from the next general election. We need to adapt an election calendar: six weeks before the general election there is a primary. All 50 states on the same day. The top 3 in each position run six weeks later in the general election. The primary by party goes away: very simply everybody can vote for their top 3 choices and then those move on in that state for statewide and Congressional offices. The top 3 for president nationally move on. No more “who is around after New Hampshire/South Carolina” madness.  No election ads, special interest ads until one month before the first round. Consolidate the election season into 10 weeks: less than summer vacation.

4) An end to the bulk mailing rates for political mail.

People should continue to work for the candidates of their choice. There is nothing wrong with ringing door bells, holding signs and urging people to get out the vote. There is something wrong being told one person is less patriotic than another because he/she does not share your political beliefs.

Andrew Jackson, certainly a far cry from a perfect President, did not join the Presbyterian church until close to his death. The reason? Before the minister would allow him to join he told Jackson that he must forgive his enemies. Jackson struggled with this: he could forgive those who opposed him in war as that was their duty. But Jackson struggled with forgiving those who launched personal attacks on his family and himself in the political arena. He did not see a need for it. Eventually, Jackson forgave those who attacked his family and joined the church. Personal hatred in politics is not new: maybe it’s time we end it.

We have the privilege to vote at so many levels: to engage in the process. There is nothing wrong with a civil discussion on differences. There is everything to be gained by compromise. Nobody won on Tuesday. We all just woke up to a few brief weeks of respite before the primary season starts. That is, if they finish counting the votes by then.

Butternut squash and my addiction

November 3, 2010

Ok. I have this THING for butternut squash. As in I love it. Fortunately, It’s not horrific for you (well, actually pretty good for you). Butternut squash is my temptress in the fall. I can’t pass it in the farmers market. I know. I’m a freak. I’ve been playing around with ideas on how to creatively cook up the latest squash to invade my condo (and hence, save my 2 loyal readers my post-election tirade) and came up with the following. It’s pretty good. And yes, I’m biased.

Savory Butternut Squash


Everything used (save the olive oil and brown sugar) are locally farmed from New England/Upstate New York and purchased from small businesses.

Pre-heat oven to 350. Cut butternut squash in half. Remove seeds. Depending on size of squash cut in half again. Brush lightly with olive oil. Cooking time will vary on size of squash but no longer than 45 minutes. Remove and let cool. Fry bacon. Cool. Cut/tear into pieces. Skin squash. Cut into chunks. Gently fold in rosemary, and 1/2 of cheese, brown sugar and bacon. Place in a single layer on a 9×12 baking dish Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Cook at 350 until warm and cheese is melted and heated thru. Approximately 15 minutes.

It even ranked 8 paws. Which at this zoo, is pretty good!