Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) partners with Mumbai Dabbawala Association (MDA)        

Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) partners with Mumbai Dabbawala Association (MDA)

~A culturally enriching and riveting morning hosted by Malaysian Palm Oil Council with the Dabbawalas of Mumbai~

by Shrutee K/DNS

Mumbai, August 8, 2017 : In April 2017 in conjunction with the visit to India of the Hon. Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato Sri’ Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) signed a MoU with Mumbai Dabbawala Association (MDA). Taking this MoU forward, on the morning of August 8th, MPOC and Mumbai Dabbawalas flagged off an event to create awareness for Malaysian Palm Oil and its benefits.

The event took place at the Lower Parel Bridge, where Dabbawalas wore the T-shirts and topis branded with MPOC message. They then delivered the dabbas carrying a booklet of recipes of dishes that can be cooked in palm oil and the benefits of using palm oil. The Dabbawalas are in a unique position to promote MPOC and raise awareness to the positive nutritional attributes of Malaysian Palm Oil. This becomes particularly useful in Indian cuisine as most dishes are cooked in oil. Substituting for a healthier oil can do no harm, besides besides providing the added bonus of eating delicious food cooked in a healthy oil that is nutritious for the body.

To kick off this event, Dr. Kalyana Sundaram, CEO of MPOC, was present, encouraging the use of palm oil and showing appreciation to our Dabbawalas for their exceptional work. The morning was most enjoyable, entertaining and culturally riveting as some of Maharashtra’s best dancers performed the traditional Lezim Dance, a true delight to have watched! For those unaware of the Lezim Dance, it is a Maharashtrian folk dance performed to the beat of the Dholki, a percussion instrument.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Kalyan Sundaram, CEO, MPOC, said, “It gives me immense pleasure to be here this morning. Dabbawalas have been an integral part of this city and they define what Indians stand for: hardworking, responsible and efficient. They work relentlessly with a smile on their face, be it rain or storm. Malaysian Palm Oil has been a very important part of the Indian diet and with this unique initiative we wish to create awareness for this wonderful oil and its several health benefits. Our association with the Mumbai Dabbawalas allows us to spread the message of healthy cooking to a large number of households and encourages a healthier cooking lifestyle”

Mr. Subhash Talekar, Association Spokesperson of Mumbai Dabbawala Association said “We Dabbawalas unfailingly deliver thousands of dabbas to hungry people daily, they are undoubtedly the best people to directly reach out to households and create awareness about palm oil and the health benefits of using it. This is a very exciting new chapter, and we are glad to be partnering with MPOC.”

India is the world’s largest importer of cooking oils. Palm oil constitutes about two-thirds of India’s steadily increasing vegetable oil import. The price, in comparison to competing oils and the proximity of origin, Malaysia, has made Malayisan Palm Oil a highly preferred oil. Now the Dabawallas have taken it upon themselves, with the help of MPOC, to inform families about the benefits of palm oil and how exquisite food can be cooked in palm oil in alternative to other vegetable oils.

Amongst some of the benefits we came to learn about during the event was that palm oil is rich in natural chemical compounds essential for health and nutrition. It has a rich source of carotenoids that are rich in Vitamin A, a potent natural antioxidant, Vitamins D, E, K, fatty acids, and other important fat-soluble micronutrients that boost the human immune system. The health benefits from using palm oil are tremendous - it reduces chances of Cancer, protects against heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and helps children with Vitamin A deficiency.

The oil is great for cooking; it is of vegetable origin, making it free of cholesterol and apt for vegetarians, vegans, and Jains. Furthermore, the oil has a neutral flavor - you needn’t worry about changing tastes, it does not oxidize easily – making it perfect for frying food, and produces less gummy materials and helps in the cooking area maintaining a non-greasy surface; so, most bakers prefer to use a palm-based margarine for baking goods.

With people now more conscious about their health and food habits, palm oil is definitely the healthier choice to make whilst cooking and a step towards healthier bodies and practices.  What better way to create awareness than directly reaching out to the households through our Dabbawalas.

Note to Editors:
MPOC is a Council under the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities of Malaysia.  Its role is to promote the market expansion of Malaysian palm oil and its products by enhancing the image of palm oil and creating better acceptance of palm oil through awareness of various technological and economic advantages (techno-economic advantages) and environmental sustainability.

The Council has set up a network of ten offices all over the world, mainly in China (Shanghai), India (Mumbai), Pakistan (Lahore), Bangladesh (Dhaka), Middle East (Istanbul and Cairo), Europe (Brussels and Russia), Africa (Durban) and Americas (Washington DC)  to support, promote and venture into new areas for the industry.

The plantation industry, particularly palm oil, is one of the main pillars of the Malaysian economy.  The palm oil sector has contributed significantly towards providing a continuous inflow of export earnings through the export of raw commodity and valued-added products to the global market. In 2016, palm oil contributed USD 9 billion in export earnings for Malaysia and accounted for 33% of the world’s palm oil production and 39% of total palm oil exports.

          Comment on Roasted Beets by Beet Hummus – Kenan and Kale        
[…] oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 2-3 small roasted beets (how-to for roasting, here!) 1/4 cup walnuts 1/4 cup olive oil 1 tbsp tahini 1 large garlic clove juice from 1/2 lemon zest […]
          Tasty Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Bars        

Tasty Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Bars – this quick and easy dessert bar recipe has just five ingredients, no oil or gluten, and fresh plump dates for sweetness!   I love a crumble topping. I always have – just ask my mom. When I was a kid, we sometimes had these extraordinarily good danish for...

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The post Tasty Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Bars appeared first on spabettie.

          Vegan Thousand Island Dressing        

Vegan Thousand Island Dressing – this quick and easy recipe brings you the tangy flavor of the classic dressing – with an oil free version!   Vegan Thousand Island Dressing is another staple recipe in our kitchen. This is so quick and easy – and I make it so often – that I make it...

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          (Bazaarmodel - To Heal - Teal) - ' it possible to build a truly Evolutionary-Teal school?' (no replies)        
'This factory-like system seems increasingly out of date. More and more people are crying out for innovation in education and starting to experiment with curricula, technologies, and governance in schools. But is it possible to build a truly Evolutionary-Teal school? And what would it look like? A superb example can be found in the center of Berlin in Germany. The “ESBZ” is a grade 7-12 school that opened its doors in 2007 with more than a bit of improvisation. Just three months before the start of the school year, the city council had suddenly given a decrepit prefabricated building from communist times to a group of pesky parents who simply wouldn’t let go of their dream. When the school year started, only 16 students were registered. A few months later, at the mid-year point, 30 more students had joined, mostly rejects and troublemakers other schools had expelled. Hardly a promising start for a new school. And yet today, only a few years later, the school has 500 students and attracts hundreds of principals, teachers, and education specialists from all over the country who want to study the ESBZ model.'

- Frederic Laloux, (Reinventing Organizations, Chapter 2.2 _ Self-management Structures), page 93

'..Yet unlike Sudbury, Montessori or Steiner schools, Rasfeld’s institution tries to embed student self-determination within a relatively strict system of rules. Students who dawdle during lessons have to come into school on Saturday morning to catch up, a punishment known as “silentium”. “The more freedom you have, the more structure you need,” says Rasfeld.

The main reason why the ESBC is gaining a reputation as Germany’s most exciting school is that its experimental philosophy has managed to deliver impressive results..'

'..At Oberländer’s school, there are no grades until students turn 15, no timetables and no lecture-style instructions. The pupils decide which subjects they want to study for each lesson and when they want to take an exam.

The school’s syllabus reads like any helicopter parent’s nightmare. Set subjects are limited to maths, German, English and social studies, supplemented by more abstract courses such as “responsibility” and “challenge”. For challenge, students aged 12 to 14 are given €150 (£115) and sent on an adventure that they have to plan entirely by themselves. Some go kayaking; others work on a farm. Anton went trekking along England’s south coast.

The philosophy behind these innovations is simple: as the requirements of the labour market are changing, and smartphones and the internet are transforming the ways in which young people process information, the school’s headteacher, Margret Rasfeld, argues, the most important skill a school can pass down to its students is the ability to motivate themselves.

“Look at three or four year olds – they are all full of self-confidence,” Rasfeld says. “Often, children can’t wait to start school. But frustratingly, most schools then somehow manage to untrain that confidence.”

The Evangelical School Berlin Centre (ESBC) is trying to do nothing less than “reinvent what a school is”, she says. “The mission of a progressive school should be to prepare young people to cope with change, or better still, to make them look forward to change. In the 21st century, schools should see it as their job to develop strong personalities.”

Making students listen to a teacher for 45 minutes and punishing them for collaborating on an exercise, Rasfeld says, was not only out of sync with the requirements of the modern world of work, but counterproductive. “Nothing motivates students more than when they discover the meaning behind a subject of their own accord.”

Students at her school are encouraged to think up other ways to prove their acquired skills, such as coding a computer game instead of sitting a maths exam. Oberländer, who had never been away from home for three weeks until he embarked on his challenge in Cornwall, said he learned more English on his trip than he had in several years of learning the language at school.

Germany’s federalised education structure, in which each of the 16 states plans its own education system, has traditionally allowed “free learning” models to flourish. Yet unlike Sudbury, Montessori or Steiner schools, Rasfeld’s institution tries to embed student self-determination within a relatively strict system of rules. Students who dawdle during lessons have to come into school on Saturday morning to catch up, a punishment known as “silentium”. “The more freedom you have, the more structure you need,” says Rasfeld.

The main reason why the ESBC is gaining a reputation as Germany’s most exciting school is that its experimental philosophy has managed to deliver impressive results..


Aged 65 and due to retire in July, Rasfeld still has ambitious plans. A four-person “education innovation lab” based at the school has been developing teaching materials for schools that want to follow the ESBC’s lead. About 40 schools in Germany are in the process of adopting some or all of Rasfeld’s methods. One in Berlin’s Weissensee district recently let a student trek across the Alps for a challenge project. “Things are only getting started,” says Rasfeld.

“In education, you can only create change from the bottom – if the orders come from the top, schools will resist. Ministries are like giant oil tankers: it takes a long time to turn them around. What we need is lots of little speedboats to show you can do things differently.” '

- Philip Oltermann, No grades, no timetable: Berlin school turns teaching upside down, July 1, 2016


(To Heal - Teal - Bazaarmodel) - Striving for wholeness '..We have let our busy egos trump the quiet voice of our soul; many cultures often celebrate the mind and neglect the body..'

(Bazaarmodel - To Heal - Teal) - 'Your physical .. cultural .. soul heredity..'

(To Heal) - Overview of Focus Levels ' areas of greater free will choice.'

(To Heal) - Overview of Focus Levels ' areas of greater free will choice.'

          PROSPEK GAHARU 2012        

Gaharu adalah bahan aromatik termahal di dunia. Harga gaharu kualitas baik di tingkat konsumen di pasar internasional, sekitar US $ 5 sd. 15 per gram, (Rp 45.000,- sd. 135.000,-). Sedemikian tingginya nilai produk gaharu, hingga penjualannya menggunakan bobot gram. Bukan ons atau kg. Gaharu adalah bahan parfum, kosmetik dan obat-obatan (farmasi). Parfum diperoleh dari hasil ekstraksi resin dan kayunya. Gaharu sudah dikenal sebagai komoditas penting, semenjak jaman Mesir Kuno. Mumi mesir, selain diberi rempah-rempah (kayumanis, cengkeh), juga diberi cendana dan gaharu. Dalam injil, disebutkan bahwa kain kafan Yesus (Isa Al Masih), diberi Aloe. Istilah ini bukan mengacu ke Aloe vera (lidah buaya), melainkan kayu gaharu.

Itulah sebabnya kayu gaharu juga disebut sebagai aloeswood (kayu aloe). Nama dagang lainnya adalah agarwood, heartwood, dan eaglewood. Di pasar internasional, gaharu murni diperdagangkan dalam bentuk kayu, serbuk dan minyak (parfum). Kayu gaharu bisa dijadikan bahan kerajinan bernilai sangat tinggi, atau untuk peralatan upacara keagamaan. Serbuk gaharu digunakan untuk dupa/ratus, dan minyaknya merupakan parfum kelas atas. Serbuk gaharu sebagai dupa akan dibakar langsung dalam ritual keagamaan. Baik Hindu, Budha, Konghucu, Thao, Shinto, Islam dan Katolik. Kayu gaharu disebut sebagai kayu para dewa. Aroma gaharu karenanya dipercaya mampu menyucikan altar dan peralatan peribadatan lainnya.

Selain itu dupa gaharu juga dimanfaatkan untuk mengharumkan ruangan, rambut dan pakaian para bangsawan. Aroma gaharu akan digunakan sebagai aromaterapi di spa-spa kelas atas. Selain untuk ritual keagamaan, parfum dan kosmetik, produk gaharu juga sering dikaitkan dengan hal-hal yang berbau mistik. Baik pemanfaatannya, terlebih lagi proses pencariannya dari alam. Pengambilan gaharu dari hutan, memang selalu dilakukan secara tradisional, dengan berbagai ritual dan kebiasaan setempat. Pencarian gaharu di lokasi sulit, harus menggunakan pesawat terbang atau helikopter. Beberapa kali pesawat terbang dan heli pencari gaharu, hilang di hutan belantara di Kalimantan, hingga memperkuat kesan mistis produk gaharu.

# # #

Gaharu adalah getah (resin, gubal) dari pohon genus Aquilaria, yang tumbuh di hutan belantara India, Asia Tenggara (termasuk Indonesia) dan Cina Selatan. Sampai saat ini, Indonesia masih merupakan pemasok produk gaharu terbesar di dunia. Meskipun populasi tumbuhan Aquilaria cukup besar, namun tidak semua pohon menghasilkan gaharu. Sebab resin itu baru akan keluar, kalau tanaman terinfeksi oleh kapang (fungus) Phialophora parasitica. Akibat infeksi, tanaman mengeluarkan getah yang aromanya sangat harum. Getah ini akan menggumpal di dalam batang kayu. Para pencari gaharu menyebut kayu dengan resin ini sebagai gubal. Tanaman Aquilaria yang tidak terinfeksi Phialophora parasitica, tidak akan beraroma harum.

Genus Aquilaria terdiri dari 22 spesies: A. (Aquilaria) agallocha; A. apiculata; A. baillonii; A. banaensis; A. beccariana; A. brachyantha; A. citrinicarpa; A. crassna; A. cumingiana; A. filaria; A.grandiflora; A. hirta; A. malaccensis; A. microcarpa; A. ophispermum; A. parvifolia; A. pentandra; A. rostrata; A. sinensis; A. subintegra; A. urdanetensis; A. yunnanensis. Dari 22 spesies itu, yang bisa terinfeksi kapang Phialophora parasitica hanya ada delapan spesies yakni: A. agallocha; A. crassna; A. grandiflora; A. malaccensis; A. ophispermum; A. pentandra; A. sinensis; dan Aquilaria yunnanensis. Dari delapan spesies itu, yang paling potensial menghasilkan gaharu adalah A. malaccensis dan A. agallocha.

