Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kiss It... and Make It All Better

When I was little, my grandma would kiss away any boo-boo, dry my tears, and make it all better. When I had a nightmare that there was a cow in my bed and I could feel it, my mother turned on the light so I could see I was safely in bed and just feeling the wall.

Fortunately, most of us had a person (and/or a place) to go to for safety and comfort, whether it was our mother, father, grandmother, school teacher, preacher, or a hidden 'clubhouse' out in the yard. It was where we felt SAFE, and certain of the fact that no harm could come to us.

When I broke my arm at age 4, the doctor fixed it, Granddaddy drew funny pictures on the cast, and Grandma made hot chocolate for me. When I had my tonsils out at age 11, my father brought comic books to the hospital, telling me not to tell my step-mother because comics were not allowed in our house. My step-mother also brought me comics (with the same admonition!).

When I got ganged-up on at a new school (there were 16 before high school... I got moved around a lot), teachers would break up the fights and promise offenders to put them in detention and tell their parents. When I began dating, boyfriends became protectors (and would come cut the grass on Saturdays!).

As a young adult, I held no fear because the policemen were our protectors out on the streets, and the government protected us from nuclear war. By the time my generation began experimenting with drugs in the early 1960's, I had a pretty good grip on what I had been taught as 'right and wrong'. Although not part of the counterculture, I understood the Hippies and the 'Nam protests, and was outraged at the
Kent State Massacre.

I suppose that was my first glimpse of reality, but it soon merged into the background and 'life' went back to 'seeming normal'.

Fast forward 50 years...

Where is that SAFE place these days? Whom is there to trust? Everywhere in the news: politicians are without morality, bankers and stock brokers are thieves, men murder their wives and beat/molest their children, sexual fantasy makes billions of dollars, governments are bought, food is adulterated for profit, cops facilitate illegal drug trade, priests/preachers are sex offenders, only outlaws have guns, children worldwide are stolen and sold into sexual slavery... you get the ugly picture.

With all the insanity happening in our world today, the only safe place to be found is in the caring and love of those close to us, family and/or friends. We all need someone to hold us close in the darkness, if only for a moment... and even if it is just the night-duty aide in a nursing home brushing our hand briefly. We all need someone to Kiss It... and Make It All Better.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do You Get Enough "Vitamin D"?

Yes, I have posted about vitamin D before. I will probably do it again, too. And again. That's because it is estimated that 77% of the US population suffers from vitamin D deficiency and it's something we can actually do something about!

So what? You think you get enough from sunshine and milk and are excluded from the list of those who are deficient?
Nah, you are probably not. Researchers are beginning to understand (and prove) the RDA (400 IU/day for adults) for vitamin D is not nearly high enough. In fact, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) previously set a safe upper limit of 2,000 IU/day and now acknowledges newer data supporting as much as 10,000 IU/day. The Institute of Medicine is revisiting vitamin D and calcium recommendations, with a report due out before the end of this summer, 2010.

Why be concerned? For starters, there are 17 different cancers (including breast and colon cancer) that are linked at least in part to this deficiency. Laboratory tests have shown that vitamin D can kill cancer cells. Diseases like high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, strokes, Parkinson's, TB, asthma, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain and weakened immunity are also linked to a vitamin D deficiency. There's also a connection between the flu and low levels of D.

The current
"adequate" RDA for vitamin D varies with age. While the RDA for the average adult is 400 IU, it goes up to 600 IU as we approach 70. Our diets usually provide about 100 IU/day, and even though commercial milk is "fortified" it doesn't make much of an addition.

Another factor is how your body absorbs this vitamin. Vitamin D is converted in the liver and kidneys to calcitriol, the active hormone form of vitamin D. Kidney or liver disease can affect this conversion. Additionally, as skin ages or becomes damaged, it is less able to synthesize D from sunlight. This information is important to me because (1) I'm a redhead who has always had skin damage (sunburn) and (2) I have some liver disease, from chemical exposure over the years.

Currently I take one capsule of 1,000 IU D-3 in the morning, and another at night. Based on current research I am going to increase those amounts slowly, and wait with anticipation for the latest study and recommendations to be released this summer.

