31 May 2009

Manic Monday - Spice

The term Spice Islands most commonly refers to the Maluku Islands (formerly the Moluccas), which lie on the equator, between Sulawesi (Celebes) and New Guinea in what is now Indonesia, and were once the only source of cloves, mace and nutmeg.

So much for the dry terminology. What it doesn't tell you is the whole of history just might be tied to "What's for dinner?". Spices bring up visions of caravans crossing great expanses to bring the colors and scents of far off places to the world. Just the names conjure up images of equatorial heat and lush tropical surroundings.

I've always preferred spicy to sweet usually phrased as preferring foods that "bite back". When it comes to cakes, one of my favorites is a spice cake where all those lovely flavors aren't overwhelmed by sugar. Here is one that is easy to make and can be eaten plain or with a cream cheese icing.



2 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened until easily spreadable
2 cups dark brown sugar


Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and lightly flour a 9-by-13-inch pan.

Whisk dry ingredients and spices in a large bowl.
Mix milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a 2-cup measuring cup.

Beat softened butter into dry ingredients, first on low, then medium, until mixture forms pebble-sized pieces.

Add about 1/3 of the milk mixture and beat on low until smooth. Add remaining milk mixture in two stages; beat on medium speed until batter is just smooth. Add the sugar; beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pour batter into cake pan.

Bake until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the cake's center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeter and turn cake onto rack. Let cool.

Now just to show what pictures the names of spices can create, here is Langston Hughes extolling the beauty of the many shades of black women with "Harlem Sweeties".

Harlem Sweeties
by Langston Hughes

Have you dug the spill
Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims
On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie,
Caramel treat,
Honey-gold baby
Sweet enough to eat.
Peach-skinned girlie,
Coffee and cream,
Chocolate darling
Out of a dream.
Walnut tinted
Or cocoa brown,
Pride of the town.
Rich cream-colored
To plum-tinted black,
Feminine sweetness
In Harlem’s no lack.
Glow of the quince
To blush of the rose.
Persimmon bronze
To cinnamon toes.
Blackberry cordial,
Virginia Dare wine—
All those sweet colors
Flavor Harlem of mine!
Walnut or cocoa,
Let me repeat:
Caramel, brown sugar,
A chocolate treat.
Molasses taffy,
Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove, cinnamon
To a honey-brown dream.
Ginger, wine-gold,
Persimmon, blackberry,
All through the spectrum
Harlem girls vary—
So if you want to know beauty’s
Rainbow-sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

30 May 2009

Diversity Wins "Britain's Got Talent"

Susan Boyle was great but came in second. She looked almost relieved. These kids are amazing.

The Announcement of the Winners

28 May 2009

What Now?

This is a somewhat strange year in that I turned 65 in March, my daughter, Lanisa, will turn 45 in September, and my granddaughter, Theresa, turns 30 next month. That many "milestones" in one year can start you musing about the meaning of life. Fortunately for me, Deep Thought did come up with the answer of 42, so that problem is solved. Now it is a matter of coming up with something interesting to do with time now that it really isn't owed to anyone else.

Barring any unforeseen accidents or complications, I probably have at least 20 years, regular little money, and a somewhat sadly lumpy body that really needs a regimen. It would be nice to have some just fun to do things on the "bucket list", but more important, how about some short term things to do that are good for others. Any ideas would be appreciated.

While you are thinking about things to do with time, here is a reprise of the column I wrote three years ago about the infant who became next month's 30 year old.

Would You Want A World Without Her

This Lovely young woman is my eldest grandchild. Formally, she is Theresa. To virtually everyone who has ever met her, she is known as "The Incredible T". According to her, if Cher and Madonna get one name, she deserves to be recognized by a single letter. She and the Divine Miss M have removed two of the 26 available. The rest of you will have to make do with the leftovers. In June, she will be 27 . Her mother will be 42 in September. You do not need advanced mathematical skills to know that her appearance was a family crisis.

At the time I was a divorced woman with two children, no support, working a demanding job while trying to juggle family obligations. For a while my daughter got lost in the mix. The announcement of a pregnancy at 14 was the result. Although I feared for her health and offered her the option of an abortion, my heart really wasn't in it. Somewhere, I must have passed something along, because she just curled up and said, "I can't kill my baby". It wasn't some microscopic bit of protoplasm. It was a baby.