Gaharu yang sekarang beredar di pasaran, semuanya berasal dari perburuan dari hutan. Para pencari gaharu, kadang-kadang tidak membedakan, mana kayu yang ada gubalnya, dan mana yang tidak. Hingga semua pohon Aquilaria yang dijumpai akan ditebang. Akibatnya, populasi kayu Aquilaria terus terkikis dan makin langka. Dalam pertemuan ke 13 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 13) di Bangkok, Thailand, 2 -14 Oktober 2004, genus Aquilaria telah dimasukkan dalam apendik II. Hingga pengambilan gaharu dari alam, sebenarnya dilarang. Tetapi karena tingginya nilai gaharu, maka pencarian gaharu dari hutan terus berlangsung tanpa bisa dicegah.

Genus Aquilaria adalah pohon dengan tinggi mencapai 20 m dan diameter batang 60 cm, yang tumbuh di hutan hujan tropika basah, mulai dari ketinggian 0 sampai dengan 1.000 m. dpl. Aquilaria bisa hidup pada berbagai jenis tanah. Mulai dari tanah humus, berpasir, lempung, berkapur, sampai berbatu-batu. Gaharu termasuk tanaman yang tahan kekeringan, dan juga tahan hidup di bawah naungan. Tanaman yang masih muda, memang memerlukan banyak air, dan naungan. Biasanya Aquilaria tumbuh di bawah tajuk palem atau pakis-pakisan. Aquilaria berkembangbiak dari biji. Buah Aquilaria berupa polong yang keras, dengan panjang antara 2,5 sd. 3 cm. Biji mudah dikecambahkan di tempat yang lembap dan hangat, tetapi terlindung dari panas matahari.

# # #

Dalam kondisi optimum, pohon Aquilaria akan mampu tumbuh dengan sangat pesat. Yang dimaksud dengan kondisi optimum adalah, suhu udara, kelembapan, sinar matahari, air dan unsur haranya cukup. Meskipun Aquilaria tahan hidup di berbagai macam tanah, tetapi dia akan tumbuh optimal di tanah humus yang subur, dengan topsoil cukup tebal. Tidak semua Aquilaria yang tumbuh di hutan merupakah penghasil gaharu. Produk gaharu, baru akan terjadi, apabila kayu Aquilaria terinfeksi oleh kapang Phialophora parasitica. Tumbuhan Aquilaria yang tidak terinfeksi kapang Phialophora parasitica, hanya akan menjadi kayu biasa yang sama sekali tidak harum. Beda dengan cendana (Sandal Wood, Santalum album), yang kayunya memang sudah harum.

Untuk mempertahankan diri, tumbuhan Aquilaria yang sudah terinfeksi kapang Phialophora parasitica akan menghasilkan getah resin (jawa: blendok). Resin ini akan menggumpal dan membentuk gubal. Proses pembentukan gubal berlangsung sangat lambat. Bisa puluhan bahkan ratusan tahun. Resin dan bagian kayu yang terinfeksi inilah yang akan menghasilkan aroma harum yang tidak ada duanya di dunia. Aroma gaharu ini sedemikian khasnya hingga hampir tidak mungkin disintetis. Pembuatan gaharu sintetis, hasilnya akan lebih mahal dibanding dengan gaharu alam. Proses pembentukan gubal berlangsung sangat lama, juga merupakan salah satu penyebab tingginya produk gaharu.

Kapang genus Phialophora terdiri dari delapan spesies aktif: Phialophora americana, Phialophora bubakii, Phialophora europaea, Phialophora parasitica, Phialophora reptans, Phialophora repens, Phialophora richardsiae, dan Phialophora verrucosa. Dari delapan spesies itu, yang berfungsi menginfeksi kayu Aquilaria hanyalah kapang Phialophora parasitica. Spesies lainnya merupakan kapang patogen, yang bisa menginfeksi manusia dan menimbulkan gangguan penyakit. Malaysia dan Indonesia, sudah bisa mengisolasi kapang Phialophora parasitica, untuk diinokulasikan ke pohon Aquilaria.

Di Indonesia, penelitian gaharu antara lain dilakukan oleh Balitbang Botani/LIPI, Badan Litbang Departemen Kehutanan dan Universitas Mataram di Mataram, Lombok. Universitas Mataram, malahan sudah melakukan ujicoba penanaman gaharu, dan menginfeksinya dengan kapang Phialophora parasitica. Sayangnya, tanaman yang belum membentuk gubal itu sudah dicuri orang. Para pencuri ini beranggapan, bahwa kayu gaharu sama dengan cendana. Padahal cendana pun memerlukan waktu paling sedikit 30 tahun agar meghasilkan kayu dengan tingkat keharuman prima. Gaharu yang sudah terinfeksi ini, masih memerlukan waktu puluhan tahun agar gubalnya bisa dipanen.

# # #

Mengingat tingginya nilai gaharu, dan juga kelangkaannya, maka budidaya gaharu sudah semakin mendesak. Membuat hutan Aquilaria, bisa dilakukan dengan mudah. Sebab tumbuhan genus ini relatif mudah dikembangbiakkan dan toleran dengan lokasi tumbuh yang sangat ekstrim sekalipun. Mengisolasi kapang Phialophora parasitica juga sudah bisa dilakukan di laboratorium Universitas Mataram. Menginfeksi tumbuhan Aquilaria dengan kapang Phialophora parasitica juga sudah berhasil diketemukan metodenya. Yang menjadi masalah, untuk mengembangkannya dalam skala komersial, diperlukan jangka waktu lama. Gaharu kualitas baik, baru akan terbentuk setelah proses selama puluhan bahkan ratusan tahun.

Para pemilik modal, akan berpikir ulang kalau investasinya baru akan kembali pada puluhan bahkan ratusan tahun yang akan datang. Para pejabat di lingkup pemerintah daerah pun, juga akan menolak untuk merancang proyek yang tingkat keberhasilannya baru akan bisa diukur puluhan bahkan ratusan tahun kemudian. Belum lagi gangguan masyarakat yang tidak terlalu tahu tentang gaharu. Mereka menganggap bahwa tanaman Aquilaria yang sudah diinfeksi kapang Phialophora parasitica, akan segera bisa ditebang untuk diambil gaharunya. Ketidaktahuan masyarakat ini, juga disebabkan oleh sedikitnya publikasi tentang gaharu. Para wartawan yang mengenal gaharu, jumlahnya juga masih sangat sedikit.

Dalam situasi seperti ini, pencarian gaharu di hutan menjadi satu-satunya alternatif. Di Papua, pencarian gaharu bahkan dilakukan oleh para pengusaha dengan cara yang sangat tidak bermoral. Para pengusaha tahu bahwa masyarakat Papua, sudah kecanduan minuman keras. Hanya dengan disodori beberapa kaleng bir, mereka sudah bersedia untuk mencari gaharu. Apabila gaharu sudah diperoleh, para pengusaha pun menawarkan perempuan kepada penemu gaharu. Perempuan-perempuan malang ini didatangkan dari Jawa, kebanyakan dengan cara ditipu untuk dicarikan pekerjaan yang layak di Freeport atau perusahaan HPH. Setibanya di Papua, mereka hanya dijadikan umpan memperoleh gaharu.
          Review: Nair easiwax large wax strips for legs and body        
I went to Watsons today to get wax strips for my leg because I have not been waxing for so long and I have massage appointment tomorrow. I don't want to shock the therapist with the amount of leg hair I have HAHA. I have been using Veet wax strips since I was in secondary school. It cost about S$17. Today, I realise that there is  a cheaper alternative which is Nair easiwax which cost only S$10.45! The only difference is that Veet one contains 18 strips and 4 after wipes while Nair easiwax contains 20 strips and 2 after wipes. I bought Nair easiwax this time round. Now let me show use the content of a box of Nair easiwax:

The box
20 wax strips and 2 after-wipes
The wax can be used for legs, bikini area and underarms. I feel the important part of the instruction is warming the wax in between your palm. It helps to prevent the wax from getting stuck on your skin after you pulled it off. Putting the strip is the direction of hair growth is also more effective in removing the hair.

A pair of wax strip
I also like how the strip is transparent unlike Veet ones which are opaque paper sheets. The transparent sheet help me see if I put the strip at the right area. For first timer, using wax strips can be a little intimidating. The only advice I can give to first timers is that the pain gets lesser with time and experience.

The picture above is snapshot of a pair of wax strip after I use it. Are you shocked by the amount of hair? HAHA. I am pretty hairy for a lady. Can you see the amount of hair the wax is able to pull. In opinion, Nair easiwax is pretty effective. It pulled almost all or all hair in the area at one go. I just have a little difficulty removing hair on my knee. It did leave a little wax here and there on my leg but it is okay because we have the after-wipes.

The after wipes smells pretty good…like shampoo. It kinda help to moisturise your leg after wax and also remove excess wave. You rub the wipes gently on the area that has wax left. The wipes is more like oil than lotion, but don't worry, the oil can be easily remove with water.

I will give this product 4.5/5. I did not give it full score because I experience difficult removing the hair on my knees.

          TNT's 'The Last Ship' Reminds Us Who the People Who Fight For Us Are        

If Adam Baldwin gets all the cool one-liners on TNT’s “The Last Ship” (and he does), then the Command Master Chief Jeter (Charles Parnell) gets all the great speeches. On Sunday night’s episode, “Valkyrie,” Jeter addresses the crew after four of their fellow crewmen were killed in a sabotaged oil rig explosion.

          Original Blog Entry: Did You Know?        

Why most Zippers have the letters YKK on them.

Whitcomb L. Judson invented the zipper and YKK is the Japanese company that makes them.

Whitcomb L. Judson was a lover of gadgets and machines and the idea for his "clasp locker" came from when a friend had a stiff back from trying to fasten his shoes. Judson's clasp locker was used mostly on mailbags, tobacco pouches and shoes. However, his design, like most first inventions needed to be fine-tuned.

A more practical version came on the scene in 1913 when a Swedish-born engineer, Gideon Sundback revised Judson's idea and made his with metal teeth instead of a hook and eye design. In 1917, Sundback patented his "separable fastener."

The name changed again when the B. F. Goodrich Co. used it in rubber boots, galoshes, and called it the "zipper" because the boots could be fastened with one hand.

The 1940s brought about research in Europe of the coil zipper design. The first design was of interlocking brass coils. However, since they could be permanently bent out of shape, making the zipper stop functioning, it was rather bad for business and wasn't too practical. The new design was improved after the discovery of stronger, more flexible synthetics. Coil zippers eventually hit the market in the early 1960s.

In 1934, Yoshida Kogyo Kabushililaisha was founded. Sixty years later they changed their name to YKK Co. The privately owned firm, headquartered in Japan, now is made up of 80 companies at 206 facilities in 52 countries. Wow! you say? but of course, the demand for zippers is great. YKK makes everything from the dyed fabric around the zipper to the brass used to make the actual device.

          Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo        

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
simple tattoo designs

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

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tiger sleeve tattoo designs

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tiger sleeve tattoo designs

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tiger sleeve tattoo designs

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
simple tattoo designs

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

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tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
tattoo onderarm

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo

Dragon Tiger 3/4 Sleeve Tattoo
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          The worlds energy crisis        
The world’s energy crisis The world is gradually marching towards a severe energy crisis, what with an ever-increasing demand of energy overstepping its supply. We have always known that the energy we use everyday is not unlimited, yet we take it for granted. Oil, gas, power, even water has limited availability. Yet, we have not taken enough precautions to deal with a possible energy crisis. When I say ‘we’, I am not referring to the governments but to all of us, the common people.

Oil and gas have already become too expensive, and with each passing day, they are moving towards being extinct. Some ignorant people think that energy crisis is a myth. They fail to see the big picture. There have been three major energy crises so far – the 1973 oil crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, and the 1990 oil-price hike, apart from several regional crisis. Prices have been rapidly increasing for the last five years, thanks to the ever-increasing demand and the increasing shortage of energy resources. How soon will it be all gone?
Are the cynics right in saying that we are making a mountain of a molehill, or is the energy crisis for real? Picture this: We have already exhausted 50 percent of the available oil. At the current rate of consumption, the rest of the oil will finish in 32 years! Imagine if the rate of consumption increases! We all know it is bound to increase. So, even the present generation will face an acute energy crisis in the later years, let alone future generations.

What are we doing about it? Are we equipped to face the impending energy crisis? What can you and I do to tackle it? For starters, we need to understand the importance of energy in our lives and stop taking it for granted. We have to minimize the use of oil, gas, electricity, or any other fuel. We cannot afford to waste any available energy. It is also important to spread awareness about limited availability of energy resources. Simple things like joining a car pool, switching off car engines at traffic lights, and minimizing the use of gas and oil in everyday activities will help a long way in crisis-readiness.

What are the alternate energy options?
As a responsible world citizen, start looking for alternate energy solutions like solar energy and wind energy. Employing these alternate power solutions is extremely feasible and cost-effective. You will not only cut down your power bills but also contribute to a better future of the world.

Make power at home with solar and wind energy to eliminate your power bill. Get our complete guide at

Make power at home with solar and wind energy to eliminate your power bill.
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          Resistance at Standing Rock: Dispatches from the Front Lines        


  • Water Protector Legal Collective Files Suit for Excessive Force against Peaceful Protesters

  • Veterans to Serve as ‘Human Shields’ for Dakota Pipeline Protesters

  • Oceti Sakowin encampment on Oct. 6, 2016. The proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux is Oceti Sakowin, (Och-et-eeshak-oh-win) meaning Seven Council Fires.

    Story and Photos by John Briggs

    Cool Justice Editor's Note: OK to repost, courtesy of John Briggs and The Cool Justice Report.

    Corporate – Government Alliance Versus the American People

    Native Americans from tribes across the country have gathered on the windswept plains of North Dakota to pray with Mother Earth to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from pumping 500,000 gallons of oil a day beneath the Missouri River. The natives know the pipeline will most certainly leak or break, as have most U.S. pipelines, fouling the water for the Great Sioux Nation and 18 million non-Natives downstream.

    The standoff -- which began in April -- continues as a new U.S. administration ascends to power with a president-elect who campaigned denying human-caused climate change and threatening the Paris Climate accords. This remains the overriding reality despite a mini walk back by Donald Trump pledging an open mind to The New York Times this week.

    Standing Rock illuminates the brazen alliance that has developed between corporate and government interests. Viewed from the front lines, the law has been turned into a fig leaf for repression and suppression. Only the discipline and spiritual clarity of the water protectors and the native elders has kept people from being killed or seriously injured since April when the movement began.

    The fused police-DAPL force is doing everything it can to incite a violent reaction from the resisters so as to crack down, clear the camps, imprison, or even gun down the natives. More than one commentator has found the atmosphere at Standing Rock similar to what led to the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890 when 300 Sioux were murdered by government troops who mistook their prayerful Ghost Dance for a war dance.

    A great deal is at issue at Standing Rock. The Sioux and their numerous native and non-native allies face a militarized force whose composition tells us something dark about the complex façade that U.S. democracy has become and suggests the proto-fascist zombi lurking beneath. More deeply, Standing Rock also emblemizes a struggle that is taking place at this moment in human history between two distinct modes of human consciousness.

