Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Favorite Cranberry Stuff for Thankgsgiving

I am not much of a "foodie" but I do like to cook.  What follows is one of my favorite holiday recipes.  It is for a Cranberry Compote but I prefer to call it Cranberry Chutney or just "My Favorite Cranberry Stuff only because I don't really know what a compote is (and it sounds too much like compost) and I don't know the technicalities of a Chutney so I don't think this is really one of those.

Anyway, this is my kind of recipe because you don't really measure much...Jake helped make a double batch this morning.

1 bag of fresh cranberries
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 medium apples cored and diced (I prefer Granny Smith.  Use whatever you like.  Peel or don't)
handfull of raisins or golden raisins or both
Cup of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Larger is better than smaller (isn't that true about most things in life?).  Heat over medium heat stirring occassionally.  As the cranberries heat up they will pop open.  As the mixture heats up and things get popping, turn heat down to low.  Please be very carefull, this becomes dangerously hot.  Once it starts to thicken, turn the heat off completely.  Cover and let sit until cool.  Refrigerate and enjoy!  Because it needs to cool and is best after being refrigerated I ususally make it the day before or even a few days ahead.

While I was doing the zesting thing this morning Jake was carefully inspecting the cranberries to find the few who were not worthy.  He helped with the juicing, measuring of the sugar, dumping-in of the same, and taste tested each of the apples.

The colors of this are amazing.  I think I may have to try to replicate this in a yarn.  Hmmm...

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Health, Happiness, and Holiday Wishes

The media is making a HUGE deal out of the H1N1 flu virus. Were you aware of how many THOUSANDS of people in the US alone typically die from the seasonal flu every year? So what's the big, damn deal?

Well, I'll tell you. It's our children, our babies! If you are a parent then you know that you will protect your child from harm and against all threats large or small, real or imagined, and even at risk of your own well being.
We do this instinctively, it's nature's way of ensuring that a species survives.

I have seen all the news reports too. But it wasn't until my 12 year old son, Carter, had a sore throat one day and a slight fever the next and I saw a news story about a healthy 14 year old girl who had those very same symptoms and ended up dead a couple of days later that I, too felt the panic. Thankfully, Carter was fine.   A friend of mine's little girl just got out of the hospital following a scary two week ordeal with this thing. So now I watch for any sign of a sudden, high fever the way I imagine people with money watch their 401K's and portfolios these days.

Recently, I have had some sort of illness for the past month. It was first treated as a respiratory infection. But it came back. Round two of the antibiotics is currently treating it as a sinus infection. I'm on day seven and it's already showing signs of coming back. It's nowhere near as serious as the flu but it is really starting to wear me down.

Historically, I have had recurrent health issues my entire life. Some days I just feel resigned to the fact that every once in a while I'm suddenly going to 'get that feeling' and need to curl up and stay in bed for the day until it passes. Other times it makes me stubborn. 'Fuck this! I'm gonna do what I need and want to do anyway.' And I put off feeling better by an extra couple of days just to show my body who is really in control here.  Some times I don't have a choice. If vertigo, or a really bad migraine, or a seizure episode hits, there isn't much that can be done and that's scary.

That time of year when we send out well wishes to all of our friends and family is rapidly approaching.  I usually write something like "Wishing you health and happiness in the coming year".  Maybe I'll just shorten that and say, "To your health.". These days that seems so fragile and so much more important. Besides, we've got therapists for the happy part and in this economy I'm sure they could use some work too.

So, here's to your health, the health of your family and loved ones, the health of our country and the economy. Oh, what the hell, I guess it doesn't hurt to hope for a little happiness too.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Politics and Public Schools in Central Pennsylvania

A little bit of me died today.  I felt it.  I knowingly, purposely voted for a Republican. Man.

I have been a die-hard liberal my entire life.  I was raised that way.  Anti-guns. Pro-choice (not pro-abortion, they are NOT the same thing). I am not for every tax the beaurocrats can dream up but I am for those that have helping those that do not have.  I am not for big business.  I am for everyone doing their honest, level, best in this world at something that helps the planet and your neighbor.  We should all be looking out for each other but especially for our children.

I understand how it is possible to have a good income and yet still live paycheck to paycheck.  My husband and I made the decission to send out kids to private school.  It is and has been a very expensive decission that has affected our lives every day since.  People have asked why we didn't just move to a better school district.  In the long term it would have been much, much cheaper to do just that.  In the short term when we made the turn down this path it was all but impossible.  Had we decided to sell our house in the city and move to one of the "better" school districts what kind of guarentee were we going to get that our kids were going to have a better education?  None.  As it is now, they are in (in my humble opinion) the best school possible and one that is at the very least on a par with the best in the country.

It is the simple things, the things cast off as "expensive extras" in public schools that make the biggest differences in my kids lives.  Things like Physical Education class every day.  Yeah, gym class.  How can you be a healthy, happy kid if you don't get to run around and blow off some steam everyday?  How can you be a healthy, happy adult if you don't get in the habit of exercising everyday?  Things like music class multiple times a week.  Research has shown repeatedly that learning music helps people learn math.  It also has a calming effect and can help kids with certain learning disorders by strengthening parts of the brain we don't usually use for learning.  Things like art class multiple times a week with someone qualified to teach our kids about all of the possibilities in the world and all the history of self expression that has come before us.

The values of equality and fairness and basic human kindness and human dignity should be taught at home.  But how can you expect your kids to espouse these ideals if they are not also taught at school?  When children are in an environment of acceptance of who they are, an environment of trust, a safe environment that is drug and violence free, where they are encouraged to learn and grow, they thrive. How can today's kids learn to think, and draw, and sing, and soar outside of the box if they don't know they are being put in a box or that anything else even exists?

I digress.  The crappy public education available in the Commonwealth of PA is one of my shall we say, hot buttons.  The woman running on the Democratic ticket for Mayor of Harrisburg today was one of the people who faught our current mayor over control of the public school system.  It got so bad here that the government had to step in to try to get our school system moving in the right direction.  You know, the direction of actually teaching the kids as apposed to the school board being more worried about their own egos.  Even as the government was stepping in the school board continued to wage political battles over who got to say what in terms of school board policies and politics.  All the while pouring more money into the hands of their lawyers instead of using the money to buy books or supplies.  She was part of that problem.

Lately, the non-profit company the democratic candidate started has come under scrutiny because of false advertising on its web site, and possible financial mismanagement at best, fraud and tax evasion at worst.  Rather than explain the situation in a calm manner she has repeatedly ducked the questions.  She gets her knickers in a twist and cries foul and unfair.  This is just the other side playing politics.  Why, yes, m'am it is.  Maybe.  Who knows. Point is if this is how you act when people start asking questions how are you going to run our town?:  She gets loud and indignant.  I want a mayor who can calmly explain her point of view.  One who can rationally work their way through a series of events without everything becoming personal.  Her best answer on all of this was that she doesn't pay attention to the website.  Then how are you ever going to manage paying attention to everything neccessary in our city?  Please don't tell me what is important.  Just answer the questions without all of the drama.  She couldn't do that.  So I couldn't vote for her.

I wish I could have voted for a Democrat.  I wish I could have voted for a woman.  But my wish for a better environment for my children and the children of Central PA is stronger.  And, I can put my ego aside when I have to and do what it right for our kids and our community.