I come from a generation where boys took responsibility and married the (almost virgin) girls in question usually a few days after graduation from high school. Then there were the girls who went to visit relatives somewhere only to return six months later looking older while the child went for adoption, but no one talked about that. No one I knew ever had an abortion. We knew they existed; certainly there were horror stories enough, but they applied to "bad" girls not to the "accidents" good girls had. Of course, there was no true birth control then. The first pill didn't come along until I was 18.

Times have certainly changed since my teen years. Women's lib has happened, birth control is easily available, abortions are legal with variable limitations from state to state, and welfare exists for those who choose to keep children they couldn't afford to keep otherwise. It is a different world, but is it a better one? There is a side of me that thinks the time to have a child just isn't that long. How much does it take out of some one's life to give birth and give the child away or keep it even with the attendant psychological trauma. There is another that knows what a huge problem it can be to be pregnant at the wrong time in your life, not to mention that barring a major illness and even with the great advances of modern medicine, a woman is never closer to death than when delivering an infant. Then there are the cases where you might be carrying a child as the result of rape or incest or an infant with severe physical or mental defects who will need a life of care if they survive.

I have no religious convictions on the issue. As long as there have been women with problem pregnancies, there have been abortions. The early church didn't consider a child as requiring baptism until after "quickening" (that point when the child in the womb can be felt by the mother). Strangely enough, quickening coincides fairly well with the lowest possible age that a premature infant can be saved. I do have strong ethical considerations. In a perfect world, every child would be wanted, born or adopted into a caring family, and loved. Whenever possible there should be two parents, simply because that makes life easier both emotionally and financially. News flash for those who haven't heard: Life isn't perfect.

Wealthy women have always been able to get abortions. They probably called it a D & C done by some expensive and compliant physician often outside the United States, but they got it. Poor women went to back alley practitioners or interns looking to make a supplement to their meager salaries, or they had the baby and either kept it or gave it up for adoption. The argument then really comes down to the haves and have nots.

Do I believe that there should be some limitations on abortion? Yes. I favor parental notification as long as there is an option for a judge to stand in loco parentis. Incest and other forms of abuse do exist. The minor in question needs to be able to access help and intervention that bypasses those situations, not to mention bringing the offending party to justice. The argument that you can't give an aspirin to my child without my permission, yet you can give her an abortion without my knowledge makes sense. Third trimester should be off limits except for life threatening conditions. Fortunately, this is the rarest kind no matter what the anti-abortion crowd would have you believe and almost always for severe medical reasons. That leaves the diciest areas of morning after, first trimester, and second trimester.

Morning after - Some hazards with the drug apparently exist, but whether or not to use this option should be totally up to the woman. The egg hasn't come anywhere near a sperm. There is no there there. You can be more pregnant with the pill or an IUD that are legal than with the morning after pill that often isn't. At one time or another, everyone has been truly stupid. The morning after pill is a "no harm, no foul" solution.

First Trimester - This has to be totally the decision of the woman and her doctor. I may not like it, hope that someone will counsel the woman on other options such as adoption and possibilities after the fact including using birth control or keeping her legs crossed. There's an old fashioned idea for you. If you don't want the time, don't do the crime. There are darn few females out there over the age of 12 who don't know what causes babies. A little self control and responsibility couldn't hurt. Whatever my attitudes, that decision isn't any of my business. It is even less the business or some male legislator. If you can't get pregnant, you don't get to have an opinion.

Second Trimester - This is the hardest area. There are hazards and there can be major complications to an abortion at this stage. A child born after 22 weeks can survive outside of the mother's body if delivered prematurely. There may be defects such as cerebral palsy and the other attendant problems of not reaching full term, but they can survive. A child with various birth defects can receive surgery in the womb or have the condition corrected such as a club foot once delivered. Modern methods of determining pregnancy mean that the woman almost always knows she is pregnant within the first trimester. As long as the first trimester is legal and competent care easily available, there is really no reason to get to this stage without making a decision. The key is competent, easily available care. Early access to service is important. Without that access, a law that says no abortion except for "rape, incest, or the life of the mother" simply makes no sense. Without that guarantee, I have to again come down on the side of a woman in conjunction with her physician's advice.