    One mode is the familiar anthropocentric (human-centered) consciousness that the dominant culture most of us were born into favors—a consciousness that assumes reality is a collection of objects to be extracted, owned, and branded. Humans are the focus of this consciousness, meaning that our concerns about climate change focus primarily on the fate of our own species.

    Distinct from this anthropocentric mind-set is a second, ancient and spiritual mode of awareness that understands that the earth and its landscapes are not objects; they are relationships, including the tangle of relationships that gave us birth. This ancient mode of consciousness is potential in everyone, but for most it has been buried beneath the piles of conceptual objects that we have come to believe constitute our reality.

    The Indigenous Peoples gathered at Standing Rock are guided by this ancient, holistic, earth-mind consciousness, and so they understand that humans are not the most valuable living objects on the planet: we are not in control of the planet; it is not our job to manage nature; rather, our sacred task is to work with Mother Earth and other beings as members of Earth’s family. If we don’t, Mother Earth will make us face this spiritual truth one way or another.

    Guided by their ancient, earth-mind awareness, Native Americans have taken up a role as “water protectors.” “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life” is the slogan of the Standing Rock movement.

    Every day scores of Sioux from North Dakota, South Dakota and nearby states, along with Paiute, Shoshoni, Diné, and a sampling of other Natives from the 300 or so tribes whose flags fly at the Standing Rock encampments set out to pipeline construction sites in a convoy to engage in “actions” on the “front lines.”

    There the protectors sing and pray in the face of physical harassment and arrests by heavily armed police fused with a corporate security force.

    DAPL and their overlord company, Energy Transfer Partners, have lavished campaign contributions on politicians in North Dakota and the U.S. Congress so that they could use the state’s eminent domain powers to force purchase of land for the pipeline all across North Dakota, beginning in the Bakken fields in the northwest corner of the state where the fracked crude oil is extracted. Similar eminent domain arrangements were achieved in other states through which the 1,200-mile line traverses before reaching a river port in Illinois. The company promised Congress and the public that the pipeline would carry oil for 100 percent domestic use only, but it is clear from reporting done by the website The Intercept that the oil will be sold on international markets.

  • Though Promised for Domestic Use, Dakota Access Pipeline May Fuel Oil Exports

  • The DAPL line, now virtually complete except for permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to fill in the link that crosses under the Missouri River, passes just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The DAPL construction runs through sacred burial and archeological grounds that the Lakota people were given free access to by treaties with the U.S. Government in the 19th Century. In mounting their resistance to the pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux have been turned into “trespassers on their own land.”

    In late August, the tribe’s lawyers filed a stop work petition in federal court detailing areas where sacred sites would be disturbed if construction continued on its planned trajectory. The federal judge routinely forwarded a copy of the filing to DAPL. Over Labor Day weekend, when the company would not have been expected to work, pipeline crews leapfrogged to the disputed sacred and preemptively bulldozed them under. Too late, the judge granted the Sioux an emergency restraining order, but, then in a curious move, allowed construction in some areas where sacred sites have been discovered. DAPL has ignored a request from the Obama administration not to work in buffer areas on either side of the river. No fines have been imposed for intentionally bulldozing the disputed sacred sites.

  • The Legal Case for Blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline

  • Burial ground at center of police confrontations is known historical site

  • In recent live-stream videos from the front lines, DAPL-police snipers can be seen perched on top of a sacred mound called Turtle Island, their high-powered rifle crosshairs trained on the water protectors who are standing in prayer in the frigid lake below.

    North Dakota wants the federal government to pick up the tab for the massive expenditures required to keep the Native Americans under their guns. Alternatively, the CEO of Energy Transfers, Kelcy Warren, has offered to pick up the millions-of-dollars tab.

  • ETP CEO Kelcy Warren Says They Have Offered to Pay Protest Related Expenses

  • Native media have documented that DAPL has already been supplying military-style equipment, drones, armored vehicles, riot gear, water canons, concussion grenades and other armaments. The tax-payer-funded and corporate-sponsored front lines phalanx is led by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which has local jurisdiction, reinforced by North Dakota State Troopers, North Dakota National Guard units, sheriffs and police from six nearby states—all interpenetrated by DAPL security (while the FBI lurks in the background). A contingent of Hennepin County, Minnesota, Sheriffs’ Deputies were recalled following protests back home. Residents in the state of Ohio are writing letters and calling legislators to express their distress that their law enforcement has been enlisted into this repressive force.

  • Hennepin Co. sheriff's deputies leave Standing Rock protest

  • Native media’s live stream videos show DAPL security teams in mirror-visor helmets and black ops body armor with no identification, mingling with the police, sometimes directing them when and who to mace or pepper spray. They point out media making video for arrest. The big fossil fuel company evidently has plenty of experience dealing with protestors around the world. In their blank, reflecting visors we can see the soulless Darth Vader face of the government-corporate proto-fascist state the U.S. is becoming.

    Of course, this struggle with the Wasi’chu (Lakota word for the white man, meaning literally “takes too much”) is an old story for Native-Americans. In the 18th and 19th centuries it took the form of the Sioux nations trying to hold back the tsunami of colonizers flooding into their ancestral lands, occupying and despoiling them. The big difference now is that the fire-power of the state (think Custer’s 7th Cavalry or present day militarized police) has been fused with vast profit centers dependent for their existence on plundering the earth in the name of energy-squandering lifestyle survival.

    The provocations the water protectors endure take many forms. There is the psychological pressure of constant surveillance: the heavy police presence on the roads around tribal and reservation lands, the DPLA helicopter and a small plane that circle constantly above the encampments; there is the Bureau of Indian Affairs station set up on a knoll to suck out data from the cell phones of anyone in the area. There is the pepper spraying and tasing of water protectors who are praying. There is the more recent blasting of the protectors with freezing water canons in sub zero weather. There is the constant threat of weapons pointed at them. One twitching trigger finger could set off a slaughter.

    The water protectors are unarmed. The resistance movement does not allow guns in the encampments. One day, at one of the front line actions, an armed man showed up with a pistol and began firing. Possibly he was paid by DAPL to create an incident. The Natives are aware of paid provocateurs or agitators passing through the camps, pulling dirty tricks, looking to start something. Antimedia reported about the man with the gun: “According to an official statement from the tribe, the man fired several shots from his gun before being peacefully apprehended by tribal police. Witnesses at the scene say he pointed his gun at several protesters. The man was clearly trying to provoke violence that could later be used to demonize protesters who have so far remained peaceful.”

    The news site added, “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department circulated a false report claiming the man was shot, presumably by protesters… [As images show], the man was not harmed. The Sheriff’s Department has since retracted that report. Anti-Media’s attempts to obtain clarifying comments from Morton County Sheriffs were ignored.”

  • Dakota Access Caught Infiltrating Protests to Incite Violence, Funding Trolls Online

  • On a hill overlooking Oceti Sakowin, the largest of the Standing Rock encampments, an old army tent houses the field office of the rotating teams of lawyers who come to Standing Rock to help out. They use donations made to the resistance to bail out protectors who have been arrested; they try to negotiate with the police so the protectors can be allowed to pray. The constant arrests on trumped-up charges are an ongoing harassment—people maced or beaten, violently thrown to the ground and zip-tied. Often activists are charged with trespass and “riot” on the Morton County Sheriff’s novel legal theory that if several people are arrested for trespass that must signify that they were engaged in a riot.

    All this naturally requires court time and money to defend, incarceration in usually unpleasant conditions, including dog kennels. (Though the white allies who are arrested seem to get better treatment.)

    Arrests are to be expected as a consequence of civil disobedience. But some arrests are directed at chilling speech. One lawyer who came to Standing Rock from the Oregon-based Civil Liberties Defense Center, an activist defense nonprofit primarily involved in climate protests, told Jordan Chariton of The Young Turks Network that often after the day’s action was over, police would stop the last cars in the caravan. They would then make “snatch and grab” arrests, impounding the cars of people who had come to support the water protectors but had no expectation that they’d be arrested when the action was over and the police told them to leave. They have to pay heavy fines ($900) to get their cars back. She said the arrests and impoundment fines for their cars are unlawful. “The intention with those types of actions is to scare out-of-towners from being comfortable coming to these actions. So they’re trying to chill the rights of others to come and participate in these protests.”

  • Environmental Lawyer Explains Standing Rock Legal Issues

  • The authorities regularly characterize the natives as terrorists, and local radio spreads false rumors of farm animals being slaughtered and stolen, reported vandalism—the kind of thing you would expect from psychologically projected homesteader fears about savage Indians of earlier centuries.

    Yes, Magazine on Oct. 31 reported: “The county sheriff is claiming the water protectors were violent and that police were stopping a riot. But hours of live video feed from people caught in the confrontation showed instead a military-style assault on unarmed people: police beating people with batons, police with assault rifles, chemical mace, guns firing rubber bullets and beanbag rounds, tasers.”

  • Why Police From 7 Different States Invaded a Standing Rock Camp—and Other Questions

  • The UN has sent human rights observers. According to Salon, Nov. 16, 2016: “The U.N. special rapporteur said that American law enforcement officials, private security firms and the North Dakota National Guard have used unjustified force against protesters.

    “ ‘This is a troubling response to people who are taking action to protect natural resources and ancestral territory in the face of profit-seeking activity,’ [Maina] Kiai [U.N. special rapporteur] said in his statement, which was issued by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and was endorsed by several other U.N. experts.

  • Native Americans facing excessive force in North Dakota pipeline protests – UN expert

  • “At least 400 activists have been detained and often have been held in ‘inhuman and degrading conditions in detention,’ Kiai added. Some indigenous protesters have said they were treated like animals and even held in dog kennels.

  • Dakota pipeline protesters say they were detained in dog kennels; 268 arrested in week of police crackdown

  • “ ‘Marking people with numbers and detaining them in overcrowded cages, on the bare concrete floor, without being provided with medical care, amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment,’ the U.N. expert said.

    “ ‘The excessive use of State security apparatus to suppress protest against corporate activities that are alleged to violate human rights is wrong,’ he continued, noting that it violates U.N. guidelines on business and human rights.

    “Amnesty International USA, which has repeatedly criticized authorities for not respecting the rights of protesters, issued another statement on Tuesday noting that U.S. authorities had put up roadblocks to prevent journalists and human rights observers from documenting the protests and the official response.”

  • U.N. experts call for halt in Dakota Access pipeline, blast “excessive force” against protesters

  • Living on Earth reporter Sandy Tolan reflected: “You know, at times I felt I was back reporting in the West Bank, and not the Northern Plains…”

  • Standing With the Standing Rock Sioux

  • The Bundy crew was the cowboys, not the Indians

    Compare the government response at Standing Rock with the response occasioned by Ammon Bundy and his gang of armed militants when they occupied Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for over a month in January 2016. Imagine if the Bundy gang had been pepper sprayed, beaten, hit with water cannon, tased. But the Bundy crew were taking over the refuge to proclaim their belief that public lands should be given free to the profit-making private ranching business. In other words, the Bundy crew was the cowboys, not the Indians.

    The mainstream corporate media has largely ignored the stand-off at Standing Rock. Rallies have taken place around the world at places like Tokyo, Stockholm, and Auckland, but the sad truth is many foreigners have heard more about Standing Rock than Americans have. Not surprising. The news editors, working for corporate media conglomerates, choose what they believe we should know and what fits the larger corporate agenda, and so they devote massively more play to Brad Pitt, to the gossipy politics of who’s-on-first, and to whatever the latest glittering consumer thing is than they do to climate change and issues highlighted by the poor and the powerless, like Standing Rock. What coverage that does exist is usually cursory and misleading.

    Fortunately, alternative media have been on the scene and active at Standing Rock. As someone who taught journalism for more nearly 20 years, it has been refreshing for me to see what the alternative press is accomplishing.

    Amy Goodman of the webcast Democracy Now brought the prayer-resistance movement to national attention over the summer. She was arrested and charged with riot in absentia for her live reports of water protectors being set upon by dogs. The charge was later dismissed in court.

    Jordan Chariton of The Young Turks Network has done searching interviews and incisive commentary from the scene.

    But my absolute favorite news source at Standing Rock is Myron Dewey’s Digital Smoke Signals. Dewey does updates every day, which he posts on Facebook. I highly recommend anyone who has a Facebook account to “follow” him. I went to Standing Rock on Oct. 4-11 with two friends and I have since been able to keep up with developments on the ground through Dewey’s Facebook broadcasts. He posts live stream unedited clips that constitute what he calls an ongoing “documentation” of what is happening day-to-day at the movement.

    Here is Dewey at night standing on a hillside next to the Oceti Sakowin encampment. His face appears in the glow of his screen. Then he’s panning and zooming in on a large grassfire as he’s telling us about it. His finger appears in the screen and points out where the fire started. He says the helicopter which constantly circulates over the camp suddenly disappeared 20 minutes before they saw the first flames. He zooms to the area where he and the person he is with first spotted the fire. He says, “It looked like someone using a drip torch.” He says they called 911, but it’s been over an hour and the Morton County Fire Department hasn’t shown up. He tells the people in the camp, his audience, not to worry, though. It looks like the fire was started by DAPL employees to scare them or hurt them. But the Oceti Sakowin is full of Indians who supplement their income by wild-land firefighting, work that also benefits Mother Earth; he mentions that he is himself a “hotshot” firefighter [one of the elite crews]. He and his fellow firefighters can tell by the wind direction that the fire won’t harm the camp.

    Now here’s Dewey on a bright morning walking along the road by Oceti Sakowin. A young man appears on screen, and Dewey asks him who he is and why he’s here. He’s from the Paiute nation. “I’m here to protect the water,” he says. Dewey asks him to sing a Paiute song. The young man closes his eyes and sings.

    In another nighttime broadcast find we ourselves looking through a car windshield, headlights illuminating the highway, centerlines whizzing by. We hear voices talking in the backseat. The car drives on and on. We’re just watching the road. Then ahead is a police roadblock. The police van looms. Dewey gets out with his camera and calls over to the officers, asks them where they’re from, inquires about where the road blocks are, what are the open routes. At one level it’s a mundane exchange between a citizen and police, but you experience the edginess of the situation. More deeply, you feel the riskiness and pathos that is involved any human interaction. Dewey firmly exercises his right to have these protect-and-serve police respond to him civilly; he is cordial and respectful in a way that reinforces to them and to his viewers that he is after all not their enemy but a fellow human being. Dewey asks more questions and the lead officer says he doesn’t want to be filmed; Dewey offers to turn his camera away from them and onto himself. The distant officers disappear from the screen and Dewey’s face fills it. The contact officer walks nearer; we can hear his voice. Dewey can’t resist a joke, though. He asks the officer if he’s sure he doesn’t want to become famous by putting his face on Dewey’s screen? You realize these are just guys doing their job. Dewey understands that, but he also wants to educate them about the water protectors’ mission. He never misses an opportunity to educate his adversary, as well as his own people about the larger dimensions of the Standing Rock resistance. When he gets back in the car, someone in the back seat says “Let’s get out of here; this is enemy territory.” Dewey laughs, turning the car around, “It’s not enemy territory.”

