Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Importance of Ornamentation

Cutting down a live evergreen, installing it in your house into a heavy duty vase, then embellishing it with little trinkets and lights is just plain weird. Yet, every year we look forward to the piney smell, the sparkling lights, revisiting our favorite ornaments, adding new ornaments, and making little stories up about the goings-on between the little figurines hanging there (if not to the constant watering and needle clean-up).

In this one minute look at our efforts and effects, you can see a few of our plastic couples kissing, actual photographs of family, the Christmas puppies looking frightened of the Michael Vick NFL series figurine, and the macabre world of Tim Burton spilling over onto the now headless Felicity of American Girl fame. Except for a few NYC ornaments, our places visited collection seem to be missing among the boxes in the holiday decorating production staging area (aka: the living/dining room).

Then there are the casualties. Two years ago, BOOM! Our lovely glass Harry Potter ornament and some old personalized Elmo and Cookie Monster pom-poms on glass shattered as the tree timbered! (Some of our elves have not yet gotten over this devastating experience.) An entire bevy of Barbies have lost hands, heads, and hanging hooks, while handmade ornaments have snapped, crackled, and popped having been meant for the instant glee rather than long-term storage in extreme temperatures. For instance, my meticulous collection of resin dogs and frosty creatures from the 80s is still in perfect shape while the painted macaroni wreaths and laminated hand prints have disintegrated.

Still, I save them all - even those as-useless-as-blue-and-red-pom-poms remainders because, while they are no longer pretty on the tree, they are a tiny, instant, and wistful encapsulation of the growth of my family from year to year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Whole 30: 2nd edition

This is not going to be as fun a report as my nutty foray into the Whole 30 last September. This one is bittersweet.

Oddly, although my Whole 30 experiment was quite successful in that I managed to follow the Whole 30 guidelines for the entire 30 days without falling face first into a box of Oreos, my desire to do so was much, much stronger this time. In short, it wasn't so much the crunch as the sweet I craved.

As someone who's had gestational diabetes - twice - and has only type 1 and type 2 diabetics for direct relatives, I've always been concerned about my blood sugar. My A1C levels have been okay, but they are slowly creeping up. My last fasting blood sugar was 102 mg/dl: not good. I wonder if it would be different this morning. I should have some of those diabetic relatives bring their testing equipment to Thanksgiving. (Do I know how to throw a party, or what?)

In any case, I found that coconut milk satisfied that sweetness craving to the point where I began to need it: in my coffee (which I cut down to one measured cup a day), in my tea, in my hot chocolate (first recipe without the vanilla, which I was thrilled to find completely satisfied my approaching-holidays-have-to-have-hot-chocolate urge), and whipped (!) on my red raspberries (still a favorite). My husband's post workout sweet potatoes induced some "Hot damn! This is good!" shouting. But I also felt a little hungrier this time. I don't know why that occurred, and I find the difference between my two Whole 30 sessions to be worthy of more exploration.

For now, I am quite happy to repeat that the magic worked. I've been sleeping better, working out stronger, lost six to eight pounds, and have been generally satisfied with my unprocessed, unsweetened, and unbreaded diet. While I think the timing of this Whole 30 v.5 will be responsible for many foodgasms at Thanksgiving tables around the country tomorrow, I'm hoping to enjoy the simple tastes of butter slathered on my green beans, turkey seasoned with rosemary and thyme, and bittersweet chocolate in any form administered.

Happy Thanksgiving and Good Eating, dear readers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

3 Good Things (Fab Pre-fab edition)

Last weekend we made our way down to Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island to attend the open house of two new Evolution homes from Blu Homes. We were delighted by the light and open spaces which made the 1200 sf pre-fab house seem much bigger. The efficiency and economy that comes from building the home inside of a factory instead of on-site allows these houses to be completed in weeks.

These cost about $300,000, not including the $100,000 of site work and foundation.

Then I saw this:

This powerpod from PowerHouse Enterprises (which now seems defunct) is truly tiny, appropriate for a vacation home only, but at 500 sf for $100,000 delivered, it has some pretty cool features like radiant heating, active solar energy collection and passive solar heating, and water collection.

That they are green is incidental to me. That they are energy efficient and just plain cool looking is pretty attractive. And these builders are in my own backyard!

