Sunday, September 30, 2007

The War - PBS

I've been watching Ken Burn's documentary The War on PBS. It tells a story of World War II through the eyes of people from four American towns - Luverne Minnesota, Mobile Alabama, Sacramento and Waterbury Connecticut. It makes me feel quite small, and forever grateful, to think about what the people who lived in that time in history went through. Watching the series one sees tremendous sacrifices, terrible losses, and ultimately the understanding that freedom isn't free.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sour Dough

I've been playing with some sour dough starter.

The recipe is simple - just mix a cup of flour and a cup of water in a glass container and leave it on the counter until it starts to bubble (a few days or so). It should have a beery/yeasty smell and if it turns a weird color or starts to stink you should throw it out because you've got some kind of funky bacteria rather than yeast growing. Once the yeast takes off it will keep out any other critters that might want to colonize your flour/water/glass jar house.

After the wild yeast starts to grow you can put it in the refrigerator and use it for pancakes, bread, pizza or whatever you like to make with sour dough.

I'm still in the experimental stages and haven't got any dough that is airy, like you would with a commercial yeast (tried pancakes and a loaf of bread).

I need to keep experimenting and read a little bit more about how to use the starter. I think the key to the pancakes is that the batter is primarily the sour dough starter (not something you add to the batter).

I've read that some people use the sour dough as a flavoring agent and use commercial yeast to get the airy texture.

I've also read that you shouldn't let the starter contact anything metallic, and I was stirring mine with a fork or spoon - so I might have to start over.

I'll keep playing around with it and hope to have some tasty pancakes, cakes or bread in the not too distant future.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Decline of The Short Story

I read an interesting article in the New York Times Sunday Book Review by Stephen King this morning about the decline of the short story - What Ails the Short Story

The gist of it is that books or magazines with words don't sell nearly so well as magazines with pictures of Britney Spears on the cover.

Stephen King is the editor of "The Best American Short Stories 2007” and says, based on his in-depth review of what's available this year - that there are still great short stories and encourages people to support writers by buying magazines and books.

Here's a link to best short story collections from Amazon.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Northwest Passage - No Ice

This week's Time magazine tells me that for the first time in recorded history the Northwest Passage is ice free.

The upside is that there could be dramatic reduction in shipping distances, the downside is the polar ice is melting much faster than some scientist's predicted.

Ice reflects sunlight, water stores heat from the sun - as the ice melts there is a feedback loop that increases the stored heat and therefore the rate at which the ice melts.

Ice melts opening up Northwest Passage - Telegraph

The Associated Press: Arctic Ice Melt Opens Northwest Passage

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Fresh Road and Fresh Plans!

That quote on Inward/Outward, from Nikos Kazantzakis made me want to pull out my old copy of Zorba the Greek. I read that book over 30 years ago and while I was looking at it, thought it might be good to read it again. It's an interesting story of about Zorba, who finds joy in work, love, food, water, wine and dance and his friend/boss who may think too much (and realizes that fact).

This is Zorba the "free spirit" talking to himself, and his friend/boss the "bookworm" -

"A fresh road, and fresh plans!", he cried.

"I've stopped thinking all the time of what happened yesterday. And stopped asking myself what's going to happen tomorrow. What's happening today, this minute, that's what I care about."

I say: "What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?" "I'm working." "Well, work well." "

What are you doing at this moment, Zorba?" "I'm kissing a woman." "Well, kiss her well, Zorba! And forget all the rest while you're doing it; there's nothing else on earth, only you and her! Get on with it!"


This is a clip from YouTube of a dance scene from the movie - makes me think we should all dance more.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recognizing God in Everyday Moments

Today's quote from inward/outward:

"God changes appearances every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all disguises. One moment he is a glass of fresh water, the next, your son bouncing on your knees or an enchanting woman, or perhaps merely a morning walk. "

Nikos Kazantzakis

Monday, September 24, 2007

Halo 3 Arrives at 12:01 A.M.

Most people buy a video game console in order to play a particular game or games. The launch of Halo 3 at midnight tonight, makes me think it's about time to buy an Xbox 360.

That game sounds fun.

From a Microsoft press release -

More than 10,000 retailers are planning events and opening their doors at midnight to celebrate this third installment in the billion-dollar franchise. In New York, Seattle, Miami and Los Angeles, Microsoft and retail partners are hosting marquee launch events that will feature contests and appearances by local celebrities and celebrities and professional athletes who are fanatical about the “Halo” franchise.

The marquee launch events will be held at the following stores:

  • Seattle area: Best Buy, 457 120th Ave NE, Bellevue
  • New York City: Best Buy, 529 5th Ave, New York, NY
  • Los Angeles: Gamestop, 1000 Universal Studios Blvd, Universal City
  • Miami: Circuit City, 8575 Northwest 13th Terrace, Miami

More information on launch events at Halo 3 Launch Week

Current prices of the Xbox console at | Xbox News


Speaking of games that might make a person want a particular game system - I heard on NPR this morning that Nintendo's Wii will have a Star Wars dual light saber game out this spring.

