Thursday, October 25, 2007


It's Singing Owl's turn:

"All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is near. As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. We didn’t yet worry about razor blades in apples or popcorn balls or some of the other concerns people have with Halloween these days. Halloween was a chance to be mildly scared, and better yet, to dress up and pretend to be something we really weren’t. Let’s talk about that a bit, but then let’s add in some food ideas for this year. Where I live the leaves are falling, the temperature is chilly and pumpkins are for sale everywhere, along with many kids of apples. What's more, the "Holiday Season" will soon be upon us. ACK! I could use a new idea for dessert. So, here we go…"

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?

First there was the school Halloween parade and carnival. Every classroom had to create their own booth, manned by volunteer parents. No schoolwork that day, just awesome fun. Then my neighborhood had the best trick or treating. If you were going to get a candy apple from the lady on the corner of the cul-de-sac you had to go there first, and you had to go there early. Then the rest of the neighborhood was fair game in order. It was a safer time and I could go trick or treating by myself from the age my son is now. There were a couple haunted houses to walk through where you had to put your hand in covered bowls of spaghetti (guts), olives (eyes) and jello (brains) before getting your treat from the "adult" dressed as a hideous witch. And THEN (she said sounding like Edith Ann) you got to go home with your friends, dump out all your candy, trade for favorites and eat eat eat till you were sick to your stomach!!

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?

We have a neighborhood in a neighboring town that is required by the city to do it up for Halloween. People drive in from miles around to trick or treat here. The houses are spectacular. There are some special effects industry people who do amazing things. It is mayhem. You have to run to keep up with your child as they move from house to house at lightspeed. And you're all done in 1/2 hour.

What's sadly changed now is that, while I don't have to go through the candy, because the neighborhood is safe, we still throw half of it out, because too much sugar is a huge issue these days. This is from kids just not getting the exercise that we used to get in the regular course of our days. I have a friend who would tell her children that if they left most of their candy by the hearth that the "Great Pumpkin" would leave them a toy. But we have enough toys and that is another issue as well. The too much stuff these days issue.

I feel that nowadays life is just so very full of homework, video games, television, too many toys, it has become cluttered. Too cluttered. The simpler days were healthier, even if we did eat too much candy on Halloween night. Our dinners were home made and not processed and over salted and sugared. We walked to school and walked home. We ran every single day of good weather after school and on weekends. There was one, maybe two cartoon shows on during the week and only for an hour on Saturday morning. I believe all of these things have ruined much of Halloween today.

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else? Caramel with chocolate and toasted pecans.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?

Love Jack-O'Lanterns. They have these really cool kits with fancy designs that we do. Then use them until they grow fuzzy mold in the middle. These are like the ones we've done. They're from Yankee (for some reason the link didn't work.)

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.

This year I did not decorate for the first time since Wonderboy was born. This was because of having to move my mom. Fortunately he is a forgiving child. Usually I deck the house out, inside and out. Scarier nowadays that the child is older. We have a flying bat, lots of window and mirror clings, a giant spider for the front yard a witch that flies into the tree, just for starters. Here was a fun thing last year:

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?

I LOOOVE pretending to be someone else. Probably why I started my working life as a starving actress. Are you kidding? This is my holiday. I'd dress up for Wonderboy's school, but it would mortify him. When we threw Halloween bashes though I would dress up. One year I dressed as "Sitcom Mom", with the apron and the beehive and wearing pot holders.

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.

Easy apple (or any fall or even summer fruit) tart: One package puff pastry thawed. Unroll it, shape it into a very large square and let it rest in the fridge. Cut up the apple or fruit into uniform pieces. About an inch square. Flavor as you will. With apples the amount of sugar depends on the tartness of the fruit. And I like to add a shot of Calvados along with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Mix with the fruit. Let it macerate just a tad. Then bring out the puff pastry. Swab it with melted butter. Glob on the fruit, sprinkle with brown sugar and nuts, and dot with butter. Fold in the edges of the pastry. Does NOT have to be neat. Pop it into a 400 degree over till it's done. I don't know how long. About 15 minutes or so. Puff pastry cooks fast, so keep an eye on it.