    I believe you learn more about Standing Rock by watching Dewey’s unedited video than you ever could from watching any number of dramatically produced, commercially constricted reports on CNN, complete with the drumb-drumb latest crisis theme music.

    Dewey explains to his viewers that what they’re seeing is a “documentation” that’s not edited. “It’s not scripted. It’s not acted out.”

    After a month of watching Dewey’s daily reports I realize more fully than I ever have before how ghastly and vacuous mainstream news reporting is: a production where facts have been emptied of the humanity of real encounters, replaced by the shallow performances of reporters and news sources, slick, clichéd phrasing, behavior slotted into ready made categories, events analyzed and even predigested. The news about reality comes to us compartmentalized in trays like tasteless microwave dinners. Rarely is the reader or viewer allowed to simply experience the event unfolding through the reporter’s eyes or camera. The stories are crafted and slickly packaged. Their very polish and stimulating presentation sabotages their meaning and replaces it with a meaningless, artificial understanding.

    Note that I am not saying that the news these days is politically biased. Some obviously is, but the left or right bias charge is a serious red herring, a mis-direction. In fact, in mainstream media’s very effort to appear neutral and unbiased means events are chopped up and pieced together to fit the templates of a few hackneyed forms of storytelling: the winner-loser story, the conflict story, the individual overcoming obstacles story, the facing bad choices stories, he-said, she-said stories, scandal stories, hypocrisy stories. You’ve seen them all, repeatedly.

    Most of these templates come plated with a cynicism, skepticism, superiority, or sentimentality that grabs our attention by adding a dash of disgust. The current journalistic manner of telling stories reduces and dismisses the story in a way that sometimes makes the commercials and pop-up ads come as a relief. None of the common journalistic templates or attitude has much to do with real life as it’s lived in the moment. It’s not what people really experience in their lives. Instead, it’s how they’ve been conditioned to wrap up experience afterward in a dramatized way that leaches out the nuance, that leaves out the moment-to-moment uncertainty, or as the Lakota call it, the Wakan, the deep mystery of relationships that permeates every event. And that’s what Dewey’s broadcasts have in abundance. You get to see him interacting with the people who show up on his screen. You get to feel his humanity and the mystery of everyday relationships taking place at Standing Rock that he brings to light. It’s certainly not dramatic or melodramatic. It’s not interesting or stimulating in the usual way. It does seem really important.

    So when Dewey sits in his parked car and does an update video on “10 things to know about DAPL” (Nov. 18, 2016), there’s no editing and no script, meaning that you get to see him thinking through what those top 10 things might be. Some points he makes are incisive and comic, others not so much. But the not-so-much ones can lead you to thinking about gray areas, the imprecise observations we all make. He asks a guy who just got in the car to help out with his list and the guy, William Hawk Birdshead, goes immediately serious on him until Dewey says, “I was trying to keep it light.” So the Birdshead says, “Laughter is good medicine.” Suddenly they’re off. Dewey mimics the shifty-eyed look of the FBI guys lurking around the area and denying they are FBI, the DAPL security characters trying to look all steely and tough. We learn that in the encampments they say that “DAPL dresses up like Ninja Turtles.” You can tell that it’s DAPL undercover because those guys never drive rez cars, which are rusted and dented. Nobody is spared. Dewey describes the water protectors just arriving from California as dudes who’ve “got their animal spirits on… They’re all furred up. They’re coming in all mystical and crystals.” He and his buddy laugh, which Dewey says is laughter “in a good way,” because the whole thing going on at Standing Rock is deadly serious but you need laughter, because that’s good medicine for healing. And healing and praying are about “getting reconnected with the Earth.”

    This points to a major difference between anthropocentric prayer as most of us know it and earth-mind prayer. In the prayer that most people are familiar with, an individual seeks intercession for human needs with a transcendent being. The Native prayer is about healing not getting. The prayer is a community ceremony or song or ritual to maintain or restore the balance between and among beings, both animate and inanimate. Prayer is to all my relatives, all my relations, the birds, the water, the wind, the buffalo, my family, even those who oppose me as enemies. Mitakuye Oyasin is an important Lakota phrase that means “all my relations.” When you’re watching a Dewey update from Standing Rock you’re experiencing Mitakuye Oyasin in action. It’s newscasting as a kind of prayer, in the earth-mind sense. Whether he’s engaging in laughter or educating about the spiritual importance of water, you can see that what he’s getting at is healing relationships. Watching and listening, you get to be part of that healing.

    What Dewey does goes way beyond advocacy journalism.

    Our traveling companion for our visit to Standing Rock, Lakota elder Tiokasin Ghosthorse, also provides a good way to keep up with developments through the interviews he conducts for his weekly syndicated broadcast from WPKN in Bridgeport Conn. and WBAI in New York City. On Oct. 31, 2016, Tiokasin interviewed a young man who was seized on Oct. 27 when a frontline camp was destroyed by police. Trenton Joseph Castillas Bakeberg, in the bloodline of Crazy Horse, was praying in a sweat lodge when the militarized police swept through the camp. They yanked him out of the sweat lodge and arrested him. The young water protector told Tiokasin:

    “I pray that we’ll be able to keep a state of prayer and peace, as we have been… Although there’s some people on our side are more likely to tend toward violence. But there’s also people on our side to stop them. Don’t start a fight. That’s what it’s all about, keeping it peaceful because the elders told us in the beginning that all it takes is one single act of violence, one person attacking a police officer and they’ll unleash the fear on all of us. This wrath that we have with our military overseas, we’re beginning to see it now in the heart of our own country. All for the greed and the corporate interests of this government. They say we’re a democracy but it’s not showing anymore. The people didn’t want this pipeline, but this foreign entity that they call a corporation, Energy Transfers, is saying, we don’t care. We want this money. We need this for economic stability of the country and that somehow trumps the interests of our communities and our nation as a whole….We’re standing up to this corporate machine with prayer and love.”

  • Forcibly removed from prayer at Standing Rock

  • Against a heavily armed, corporatized democracy designed to ensure that only powerful business and political elites rule the land and possess the wealth of its objects, the Native-American people at Standing Rock stand in defense of Mother Earth armed with songs, prayers, and an understanding that Earth’s objects are us, and we are them. They are our relatives. It seems better armament than most of us Wasi’shu possess. Webster defines fascism as “a political system headed by a dictator in which the government controls business and labor and opposition is not permitted.” It’s an incendiary word, and readers might think ill of me for introducing it here. Certainly we are not a fascist state yet. But for the prayer-resistance at Standing Rock, the clear alliance between corporate and government interests to quell their opposition under color of the law has a fascist flavor.

    It should not surprise anyone that the new US president reportedly holds stocks that directly fund the Dakota Access Pipeline and that the DAPL CEO Kelcy Warren gave the Trump campaign a substantial donation.

  • Trump's Personal Investments Ride on Completion of Dakota Access Pipeline

  • This is how the proto-fascism works. Ironically (or perhaps absurdly), Trump may have been elected by people hoping he would somehow counter the tightening grip of multinational corporations on their lives. One might wish for that to happen.

    At a deep level, Standing Rock may suggest that such absurdities as a Trump presidency occur because our mode of consciousness is impaired or inadequate to the situation it has created on our planet at this historical time. Too many of us have gone dead to the natural world we come from. Our obsessive anthropocentric mode of consciousness has reduced nature and reality at large to a bunch of things we have names for—things that feed our greed. Fortunately, many Indigenous people have retained an acute and ancient consciousness that we are those rocks and trees and clouds, and birds and water that we see outside our windows, and that restoring our relationships with them is incumbent on us.

    John Briggs is emeritus distinguished Professor of Writing and Aesthetics from Western Connecticut State University. He was the English Department’s journalism coordinator for 18 years and was one of the founders of Western’s Department of Writing, Linguistics, and Creative Process. He is the author of several well-known books on chaos theory, fractals and creativity. He lives in the hilltown of Granville, Mass., where served as a Selectman for five years and as reserve police officer for 10 years.

    When people at Standing Rock talk about the black snake they mean the pipeline, referring to an old Sioux legend about a black snake that will threaten the end of the world. The Lakota prophet Black Elk said that in the seventh generation, the Sioux tribes would unite to save the world.

    Media covering the Standing Rock resistance movement:

  • Digital Smoke Signals

  • Myron Dewey, Facebook

  • The Antimedia

  • Democracy Now

  • The Intercept

  • The Guardian

  • Censored News

  • Unicorn Riot

  • Living on Earth

  • The Indigenous Environmental Network

  • Status of Standing Rock court claim

  •           Burn After Reading        

    Who’s Who
    What’s What

    In the World of CIA Fronts, Partners, Proprietaries & Contractors


    The Almost Classified Guide to CIA Front Companies, Proprietaries & Contractors
    ISBN: 978-1-365-11196-9

    Cool Justice Editor's Note: Following are excerpts from author Madsen's introduction and the body of the work. Additional suggested reading: News story about Madsen's book via the Washington, D.C. based Justice Integrity Project [link at the bottom of this post].


    From the Introduction

    One of the most pervasive uses of companies as intelligence partners was under the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD. During the Cold War, the CIA, often with the approval of corporate executives, infiltrated their agents to work as journalists in newspapers, radio and television networks, wire services, and magazines. The following pages in this book are rife with examples of this penetration of the Fourth Estate – all too many in the opinion of this journalist. The CIA admitted to at least 400 journalists on the agency’s payroll at the height of MOCKINGBIRD. The CIA traditionally understates its capabilities, especially when its covert activities become publicly known. Moreover, the end of the Cold War did not stop the practice of the CIA in infiltrating the media and slant news reports to its wishes.


    An insightful look behind the veils of secrecy into the CIA’s use of fronts, proprietaries, and partners calls into question the purpose of the CIA. Created by President Harry S Truman to serve as a central collector and repository of intelligence, the CIA became much more than that. A few weeks after the United States witnessed the assassination of President Kennedy in the middle of downtown Dallas, Truman penned an op-ed piece that appeared in several newspapers around the country. In it, Truman shared his regret for having created the CIA in 1947:

    “I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency—CIA . . . For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

    "I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue.”


    The 21st century’s CIA’s partners are more likely to be found among high-tech companies marketing the latest and greatest mobile applications and data mining programs than among banks, law offices, and advertising agencies. However, in the post-World War II era, the CIA’s top and middle echelons were normally found operating through cover as typewriter-pecking journalists, traveling Madison Avenue admen, corporate lawyers, and chain-smoking oilmen. In the 1970s and 80s, CIA contractors and partners began showing up in the high-tech field, with database, local area networking, and on-line information retrieval systems attracting the most interest by Langley.


    As this book went to press, the smart phone game application Pokémon Go fad was sweeping the planet. Unbeknownst to many of the on-line game’s avid fan’s was the connection of the game’s developers to the CIA’s venture capital firm IN-Q-TEL. All users saw their geo-location and other smart phone data being swept up by a CIA partner firm.


    Amazon, Inc. [CIA contractor]. Company provides cloud computing services for the CIA. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.

    American Historical Society. [CIA partner]. Many society officials were OSS/CIA officers.

    American Press Institute. [CIA front]. Operating out of Columbia University, the institute’s director in the 1950s was a CIA officer.

    AmeriCares. [CIA partner]. A non-profit organization that is often the “first in” at refugee situations. Founded by tycoon J. Peter Grace, a board chairman of the CIA front, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) and a trustee of another CIA front, the American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism, AmeriCares was involved in funding the Nicaraguan contras. The group has also provided the CIA with recruiting opportunities at mass refugee sites, particularly in Latin America and Asia.

    Bechtel Corporation. [CIA contractor]. Bechtel is a large construction company that has included former CIA director Richard Helms, CIA pseudonym “Fletcher M. Knight,” among its executive ranks. Bechtel was active in providing corporate cover for the OSS in the Middle East during World War II. Bechtel has been a consummate service company for various CIA operations, including support for the CIA-inspired coup against the Syrian government in 1949, the Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohamed Mossadeq in 1953, and President Sukarno of Indonesia in 1965. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Bechtel provided cover for CIA agents in Libya under both the regime of King Idris and his successor, Muammar Qaddafi. Sometimes called a “secret arm” of the CIA, Bechtel’s executives included those who would join President Reagan’s Cabinet, including Secretary of State George Schultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.

    Before World War II, Steve Bechtel formed a military-industrial complex partnership with John McCone. McCone later became the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and later, director of the CIA. The CIA has used Bechtel to provide cover for non-official cover CIA operatives abroad.

    Blackstone Investment Group. [CIA front]. With offices in Washington, DC and Moscow, arranged for the purchase of KGB documents following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Among the documents sought by the front company were any related to illegal CIA activities during the Cold War, including the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

    Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar and Restaurant. [CIA front]. Opened in 1967 in King’s Cross in Sydney, Australia. Served as a rendezvous point for CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and organized crime figures. Its proprietor was Bernie Houghton, a CIA operative with links to Nugan Hand Bank, CIA weapons smuggler Edwin Wilson, and CIA clandestine services officers Theodore Shackley, Rafael Quintero, and Thomas Clines.

    Center for Democracy. [CIA front]. Administered under the aegis of Boston University, the center maintained offices in Boston, Washington, DC, Guatemala City, and Strasbourg, France. Involved in CIA operations in eastern Europe, Central America, and Africa.

    Colt Patent Firearms Company. [CIA partner]. Based in Hartford, Connecticut, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad.

    Daddario & Burns. [CIA partner]. Headed by former OSS officer Emilio Daddario, a Democratic Representative from Connecticut, the Hartford-based law firm provided services to the CIA.

    DC Comics. [CIA partner]. Worked with the International Military Information Group (IMIG), a joint CIA/Pentagon unit at the State Department, to disseminate propaganda comic books, featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, in Serbo-Croatian and Albanian, to youth in the Balkans during the military conflicts in that region.

    Disney Corporation. [CIA partner]. CIA agents who were adept at creating front companies and shell corporations in Florida, worked closely with Disney in preparation for the construction of Disney World near Orlando, Florida. OSS veteran “Wild Bill” Donovan and CIA shell company expert Paul Helliwell helped create two fake Florida cities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, as well as a number of shell corporations, to keep secret the plans for Disney World. This kept land prices low because real estate speculators were unaware of the prospective value of the land in a desolate area of central Florida.

    Emory School of Medicine. [CIA partner]. Located in Atlanta, Georgia. Involved in the CIA’s MK-ULTRA behavioral modification project.

    Enron Corporation [CIA partner]. Houston-based firm that was used by the CIA to provide commercial cover for its agents around the world. There were at least 20 CIA employees on Enron’s payroll. Andre Le Gallo, a former official of the CIA’s Operations Directorate, went to work as a corporate intelligence officer for Enron.

    Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). [CIA front]. Officially established by American Trotskyists, the group was penetrated by CIA operatives. The FPCC New Orleans office was a CIA front that provided cover for the anti-Fidel Castro activities of Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw, and David Ferrie, among others. The New Orleans FPCC office was located at 544 Camp Street and shared the same building entrance with Guy Banister Associates, Inc., a private detective agency, the address for which was 531 Lafayette Street and around the corner from 544 Camp Street.