Vitamin D supplements come in 2 forms, D-2 and D-3. Research suggests D-3 is more readily utilized by the body and many supplement manufacturers are switching to D-3. My doctor does blood work every few months to be sure I do not have too much Vitamin D in my bloodstream as high amounts can be toxic.

Please do not take what I am choosing to do for my self as medical advice, nor even a recommendation for you!

Update, November 2010: I now take about 5,000-6,000 IU daily of Vitamin D. 2,000 IU of that comes from a half-teaspoon of high vitamin butter oil combined with fermented cod liver oil taken in the morning; the remainder is spaced over lunch and dinner with D-3 tablets.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Making Mozzarella in the absence of good milk

I happened to see the newsletter from New England Cheese Making Supply about their move to larger quarters, and in the newsletter was a link to making Mozzarella from Instant Nonfat Dry Milk, and Cream.

I read through it, and then more about milk in general, and think I will try this since, so far I have no source for Real Milk.
.. and it looks easy! She (Ricki, the Cheese Queen!) uses Carnation brand instant nonfat dry milk although she says other brands also work. I'd just want to be sure it wasn't imported from China. The cream she uses can be ultra-pasteurized (good thing, because that's all my grocer carries anymore) since the calcium and proteins are already in the dry milk. In her process, she gives you a choice of her 30 minute system using microwave cycles, or the traditional method of whey or hot water for stretching. Since I believe microwaves are hazardous to food, I'll be using the traditional method.

I'll even take some pictures although the pictures of her process explain it very well. (I don't promise to post mine!)

It occurs to me that this recipe would be handy for Preppers since an abundance of dry milk is usually among the stores. Using some of it for fresh mozzarella could be a nice change if things get really tough.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Milk, and Making Cheese

Once again I am looking at the possibility of making cheese on a very small scale, which has brought up the subject of milk. Real Milk.

What is Real Milk? It's certainly not what is available to buy in most stores, and it's difficult to make good cheese from store milk.

Many years ago, Americans could buy fresh raw whole milk, real clabber and buttermilk, luscious naturally yellow butter, fresh farm cheeses and cream in various colors and thicknesses. Today's milk is accused of causing everything from allergies to heart disease to cancer, but when Americans could buy Real Milk, these diseases were rare. In fact, a supply of high-quality dairy products was considered vital to American security and the economic well being of the nation.

What's needed today is a return to humane, non-toxic, pasture-based dairying and small-scale traditional processing, in short . . . A Campaign for Real Milk. The
Weston A Price Foundation is waging a Campaign for Real Milk across the country and their website explains all about milk much better than I can.

The consumption of raw milk is legal in every State, yet its
sale is currently illegal in about half the States. Want to know the laws in your state? Click here.

Cow shares are legal in Virginia (where I live) and last summer I made a half-hearted attempt to find a local place to buy one share and did indeed find one. In the end, I did not buy it because it would have given me far more milk once per week than I could use, a 75 mile round-trip to fetch it, and a price I considered too high since the share required an initial investment as well.

Now that time has passed and I am continuing to learn more and more about health from real foods, it is time once again to look for a source of reliable, healthy raw milk. This year I might actually try my hand at making cheese if I can find real milk!

To that end, I'm looking at the possibility of joining a
Weston A Price Foundation Local Chapter. They can help find local milk products, butter, eggs, organic and biodynamic local produce, as well as grass-fed chicken and meat.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's Good for the Goose... Health Care Plan

While Congress is holding heated debates over a national health care plan, they themselves are exempt from any such plan. (You can bet their current plans are far superior.)

I read on Alan Caruba's blog that Congressman John Fleming (from Louisiana and a physician) has a petition worth signing. He's polling the American Public on whether we think Congress should be required to have the same health plan they want to pass for us.

If you'd like to express your support for Congressman Fleming's proposal, here's the

Photo Note. Caduceus: Detail Of Giuseppe Moretti's 1922 Bronze "Hygeia" Memorial To World War Medical Personnel (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lookie, lookie... Daffodils are Emerging!

I noticed these yesterday while I was walking around the house trying to get my sister's dumb dog out from under the house. (I think he chased either a cat or an opposum through a small opening, and couldn't figure how to get back out.)