Or: baked apple: Cut off the top and core large apples. Scoop out just a bit more and save for applesauce. Fill with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, good old Calvados again and top with butter pats. Bake at 350 till done.

And y'all come on back later this weekend now. "Living With Familiar Strangers" will continue.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

FRIDAY FIVE - Homage to the Top Chef

.....A little break from the story. But no worries. A new installment comes later Friday!!

My Princess Mindy Swap Partner Extraordinairre, RevHRod writes:

"This Fall my family has been energetically watching Top Chef on the Bravo channel. My teenage daughter watches with the dream of some day being a chef. My husband watches because he loves reality shows and I mean, really loves them. Plus the whole competition thing really works for him. Me, I love cooking and good food. Every so often I get an idea from this group of talented young chefs who are competing for big money and honors galore.

The winner for this season was Hung. Not the fan favorite, but he won fair and square. In his bio, he says if he were a food "I would be spicy chili - it takes a while to get used to, but once you eat it you always come back for more!" With that in mind, here is this week’s Friday Five"

1. If you were a food, what would you be?

I would be Thanksgiving cornbread/sausage stuffing. My recipe includes sweetened dried cranberries, toasted pecans, celery, onion and secret herbs. Yum yum. I make a lot of it. Because I eat a lot of it. And therefore a lot of me is likely thereafter a lot of it.

2. What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?

Three come to mind. One is a dinner made by a former beau of Cornish Game Hens with, of course, butter soaked herbed stuffing. The whole meal was amazing. Home made bread. Salad. And I made an apple tarte tatin as dessert! The second was at a favorite restaurant in Pasadena, of Apple Cider whiskey sauced, and of course stuffed, pork chop. All the bites, first to last, were tickets to heaven. And then one I made from a Julia Child recipe for chicken crepes with a cheese/wine sauce. Goodness that woman could cook!

3. What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?

My mom used to make a Velveeta/mushroom soup form of rarebit for lunch. With black olives on the side. I'd stick an olive on each finger, pop them in and then eat the smooth cheesy goodness on toast. And then there was french fry night, where we had tempura veggies, potatoes and such for supper. And on Thanksgiving mom would make this sweet potato/orange/marshmallow side dish that was worth waiting a year for.

4. When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?

Dadgummit my church does NOT have potluck dinners. I have tried and tried to talk them into this. But it's La De Dah Canada and all the fancy wimmins there apparently do not cook. If we did have potlucks, I would make my Died and Gone to Heaven Lasagna.

5. What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?

I am not one to try octopus or sea urchin or even sweetbreads. It's a big coward I am with that. The most bizarre combination, that I will still eat today, is a peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwich.

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?

A kir royale. Maybe two or five. (Champagne with creme de cassis. Though I also like it with Chambord)

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Just some preliminary groundwork:

Just guessing here. Because I don't know for a fact:
I'd say that the woman on the left has not fed herself or her son because there is not enough food in her area to sustain a healthy weight for herself and a nurturing weight for her child.

Just guessing here. Because I don't know for a fact:
I'd say that the woman on the right has intentionally withheld food from herself out of a desire to be as thin as possible, believing her pictured physical state to be glamorous and beautiful.

Some psychological research has indicated that eating disorders are a mental disease and not a lifestyle choice.

An incorrect deduction would presume that the woman on the left and her child have an eating disorder. If you call a serious lack of food in their local geographical region an eating disorder, I would agree. But in fact, I do not agree.

Just guessing here. Because I don't know for a fact:
I'd say the woman on the right has an eating disorder.

All three appear malnourished. All three appear to be at some level of starvation. The difference, I would say, between the mother and son, and the "model" is intention. Yet the result is the same.