Whatever a woman decides to do in this difficult situation, is not my decision to make. It is certainly not one to be made by an elected official other than the very limited areas I indicated. My personal opinion about what a pregnant woman should do is obvious. Her picture is at the top of this page. Happy Birthday T.

25 May 2009

Don't Panic

Grab your Hitchhiker's Guide, towel and babblefish, it's time to celebrate Douglas Adams.

Towel Day is celebrated every May 25 as a tribute by fans of the late author Douglas Adams. On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their love for the books and the author. The commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after Adams' death on May 11, 2001.

A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. ... For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

---- Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy
If you have never read the many works of Douglas Adams, do not make the mistake of thinking of him as "just" a science fiction writer or "just" a humorist or "just" a commentator on all that surrounded him and attracted his attention. He was quite simply one of the most original thinkers to bless the planet while giving you a truly big laugh.
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem.

Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space.

Reality is frequently inaccurate.

He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

I'm spending a year dead for tax reasons.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.

If somebody thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves.

It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry 'I could have thought of that' is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn't.

The impossible often has a kind of integrity which the merely improbable lacks.

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Farewell and thanks for all the fish.

23 May 2009

Manic Monday - Memorial

It is for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
— Abraham Lincoln

Embedding of this video is forbidden, but if you haven't seen Trace Adkin's "Arlington", it is well worth watching. Have a handkerchief handy before hitting "PLAY".

We are all familiar with the great Veterans cemeteries in the U.S. such as Arlington or the huge D-Day cemetery in France where so many from the Normandy invasion lay at rest, but on Monday night your local PBS station will air "Hallowed Grounds". This documentary shows the price of that "last measure of devotion" as it tells the stories of the cemeteries located around the world where U.S. service men and women from two world wars are interred.

Once you have paid your respects in your own way, you might want to take time to remember the joys of life for yourself and how you might choose to be celebrated with this wonderful poem by Jake Thackray.

The Last Will and Testament
by Jake Thackray

I, the under-mentioned, by this document
Do declare my true intentions, my last will, my testament.
When I turn up my toes, when I rattle my clack, when I agonise,
I want no great wet weepings, no tearing of hair, no wringing of hands,
No sighs, no lack-a-days, no woe-is-me's and none of your sad adieus.
Go, go, go and get the priest and then go get the booze.

Death, where is thy victory? Grave, where is thy sting?
When I snuff it bury me quickly, then let carousels begin -
But not a do with a few ham sandwiches, a sausage roll or two and "A small port wine, please".
Roll the carpet right back, get cracking with your old Gay Gordons
And your knees up, shake it up, live it up, sup it up, hell of a kind of a time.
And if the coppers come around, well, tell them the party's mine.

Let best beef be eaten, fill every empty glass,
Let no breast be beaten, let no tooth be gnashed.
Don't bother with a fancy tombstone or a big-deal angel or a little copper flower pot:
Grow a dog-rose in my eyes or a pussy-willow
But no forget-me-nots, no epitaphs, no keepsakes; you can let my memory slip.
You can say a prayer or two for me soul then, but - make it quick.

Lady, if your bosom is heaving don't waste your bosom on me.
Let it heave for a man who's breathing, a man who can feel, a man who can see.
And to my cronies: you can read my books, you can drive around in my motor car.
And you can fish your trout with my fly and tackle, you can play on my guitar,
And sing my songs, wear my shirts. You can even settle my debts.
You can kiss my little missus if she's willing then, but - no regrets.

Your rosebuds are numbered;
Gather them now for rosebuds' sake.
And if your hands aren't too encumbered
Gather a bud or two for Jake.

21 May 2009

Sometimes You Feel Like Dancin'

Every once in a while I prowl around You Tube and discover buried treasure. As luck would have it, I was seeking Neil Diamond's "Crunch Granola Suite" for a comment at another site and lo and behold, there was the version below. It is from Bob Fosse's musical "Dancin'". If you have never seen a production either in the original tour in 1978/79 or in revival, it is a series of dances to a variety of compositions. Each one is remarkable for the talent and energy required of the dancers and contains some of Mr. Fosse's best choreography.