Anyway, the daffodils coming up are a sure indication that spring is (eventually!) on the way. Alexander Pope was right on when he wrote, "Hope springs eternal..." !!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Aluminum Industry Jobs

Recycled Aluminum Dragon Photo from austinvan's photostream

In 2009, the Pittsburgh aluminum producer Alcoa eliminated thousands of jobs and curbed production as the recession dried up demand.

The Houston Chronicle
reports that the Alcoa CEO (Klaus Kleinfield) earned $11.2 million in his first full year as CEO, according to preliminary figures released in a regulatory filing. His Performance Bonus doubled to $3.8 million as he cut costs to counter the effect of a deteriorating business environment.

I wonder how many lost jobs are represented by his Bonus, never mind his salary?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Root Cellar Catastrophe

Well there I was, strutting about the yard in my shirtsleeves today just because I could... we finally had some sunshine!!! ... and then catastrophe!

Yesterday I noticed a fair amount of water running down the side of the driveway and across the walkway, and I assumed it was the melting snow since the yard slopes UP to the hill in back. Partially, it really is/was snow-melt. But this afternoon I went to the root cellar to fetch some potatoes and onions, and found the water flowing out over the threshold. Opening the door, I saw water about 10" deep inside, and the pump from the spring chugging merrily along...

Of course, the electric panel box for the pump is IN that room, which meant wading over to the panel and hoping there were no live wires in the water! I checked the main panel box inside our house, and there's no breaker for the root cellar; it is powered directly from the main outside the house. I wonder what dunce installed

The inspector must have missed that in the Home Inspection when my sister bought this house 4 years ago. At any rate, it needs a safety breaker at the pole, so I'll have to get an electrician out here. Meanwhile, I did get the power off to the pump.

Hopefully it will drain in the next day or two, before it freezes again and I have a mini ice rink in there. My boxes of winter vegetables stored on the floor are ruined; potatoes, onions, shallots and lots of garlic. I may be able to salvage some of the garlic to plant in April but I sure wouldn't eat any of it. I don't know what else I had stored on the floor; the bale of loose straw I had around some of the stuff on the floor obscures it in a soggy mess now.

Fortunately, the plumbing is exposed (behind all the cardboard food bins rather than inside the walls), and I should be able to fix the split pipe(s) myself. The pumped spring water is only used for the garden anyway, so repairs can wait for warm weather.

I really lament the loss of the food, though, and the resulting mess. My other BIG concern is my 2 Harsch Fermenting Crocks, which are sitting on the floor in the back. It looks like there is water in the moat on their rims, which means the water must have been pretty high earlier. (My crocks are the 2 gallon size, which now sell for around $120 each, plus shipping... and they aren't lightweight.)

The moral of the story is: Just because the pipes didn't freeze and burst over the last 3 winters doesn't mean they can't, or won't!

It reminds me of a funny story though. Years ago when I lived in Boone, I had a friend who was a potter that lived in a remote cabin with her boyfriend. One winter they closed the cabin, left the spring-fed sink tap halfway open so it wouldn't freeze, and went to upstate New York for 2+ months. Well, the sink tap did not freeze... but the sink drain did! When they returned, they found the floor about 6" thick with crystal-clear ice. She said the oriental rugs under the ice had a very surreal look...

Brix, Food and Cannabis

I belong to a discussion group about improving soil for better Brix, and lately there have been some amusing comments I thought I'd share.

The moderator
commented that he said many years ago agriculture would not be revolutionized until a million housewives/mothers showed up at the grocery stores, brixmeter (refractometer) in hand, and screaming, "take this junk back and get us some real food". If that happened, farmers can and would do the right things to the soil for higher Brix... whether organic, or conventional farmers.

Then someone posted that there is some excited discussion on the Cannagraphic Magazine Forums about raising the quality of pot using refractometers to measure Brix.

The moderator replied that it's amazing that we live in a world where you can buy better quality dope than food!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Federal Reserve Ponzi Scheme?

Recently CNBC reported that the Federal Reserve bought aprox. 80% of the US Treasury securities issued in 2009.

What does that mean? Well, when the US government needs more money, they go to the Federal Reserve Bank (a PRIVATELY-owned bank, not government-owned bank). The Federal Reserve prints some greenbacks (Federal Reserve Notes... look in your wallet), and the US government issues US Treasury notes (called T-Bills) for the same amount in return.