Now, take a mother or father (or both) who withhold food from their children to the point that the children become starved and malnourished. This mother and father, in fact, love their children, and believe they are doing them a good service. As in the parents who don't believe in giving their children modern medicine. And the woman in Texas who drowned her children to save them from Satan. And these children die.

And the woman on the left's child dies from being withheld food, but not by the mother's choice. By the circumstances of her environment.

Which child's death is more tragic to God? Does God hold all the parents above equally responsible in these children's deaths? Well, of course we're not gonna know that till we get up there. Assuming that's where we're all going. Because I don't know that for a fact. And assuming we remember to ask the question.

Which child's death is more tragic in your eyes? Are any of these child deaths preventable?

What would you do if you had just written a very large donation check to a mission in the Sudan to feed the starving people there, and then went to church and sat behind a family of obviously starving people, dressed in designer clothes who you knew to be affluent and watched their children stumble and fall from weakness on the way up to the children's sermon?

Which starving people are more tragic? Don't get me wrong. I absolutely believe in and support missions to Darfur and the Sudan and other areas of extreme poverty where all the people, including the children are suffering tragically. Through no fault of their own.

And the other side of the spectrum, the starving affluent, certainly can afford to choose differently. And yet they don't. And there does not seem to be any kind of "Unicef" or outreach program to help them and their children. We leave it to the courts. Who, only generally speaking here, take the children away from the poorer families and leave the ones who hire the expensive intimidating attorneys to return to the food withholding dysfunction they came from.

I would suggest that society and church needs to find a way to engage these families and help them heal as a family. Except, not my church, OK? They're worried about liability. Yours may well be too.

I'm just asking these questions:

~How do we as a society deal with the starvation of children and the self imposed starvation of teenagers and adults. Is it possible that the deaths of these children are swept under the carpet because of the "intention", even though the result is the same?

~How do we as a church, trying to obey Mark 7:27 "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." And do this in such a way as to also minister to the parents who do this. In other words, help heal the family?

Throwing large amounts of money at this will not heal these problems. Large amounts of money tend to attract corruption. Though money is surely needed in areas like the Sudan. To buy food and distribute it safely to where it is needed. How do we raise the awareness of our social consciousness and church consciousness to think outside the box to find solutions. Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us. I don't believe that means they have to starve.

But then again, as Jodie pointed out in a comment on my "Foothill Blogger" post,

What do we as a society and a church do about this?

Friday, October 05, 2007

FRIDAY FIVE - Thankfulness List

From Mary Beth: "Welcome to the Friday Five!

This one is going to be veeeery simple: List at least five things (people, places, graces, miracles...) for which you are thankful. You may elaborate as you wish, or keep it simple."

1. My son.

2. My friends

3. My mom

4. Milk and being able to write about it


6. Being able to see

7. Amazing Grace

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Day after day after day after day,
and night after night after night,
there is only "I need", "I need", "I need NOW"
from everyone.
Except me.

Day after day after day after day,
and night after night after night,
I do and I do and I do
for everyone.
Except me.

This has gone on
for years.
This has gone on
with and without tears.
This has gone on

No time to eat dinner,
it's now 10:00 p.m.
I open the refrigeratior
and look longingly
at uncooked food.
If only someone would come
and cook it. For me.
I'm too tired.

I take out the jar of
Smooth Peanut Butter.
I take out a large tablespoon.
I introduce one to the other
and ground nuts mound over the spoon.

Back to the den.
Watch the news.
Lick the spoon.

Forgot milk.
Forgot water.

the breathable ratio
of esophagus
to peanut butter
is overwhelmed!!

A strange, so strange wheezing sound!
Is it a cat? Why do I feel dizzy suddenly?
Where is this sound coming from?
Oh. It's me. Just choking.

I stand, wondering where
oh where has it gone?
My panic.
It's not here.
Just wheezing and choking
and not breathing.

It feels peaceful. It feels welcoming.
I hear a beckoning. I hear a voice.
A pretty voice. A voice that promises rest.
For me.