    In December 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the FPCC ceased all U.S. operations.

    General Electric Company. [CIA partner]. Based in Fairfield, Connecticut, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad.

    General Foods Corporation. [CIA partner]. Advertising account at CIA’s Robert Mullen Company handled by an active CIA employee.

    Google, Inc. [CIA partner]. Developed as a result of a research grant by the CIA and Pentagon to Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science. The CIA referred to the research as the “google project.”

    Greenberg Traurig. [CIA partner]. Washington, DC “connected” law firm.

    Guy Banister Associates, Inc. [CIA partner]. New Orleans private detective agency headed by former FBI agent Guy Banister. The detective agency coordinated the activities of various anti-Castro Cuban groups in New Orleans, including Banister’s own Anti-Communist League of the Caribbean, as well as the Cuban Revolutionary Council, the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front, Friends of Democratic Cuba, and the Crusade to Free Cuba Committee.

    Banister and Associates shared office space with the CIA’s New Orleans front, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, headed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

    Hale and Dorr. [CIA partner]. Boston-based law firm that provided cover for CIA’s Independence and Brown Foundations.

    Halliburton. [CIA contractor]. Based in Houston, it is the world’s largest oil service company. Recipient of a number of CIA sole-source contracts for services worldwide.

    Harper and Row, Inc. [CIA partner]. Manuscripts submitted to the New York publisher that dealt with intelligence matters, particularly CIA operations, were turned over to the CIA for censoring edits before publication.

    Hewlett Packard Corporation. [CIA partner]. Sold computers to Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s missile program with the knowledge and approval of the CIA.

    Hill & Knowlton. [CIA partner]. Public relations firm that teamed with the CIA on a number of operations. Hill & Knowlton’s numerous offices abroad provided cover for CIA agents. One known Hill & Knowlton office that was a CIA front operation was in Kuala Lumpur.

    Kerr-McGee. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating overseas.

    Kissinger Associates, Inc. [CIA partner]. New York-based international consulting firm founded by former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft is a co-owner. The firm provided support to the CIA-linked American Ditchley Foundation and the Bilderberg Group. Much of the 1982 seed money for Kissinger Associates was provided by Goldman Sachs.

    Knight Foundation. [CIA partner]. Also known as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Based in Miami, the foundation provides funding for various CIA-connected media operations in the United States and around the world.

    Kroll Inc. [CIA partner]. Founded in 1972 by Jules Kroll, who had links to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. Based in Manhattan. French domestic law enforcement believed Kroll’s Paris office was a CIA front. Kroll handled the security for the World Trade Center after the 1993 terrorist bombing and continued to be responsible for security up to, during, and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. Kroll employed former FBI assistant director for counter-terrorism John O’Neill, who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

    Lincoln Savings and Loan. [CIA partner]. Based in Irvine, California and headed by notorious swindler Charles Keating, Jr., involved in laundering funds for the Iran-contra scandal.

    Lone Star Cement Corporation. [CIA partner]. Based in Stamford, Connecticut and linked to the Bush family, provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad. Involved in the Iran-contra scandal.

    Mary Carter Paint Company. [CIA front]. A money-laundering operation for the CIA. Involved in casinos in the Bahamas.

    Monsanto. [CIA partner]. The firm contracted with former CIA official Cofer Black’s Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), a subsidiary of the CIA-connected Blackwater USA, later Xe Services, to monitor animal rights groups, anti-genetically modified (GM) food activists, and other groups opposed to Monsanto’s agri-business operations worldwide.

    National Enquirer. [CIA partner]. The tabloid’s founder, Generoso (Gene) Pope, Jr., worked for the CIA’s psychological warfare unit and the agency’s Italy branch in 1950. In 1952, Pope acquired The New York Enquirer broadsheet and transformed it into a tabloid, renaming it The National Enquirer. This transformation bore the imprimatur of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influence program.

    Newsweek. [CIA partner]. Magazine reporters and stringers fed information to the CIA. Newsweek’s stringers in southeastern Europe and the Far East were CIA agents. When Newsweek was bought by The Washington Post Company in 1961, cooperation between the magazine and the CIA increased. It was a participant in the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD media influence program. Much of the staff of Newsweek was absorbed into a new online publication, The Daily Beast, which continues to disseminate CIA-influenced articles. See Washington Post.

    Nieman Foundation. [CIA partner]. Located at Harvard University, the foundation awarded Nieman Fellowships, some on behalf of the CIA, for foreign journalists to study at Harvard. The journalists were subjected to CIA recruitment efforts prior to their returning to their home countries.

    Pamela Martin & Associates. [CIA partner], Escort firm run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called “DC Madam.” During her 2008 trial for mail fraud, Palfrey attempted to invoke the Classified Information Procedures Act in order to discuss her relationship with the CIA. The U.S. Court refused Palfrey’s request and she was convicted and later said to have committed suicide before her sentencing hearing in Washington, DC. One of her clients was Randall Tobias, the head of the CIA-connected USAID. Another was Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter.

    Paris Review. [CIA front]. Literary magazine edited by George Plimpton. Published works by Jack Kerouac and Samuel Beckett. The magazine’s co-founder, Peter Matthiessen, relied on his affiliation with the magazine as his CIA cover.

    Quaker Oats Company. [CIA partner]. Worked with the CIA and Atomic Energy Commission to place trace amounts of radiation in breakfast cereal served to boys at the Fernald School for the mentally retarded in Waltham, Massachusetts.

    Radio Corporation of America. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover for CIA officers operating abroad, particularly in Iran, Philippines, Japan, and West Germany. Provided technical assistance to CIA-financed clandestine and propaganda radio stations worldwide, including Radio Free Europe. RCA founder David Sarnoff was a major supporter of CIA operations, including propaganda dissemination around the world. RCA chairman and chief executive officer Thornton F. Bradshaw was active in the operations of the CIA-linked American Ditchley Foundation.

    Reily Coffee Company. [CIA partner]. Also known as William B. Reily Coffee Company and based in New Orleans, this company employed Lee Harvey Oswald and a number of other U.S. government employees, many of whom were suspected CIA officers.

    Robert M. Mullen Company. [CIA proprietary]. A Washington, DC public relations firm, it was used as a front for CIA activities. E. Howard Hunt, the CIA agent, worked for Robert Mullen when he was arrested in the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington in 1972. The Senate Watergate Committee reported that “the Mullen and Company has maintained a relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency since its incorporation in 1959. It provided covers for agents in Europe (Stockholm), Latin America (Mexico City), and the Far East (Singapore) at the time of the Watergate break-in.”

    Rockefeller Foundation. [CIA partner]. Used by the CIA to direct scholarships and grants to the Third World and Eastern Europe. Rockefeller Foundation money was funneled to the American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE), created in 1948. The chairman of ACUE was OSS chief William J. Donovan and the vice chairman was Allen Dulles. One of ACUE’s board members was Walter Bedell Smith, the first CIA director.

    Summa Corporation. [CIA partner]. Owned by Howard Hughes, Summa is believed to have skimmed gambling profits from the Sands, Desert Inn, Frontier, Silver Slipper, Castaways, and Landmark casinos in Las Vegas and Harold’s Club in Reno for the CIA and the Mafia. Provided financial cover for the CIA’s Glomar Explorer project.

    Teneo Intelligence. [CIA partner]. Branch of Teneo Holdings, which is headquartered in New York. Teneo Holdings’s intelligence branch includes former CIA officials. Teneo is closely linked to former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Teneo Intelligence has offices in New York, London, Rome, Brussels, Dubai, Bogota, New Delhi, and Tokyo.

    Texas Commerce Bank (TCB). [CIA partner]. Houston-based bank founded by the family of James Baker III. Texas Commerce Bank was used to provide commercial cover for CIA agents. After serving as vice president for Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas from 1977 to 1979, Jeb Bush joined his father’s presidential campaign in 1980. Serving with Bush on the campaign was Robert Gambino, the CIA deputy director of security who gave Bush his orientation brief at Langley in 1977.

    Kenneth Lay, the chairman of Enron, which had its own links to the CIA, served on the board of Texas Commerce Bank. Texas Commerce Bank was acquired by Chemical Bank in 1987.

    The bank provided major loans to Howard Hughes’s Summa Corporation. See Summa Corporation.

    United Fruit Company [CIA partner]. Involved in 1954 CIA overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala. Published the Latin America Report, a publication that was a CIA front used for clandestine activities. The CIA transferred weapons to United Fruit employees in Guatemala who were involved in undermining the Arbenz government. The joint CIA-United Fruit plan was code named OPERATION FORTUNE. Company provided an airfield in Guatemala for the CIA’s training of Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.

    U.S. Rubber Company. [CIA partner]. Headquartered in Naugatuck, Connecticut and later called Uniroyal, provided corporate cover to CIA officers operating abroad. Included those operating under the cover of the Dominion Rubber Company of Canada, a subsidiary of U.S. Rubber Company.

    U.S. Youth Council (USYC). [CIA front]. Founded in 1945 and based in New York. Some 90 percent of its funds came from the CIA. USYC received funding from the Foundation for Youth and Student Affairs (FYSA), a CIA front. The USYC was composed of American Youth Hostels, Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, American Unitarian Youth, National Catholic Welfare Conference, National Students Assembly, YMCA and YWCA.

    Wackenhut. [CIA contractor]. Wackenhut, a Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based security firm, stood accused of providing the CIA with specialized services around the world, including Chile, Greece, and El Salvador. Its Venezuelan branch, Wackenhut Venezolana, C.A., was accused in 2002 of involvement in the CIA’s coup against President Hugo Chavez. William Casey served as Wackenhut’s outside counsel before becoming CIA director in 1981.

    Wackenhut eventually merged into the global security firm G4S.

    Washington Post. [CIA partner]. The Washington Post was part of the CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD, the agency’s media influence project. Post publisher Phil Graham was a close friend and associate of MOCKINGBIRD chief Frank Wisner, Sr. and CIA director Allen Dulles. Wisner assisted Graham in acquiring The Washington Times-Herald and WTOP radio, creating a sizable CIA-influenced media operation in the nation’s capital.

    W. R. Grace. [CIA partner]. Provided corporate cover to CIA officers operating abroad, particularly in Latin America. Provided donations to CIA front foundations.

  • News story about Madsen's book via The Justice Integrity Project

  •           Soapmaking         
    Soapmaking in the planning
    My idea of a perfect (summer) includes a lot of R & D (research and development) in the lab. Earlier this summer, before humidity got out of hand, I got my act together and created my first batch of soap, ever. It was the exact same formula that Open Source Soap used for creating all my fragrance 3-in-1 soap bars. I decided on an unscented soap for my first batch, because I really wanted to see and experience the soap in its pure form  - and also avoid painful loss of precious fragrant materials in case I screw up.
    Pouring my first batch of soap ever
    The process is a tad tedious and time consuming, requiring one to be precise with the temperatures and also extra cautious with the lye's caustic properties. It was a rather humid day when I made it, so I realized pretty fast that it is very uncomfortable to work with goggles and gloves when the air is so slippery and moist; and also there is that feeling that the air would cary the caustic fumes far too easily into my system. No harm was done, but I am now convinced that winter is the best time for this kind of production (or R & D, for that matter).
    Cured soap
    I've used stainless steel loaf pans as molds. I made a mistake of not putting any linings (I didn't want them to have wrinkles at the bottom). Turns out it was near impossible to get the soap out after the 24 hour hardening period. But I managed to do it anyway.
    Soap slicing
    The result I'm very pleased with as far as the soap consistency, properties (lathering, moisturizing) albeit its messy look. I know that if it was possible to take it out of the mold easily they would have been beautiful, so for next time I'm going to use a different procedure for the pouring process and probably use a different mold - probably will reuse 1L milk cartons. The bars will have a different size than they did under Schuyler's hands (he used 2L juice cartons, and than cut them in the middle to create a long shaped rectangle). Mine will be more on the squarish side.
    Post-Soapmking Mess
    I ended up with a lot of soap shavings, from which I can make a liquid soap or just use for hand washing clothes etc.
    Post-Soapmking Mess - Cleanup
    Cleanup time!
    (Which is super easy, by the way - especially with my designated sink and stainless steel surfaces - yay!).


    I am now waiting at least for a dry weather to proceed with more experiments. In the meantime, I'm creating oil infusions of herbs that could be incorporated into the soap, from wild herbs that grow here - for example Varthemia and Sage. Having appropriate space makes all the difference - I have room for large- mouthed jars that can sit around for months if needed and still not take up much of my ongoing workspace. It is so refreshing to have a studio built especially for the purpose I need it for. I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am about that and all the possibilities of what I can do next.
              Burning through the Desert         
    Dan Rielger & Ayala Moriel

    A few months ago (the last day of April, to be exact, which was also the first day of my Orientals week-long course), I had the pleasure and honour to host a special guest throughout the day: Dan Riegler of Apothecary's Garden - a purveyor of fair trade resins from around the world - especially frankincense and myrrh that are wild crafted in the traditional methods in countries such as Somalia, Yemen and Kenya. He also sources Cretan labdanum, and other rare raw materials, and sells resin-centrered products that he concocts himself, which you can find on his online shop. One of them being a highly fragrant moustache wax which basically surrounded him with a cloud of frankincense - so obviously he made an instant good impression on me!

    We started the day at the Baha'i Gardens in Akko (which deserve a full post dedicated to them) and then went to my studio to make incense - and burn a bunch too. Little did I know what I was signing up for. On top of the usual things I burn for this class (palo santo chips, sandalwood incense sticks, one type of myrrh and frankincense resins and my own rendition of Egyptian Kyphi) - Dan had a trunk-load of resins that he just imported from Africa, and was immensely kind and generous to share with us the most incredible incense resins with me and my class. We spent the afternoon burning rare myrrh, olibanum, and also some gums I never knew existed, namely Sandarac and Ammoniacum, the latter of which totally blew my mind.

    I learned so much from Dan, about the resins (and the other raw materials he curates and sells), how they are harvested and collected, the chemical makeup of the resins and how it affects the stages of burning (it turns out that incense resins also have top, heart and base notes) - and this post is just a little taste of all the beautiful resins we burnt when he was here. I'm looking forward to meeting him again on his next visits in Israel on the way to the African continent.

    Boswellia carterii
    Frankincense usually comes in "tears" shape as this Boswellia carterii - but not always. Below is a specimen of the less known B. neglecta that look more like a chunk of resinous granules. B. carterii has the characteristic, most unmistakable scent of frankincense - beginning with sweet citrus notes of lemon drops and orange candy and continuing into more resinous, woody and even balsamic, caramel-like nuances as the incense burns on the charcoal.

    While looking pretty much the same, other frankincense species provide further nuances and a whole frankincense burning comparative study (or incense games a-la Japenese Koh-Doh) can easily occupy half a day. Compare this to Maydi (Boswellia frereana) which albeit its slightly herbaceous (sage-like) opening, is more subtle, woody and perfumey. In fact, it smells almost powdery like violet and iris. Ethiopian frakincince (Boswellia papyrifea) is even finer with its suave, light perfume notes, slightly sweet and with notes of burnt sugar at the end of the charcoal burning process.