Normally the Federal Reserve sells these Treasury notes, but last year no one wanted to buy many, so the Federal Reserve sold itself about 80% of them. Now, please note that the US Treasury notes are normally sold at a discount, but pay interest.

So the Ponzi scheme is this: the Federal Reserve creates 'money' out of nothing but a printing press and special paper. Then they loan those greenbacks to the US Government for interest, and 'buy' back the US Treasury notes which also pay interest.
If they sell them, great. If they don't sell them, they are out some paper and ink, and the government still owes the full value plus interest.

Nice gig, eh?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Money, and the American Revolution

We have been taught that the American Revolution against the British was fought over taxation without representation... like the Stamp Act (tea tax) and other related impositions. However, during my history searches for my family genealogy, something else has become clear: money and the banking system... which ties in with our current economic crisis.

In 1764 when Ben Franklin went to London, he found very high unemployment and poverty everywhere. He asked his English friends how England, with all its wealth, could have so much poverty among its working classes. His friends replied that England was a prey to a terrible condition: it had too many workers! The rich said they were already overburdened with taxes, and could not pay more to relieve the needs and poverty of this mass of workers. Being astounded, he was asked why that wasn't also true in the Colonies, and how we raised money for our "Poor Houses". Here's his reply:

“We have no poor houses in the Colonies; and if we had some, there would be nobody to put in them, since there is, in the Colonies, not a single unemployed person, neither beggars nor tramps.

In the Colonies, we issue our own paper money. It is called 'Colonial Scrip.' We issue it in proper proportion to make the goods pass easily from the producers to the consumers. In this manner, creating ourselves our own paper money, we control its purchasing power and we have no interest to pay to no one."

When the bankers of England understood what Franklin said, they immediately took the necessary steps to have the British Parliament to pass a law that prohibited the Colonies from using their scrip money, and ordered them to use only the gold and silver money that was provided in sufficient quantity by the English bankers but at outrageous interest rates.

Only a year later, Franklin said, the streets of the colonies were filled with unemployed beggars, just as they were in England. The money supply had suddenly been reduced by half, leaving insufficient funds to pay for the goods and services these workers could have provided. Then began in America the plague of debt-money, which has almost ever since brought so many curses to the American people.

Franklin maintained that it was
"the poverty caused by the bad influence of the English bankers on the Parliament which has caused in the colonies hatred of the English and . . . the Revolutionary War."

This, he said, was the real reason for the Revolution:
"the colonies would gladly have borne the little tax on tea and other matters had it not been that England took away from the colonies their money, which created unemployment and dissatisfaction."

Is this just ancient history?


The ability for America (and the individual states to create its own credit) has largely been lost to private bankers. The lion's share of new credit creation is done by private banks, so - instead of being able to itself create money without owing interest - the government owes unfathomable trillions in interest to private banks, most notably The Federal Reserve Bank, which name is printed on every bit of US paper money in your wallet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When a desk isn't just a desk

I've been debating about posting this photo for a number of reasons, none of which are political. In the end I decided to go ahead, primarily for the history behind the desk.

The desk pictured is called The Resolute Desk, and it's in the Oval Office. The picture above does not show the desk in all it's glory; for that you need to go here. It's an incredible piece of carving and history!

The desk was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880, and there's an interesting story behind it.
In 1852, England sent a 5 ship squadron, including the HMS Resolute, to search for the missing English explorer, Sir John Franklin (of the ill-fated Franklin Polar Expedition) who had left England in 1845 to search for the Northwest Passage to Asia.

The squadron spent 2 winters trapped in the Arctic ice in the Wellington Channel. Finally one ship broke free and took on all survivors and returned to England. The following summer the ice pack broke up for the first time in 3 years and the Resolute became adrift.

The American Whaler George Henry found the Resolute adrift in an ice floe. The ship was then salvaged and sailed to New London, Connecticut which is still a major deep-water seaport and had been the base for American Naval operations in the Revolutionary War. The US Congress purchased the Resolute for $40,000 and presented it to Queen Victoria as a gesture of peace and goodwill in 1856.