More at Gamasutra - Wii Gets Lightsaber Action With The Force Unleashed

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Achieving The Impossible

"The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible -- and achieve it, generation after generation."

- Pearl S. Buck

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Repairs Using Fiberglass or Epoxy

If you are interested in repairing, or maybe even building, objects made of fiberglass, TAP Plastics has a good selection of epoxy resins, gel coat, fiberglass fabrics and polyester resins.

They also have free instructional videos.

You could use their products to repair cars, boats, kayaks, canoes, ATV's, RV's, surfboards, shower stalls, tubs, etc.

One of the challenges of a do-it-yourselfer used to be finding materials that professionals use; not so much of a problem these days with the advent of the internet.

I suspect one of the reasons you can't buy some of these materials at Lowes or Home Depot is they can be very toxic if used incorrectly. I've used fiberglass repair materials outside various times, and epoxy for many small repairs, without wearing any protection, but I repaired a fiberglass shower stall a couple of weeks ago and realized how nasty the fumes and dust are in an enclosed space.

If you are using a fiberglass type resin be sure and have adequate ventilation and wear proper breathing protection. The fumes, and the dust from sanding, are not something you want to inhale. Epoxy may be a better choice for some repairs and doesn't have anywhere near the fumes, although you still have the dust to deal with when sanding.

SWEET COMPOSITES - Tools & Equipment has a respirator, gloves and various other tools for anyone wanting to work with epoxy or fiberglass.

These are some other links I found useful in learning about fiberglass or epoxy repair.

Fiberglass Repair pictures from kayaking photos on webshots

BoatUS BoatTECH Guides: Fiberglass Repair

Fiberglass Repair: TAP Plastics

Friday, September 21, 2007

Are We Lucky or What?

I'm reading Tim Russert's book Wisdom of Our Fathers and enjoying the stories from daughters and sons about what their father's meant to them.

I really like the story a daughter told about her father who instilled a positive outlook in his children by the repeated use of a couple of simple phrases, "are we lucky or what?" and "it's perfect I wouldn't change a thing."

A positive outlook on life has to be one of the best gifts a mother or father could give their children.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The World Is What You Are

"The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are."

Thomas Dreier

From the "Thought of the Day" Archive at Interlude: An Internet Retreat

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Before We Had Lunesta

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let's Drink a Toast To Those Who Best Survived The Life They've Led

Janis Ian wrote some wonderful songs...

This YouTube video combines her song "Tea and Sympathy" with some Phantom clips.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The End Is Not In Sight

I was happy to see this song from the "Amazing Rhythm Aces" on YouTube. I don't get to hear it much since my turntable bit the dust.

Cowboy music, horses, cows and cowboy pictures - it doesn't get much better than that for an old sagebrush runner like me.

Cowboys represent a simpler time for many people in my generation. We grew up watching the Lone Ranger, Roy Rodgers, Rawhide and lots of other shows where you knew who the good guys were.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

You Don't Have To Always Be Anything

We are sold on the idea that there are things, people, books, places, pharmaceuticals, clothes, cars, infinitum - that if we only had this or that or them we would be happy.

Capitalism needs people to buy and consume. We are brainwashed into thinking that having some things equates to being some thing (happy, sexy, smart, powerful...etc.)

None of it's true. We all need the basics food, shelter, security - but beyond that there is no thing that is going to satisfy our basic desire to find meaning and love of self and others.

It's a constant struggle to keep from being overcome by the barrage of selling us things we don't need. For example - whenever I see a commercial on television for a pharmaceutical to make me sleep, or make me happy, I remind myself it's okay to not sleep or not be happy sometimes. In fact if I was always sleeping perfectly or always happy I'd have to ask myself why? We should lose sleep over things and not be happy every so often - it reminds us we are alive.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Power of Metaphor

Simple changes in the way we describe things to ourselves can make huge differences in our outlook on life.

Consider "daily grind" - a simple phrase we may use to describe our day to day activities. This brings to mind being chewed up, ground down and spit out - not to appealing.

If we think of our activities as a "daily walk" it changes the tone completely. We are no longer being ground down but are rather on a journey with the potential for new experiences, learning, and growth.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Letting Go But Still Holding On

I ran across this in a daily devotional and thought it might be inspirational to others who need to let go of a role due to changes in their life.

"I know that my response to God's call is a commitment to a lifetime of obedience, but I have found many calls to serve within God's larger call. These may be given or withdrawn at any time, as God determines. I am grateful to have learned the lesson of letting go of a role and a task when it is time but still holding on to a lifetime relationship with Christ, God's supreme gift."

John Eyberg (Oklahoma, U.S.A.)