    Boswellia negoecta - black and white

    Boswellia neglecta is endemic to north Kenya and comes in white and black forms (as you can see in the photo) and is not widely known. The white and the black smell significantly different. The white begins resinous-green, piney and mysterious, surprisingly juice like crushed leaves with hints of parsley, galbanum and ammonia (smells a lot like amoniacum).  It has a hint of sweaty note, a little like coriander seed. The final burning moments bring to mind the smoke coming out of autumnal piles of fall leaves.

    The black neglecta smells completely different - you wouldn't think it came from the same plant: it smells dark and looming, like moss, mushrooms, decaying fall leaves, peat, forest floor and hints of campfire. It's surprising and magical that a resin can possess so many different facets.

    Sandarac (tetraclllyris) comes from Malta and just like its pure milky appearance, burns clean with a woody-balsamic-resinous scent that is fine and very pleasant. It's a little bit like elemi, a little like mastic but not quite. There is a tiny hint of seashore to it that I only detected after many times of burning. It is quite lovely, even if underwhelming at first impression.

    Ammoniacum is intense and pungent, like a mixture of galbanum, asafoetida, sulphur, greens. It it a very interesting odour but I suspect it would have better effect in magic and exorcism ceremonies rather than contemplative incense rituals.

    Commiphora confusa

    Commiphora confusa, as the name suggests, is a type of myrrh that is hard to identify, and for several reasons: the flowers look different on each plant, the resin looks different as well - and the most surprising of all: it smells more like frankincense than myrrh.

    Commiphora myrrha

    Commiphora myrrha (from Ethiopea) has the characteristic bitter, rubbery scent when burnt, and is what I'd imagine the Queen of Sheba to wear on her neck when seducing King Solomon.

    Commiphora karat

    Commiphora kataf (from Kenya) has pieces of wood in it (which would change the smell of the smoke depending on which chunk you burn). It has a strange, sulphuric-sweaty odour. I guess you could call it spicy, as it has a hint of cumin in it too. Overall it reminds me more of the smell of food than incense - barbecuing kebabs comes to mind.

    Commiphira holziana
    Commiphora holtziana does not smell like myrrh at all to me. It's more woody than C. myrrha, and a tad fresh to start with. Dan describes it as briny and sea-like but I'm not getting it.

    Arabian/Yemeni Myrrh
    Arabian/Yemeni Myrrh is by far the most incredibly beautiful myrrh resin I've ever burnt. Although it came in a strange looking chunk, containing pieces of the plastic bags used by the collectors, and even a piece of wool yarn, it has the most fantastic scent, like a perfume on its own accord. It reminds me of the unique "version" of frankincense that B. papyrifea offers. I would love to have this as an essential oil and create a perfume with it.

    Summer Za'atar on the border with Lebanon
    There is a little confusion around the name "Za'atar" and what exactly does it refer to: A condiment? A spice mix? An herb? And if so - which herb exactly - Hyssop? Thyme? Oregano? Marjoram?

    The truth is that za'atar is an Arabic word used interchangeably for a number of wild herbs that grow wild in the Mediterranean region, and all contain thymol and carvacrol. Hence their similar sharp and warm aroma, bitter taste and spicy, almost hot "bite". They also share similar medicinal properties, most of them used in folk medicine for most digestive ailments and respiratory complaints. The mixture known to us as "Za'atar" is in fact a misnomer. Za'atar is originally the name of the plant now classified as Origanum syriacum, but in Arabic it is loosely applied to several other related wild and not so wild herbs.


    The name for the condiment is in fact "doukka" (pronounced often as "Do-ak" with a very throaty "K" that almost sounds like an "A" so in reality the word sounds more like "Do-ah"). In Arabic this means "to grind". Each region in the Arab world has its own "Doukka", which is either sprinkled on food, or more commonly covered in olive oil to which the traditional regional bread is dipped. For example - Egypt has a complex nut-based doukka with toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, to which toasted or untoasted spices such as cumin, coriander seeds, green peppercorns and sweet fennel have been added.

    In the Levant "doukka" happens to be made primarily of a mixture of thymol-containing herbs, with "The" Za'atar (Origanum syriacum) being the star of the show. Lesser amounts of other herbs, will be added - the most important of which are "Za'atar Farsi" (winter savory), Israeli Thyme (Corydothymus capitatus), Zuta זוטה לבנה ( Micromeria fruiticosa barbata), a delicate wild white mint known in English as White-Leaved Savory (which does not even belong to the savory genus, but to micromeria because of its tiny leaves). Common oregano (Origanum vulgare) makes a good addition, albeit cannot substitute for the real Za'atar or Syrian oregano if you actually know the real deal. Likewise, marjoram and thyme can also make a good addition but not be at the centre. Even though their profiles are similar - there are some nuances that will be lost if using only the garden variety oreganos and thymes and none of the wild stuff.

    Many other things can be added to the mix, the most important being sumac berries (Rhus coriaria) for their wonderful salty-sour flavour, and toasted sesame seeds for their pop-in-the-mouth nuttiness. But you'll also find spices sometimes, including more obscure ones such as butum (بطم) - toasted terebinth fruits (Pistachia palestina), which are really like tiny pistachios with the outer red peel intact. I've got a few of those drying right now, because I've never seen them in any market before and I'm very curious how they taste as a spice.

    The following are several authentic Za'atar recipes I've collected - and of course you are welcome to browse google's universe of shared recipes, but be cautious of a few things if you want to make an authentic za'atar:
    1) Use actual Origanum syriacum even if a generic "oregano" is called for
    2) Do not by any stretch of the imagination use "fresh" leaves. They must be dried first. And only then will you grind them up with the rest of the ingredients. This is a dried herb and spice mix. Not a fresh herb concoction.
    3) Usage of salt, although found in many recipes, seems very superfluous to me, unless you are not using sumac berries. These have a unique taste - equally salty and tangy. The whole point of using them is so you do not need to use salt. Likewise, using citric acid is a way to fake the sumac effect. Which I'm not quit sure why would anyone do that aside from laziness. Sumac berries are difficult to grind manually (or even in a coffee grinder) - but you can find ground sumac easily in many spice shops and markets.

    When shopping for pre-made spice mixes, or any ground spices for that matter, the main culprit is adulteration and using old raw material that are "dressed up" as authentic. It's hard to teach someone who've never tasted or smelled za'atar what to look for, but some things are a telling sign. For example: if you don't see the dark maroon red and still taste salt or tanginess, it is probably from salt and citrus acid, and not from the (missing) red sumac berries. Secondly, another visual sign - za'atar leaves are rather grey in colour when dried, so any other colour you see (olive green) is either food colouring or a combination of other types of "za'atar" herbs (i.e.: thyme, za'atar farsi, etc.). Best sign is by taste - if it taste like dust (and looks like dust) it's either too old or just a fake.

    I suggest you start with the most basic three ingredients, and then play with the proportions and adding other herbs and/or spices. You can even start with equal amount of za'atar leaves, sumac and sesame and adjust to taste.

    Safta Ada's Za'atar Recipe 
    This is my mom's handmade recipe that she would make from wild harvested za'atar (before it was illegal to pick any) and would even send it to Vancouver so I can enjoy a taste of home.
    1 cup dried za'atar leaves, coarsely crushed between your palms, or pounded with mortar and pestle to a finer powder
    4 Tbs ground sumac berries (I suggest you purchase them pre-ground, otherwise their seeds can break your teeth!)
    2 Tbs toasted brown sesame seeds, whole

    May Bsisu wrote an excellent book, The Arab Table, which I highly recommend, and it includes a unique Palestinian style of za'atar that includes caraway:
    10oz oregano (I assume she means za'atar)
    5oz thyme
    3 Tbs sumac, ground
    1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
    2-1/2 Tbs coarse salt
    1/2 tsp allspice, ground
    1/4 tsp caraway seeds, ground 

    Easy Lebanese Recipes provides a "Traditional Rich Recipe" for za'atar that I'm compelled to try, with dried za'atar, roasted sesame, sumac, marjoram, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, aniseed and salt.

    Mamma's Lebanese Kitchen recipe contains thyme, marjoram, sumac, sesame, cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon and salt.

    How to consume za'atar?
    Use your za'atar mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread, on top of labneh (strained yoghurt cheese) or as a substitute for butter under any other soft or hard cheese, avocado, etc.
    It's also a nice addition to salads, and for baking fish or poultry. I also like to add it to chickpeas that I fry whole in olive oil, after they've been cooked and drained.

    Fresh za'atar leaves come in late winter and can be enjoyed all through spring, and can be fried in olive oil much like tender sage leaves and become this wonderful crispy topping for fresh bread, pasta, roasted vegetables, etc. Also, they can be used as they are in salads (May Bsisu has a recipe for fresh oregano salad in that book as well), with lots of onion and tomatoe. The Druze use it to season the dough or the fillings for various savoury pastries, such as sambusak (a flatbread that is folded in half to conceal a thin layer of highly seasoned stuffing, and baked in the tabun) and fatayer (little dough pockets filled with cheese), and the dried whole leaves can be used much like oregano in meat and pasta sauces, in soups, stews, breads, etc.

    Now, let's explore the Za'atar "group" of plants:

    Hyssop (Wild Oregano)

    Ezov (the Hebrew word for the Biblical Hyssop - not the European Hyssopus officials which is also a medicinal plant, and produces a rather toxic essential oil), which is now classified as an oregano, Origanum syriacum (formerly Majorana syriaca). Like many of the other aromatic plants from the Lamiaceae family, za'atar has a winter and spring foliage and a summer foliage, which is smaller in order to preserve water and survive the long arid season. I suspect the essential oils also aid with the survival of these plants in such harsh conditions - because whenever they are grown in regions where the water is more abundant (British Columbia, for example) - their flavour is largely lacking. What you see above is the luscious winter "look", which features soft and larger leaves, and their colour is much greener, and therefore more similar to the common oregano (Origanum vulgare).


    Za'atar Farsi (meaning Persian Za'atar), or as it is called in Hebrew צתרה ורודה - Tzatra Vruda (Pink Tzatra) which really is winter or mountain savory (Satureja montana). Its long needle-like leaves have a sharp, spicy taste. When we were growing up my mom would spice the egg for French Toast with them and make them literally savoury.

    Thymbra spicata צתרנית משובלת
    Mediterranean Thyme (Thymbra spicata), in Hebrew צתרנית משובלת Tzatranit Meshubelet is also called in Arabic "Za'atar farsi", and has a very similar leaf shape (only a bit longer, narrower and softer) and almost identical odour and aroma profile. It has flowers that look a bit more like chaffs of wheat (not unlike those of Lavandula dentata, and is even more rare to find than Satureja montana.

    Coridothymus capitatus
    Israeli Thyme (Corydothymus capitatis / Thymus capitatus / Thymbra capitata) or in Hebrew Koranit Mekurkefet קורנית מקורקפת is also known by many other names - Israeli oreganum (oil), Cretan thyme, Corido thyme, Headed savory, Thyme of the Ancient, Conehead thyme and most commonly - Spanish Oregano (even though it is not classified as "origanum"). This oil is what is often sold as "oregano oil", by the way. This is now a rare plant that in our area grows only along the rocky seashores of the North Coast leading to Lebanon. The leaves are tiny and sharp, like a miniature version of the Pink Tzatra, but they grow more dense and close together to form clusters around the tip of the branches. The branches are woody-looking almost like bonsai trees that crawl all over the rocks - and the flowers tiny and purplish-pink. The aroma is clean and maybe a little more simple than that of za'atar, but also the taste is much more sharp and phenolic.

              Healing Plants         
    Garrigue - Teucrium creticus

    Although I never intentionally created my perfume with aromatherapy mindset, I found them to be very healing throughout the years. Partially because of the creative process itself - the bringing together of contrasting and conflicting elements that represent such aspects within my psyche. And partially because I actually felt the plants' healing energy through wearing the perfumes:
    Grounding, soothing, reviving, reminiscent of the places and people I missed and longed for, helped me get through many rough patches and heartbreaks that permeated the majority of my years on this earth.

    While moving my vast collection of fragrant materials, I realized that at my fingertips I have an entire pharmacopeia. This is also true for some of my fragrances. A few weeks ago I started the day with intense sense of grief and feeling very heavy hearted and anxious. I had to fill orders that morning, and make samples of Ayalitta. I dabbed some on and no less than fifteen minutes later I noticed that I am feeling more grounded and that the anxious hole opening at the pit of my stomach started to close... It could be partially explained by power of association and past experiences wearing this scent while being in a similar state of mind and finding it soothing. Also, I think another big part has to do with the actual plants in it and their healing powers, namely sage (both Spanish and Clary), rose, jasmine, neroli and patchouli.

    Part of my moving back to my home village was for reconnecting with nature and Mother Earth in a more immediate, hands-on manner. I wanted to not only smell the spirit of the plants that I love and cherish, but also experience them int heir living state. I wanted to see how they grow and turn the brown soil and sunlight they absorb into myriads of different colours, shapes, flavours, scents and therapeutic properties.

    Behind my home is a mountain, and on it grow wild many fragrant and medicinal plants. It's awe-inspiring how many remedies are gifted to us by Mother Nature. If we only listen and learn her secrets, we have the potential to heal gently and find cure for many of our physical and emotional pains and misalignments. Plants are such benevolent creatures, I am now beginning to understand on a more immediate level why so many tales and myths about plants associate them with a spiritual being, such as an angel, nymph or even a god or a goddess.

    The properties and aromas of the plants here fascinate me. They feel familiar (and in fact I know many of them since forever) - yet I keep meeting new plants that are either highly fragrant or medical; and those that I do know keep surprising me with new uses and therapeutic potential that I never knew existed.

    For example: I came across a very ambery-spicy-herbaceous-smelling herb that has quite resinous leaves., growing in rather rocky areas up on the mountains here. I could not ID it because it never had flowers when I saw it. I tried brewing it into teas (even though you probably shouldn't consume something you haven't even identified yet!), tincturing it, and also drying the leaves, which I want to incorporate into incense. Just yesterday I saw someone post about it and was able to immediately recognize it - Chiliadenus iphionoides (כתילה חריפה)Turns out it has not only a delicious aroma but also many uses for diseases in respiratory system, as well as the heart, digestive system, skin conditions, wounds, fever, overall weakness and joint inflammation.

    Teucrium (Germander) is another new discovery for me - for both its fragrance and myriads of medicinal uses. And also I am going to dedicate an entire post to the various thymes and oreganos that grow here, which aside from their well known culinary significance in regional and international cuisine - are also extremely valuable medicinally; and I'm also warming up to their fragrance per se (a rare occurrence in perfumery, really). Vitex agnus-castus (שיח-אברהם מצוי) always eluded me with its fragrance, and now I'm also discovering its healing properties, especially for women's health.  And last but not least - I discovered that clary sage is actually a wild plant here as well, and was gifted two tiny plants from Neta Fink who visited my studio last week. I am feeling very inspired to study these plants - both old friends and new ones - explore properties and work them into new applicable products that would be both fragrant and healing.
              Druze Tea        

    Herbal arrangement for tea brewing
    For those unfamiliar with the Druze culture, it is unique to the Levant (Lebanon, Syria and Israel). This minority group originated about a thousand years ago in the Ismaillia sect of early Islam, and was largely prosecuted after splitting off from it. Therefore, mate

    they usually dwell on mountains and have long tradition of bravery since they've always needed to fend for themselves in a rather hostile environment. In Israel, the Druze communities are all located in the north - from Mount Carmel in the largest Druze town Daliat el Carmel and all the way up north to the Western Galilee, the Golan Heights especially around Mount Hermon.