When the barque-rigged Resolute was finally broken up, the British Government arranged for 2 desks to be made from the timbers. One was presented to President Hayes, and the other to the widow of Henry Grinnell who was the man responsible for lobbying the US Congress to purchase the Resolute.

My Grandmother would never allow feet on the furniture; to do so would be disrespectful to my grandmother, and no doubt mar the furniture. Once I became an adult, I always had a coffee table designed to hold feet and frosty cold drink glasses without fear, except in one house where I had a lovely antique table that I dare not set my own feet upon even barefoot.

Call me old-fashioned, but I sure wouldn't put my feet up on The Resolute Desk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mardi Gras: Whoever Dies with the Most Beads Wins

All the wonderful photos in this entire post are from Ray Devlin's Photostream

Mardi Gras is famous for 'Throws'... the act of throwing beads from the parade floats to the onlookers. It's a time-honored tradition started in the early 1870's by the Twelfth Night Revelers.

Some historians theorize that the tradition has roots in a pagan post-winter ritual, during which lucky peasants who'd survived the cold months celebrated by throwing milled grain into the fields—an offering of gratitude to the deity (or deities) who had given them enough food to last.

I have heard it said that geologists say the heavy weight of beads from Mardi Gras stored over many years in the attics of houses in New Orleans is what sunk the houses below sea level!

Waiting with anticipation for the next float...

Even Parade Marshall's like Kevin Costner get to throw!

Beads ready-to-throw...

Some throws go wide of the mark and end up hanging in the trees...

And even the Pups get beads!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day

Photo from orsorama's photostream, used by permission

Welcome to the day before Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras!!

For some of us, all Tuesdays are Fat, but the holiday known as
Fat Tuesday (the English translation of the French 'Mardi Gras') is a special day of over-indulgence and celebration which has spread in popularity regardless of religion. Fat Tuesday is the last day of eating rich foods before the ritual Christian Lenten fasting season which begins the next day, Ash Wednesday.

The traditional purpose of Lent was to prepare the Believer for the celebration of the Resurrection by means of self-denial, penitence and prayer for 40 days before Easter. The traditional 40 days excludes Sundays which were/are mini-feast days, and early Catholics followed the church rules closely.

Fasting rules were originally very strict. Today, the fasting during Lent varies. Some people fast all day and eat only a simple evening meal without meat or alcohol. Certain Orthodox Churches restrict all animal foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy. And some folks just eliminate ('give up') certain things for Lent, like chocolate or a favorite pastime.

The pre-Lenten celebrations have grown in popularity worldwide, largely due to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, but the carnival atmosphere is pagan in origin. (I'll cover Mardi Gras in another post.)

Some believe the pre-Lenten celebrations may have originally had practical purposes too, as food stored for the winter was subject to spoilage after a time. To consume what was in danger of spoiling, they held big feasts prior to moving into the lean days before new crops could be grown and harvested.

Fat Tuesday is also called Shrove Tuesday, and Pancake Day. (The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance.) The custom of pancakes came about as a means of using up the rich foods like eggs, milk and sugar before Lent; many cultures around the world have their own rendition of sweet delights for Fat Tuesday.

Photo from adactio's photostream, used by permission

I think I'll make my pancakes as Chicken and Mushroom Crepes.

For a filling, slice some chicken breasts and sauté them in a bit of olive oil until lightly browned (but cooked thoroughly, please). Remove from the skillet and add some sliced mushrooms, cooking until they are well wilted and golden in color. Throw a couple tablespoons of flour in the pan to make a roux. You can thin the roux with chicken broth, white wine, or even cream to make a delectable sauce. Season with your favorite herbs (I like basil, thyme or tarragon) and a generous grind of black pepper.

Add the chicken back to the pan, heat thoroughly, and ladle some into a crepe. Fold it over or roll it, and dress with more of the sauce. Serve with a fresh green salad and steamed broccoli with a splash of lemon. Voila! Pancakes!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NAIS Abandoned!

In case you missed it, the USDA announced on 5 Feb 2010 it will abandon efforts to implement the National Animal ID Program, which would have required registration of every chicken in your backyard pen and every cow you milk for your family, right along with every commercial farm animal raised for food.