Finally, I just got this month's Dwell magazine and it has 42 pages of 32 modern prefabs, mostly out of California.

I love modern pre-fab design.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Magic of the Whole 30

Last night, after a fun and exhilarating workout at the gym I had several hours of euphoria before I crashed into my pillow falling immediately dead asleep. I have not achieved either of these welcomed conditions for many months now, and I cannot help but think it is in large part due to the way I’ve been eating. I just finished Day 15 of my second go with the Whole 30. (See my report on last fall’s nutty effort here.)

The Whole 30 is an eating program which requires the removal of processed foods, sugar, dairy, and grains – all thought to be responsible for crazy cravings for empty calories and a myriad of often elusive ailments related to inflammation – from one’s diet, and the inclusion of good fats, good meats, nutrient-dense vegetables and some fruit, seeds, and nuts for thirty days.  It does require effort to make sure what you’re eating doesn’t have hidden crap in it, but if you stick with food still in nature’s packaging (or recently out of it – hello gorgeous grass-fed beef), you can’t go wrong. 

This is from the The Whole30 v.5.0, part of the The Whole 9, website where there is nothing to buy, nothing to sign up for, but a lot to learn and earn for yourself:

At some point, we promise you… the magic will happen. You’ll go to sleep easier, and sleep more soundly through the night. Your energy levels will increase and stabilize, and you’ll feel just as good first thing in the morning as you do at the peak of your day. Your body composition will start to change – your clothes will fit differently, and you’ll feel less bloated at the end of your day. Your performance, whether it be in the gym, while playing sports or during a hike, will improve. Your recovery after exercise, a game or a hard day’s work will feel easier and more complete. Conditions, ailments, aches and pains will miraculously start to improve. And through all of it, you’ll be eating delicious, fresh, natural, real food… food that tastes good, and is physically satiating and mentally satisfying.

After our workout last night, I convinced Stephen to cook shredded sweet potato in coconut oil until caramelized and add cinnamon.  (Yes, I could have done it, but I was otherwise engaged, and he’s the cook,  okay?) Anyway, when I began to eat it I could not believe that he added plain cinnamon and not the cinnamon/sugar mix we have for my favorite treat: cinnamon toast.  I questioned him repeatedly, varying the question only slightly as if he did not understand English or his spices (because, let’s face it, he is in charge of the kitchen and the entire spice cabinet which he often likes to rearrange for his convenience but to the frustration of the rest of us plain folk who might like to add a little spice from time to time). But enough about that.  

In short, I cannot adequately express how delicious, how delicately crunchy, how very satisfying that nutritious post-workout treat was!

This is how I know the magic is happening!

Sweet Potato Hash Brown
Ingredients: 1 med. sweet potato, 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp cinnamon.
Good eats!
Nutrition Facts from Recipe Calculator

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In Her Own Words

“I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do,” she says. “I support what they do.”

Elizabeth Warren on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
24 Oct 2011, the Daily Beast

 The proper role of government is to protect individual rights including property rights. The government should be helping this woman get her money back from those who took it. Oh. Wait . . . since government is the only institution with the legal use of force, let alone the institution that forced the bail out on many banks, shouldn't she be marching on Pennsylvania Avenue?


meet Kettle. (Just too close to ignore.)

A little more cerebral signage, closer to the intellectual foundation of the movement. The system in which every man can voluntarily trade with any other man must die. Long live . . . um . . . tyranny? 

And there it is. 

I'm not sure who "the man" is in this case, but the suggestion of lynchings is always in protest vogue.

While inventing the Occupy movement might be an overstatement of Gorian proportions, I personally thank Ms. Warren for her bellows-like contributions to the thought-savings that go along with the indiscriminate targeting of all those with "too much money." This is certain to make the world a better place for all. 

Well . . . except for those rich people, and maybe anyone whose stunted thought processes are steeled by these intellectuals supporting the childish idea that wealth is a fixed pie - you are poor because someone else is rich. Oh, and possibly, the next set of people targeted by the mindless democratic tyranny: Doctors? Lawyers? Union bosses? French-Canadians? Who knows? 

When you don't follow your ideas to their proper conclusion, the outcomes are always a surprise.  