    Near my village alone there are four Druze villages - Jath, Yanuh, Yirka and Julis. We've held strong friendly relationships with our Druze neighbours. Growing up, two elders from the village Yanuh will travel on foot or by donkey and come help us build our village - they taught our parents how to built terraces from the many rocks around here so that we can grow crops along the hillsides, how to cultivate wild olives and do the grafting so the trees grow strong and bear good fruit, and we went every summer to the miller and grind our wheat (when we still grew our own), and every autumn to line up with all the other olive growers and press our olives into fine olive oil and buy handmade olive soap that was made on the spot from the pommace left from the pressing process. As the nearby village Yirka developed into a small town bustling with businesses - we go there also to do most of our shopping and other business (that's where I usually go to the ship my online orders, by the way), and continue to build business and work relations with our neighbours. My house (both the old and the new part) was built almost entirely by a Birka-Born team of construction experts who became my closest new friends since moving here, and their wives come to practice Pilates with me.

    Growing up here, I remember my mom being especially enthusiastic about learning from the Druze women about the bounty of edible and medicinal wild plants around here. From them she also learned to drink olive oil in the morning on empty stomach, and how to make a special scorpion antidote (from the scorpion that stung you, fried in olive oil). I never tried either, and probably never will. But I do love to learn from them about the nearly magical properties of the plants that grow everywhere around here. It's as if there is an entire pharmacy out in the open, here in the wild. 

    Besides, there is much to be learned from the Druze traditional way of living, which is very family centred and values hospitality and taking the time to sit and enjoy a cup of anything - tea, coffee, and more and more coffee. The latter is served everywhere you go - from the hardware store to the mobile phone shop. And of course you can't enter a home without being invited for at least a cup of coffee, and if it's dinnertime - to break bread with the whole family.

    Ka'kat Isfar
    As is widespread in all of Israel - among both the Arab and Jewish population - the Druze adore za'atar, sage and the many wild harvested and then dried herbs from around here. They are  popular as digestifs or medicinal brews for various ailments or as preventative measures: wild sage, white mint, savory, wild oregano, and more are either infused on their own or added, dried or fresh, to black tea.  The love for za'atar is so profound that it is even added to some sweet pastries, such as this traditional ka'akat isfar ("yellow cake") - a mildly sweet yeasted flatbread that is coloured with turmeric and additionally spiced with sesame and nigella seeds, hints of za'atar (this umbrella name could be wild oregano, savoury or thyme - more on that in another post), and hints of mysterious spices that I'm yet to identify (I detected nutmeg and perhaps even some cardamom or allspice but I can't be sure of the latter two). It has become a favourite of mine, but is never found in a pastry shop. Some families would sell their traditional homemade ka'kat isfar when they make it, and the recipes vary. The first one I tried was only spiced with turmeric. This particular version that I'm very fond of was made by a random person I met on one of my traveling tea parties, and I doubt I will be able to taste ever again. The only recipe I found that seems close is written in Arabic and I'm far from being proficient enough to follow a recipe in that language.

    Many of my Vancouver perfume studio guests have been indirectly introduced to Druze culture through the special tea I would brew each winter (we fondly called it "witch brew") of dried hulnejan (a particular type of dried galangal root) and ginger roots, which is simmered forever in a large pot, simultaneously cleansing the air, warming the chest and keeping colds at bay. It is often served with pecan nuts sprinkled on top, and a lot of sugar, which is how most Druze like their teas. I personally prefer it unsweetened, and like to add cinnamon bark which has its own natural sweetness. Sometimes I would add honey but not often.

    But Hulnejan is not the only interesting thing about the Druze tea culture. As it turns out, in the 19th Century, many Druze - especially from Syria - left for Argentina, and they brought back with them mate, and a special fondness for this unique South American concoction. They drink it socially, sharing the same bombilla (the silver straw), traditionally sucked from the tea which is brewed in a dried decorative gourd.

    Mate, Druze-style

    In this photo, I am holding a dainty cup of mate that was offered to me on the streets of Majdal Shams, a remote Druze village come ski tourist town on Mount Hermon (Jabal Sheikh), formerly part of Syria. 

    On Saturday morning, we were having a hard time finding a place to eat breakfast. The breakfast place recommended to us the night before was still closed at 8:30am - it turns out it was them who had the wedding the night before with the parade that blocked the streets) - and so we were directed by a local lady to a corner shop that sells coffee, cigarettes, local cherries and freshly whipped before your eyes malyukh (Druze flat bread that is baked on top of a saj - an iron dome much like an upside down wok) on top of open fire. The bread is baked only on one side, than folded and smeared with generous amounts of labneh (soft cheese made from strained yoghurt), za'atar mixture, and homemade hot sauce that I swear was spiked with cinnamon.  We were also offered black tea "on the house" which turned to be fragrant with "Ootra" - Arabic for the popular Pelargonium graveness. The lady was impressed with my Arabic (very basic, but still better than nothing) and even more so that I recognized what she put in the tea and know the Arabic name for it.

    I chatted her up as I was munching on the malyukh and sipping the tea, and learned that while Majdal Shams is not as big as Yirka - it is a lot more "modern" to her words. There is a high percentage of post-secondary education, most of which was acquired in Syria, where up until the civil war was offered for free to all Syrian citizens. As a background - you should know that up until 1967, the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon, including the four Druze villages  there - Majdal Shams, Mas'ade, Ein Kiniya and Buq'ata - were under Syrian rule, and their culture is quite different than what you'll find in the Galilee. One thinks of the border between Israel and Syria (sworn enemies since the establishment of the state of Israeli in 1948) as hermetically sealed, but in fact there was a dynamic flow of the Druze population between the countries - especially for weddings and for family reunions, but also for studying abroad. This lady's brother lived in Syria for many years - he went there to study medicine, got married and lived there until the war started, and then requested to return, and came back to Israel via Jordan with his wife and their children.

    We finished our delicious breakfast, thanked the lady and crossed the street to where our car was parked, right in front of a bakery (the only other place that was already open by 9am). In front of it, two ladies sat on a bench and a couple of upside-down plastic grocery boxes, boiling water on a portable gas stove and sipping non other than mate from a dainty little jug. I was so astonished I could not hold my gasp of delight. In return, they offered me to sit down and join them, rinsing the bombilla with boiled water from the kettle and pouring fresh water over and over the mate to bring out the flavour time and again. I was so thrilled that even though we're only two hours drive from home, and are already experiencing new culture that is so different yet invites us to share a cup of tea together.
    I had a couple of jugs of mate with them and thanked the big spirit that's in this world that encouraged me to finally set up on my tea journey. 

              My Rose Garden         
    The Bench

    There is still no rose in site, but this is my soon-to-be rose garden.
    It has a bench, so what else does it need (well, a few roses wouldn't hurt).
    But firs I must do some research and find the exact roses I wish to plant here. First and foremost I am on the hunt for those used extensively in perfumery: Rosa damascena and Rosa centifolia. Then I must find some hardy hybrid tea roses and old English roses that would withstand the hot and dry climate here. And they must smell amazing and also have impressive looks. I would rather wait till I find the right ones rather than plant the wrong ones and waste precious plot space...

    The area for the rose garden used to be an enclosed area where some of my tenants (without any permission) built for a little herd of goats. It looked like a disaster when they lived here, and it was hard to kick them out. The tenants that followed were super nice, stayed for many years, and took advange of the freshly fertilized soil to make a little vegetable garden. It only has  two small plots, and is sitting too far behind the house to be practical for a vegetable garden, in my humble opinion. So I planted a vegetable garden right next to my house (on the sunny east side next to the Pilates studio). And these two plots I'm planning to fill with at least six rose bushes. Then I will also add a bird bath or a sundial (or both), and climber roses in all corners. It makes the perfect, hidden, romantic spot to sit on; but also my preferred spot for  for sitting and meditating, burning incense, and enjoying a few hours of shade in the hot summer mornings, and quiet reflection in the evening. Maybe even a moon garden if I find the right mix of plants that won't overshadow the rosiness during the day.
              Coco Noir        
    Coco Noir

    Sometimes we get attached to perfumes because they speak to us. Other times, it is pure coincidence that creates an imprint on our minds and adds meaning to the scent that we would have otherwise not found in it.

    These past few months I've been wearing copious amounts of Coco Noir. I've received the parfum extrait from a friend as a goodbye gift, and somehow it did not seem right to stuff it on the shipping container. Probably because I was too curious about it. At the same time I was too scared to open it, because starting a new perfume at a time of great change can create too strong of an impression - and I knew that there are many challenges ahead of me. I definitely did not want to open it at the time of our departure - I was an emotional mess, after three months of intensive packing and very little sleep... So I waited for a while for the dust of traveling to settle, and opened it about a week or two after arriving in Israel. It was a time of terrible weather (weeks and weeks on end of dry desert wind and over-the-top temperatures) not to mention - great emotional turmoil and immigrant adventures - and we are still in the midst of it, but I have enough levelheadedness now to reflect a bit, as things are finally starting to fall into place: my daughter will start school on Sunday, our home renovations are about halfway through, and my mental state allows me to pass entire days without crying (but still happens about once a week, because I end up hitting a brick wall of some sort at least in that frequency).

    Coco Noir is a modern "dark" concoction, which means that instead of oily aldehydes and animalic base, it has clean florally laced with white musks and underlying notes of vetiver and patchouli. It isn't exactly a fruitchouli, but it borders on that territory, with a clean ambreine accord (not unlike Prada Ambre Intense Pour Homme) - which means it has vanillin, patchouli and bergamot galore in it. However, there is also a spicy cacao accord (or perhaps it's just an illusion of that - created by the spicy cloves notes alongside the benzoin, vanillin and coumarin) which is quite prominent, which reminds me of Notorious - only that it continues much better in my opinion (it does not have as much musk, which in Notorious gives me a piercing feeling through my nostrils). It gradually softens and develops around the heart of jasmine and rose, and leads smoothly to the end: Dryout is a mellow, powdery confection, with hints of heliotrope (not unlike La Petite Robe Noire - but with non of the saccharine qualities of the latter).

    Coco Noir is more accessible, in my opinion, than Coco is. I love the original, even though I do not own it. It has a big persona and feels over-the-top for daily wear. I would only imagine wearing it when I'm all dressed up for a very sepcial event in the middle of winter. Instead, it provides with a very modern comfort in my overtly rustic living arrangement (which is only temporary, sort of...). It's a scent that inevitably will conjure up scent memories from this time of re-settling in my home village: having this sleek, elegant, opaque black glass square bottle around reminds me of my urban side and that I'm not going to be forever wading in mud to and from the yurt, and struggling with every little aspect of life. There is still place for elegance and luxury in my life even in this off the grid spot in between two major life periods.

    Another great reminder of this truth: whenever I stick my nose inside my shipping container, which smells still like my very fragrant home studio in Vancouver. My friend chose this fragrance because it reminded him of how my perfume smelled. I think I now get what he's talking about: it's very much like this "smell of everything, all at once" that you get from my workspace: dried coumarinic herbs (liatrix, tonka), vetiver roots, patchouli, countless flowers, herb oils and spices... All mingled with woodsy oils and the scent of antique furniture.

    I'm grateful for having this point of view portrayed to me via a bottle of fragrance chosen for me.

    Top notes: Cedarwood, Bergamot, Orange, Grapefruit
    Heart notes: Rose, Jasmine, Narcissus, Geranium, Peach, Carnation, Cloves
    Base notes: Patchouli, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Benzoin, Frankincense, Musk, Vanilla, Heliotropin, Tonka
              Considering A Dual Zone Wine Cooler?        
    If you like to entertain and provide wine to your guests then a dual zone wine cooler is an excellent appliance to have. Beginner wine enthusiasts to experts willl know that light, heat, humidity and vibration can all aversely affect wines and possibly spoil them. This is why people have traditionally kept wine in dark […]
              Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap Infused With Marula Oil        

    * The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap in exchange for a product review.  However, all the opinions expressed here are my own. We live in a house with 2 kids, 2 dogs, one very chubby ferret, 12 fish, and there are 3 horses in the barn! Between […]

    The post Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap Infused With Marula Oil appeared first on The Mama Games.

              Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash Makes Your Shower a Spa + Giveaway        

    * The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash in exchange for a product review.  However, all opinions expressed here are my own. One of the best ways that I can relax after a long, hard, stressful day at work is to step into a steaming hot shower.  So […]

    The post Dial Miracle Oil Body Wash Makes Your Shower a Spa + Giveaway appeared first on The Mama Games.

              Review Praventac and AG Factor        

    Setiap kali bukak blog mesti rasa bersalah dengan diri sendiri sebab tak konsisten. Hahahah~ nak kata sibuk ya amat tu, sikitlah... boleh terima tak alasan tu selain mim alif lam sin?

    Ala... nak ngadu sikit.. lately muka wanie teruk sangat sangat sangat. Muka berminyak yang homaigadddd... oil blotting yang warna biru clean and clear tu memang wajib dalam handbag tau. Sekali lap muka, wajib pakai 2 keping minimum... bila muka berminyak teruk sangat jangan ditanya lah mengundang ape kat muka kan... bukan setakat jerawat, open pores besar nau nau, blackhead, whitehead, jerawat batu pun ada tau... (nangissssssssss) Walaupun dah try guna organic products untuk muka ni, still tak membantu. Kalau product kecantikan kita guna yang dah elok, tapi still tak work, itu confirmlah masalah dalaman kan?

    Hari tu tengah scroll scroll kat Facebook, jumpa 1 page ni. Jodoh kot.. hahahah, tetiba terasa tertarik nak bukak website dia. Korang pernah dengar tak Praventac? Ha... click lah link tu kalau korang pun tak tau macam wanie.. Hikhik... Kalau korang nak tau, wanie memang jenis yang susahhhhhh sangat nak makan atau ambik supplements ni. Penyakit biasa, M-A-L-A-S ... Hahaha! Tapi, sebab muka dah makin teruk, wanie rasa takpe lah. Give it a shot! Errr... mahal jugak bagi wanie supplement ni. Wanie ambik yang combo, Praventac + AG Factor = RM 424 (RM 24 tu GST ye... pffttt) Wanie walk in je ke office diorang dekat The Gardens sebelah Midvalley tu.

    Ok,.. time beli tu, the lady told me NOT TO USE ANY CREAM-BASED MOISTURIZER. Bagi wanie, not a big deal sebab wanie gunakan Adania Luxurious Organic Oil . So, setiap malam sebelum tidur wanie akan ambil 2 biji Praventac dan 2 biji AG Factor. Menurut dari website Praventac tu sendiri, Praventac ni berfungsi :

    While AG Factor claimed that it:

    1. Assists in fighting the bad bacteria 
    2. Reducing the secretion of oil 
    3. Reducing the redness from inflammation 
    4. Helping to repair the damaged cells caused by blemishes

    Taken from :
    AG Factor ni bagi wanie lebih kepada "booster" kepada Praventac, untuk double the action rasanya... hehehehe..