I realize they were putting forth an attempt to track diseased foodstuffs back to the livestock where it may have originated, but it was far too restrictive to small farmers and homeowners who raise some of their own food. My personal opinion is that most contaminated foods come from either poor sanitation in processing, or the practice of feeding dead/diseased animals and spoiled vegetable waste to the animals in huge feedlots.
God forbid they should blame the big guys with deep pockets who buy legislation.

The USDA plans to explore alternative methods for tracing livestock. They hope the revised program will win more widespread support from farmers.
Here's the USDA press release.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mardi Gras: Send in the Clowns

I just had to post this Mardi Gras picture from the Tucks Satirical Parade... 'nuff said?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mardi Gras Prep

Welcome to more tidbits about Mardi Gras! I know all eyes are on focused on the Winter Olympics opening today... but frankly, I'm sick of looking at all the white stuff (snow) all around me, with more on the way. Looks like even "N'awlins" might be cold this year for the celebration.

The ladders shown above are a means of seeing above the crowds during the 56 or more
parades. Of course, the ladders are also a bone of contention because they block the view of anyone behind them.

Another Photo from Ray Devlin's photostream

The best seat in the House has to be the one owned by a friend with a balcony!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

More Mardi Gras History

Mardi Gras is music, parades, picnics, floats, excitement ... and one big holiday in New Orleans! Everyone is wearing purple, green, and gold, the traditional Mardi Gras colors. I'll post in a few Mardi Gras photos here and there all the way up to Fat Tuesday.

New Orleans has celebrated this carnival for a very long time but it was not until 1872, the year that a group of businessmen invented a King of Carnival - 'Rex' - to parade in the first daytime parade, that the celebrations started to become traditions. The businessmen introduced the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. There is also a Mardi Gras song, and a Mardi Gras flag.

We can trace the origins of Mardi Gras to Medival Europe, but the origins of the Mardi Gras we celebrate today are strictly New Orleans!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I love Copper!

Native Copper photo by “Jonathan Zander (Digon3)"

Out of all the many different materials I have used in arts & craft work over the years, I think copper is in the top 2 or 3. I particularly like it for Yard Art. It's quite malleable, and it takes on a wonderful verdigris patina over time outdoors. Copper is one of the few metals to occur naturally as an un-compounded metal, and it has a history of use at least 10,000 years old.

Years ago I rented an office in the Historic District of Annapolis, and the window by my desk looked out over a wonderful old copper roof. Some of the older boats in the harbor even had copper plate on the lower parts of their hulls to repel barnacles. Few can afford copper roofing today, and even copper gutters and downspouts now cost a small fortune. Plus I suppose boat hulls today are probably painted with something to kill barnacles.

Meanwhile in doing my genealogy research, I came across this wonderful copper statue dedicated to the copper miners in Arizona.

I love this plaque on the statue base:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My White Front Yard

I really love snow, but this year it is beginning to try my patience! The good news is that the Locals say the gardening should be better.

We had about 18" in early/mid January, followed by a couple inches here and there... then 2 days ago another 8" on top of what had not melted in the interim. Now, more snow is forecast from tonight (Monday, as I write this) through Thursday.

The photo above is my house when I lived in Annapolis, Maryland years ago, and my friends up there tell me it's like that again from this weekend's snowstorm. Thankfully, we aren't that deep here!

I just want to get out of my driveway and do more than a quick run to the grocery store! I even had to cancel a 3 day trip to upper mid-Virginia (this week) to see my doctors and have some tests done, thanks to the storm. Sigh.

The trip would have been a good antidote for 'cabin fever'.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I had an email from a cousin containing a funny article about being in Miami for the Superbowl. Part of it was tongue-in-cheek about transportation, which somehow triggered my memory of the Jitneys in Miami when I was a teenager.

While the ones I knew were not as colorful as the one pictured above, they were great fun! We could take the city bus to downtown Miami, but to get to Miami Beach you took a Jitney for 25¢. They looked kinda like stretch limos, but not nearly so nice. In fact some were pretty beat-up.

We took the Jitney over so we could go to Wolfies or Pumpernicks, two of the great Jewish Deli's on Miami Beach. They had the most incredible desserts anywhere.

But what was really fun was the wild assortment of people in the Jitney, usually 8-10, and all the strange stuff they carried along.