Photographs from Mercury News.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Old Farmhouse Just Ain't What It Used to Be

Although my current home does not reflect this, I'm a huge fan of sleek modern architecture, minimalist interior design, and modern conveniences (Okay. I have modern conveniences). Even so, there has always been something about the old sprawling farmstead -- the building that seems to accrue organically as space and functional needs dictate -- that has always been attractive to me. But this one took me by surprise.

On first inspection, it's an lovely old New England farmstead, freshly whitewashed with a vibrant red door nestled among the rolling hills of Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Pretty. 

Through the dusk, the landscape seems well-managed and the shapes oddly regular. On closer inspection, however, we see that it is not what it first appears to be!

Front (a little sterile)
Back (bam!)

Side (glowing)

Interior (clean and sleek) 

Hey - we have those Eileen Gray tables

Plan (and structure) by Hugh Newell Jacobsen

Set on 146 acres in Great Barrington, this 5000 sf home can be yours for $3.9M. Please call me when you move in. I'd love to see it. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3 Good Things (Cool Hand Look edition)

Now that the snow has arrived--all too early for my liking--it's time to break out the winter hand protection. Black leather gloves have been my standard wear for the last 30 years or so with an occasional infusion of leopard or zebra print here and there. Recently, I found these really cool gloves that I wouldn't mind adding to my monochromatic collection.

Don't say goodbye, say "ironic things" in "air quotes." (From Kate Spade via SwissMiss)

 Because there is conductive material woven into the fingertips of these gloves, you can use your electronic devices without freezing your phalanges off. (From Muji via SwissMiss).

Hedgehog mittens!!!! These are the cutest things ever - but you have to knit them yourself. Jenn? Earl? Somebody? (From CritterKnits)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

This is why I check out the daily Federal Register only once every six months or so. It's addictive.

At 475 pages, today's robust Register contains two Presidential Documents: One about how Sudan continues to be an "unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United Statesand the second establishing BusinessUSA (yes, a WikiWord - so hip!) to assist small businesses and exporters, because "those businesses help drive economic growth and have the most to gain from Federal assistance.
If we are to thrive in the global economy, and make America the best place on Earth to do business, we need to equip our Government with the tools necessary to support innovation and job growth in the 21st century.
BusinessUSA, a common, open, online platform and web service with dedicated resources that will, as a first step, disseminate core information regarding the Federal Government's programs and services relevant to small businesses and exporters. [emphasis mine]

So his answer to getting through the morass of red tape is . . . more bureaucracy? Yup. More telling, however, is that the President considers small businesses and exporters customers of the government's service industry: "If the private sector can allow consumers to customize interactions so that they receive only the information they want, in the form they want it, so can the Federal Government."

Again, for the strong of stomach, it's a must read. 

Further, if you are so inclined to look, you will find the Final Rule implementing section 3022 of the Affordable Care Act. It's also a must read - if you have four months to decipher it. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today's Federal Government

     Here is a list of agencies that are proposing changes to their regulations or policies and giving notices that are required by law so that we may understand what our government is doing - today. This happens everyday

If you are of strong constitution, I urge you to take a little trip down one of the little sucking vortices known collectively as federal government agencies and see where it leads you. I like to do this at least once every six months. It's good to remind ourselves what our tax dollars really pay for. 

Today, I am recommending the Education Department (ED) notification of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) report on recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  Need a primer on NACIQI? Here's one. How about the HEA? Here's one for that. 


·         Agricultural Marketing Service2
·         Agriculture Department6
·         Census Bureau1
·         Coast Guard2
·         Commerce Department16
·         Defense Department3
·         Education Department2
·         Energy Department5
·         Farm Credit Administration1
·         Federal Highway Administration1
·         Federal Reserve System3
·         Federal Transit Administration2
·         Fish and Wildlife Service1
·         Food and Drug Administration7
·         Food and Nutrition Service1
·         Foreign-Trade Zones Board2
·         Forest Service1
·         Homeland Security Department3
·         Interior Department3
·         Internal Revenue Service3
·         International Trade Commission2
·         Labor Department3
·         Land Management Bureau2
·         Maritime Administration1
·         National Institutes of Health6
·         National Labor Relations Board1
·         National Science Foundation1
·         Nuclear Regulatory Commission2
·         Postal Regulatory Commission3
·         State Department4
·         Transportation Department8
·         Treasury Department3
·         Veterans Affairs Department10

The numbers after the agencies are the number of changes/proposals they are giving notice for TODAY.