"Just relax" it says.
"Don't get up. Just lay back
and let me stroke your brow"
it says.
And way way way way back in the background
almost too far to be heard is
"I need", "I need", I need NOW".

And without thinking I find myself
back at the refrigerator.
Ignoring the uncooked food.
Grabbing the bottle of milk.
Just one last wheeze. It really wouldn't be so bad, would it?
I could finally sleep, couldn't I?

Then I'm drinking.
Straight from the bottle.
And the smooth stickiness is washed away.
The wheeze is gone.
And I am still here.
Almost sorry.

And tomorrow becomes:

Today after day after day after day,
and night after night after night,
with only "I need", "I need", "I need NOW"
from everyone.
Except me.

Gonna need to buy a new bottle of milk today.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


(From my very funny friend, Susan)


While waiting for the muse to strike me with another story, here's a strange and sad and true tale. While we don't live in the upscale burg of La Canada, Wonderboy and I travel there all week long for his school, for church, for my haircuts, groceries and all sorts of daily life requirements.

La Canada is adjacent to Alta Dena and Pasadena. Foothill Boulevard is a main drag. It stretches west into the more middle class La Crescenta. Then, traveling eastward again, it goes into disguise through Alta Dena, then picks up again in Pasadena. All the way to a pretty little town called Sierra Madre. The distance from La Canada to Sierra Madre is easily more than 10 miles. One way.

Every single day, at some point during the day, you will see a young, blond, skeletal woman in shorts, tank top, baseball cap, pushing a red double wide stroller as she jogs first one side of Foothill all the way into La Crescenta to the west and then back on the other side, heading back to Sierra Madre in the east. She jogs over 20 miles a day. She has been doing this for so long that when you are directly behind her you will hear that she is not even winded. Wonderboy calls her Mrs. Skeleton.

The scuttlebutt from local shopkeepers is that she is the wife of a successful doctor and the family is very wealthy. They say that her schoolage children are also malnourished and very skinny. Their teachers will bring food for them to eat when they are at school because they do not get fed at home. Complaints have been made to Child Protective Services. But, it is said that because the family is wealthy, it has been impossible to remove the children from the home.

Now, I will wager that if this woman was the wife of a blue collar worker and the family was not wealthy, those children would be in foster homes immediately enjoying mac 'n cheese, with apples and carrots and milk. Not to mention breakfast and lunch. Every day. But the husband is a rich doctor. Now I don't know for a fact that this is the reason the complaints filed by teachers and neighbors have been unsuccessful. But I suspect it is true.

What do you think? Do you believe that our legal system panders to the wealthy even on this level? Even to allowing the continued endangerment of children? What do you think any of us might be able to do about this? I know there have been other tragic stories involving the neglect, abuse and hurting of children in "ordinary" or even "priveleged" neighborhoods. Do you think this is now an epidemic? Or is it just because our population has burgeoned so large that the numbers are still, percentage wise, proportional to, say 1960?

The pastors at my church will say to those with family problems, "Well, you better not tell me about any of it because you know I am a mandated reporter". So if this jogger was a member of my church, her children would likely not be helped there either. Do you feel it is the church's place to help in situations like this, if possible? What would your church do?

Meanwhile, this sad woman who no one, including myself, knows how to help, will get up tomorrow, send her schoolage children out without breakfast, then put her preschool children into the red double wide, and spend the entire day running the more than 20 miles, while none of them get anything to eat. Well maybe except for the dad.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Today is the Grand Opening of Homeboy Bakery/Homegirl Cafe after a fire in 1999 burned down the original building.

A Jesuit priest, Father Gregory J. Boyle, founded Homeboy Industries. He said "Nothing stops a bullet like a job".

In the bakery, rival gang members are working side by side to make bread.

May God bless this profoundly positive mission of peace in my city. And may blessings of success rain down on their endeavors. And I'll just bet the bread is really good too. Gotta go and taste me some.