While I never saw any live chickens, I saw lots of wannabe chicks, often coming from the Dog Tracks. Usually they were old ladies in quasi-casual clothing with their stockings around their ankles, and a wad of cash in a paper bag, fumbling for a quarter for the Jitney. Of course, there were all sorts of working people, too... waiters in black pants, white shirt, and a tie in their pocket... maids carrying unknown bulky items in large brown paper bags, and the beach bums all smelling like Coppertone.

It was a great time to be a people-watcher!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My New Hardesty Genealogy Website

Since I have mentioned several times here about my work on my Hardesty Genealogy, I thought I'd post the URL of my new site. It's and it's just a very small 2 page site.

What I hope is to sell folks their lineage going back to the early 1800's at the very inexpensive price of $9.95 for a PDF. I don't expect to sell a pig in a poke either, so no money is exchanged until I can check to see if their ancestor is actually
in our database of almost 18,000 related Hardesty's in the USA. If so, they they can pay by PayPal and I'll send the PDF which will include all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.

Furthermore, since the Hardesty name is so common in some areas, it is hard to distinguish whether 'John' born in Paynevile, Kentucky in
1843 is the son of William T(homas) or the son of William's cousin William T(aylor) who also named a son John in 1842 in Payneville. Once they no longer lived at home, it is sometimes impossible to tell which 'John' is which. Census records were difficult to read anyway, and not all the census-takers had legible handwriting.

If I send someone a lineage that's in error, I will gladly refund their money providing they can show me where it's wrong. $9.95 is a cheap investment for someone who hasn't the time or inclination to spend $19.95 per month (and can take years) to do the research themselves and yet would like to have a better sense of their own family history.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mardi Gras Celebrations Begin Today

Photo from Ray Devlin's photostream, Used By permission

There is a LOT to Mardi Gras, far too much for one post! The phrase Mardi Gras, when translated from French, literally mean Fat Tuesday, the last day of indulging in certain foods before the Lenten fasting season begins the following day, which is Ash Wednesday.

This year (2010) Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday February 16, but the celebrations we have come to know as Mardi Gras actually begin Friday, February 5th and run through Fat Tuesday, February 16. The celebration in New Orleans is so large that now there are
56 parades scheduled during this time!

I'll post a bit about some of the interesting traditions and history later next week, and then another on Fat Tuesday (with a recipe). It's a fascinating time of revelry and tradition in New Orleans, and this post is merely to let you know it has begun!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Salmonella in Peppercorns?

Green peppercorns, photo used with permission from macinate's photostream

I get all the updates on food recalls by the USDA, sometimes several a day. I seldom post them anymore because all that does is dwell on the negative.

However, I just recently noticed something I had not previously considered. A couple of huge batches of salami, Italian sausage, pepperoni, etc. were recalled for salmonella contamination, and it seems the culprit may be the peppercorns used in the spicing. I thought that would be almost impossible... aren't peppercorns machine-dried which entails heating?

Photo used with permission from exfordy's photostream

So I did some research. What turns the pepppercorns black is fermenting, the first step after harvesting. Traditionally the spikes are threshed and the ripe berries left overnight at room temperature to begin a simple fermentation. Depending on the drying process, the fermenting continues through the drying process.

Alternatively, the berries can be steam blanched to deactivate the enzymatic reactions in the pepper to speed the fermentation.

Traditional drying (rather than mechanical) is still done in many countries around the world. Usually the berries are placed on mats in the sun for about 4-5 days, until the moisture content is reduced to about 10%. You can also use a solar dryer, or even a tray-style dryer. The draw-back to air drying is the increased risk of contamination, so sorting must be done carefully.

In machine processes, sterilization is done just before packaging. Some processing plants use a steam process where the peppercorns flow through a steam container. This is not true sterilization. True sterilization requires a certain amount of time at prescribed temperatures and pressure to kill the microbes.

However, salmonella does not ever originate from the peppercorns themselves. Salmonella bacterium live in the intestines of birds, reptiles and mammals (including humans), and can contaminate our foods by transmission from animal and human feces due to unsanitary conditions, or even by bird droppings on air-drying peppercorns. Someone who has had salmonella exposure can unknowingly be a carrier for up to a year.