Prayer - Lord God, teach us when it is time to let go of old ways in order to answer your new call to us. Amen.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Moving From Your Head to Your Heart

The journey of a lifetime returns us to where we started - in a state of grace using our hearts not our heads - we find we are home, taking pleasure in a simple touch, a warm smile, sleeping peacefully....knowing nothing, our minds are empty and our hearts are full.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Inspiration - For Today

I often find interesting and helpful information at Interlude: Meditation of the Week at

The meditation for this week, "The Zen of Working Out", written by Karan O’Neill, ends with this affirmation:

"Just for today, I will realize a reason to take care of myself.

Just for today, I will envision myself evolving into a more mindful person.

Just for today, I will be grateful that I have the capacity to change myself.

Just for today, I will take a walk, lift some weights, or sit in meditation.

Just for today, I will live each moment in the moment, and experience it to the fullest.

Just for today I will remember that Zen is a workout, not an end in itself."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fresh Produce

I spent a day and a half cooking and freezing produce I got at the local farmer's market. The most time consuming was the tomatoes. I cooked a case of tomatoes into spaghetti sauce, peeled and sliced a case of peaches, bagged up two flats of blueberries, sliced a variety of peppers and made pesto.

The main ingredient in pesto is basil, which was either non-existent or very expensive in the big stores, but it was 1 dollar for a big bunch at the market. Making pesto is simple as long as you have something to finely chop the basil. A chef's knife that you can rock, and a cutting board would work but I use something called an Alaskan Ulu, which is a curved knife that fits into a curved wooden bowl. In Italy this tool is called a mezzaluna (for the half-moon shape of the blade). The pesto I made is a combination of fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, parmesan and pine nuts.

I started the spaghetti sauce by sautéing a mirepoix (I fried some onion, carrots, celery in a little olive oil), added a lot of fresh garlic and basil, vegetable stock, dried oregano, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper and many sliced tomatoes into a sixteen quart stock pot. I let that cook for a couple of hours - then cooled it and froze it in quart size and gallon sized bags. Then I repeated it with the rest of the tomatoes.

Peaches are easy to freeze. I used Alberta's. The key is to blanch them (quickly submerse them in boiling water) so the skin comes off easily. Don't leave them in the hot water or they start to cook and get mushy. I cut them into slices for use in smoothies or the occasional peach pie.

Blueberries are even easier - just rinse them off, pick out any stems or leaves, and put them in freezer bags.

Peppers are easy too - just cut out the seeds and white membrane inside and slice them into cookable pieces. I love seeing all the different colors and varieties of peppers at the market this time of year. I'm growing some hot peppers in a container this year and am looking forward to using them for fresh salsa.

After I was done with my produce storage, I made some pizza dough using -

3 1/2 cups flour (approximately)
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast (one package)
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Pizza dough (or any yeast dough) is a little tricky - but not too hard once you get the hang of it. Dissolve the yeast, honey and salt into pretty warm water (not super hot or you'll kill the yeast) in a good sized bowl - one that's big enough to hold 3 1/2 cups flour and give you room to knead the dough. Let it sit for five minutes or so and watch for bubbles to start to form - if they don't you might have a bad batch of yeast; or the water was too hot. If the water is too cold it will just take longer for the yeast to get going.

Add one cup of flour to the liquid while mixing with a fork. Gradually add more flour until the dough just starts to come apart. Use your hands/knuckles to fold the dough over until it forms a skin. Make sure you knead the dough enough or it won't rise - it has to form gluten which is what makes the dough trap gas bubbles given off by the yeast. When the dough is smooth and satiny, form it into a ball, and you are ready to let it rise. Fill your sink with a few inches of hot water and put the bowl of dough in, covering it with a towel. I like using the sink with some hot water because the heat and high humidity make it a good substitute for a proofing box.

Let the dough rise for 20 minutes or so. Punch the dough down and do a little more kneading to form a ball, or a rectangle, depending on the shape of your pizza pan. Coat your pan with olive oil and push the dough into the pan.

I used my homemade Italian sauce, mozeralla (it didn't melt so good...maybe I needed to try grating it), sweet onions, fresh tomatoes, black olives and some of the fresh pesto (after the pizza cooked).

It's very tasty. This simple dough could be used for breadsticks, rolls or a loaf of bread if you don't feel like a pizza and want to smell that wonderful yeasty smell in your kitchen.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Saturday, September 01, 2007

They Are Re-Burning The Man Tonight

Thanks to a lot of hard work the man was rebuilt quickly after someone prematurely torched him earlier this week.

I've been watching a shaky webcast of the event and it makes me think you really need to be there (along with 40,000 plus other burners this year).

I was thinking of building a miniature burning man earlier today and firing it up in the backyard but didn't get to it because I was busy working in the yard, and riding my bike around to pick up some of Dr Bronner's Magic Soap and some vegan mozzarella cheese substitute for a pizza I'm planning to make with fresh ingredients from the farmers market tomorrow. I was thinking fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and onions for a start.

Actually...I wasn't that busy - I was playing Super Mario on Nintendo DS (reached level 6), reading magazines and just relaxing on this nice labor day weekend.

It's a nice night - I think I'll go outside and light my sage bundle and think about the many things I have to be thankful for.