I first saw Dancin' thirty years ago in Los Angeles, and remember that evening vividly, so kick back, turn up your speakers and look at all the beautiful people doing phenominal work. If you want to see some of the other numbers from the show, just follow the handy links:

Sing, Sing, Sing

Percussion 4

I Wanna Be A Dancing Man

17 May 2009

Manic Monday - Shadow

Now were you really expecting me to put up something else?

"Me and My Shadow" was written in 1927. It is credited to Al Jolson, Billy Rose, and Dave Dreyer, but was probably music by Dreyer and lyrics by Rose. In the Sinatra/Davis version above, the lyrics "as close as Bobby to JFK" were added for the famous Summit at the Sands with the Rat Pack who were in Vegas filming the original "Oceans Eleven".

From the same era, one of the most beautiful songs ever written for a soap opera of a movie whose only redeeming virtue was the scenery both natural and human: The Shadow of Your Smile

12 May 2009

Progress Report

Buchenwald 1945

by Kathleen Cowley

Tristan Takos, the superb military liaison from Senator Kennedy's office called yesterday to let us know that they and Senator Kerry's office are drafting a joint letter to be sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates this Wednesday, May 13. She explained that they must follow protocol and contact him before approaching the President to request an Executive Order. Senators Kennedy and Kerry remain committed to gaining liberator status for the 94th Infantry as soon as possible with a goal of declaration by Memorial Day.

we hope the recognition of the 94th as a Liberating Unit will closely coincide with President Obama's upcoming visit to Buchenwald during the trip to France and Germany for the 65th anniversary of D-Day. It would be marvelously fitting for President Obama to honor the 94th Infantry Division as representative of all the liberators and the victims of the Holocaust prior to that trip. The fact that it is the 65th anniversary of D-Day points out just how crucial time is getting to be for the men of the 94th.

Our sincerest thanks to Senators Kennedy, Kerry, and your marvelous staffers for your dedication to the soldiers of the 94th Infantry Division and the untold victims of the Holocaust!

11 May 2009

Manic Monday - Swing

Swing Dancing from the Movie Hellzapoppin' (1941). Slim Galliard and members performing the Hellzapoppin' Jam. Classic dance sequence of Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. Dancers (in order of appearance) William Downes and Micky Jones, Billy Ricker and Norma Miller, Al Minns and Willa Mae Ricker, Frankie Manning and Ann Johnson.

Very loosely based on the stage musical of the same name, this movie contains what is considered some of the best swing dance ever committed to film.

Then you can't really say Swing without the King of Swing, Benny Goodman, here with his orchestra playing "Swing Into Spring" and featuring a couple of unknown band singers: Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee.

10 May 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, the mother of 11 children, only four of whom lived to adulthood. Prior and during the Civil War, Jarvis had seen enough death and decided to do something about poor sanitation in her hometown of Webster, Va.

So along with other mothers, Jarvis organized groups that inspected milk given to children, provided food for the poor, and cared for the families of tubercular mothers. When Webster was beset by an influx of U.S. Civil War soldiers, she cared equally for Union and Confederate men.

And when hostilities came to end, Jarvis recognized that her motherly role was not similarly at an end, so she held a special day for soldiers and their families -- a kind of reconciliation between North and South.

Jarvis died on May 9, 1905 -- the second Sunday in May. And in recognition of her mother's warmth, nurturance and unconditional love, her daughter Anna successfully lobbied to have the day celebrated in honour of all mothers.

09 May 2009

My Neck of the Woods - What In The Sam Hill?

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Romania.
–Dorothy Parker

What possible connection could there be between a road builder, a Follies Bergere dancer, a Romanian Queen, a sugar heiress, Stonehenge, and a one of a kind art collection?

What in the Sam Hill may have been a polite persons way of avoiding the word "hell" in the 1800s, but it was also the name of a legendary road builder. The first paved road in the Northwest United States wasn't built to reach a major city such as Portland or Seattle. Instead it was built by Samuel Hill between 1909 and 1913 in an isolated part of the Columbia River Gorge where he built his Maryhill estate that is now the Maryhill Museum of Art. A devout Quaker, Hill also built an exact replica of Stonehenge nearby as a War Memorial to honor the men lost in WW I.