So when you purchase peppercorns, do so from a trustworthy processor. Bulk peppercorns may come from a reputable vendor like Frontier Herbs (mine do, via my natural food stores), or they may come from
purveyors of imported and unknown origin goods at the wharves.

There's lots more to know about various peppercorns and flavoring techniques, but that's for another day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Blue used in Paintings

For some unknown reason, I awakened the other morning with the image of my grandmother using bluing on the whites in her laundry. Not personally remembering anything else about the bluing used in my childhood, I decided to do some research.

Bluing is made from a synthetic dye called Prussian Blue which is made from ferric hexacyanoferrate; it's basically a blue iron powder suspended in water, with an added pH balancer. It is used because white fabrics eventually turn a dingy color as the fabric never really gets thoroughly clean. A touch of blue dye gives the fabric the slightest blue tint, making it appear white to our eyes. Some laundry detergents today contain fluorescing agents for the same purpose.

So why should I be interested in bluing? Well, for starters, chlorine bleach is toxic. Bleach is particularly bad for my septic tank because it kills the bacteria that make the tank digest properly. Besides, I happen to be one of the people with skin allergic to those fluorescing agents added to detergents.

Reading more, I found that bluing has been used by farmers for over a hundred years in stock watering tanks to keep the algae down. Even in a concentrated form, bluing is non-toxic, and farmers over the years have claimed it reduces distemper and other diseases. (The farmers say that flies carrying those diseases won't lay eggs on blue water.)

While the best known US manufacturer of bluing
(Mrs. Stewart's Bluing) makes no such claims, they also say that since 1883 when their business began, they have never received a single report of an animal becoming sick or dying from such practices.

In fact, according to the Atomic Energy Agency, an adult male could eat at least 10 grams of Prussian blue per day without any serious harm. I don't plan to eat any, but it's good to know it wouldn't hurt any fish if I ever build a fishpond!

Before the discovery/invention of synthetic Prussian Blue, people often added lumps of indigo mixed with starch to their rinse water. I also found it has been used in pottery glazing to identify which parts have been glazed prior to firing since any glazing doesn't show up on wet clay. In the firing process, the blue is burned away, leaving the glaze just where the potter wanted.

We all have seen little old ladies with Blue Hair... so don't over-do it!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Pinch of Salt in my Coffee

A pinch of salt improved my coffee. Yes, my coffee!! I know a pinch of salt improves most flavors but I never would have paired it with coffee.

As the economy has worsened I have found it more difficult or impossible to afford the better coffees available. But the cheaper coffee always seems to have a decidedly bitter taste. Recently, I caught some of an Alton Brown rerun and it was about coffee. His recommendation (for
any coffee, not just cheap coffee) was to put a pinch of salt on the grounds before whatever technique you use to make coffee. He was using a French Press, which I do not own.

Anyway, I tried it the next morning... and sure enough the coffee was better! Then I totally forgot all about it, probably because I'm usually not fully functional when I make the coffee in the mornings.

For the last few days, I have kept a small container of salt (sea salt or Kosher salt with no additives, please) next to the coffee pot so I don't forget. I must say that consistently over those days my coffee has had a better taste, with no trace of a salty overtone. I just use a pinch between my finger and thumb.

I know I should quit drinking coffee again, but until I do, at least it will taste better.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Modern MRE's

Well, kinda ready to eat... the one I just tried required a 10 minute cook time on the stovetop.

I generally avoid packaged foods, but I guess I was in a low spot when shopping and bought this to try. Here are my observations:

It was very tasty. It was also very expensive (even to feed 2 people) considering the cost of the ingredients. All the chicken in the package could not have been as much as half a chicken breast, and the amount of spinach was about 1/4 of a package of frozen spinach. That leaves the pasta, and sauce. We all know pasta is cheap, no matter what the shape. So I really bought a bag of pretty expensive frozen Parmesan cheese sauce.

In a pinch I might make it again, but I'd add more chicken for protein and a tad more spinach, but if I did that, I might as well make it from scratch.

The package was either $7.99 or $6.99; I forget which, and don't have the receipt, but probably $7.99. (I found the receipt, it was $7.99.) It made one very tasty dinner, and one tasty lunch for me. It was cheaper than eating out and certainly not a TV dinner, and was a nice break from my usual fare.