Friday, October 31, 2008

Pre-election jitters got you down? (Friday Follies dogblogging)

Like many people, you may be suffering from pre-election anxiety, which is, surprise, affecting African-American women particularly hard, according to Diane Tucker in Huffington Post's Off the Bus, a background nervousness to which I can testify. My current coping mechanism is to turn off the tv, so that I can avoid the ubiquitous political ads.

Because the election is almost here, so close you can almost smell it, I'm almost as frustrated as the cute critters in the video below--

(I think the dog's saying, "Is it over now?")

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


In these tough, tense times, it's nice to know there are easy ways to calm down, to simply relax. One that I enjoy, and which tastes great, is to sip a tisane (hot infusion) made from lemon balm leaves, such as these:

lemon balm leaves
Not only is this herb lemony and delicious, if you decide to grow the weedy visitor (related to mint), know that if you cut or pinch off leaves, the plant will grow back! Laidback yet tenacious--I like it better already!

Moreover, according to the authoritative University of Maryland Complementary and Alternative Medicine Index (CAM) lemon balm (aka melissa officinalis) may also be good for much that ails you, as it is antiviral [perhaps a plus in the coming cold season], calming yet increases alertness.

Time to make a cup right now!

More Tuesday Treasures

This last week in October is the one that launches a full-frontal fall assault. The wind! The rain! The cold! It's enough to make you stay under the covers...but I pressed on (after the rain stopped, that is). Went a-farming, and left with a few seasonal-transition treats, including the following--one is the last of a summer crop, the other a fall favorite:

bell peppers and greens from Clagett Farm
The peppers are itching for me to make that feisty spread known as ajvar. (I've also got enough garlic to make it worthwhile. Bryanna Clark Grogan's recipe (linked above) turned out well, and should be even better with enough of the accompanying allium to make a vampire faint!)

The spicy salad mix, a fall favorite, is a tasty, quick side to throw together with an entree. It doesn't keep very long, but it's just as well, as I never let it stick around long enough to spoil!

It was worth the hard work (and the chill) to occasionally peer up to get a view such as this!

road out of Clagett Farm

Monday, October 27, 2008

The power of true green...

blue sky over Clagett Farm eggplant field
In today's New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope reports research that anyone--adults as well as children--can benefit from the restorative powers of nature, that even children in public housing perform better when they have access to a green view.

Of course, this is nothing new. There has long been research to show that even for hospital patients, those who had a window view of the outdoors from their rooms had need for less medication, etc., than patients who only had a view of, say, a brick wall.

Would this make nature the second best medicine?

In these tough times...

P.G. County is taking extreme measures to attempt to make up its budget shortfall, such as furloughs for county employees, including paramedics! 9News Now obtained a (verified) list of county medic units, which contains many of the dates that furloughs will be taking place. (I assume this means that those units are down one or more persons for those stretches. This means no newbies need cook on those days!)

This is seriously scary--although it appears that at least all units will be at full capacity for Halloween, which, I presume, must be a time when all emergency hands are needed on deck. However, one unit will have furloughs taking place Christmas week, which means don't drink too much eggnog that week if you live or party in the Largo area!

* * *

Speaking of needing to cut back on expenses, I've been able to cut down ~$40 last month on my electric bill, and $40 the month before that, as well as money on the gas bill, dough which has come in handy.

How did I do it? (And yes, I do use lights in the house when needed.) For one, I've become more careful about how lights are used--not every room needs to be lit in the evening; maybe one room in the front, another in the back, but not both back rooms--just the one that I happen to be using.

I also turn off the computer when leaving for extended periods, which means turning off the monitor as well (which people seem to forget to do in business settings), and switching to the "off" position on the PC's power strip.

When cooking, I often partially or fully cook something, like potatoes, in the microwave, then transfer the goods to the toaster oven to crisp. For a household of two, this greatly cuts both time and gas used! I've used that toaster oven to make a small tray of homemade biscuits, homemade cornbread, and other things that I couldn't be bothered to warm up a large over for. Apparently, other folk have latched onto the wonders of the little appliance that could. I consider the toaster oven a wonder of the modern green kitchen...

However, I'm not about to give up the microwave, not when I can use it to make a five-minute miracle like the aptly-named Absolutely Divine Microwave Chocolate Cake. This deliciously rich, yet dairyfree dessert has a permanent place in my culinary repetoire, if only because you can whip it up from scratch from what you may already have at home, and is perfect for any time of year, as there is no need to heat up an oven to make this small cake. (My only gripe is that after the initial 1 minute heating, you need to cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, so that overall cooking time is about 5 minutes. Overall preparation time should be 15 minutes or less.) Yum!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Follies (aka dogblogging)

With the presidential election coming up within two weeks, it can't come soon enough, so that we can finally be done with it! All of this tension, being on pins and needles, can't be good for the nervous system, et al.

However, the following behavior is NOT recommended for dealing with the stress, tempting though it is...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Say What? John McCain has black relatives?