No longer used to access the area, the historic Maryhill Loops Road is open for walkers (about a two hour hike), bikers, and skate boarders year-round. Once a year to celebrate the May 13 birthday of Hill, the road is open to drivers on the nearest weekend to that date with many car clubs taking part in the scenic drive.

The exhibits of the permanent collections of the Maryhill Museum represent the eclectic friendships cultivated by the museum's founder. Turning the Sam's castle home on the Columbia River into a world-class art museum came about through Hill's friendship with the modern dancer Loïe Fuller who provided the genesis of the collection including several works of her friend Auguste Rodin. Sam's dear friend, Marie of Romania, contributed Orthodox icons and memorabilia of her life. But it was Loïe who convinced her friend Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of a San Francisco sugar magnate, to donate European and American paintings and her magnificent collection of object d'art from the palace of the Queen of Romania, making the collection of Romanian art and artifcacts truly one-of-a-kind.

The Maryhill Museum sits on a 6,000 acre site that overlooks the Columbia River Gorge and includes not only the museum proper but the Grand Lawn, shady picnic grounds, the east lawn, the Sculpture and Rose gardens, the Lewis and Clark Overlook and Native Plant Garden, the North Lawns and Entrance Drive. The peacocks were added in the late 1970s to the delight of its visitors each year. The grounds are also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including flickers, crows, turkey, quail, black birds, raptors, fox, raccoon, and an occasional coyote or bobcat. The site is an official site on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and was recently listed on Sun and Sage Loop site of the Great Washington State Birding Trail by Audubon Washington.

08 May 2009

Endless Love

I could have saved this for My Neck of The Woods since Emerald Downs is a truly nice small track with a regular live season. It's not on the thoroughbred level of a Hollywood Park, but very well run, with an excellent clubhouse and full simulcast services, plus I have something unique for tomorrow and this is about my absolute love affair with horse racing. From the day I first toddled up the bleacher steps between my parents and pointed at a horse with "That one Mommy", it has been more than sixty years of endless love.

Because my children actually still like me, they collaborate each year and my son is taking me to Emerald Downs tomorrow. I take myself the rest of the season, but this trip is on them. Some mothers get dinner out, cards, jewelery, perfume, or fleecy pajamas. I get horses. Nothing says love like two across on number five!! The regular Sunday, Mother's Day brunch buffet is a sold out madhouse that we avoid; so we will brave the normal unbelievably crowded, Saturday madhouse instead.

Tomorrow, I will look up and see Mt. Rainier in the sunshine, then I will look across the table at my son and grandson basking in their affection, then I will look down at the beautiful animals, and at some point I will share something with Audrey Hepburn when I stand up and scream: "Move Your Bloomin' Arse!"

03 May 2009

Manic Monday - Pines

This is an easy Manic Monday. All I have to do is write a commercial for one of my favorite places in the world: The Pines Resort at Bass Lake in California. If and when that lottery prize happens, it will mean a cabin near the tiny town that consists almost totally of the resort, a grocery store, a hardware store, an old time theater with fresh popped pop corn, a gift shop, a laundry, a gas station and a post office because everybody who lives in the surrounding mountains comes there (often on horse or mule) to get their mail.

You are less than a half hour from some of the most magnificent skiing or the gate to Yosemite or with another hour to the floor to gaze up at El Capitan. The Mono Indian museum and reservation are down the road a bit and Paul Bunyan and Babe leave their foot and hoof prints on the main street of Northfork within a short drive. On your doorstep is a bathwater warm lake in summer that is filled with fish year round. You want a moonlight cruise ... they have it. You want a four star restaurant ... they have it. You want a cabin with no phone and only the sound of whispering trees ... they have it. You want high life, hot tub, luxury suite, and a rowdy bar with dance floor ... why they have it. Even best for me in the fall after the summer families have left and before the snow bunnies arive, it is drizzly and quiet by a warm fireplace, with a stack of books, and a beautiful view of the empty lake just begging you to come out and walk among the trees.

Now that I've told you about it, you can go look at the pretty pictures on the link, but if you go there, don't tell too many people. We wouldn't want it getting too crowded.

The musical selection another location for trees with Respighi's "The Pines of Rome" as a tone poem under the sea from Disney's Fantasia.