Yes, you read that right. Yesterday's South Florida Times had an article about the absence of John McCain from ongoing reunions between his family and their black relatives. Sadly, it notes that the only person invited who has neither bothered to respond nor attended is, you guessed it, Senator John Sidney McCain himself. (The photo is of John's brother Joe and one of their relatives.)

Is this the October surprise?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Saving Green, Two Ways!

Comfort 38 push mower

Running errands, my Staples Rewards coupons come in handy. Today, they effectively enabled me to purchase an inkjet cartridge for free! Even better is that you get rewards points two ways--by making a purchase, of course, or when you return used ink cartridges for recycling. Actually, I think you get more rewards points for turning in the used cartridges, as you get three rewards points each.

Best of all, the quarterly rewards coupons can be used toward the purchase of practically any type of office supply at Staples. Woo hoo!

* * *

I had stopped using a trusty push lawn mower a few years ago, after a screw fell out. However, in desperation, I tried the old Handy 38 comfort mower again a few weeks ago, in hopes that it might do something. Although it had not only a screw gone, but a wheel had (recently) fallen off, like a Timex watch, it kept going and going! I've used it again a few times since, and am impressed with its toughness, and pleased that I don't have to worry about electrical outlets or batteries for this device, or gas fumes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Time to Choose Civility?

Today's Oprah show featured the topic of civility and rudeness in society. After various audience members swapped horror stories of bratty behavior, one of Oprah's guest's was Dr. P. M. Forni of Johns Hopkins, who wrote Choosing Civility. (Hmm, this might explain the two Choose Civility bumper stickers I saw this weekend; perhaps these people were coming from such a workshop in Howard County.) An unspoken undercurrent of Dr. Forni's soothing words is the implication that without civility, society itself unravels.

* * *

An odd coincidence is that the final presidential debate is tonight--a forum that will be a referendum, in part, on John McCain's civility toward Barack Obama in particular, and the American public in general (or lack thereof). Apparently, McCain's rudeness toward Obama--in the previous debates, ads, and stump speeches--has come back to bite him, as today's New York Times reports, "Poll Says McCain Is Hurting His Bid by Using Attacks."

Let's see which McCain comes out tonight--for if he behaves like McNasty, he will lose, whether or not he wins the election. (Thank you, Wonkette!)

Political season silliness...more polling place shenanigans!

I was under the impression that locally only DC residents were restricted from wearing and carrying election paraphernalia to the polls. But no, Virginia election officials decided to join in the silliness and ban its residents from carrying or wearing campaign paraphernalia (clothing, buttons, stickers) as well. Ugggggghhh!!

Nonetheless, although Maryland residents are allowed to have such items, as it is not considered to be electioneering, I wouldn't--you never know if a poll worker might be able to tamper with your vote, knowing that you plan to vote for ???

* * *

Regardless of your state's polling regulations, make sure to get there on November 4, as part of your own anti-poverty initiative--especially if you're voting for That One!

A small step in the fight against poverty...

The issue of poverty has become even more serious as of late, here in America and around the world, as we have all been blindsided by high food prices lately, and increasing numbers of Americans are using food pantries and food stamps. It's bad enough in the US of A, so it's distressing to hear about the poor in other countries, who have it even worse--in Haiti (where the poor are reduced to eating clay cakes), Afghanistan, etc.

Such bad news is enough to make someone feel depressed and helpless. So, one small way that you can help alleviate hunger in countries around the globe is by playing a game. That's right--something you already do, can helps someone else as well. FreeRice was developed by someone who wanted to help a child improve vocabulary; the game has the added twist of contributing 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program every time you correctly guess the meaning of a word! Woo hoo!

Of course, the more you play, the more you contribute to that UN program, and you become smarter in the process as well--a true win-win situation!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday Treasure(s)

Clagett Farm field
Time to go up the road, to do the hard work of helping with the harvest at Clagett; of course hard work has its rewards, such as this view!

Oddly enough, there has been abundant eggplant this month, odd because eggplant is generally considered a warm weather crop. (There were also a few string beans to be had, and the tomatoes are on the way out. Boo!)

* * *
A quick, tasty side dish to make with those string beans and tomatoes: boil the string beans in salted water for as long as you wish, then drain in a colander or strainer. Toss with salt, chopped tomatoes, and torn fresh basil, then eat. Simply delicious!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Old soldiers never die, they just fade away"--Gen. Douglas MacArthur

Seeing the most recent presidential "debate" brought MacArthur's aphorism to mind, because if recent actions and non-actions are any indication, such as the pulling of his campaign out of Michigan, we are seeing John McCain beginning to fade into the political twilight.

Another example of this possible pullback is the (blessed!) lack of television campaign ads from the McCain camp in the last few days; considering that Virginia is now also known as a battleground state, you'd think the DC airwaves would be inundated with Republican mendacity, but there's been relative silence.

Thus, I can see why even moderate and conservative political insiders are now whispering that McCain may have effectively given up the campaign ghost. (Via the Guardian's Michael Tomasky, reporting from Washington.)

There's only one thing left --to go to the polls in November to put the nails in the coffin of McCain's presidential bid!