    So harini dah genap 18 hari wanie consume Praventac + AG Factor. Apa yang wanie boleh conclude kan adalah :

    Hari 1-3 : Tiada perubahan
    Hari 4-7 : Oily face slightly reduce. Jerawat batu yang dah berbulan tak naik mata, dah start masak dan keluar air bisa
    Hari 8 sampai sekarang : Berperang jugak ni. Jerawat-jerawat pasir + jerawat nasik mula naik. The lady told me not to be afraid sebab this is normal sebab nak keluarkan yang mana terpendam / malu-malu nak keluar sebelum ni. Yang best, jerawat batu i olz dah tinggal seketul je ni kat pipi... geng-geng dia semua dah cabut lari.. hahahah

    All in all, wanie plan nak teruskan dengan Praventac + AG Factor ni for another 2 month. Seronok gaisss... kalau awal dulu, wajib kena wipe muka dengan oil blotter tu, sekarang ni kalau tak cuci muka 2 hari pun takde hal lah. The face still moisturize tapi tak oily!

    Berapa rate nak bagi ni?

    Wanie nak bagi rate macam ni untuk sepanjang 18 hari wanie guna ye :

    1.  Menghilangkan minyak muka : 5/5
    2.  Menghilangkan jerawat nasi : 3/5 (jerawat kering)
    3.  Menghilangkan jerawat batu : 4/5 (suka sangattttttt)
    4.  Menghilangkan parut : 0/5 (yes.. takde perubahan ape lagi. Takpe... biar dia keluar settle dulu segala alien kat muka ni, then kita tengok macam mana pulak ye...)

    BONUS! Ye ade bonus koranggggg yang wanie sendiri pun tak expect!


    Awesome kan! Wanie rasa make sense - sebab ape? Dulu wanie selalu pegi saloon, siap buat scalp scanning. Boleh nampak setiap rongga rambut tu clog dengan minyak, the hairdresser tu bagitau wanie sebab clog dengan minyak, rambut macam tak boleh nak bernafas which lead to the akar jadi tak kuat dan rambut pun gugur. Nak harap shampoo je pun, tak boleh.. memang kena treat dari dalam.

    p/s : Bertabahlah la sikit tiap-tiap bulan kan.. 400 hengget kauuuuuuuu.. hopefully adalah perubahan sebelum sampai e-day kite raya haji ni, Insyaallah... hikhikhik

    p/s 2 : Jangan minta upload gambar. Malu titewww.. insyaallah, wanie akan upload lepas habis healing crisis ni so korang boleh spot the difference senang sikit
              Ð¦ÐµÐ½Ñ‹ на нефть - элементы для инфографики в векторе | Oil prices infographic design vector        
    Цены на нефть - элементы для инфографики в векторе | Oil prices infographic design vector

    Цены на нефть - элементы для инфографики в векторе | Oil prices infographic design vector
    EPS | 19 files | 83.61 Mb

              VLO and Oil        
    VLO and oil in general are taking a hit right now because of the warm winter (see article below), but I think VLO and oil will do well in the long term. There are many variables in the price of oil, and warm weather is only one of them. The winter is not over yet, there's still a chance colder weather will appear. The middle east conflicts also affects oil prices. If there is a shortage in supply, oil prices will go up. Odds are, the the prices of oil will go up in the long term. I'll hold on my shares of VLO. Verdict: HOLD on VLO ----------------------------------------- Source: Scottrade News 1/2/2007 Oil Prices Face Warm Weather, High Stocks The new year began with a whimper, weatherwise, in the world’s biggest heating oil market. In New York City, temperatures on the first day of 2007 hit a peak of 54 degrees - 45% above normal and 10 degrees warmer than the first day of spring 2006. The current spring-like weather - in line with forecasts - looks likely to put strong pressure on heating oil and crude oil futures prices when trading resumes on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday. But there’s more afoot that can rile the market than just the warmest December on record in Boston, in the heart of New England, where heating oil inventories stand at their highest level since 1998. Latest revised data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show oil demand in October in the U.S. - the world’s largest oil consumer - was 2.7% lower than expected, though still 2.5% above a year ago. The new figures put demand at 20.757 million barrels a day in October - some 567,000 barrels a day below earlier indications - as demand figures for heating oil, gasoline and jet fuel were reduced. EIA’s preliminary data would have put October demand at 21.324 million barrels a day, the highest level since December 2005. The weakness at the start of the fourth quarter calls into question whether U.S. demand will manage to post even the modest year-to-year gain of 1.25% to 21.05 million barrels a day, which EIA forecasts would make it the strongest quarter of 2006.
              NatGeo presents article "Genius" to accompany is new cable series         

    The National Geographic issue for May 2007 has a feature cover story on p. 30, “Genius: Why some people are so much smarter than the rest of us.”, link (paywall) here .
    An important measure of genius is whether the person’s output lives throughout the ages.  Beehoven’s output takes on a life of its own. 

    The article gives some attention to the life story of Leonardo DaVinci.

    The years of highest probability of major output are the late twenties into the mid thirties.

    An important and controversial variable would be how versatile the person is with "real life" skills.  The best of today's young adults simply are or were much more mature than I was at ages like, say 16-21. But it helps to be born later. 

    However, there are real prodigies, in coding (Mark Zuckerberg) and in music.  In music, prodigy becomes harder to show after Mozart.  But Eugen d’Albert’s gigantic first piano concerto (as published, in B Minor) was composed before age 20 and shows real intellectual brilliance as to harmony, counterpoint, and form. Brahms, on the other hand, waited until his forties to compose symphonies.  Genius enters new territory in the latest years, as we know from the last nearly-complete symphony of Bruckner.

    There is a new series on National Geographic Channel which I have not seen yet.

    The issue also has an article on the Central African Republic, the Burning Heart of Africa, and “United in Protest” against the North Dakota oil pipeline. 

              BLACK BEAR MEETS REMINGTON R-25        

    It was a warm sunny late September afternoon when I pulled into the Canadian Border Customs in Lewiston several weeks ago in route to Port Loring, Ontario where I hoped to shoot my seventh black bear. Little did I know then that this would be the last ray of sunshine I would see for the next 5 days. Having my gun registration paper work completed prior to my arrival helped to expedite the process; however when I opened my gun case and the Canadian officer saw my new fully camouflaged Remington R-25 .308 caliber modular repeating rifle, he was quite impressed as were several of his fellow officers who also came over to look. Once across the border I knew that I would not reach Port Loring until the wee hours of the night and decided to drive until about 9 p.m. and find a motel to spend the night; which I did in Trey, Ontario. And by mid-morning the next day I was knocking on Hermann and Lise Stroeher’s door. It was really good to see them again since my last visit 4 or 5 years ago and they were as warm and friendly as ever. But Hermann was all business and told me we can talk later and to follow him to where I would be staying. He wanted me to get unpacked and back to his house by 1:30 p.m. so I would be in my treestand by 2:30 p.m. I could feel the adrenaline already starting to boil just thinking about the hunt. My accommodations this year were at Wright Point Resort, a beautiful spot on the banks of the Pigeon Lake which is actually is part of the Pickerel River system; and it is loaded with small and largemouth bass, northern pike and walleye(they call them pickerel). The owners, Dianne and Dan Feasby, had set me up in one of their 4 motel rooms which, like their 7 lake-side cottages were fully furnished with all modern appliances, dishes, pans, etc. and they had boats and motor rentals right there. What a place to spend a week’s vacation, fishing and/or hunting. And if you are a snowmobiler, they showed me an Ontario trail map with thousands of miles of snowmobile trails. Unfortunately I only got to fish the lake for about two hours; in which time I caught and released 31 nice bass. The majority were smallies, the largest measuring 20 inches and two of the largemouth were over 3 pounds. All were taken on a Stick-O-Worm rigged wacky style. I did leave the rest of these worms with Dan and one of his campers. The hospitality here was outstanding and if you would like to see more go to their web site at, DAY 1 At 1:30 p.m. I was following Hermann in my truck headed to my treestand site and I was anxious. It was a long ride, approximately 25 miles on a paved road and another 6 miles into the bush on a dirt road where I parked my truck and Hermann walked me in on a small trail to the site got me settled, then headed back to camp. There were dark clouds beginning to roll in but I was hoping the rain would hold off until dark. It didn’t. Perhaps and hour or so after I climbed into the stand I heard thunder in the distance behind me; but it sounded like it was going away from me. It wasn’t. The rains came first but I was ready for that and quickly slipped into my rain suit and used another light rain jacket to cover my gun. The winds followed shortly and I found out later that they were upward of 40; which at times felt like I was on the high seas. Within 45 minutes of the start of the rain the thunder began, and with it the lightning. Now my choices were climb out of the stand and go sit in the truck until it passed and then sneak back in, which would probably ruin the hunt. So I chose the second option of staying in the tree. An hour or so later the thunder and lighting did stop, but the heavy rain and high winds didn’t. And at 7:50 p.m., the end of legal shooting time, I climbed down from the stand and sloshed my way back to the truck. Did not see a bear. Back at camp no one else had seen a bear either and Hermann said that the combination of the heavy rain, high winds and thunder and lightning makes them very nervous. All we could do is go back out again the next morning. DAY 2 I was in my stand an hour before sunup and when I looked through my scope I could see that the bait had not been touched; so there was still a chance that the bear would come in this morning. Forgot to mention it was still raining and the wind was about 20-25 mph. At 10:30 a.m. I climbed down and headed back to camp. After breakfast and a short nap I was sitting in the stand in full rain gear hoping that tonight was the night. The rain continued along with the heavy winds all evening and once again there were no bear visits. But I did have 4 grouse cooing around under my stand for about an hour. The grouse season was open but the .308 was a little overkill for grouse hunting. DAY 3 After another morning of rain, wind and no bear I met up with Hermann who suggested that after breakfast I join him on his morning baiting trips and we could check the activity at several of the sites, and I could pick the one I liked for the afternoon hunt. We visited 5 sites, all of which were hit since the last time he checked them. The site that I choose had plenty of activity signs but the real draw for me was the timber wolf tracks I saw in the mud on the way in that got me excited. Only once, years ago while sitting in a treestand at Hermann’s, I had a timber wolf appear about 150 yards from me. I did get to look at him through my binoculars but he quickly disappeared. That evening the rain continued and it was then that I realized the value of good equipment. Other than my hands and face the only thing that got a little wet and cold during these long sits in the nasty weather was my nose. The camouflaged Red Head Squaltex Bone Dry rain gear totally protected my body from the rain and the wind and the Burris Full Field II, in all this nasty rain, never once fogged up on me. Actually I did get a bit wet the next day when climbing down from my stand in the morning I caught my jacket on a nail and ripped a big chuck out of it. As for the bear this particular evening; nothing came it. DAY 4 The final day, my last chance. The morning hunt went too quickly and the rain did stop for an hour or so and, the sun did shine for perhaps an hour. But there were no bears. It was going down to the wire again. That afternoon I was in the stand earlier than usual but knew this was it; because tomorrow I was heading home. The weather was actually fairly pleasant; for awhile. Then about 3 p.m. the winds began followed by the rain, and with each hour both increased and by 6 p.m. things were back to normal; heavy rains and gusting winds that were causing my treestand to move a good six inches from side to side. I must have looked at my watch at least a dozen times; and time was running out. I remember checking my watch at it 7:35 p.m. and saying to myself, just 10 more minutes of legal shooting time left; it looks like it is over. But when I looked up there he was coming in, 70 yards away in the opening. Quickly I shouldered the gun and put the crosshair on the bear’s shoulder and clicked off the safety. My only problem now was that the 40 plus mph wind was again rocking the stand side to side. It seemed like forever that I held the horizontal crosshair of the scope on target just waiting for the wind to stop. And when it did I set the crosshairs on its shoulder and tapped the R-25 trigger and the Remington 150 grain Ultra Bonded PSP put him down. To say I was relieved and excited would be an understatement as I scrambled down the steps and trotted to the bear. A tap on his nose with the rifle barrel told me what I already knew; it was over. Quickly I unloaded my rifle, put it in its case, which is required when leaving the woods after legal shooting time in Canada, and quickly headed to my truck to go get Hermann. He was as happy as I was about the news and he had already put the ATV on the back of his pickup; and we headed back to get my bear. Once again I watched Hermann’s skill with the Outdoor Edge cutlery(Kodi-Pak) I had given him years ago. But the fun really began when we had to drag the bear about 20 yards over a number of brush piles and stumps to the ATV. Two old men pulling on a bear would have made a great photo, but we got it there and loaded on the back of the ATV. And yes, it was still raining and windy; but I really did not care. This was another great hunt with some very special old and new friends; and I have to rate it as my most memorable bear hunt. If you would like to see more photos of the bear you can go to,
              Cedar deodorant        
    The Ohm Collection. 100% natural deodorant that really works! Works up to 24-hours. Free from aluminium and chemicals. If you suffer from excessive perspiration and body odor The Ohm Collection recommends this deodorant for you because of its powerful deodorizing essential oil (cedrus atlantica). Cedarwood has a woody fragrance. Vegan and cruelty free. One deodorant supplies for up to 6 months. Unisex, suitable for both women and men.
              Sievä Hydrating Cleansig Cream 150ml        
    Mia Höytö Cosmetics. Cleansing lotion made of rosehip oil, lingonberry seed oil, sea buckthorn seed oil and blackcurrant seed oil. Clarifies and purifies your skin.
              Lempeä Uni Oil Serum 30ml        
    Mia Höytö Cosmetics. Moisturizing oil serum that smoothes and soothes your skin. Made of organic seed oils and contains lot of A, B, C and E vitamins. Makes your skin glow.
              Organic olive soap lavender        
    Rimita Green. Organic virgin olive oil soap with lavender scent. Good for dry, thin, sensitive or atopic skin. Can be used for babies and children.
              RimitaPrima organic olive soap        
    Rimita Green. Organic virgin olive oil soap with eucalyptus scent. Good for dry, thin, sensitive or atopic skin. Can be used for babies and children.
              La Reine Soleil Soft Perfume        
    Sabé Masson. Soft Perfume stick Le Reine Soil : A sophisticated floral bouquet. Top notes: lemon, bergamot. Heart notes: honey, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, violet. Base notes: vanilla, musk, patchouli, amber. Includes tamanu oil and mango butter that are great ingredients for skin weakened. A rich and round form, perfect and complete. Dew paste comprising fine nacres. La Reine Soleil: “Devastating, sulphurous, solar and hectic, the garden breathing, listening to her light step. She wears her perfume in a laugh and men are silent.”
              Eu Vent du Vous Soft Perfume        
    Sabé Masson. Soft Perfume stick Eu Vent du Vous : A rich and mysterious amber. Top notes: neroli, bergamot. Heart notes: tuberose, clary sage, nutmeg.Base notes: cedar, cistus, vanilla, amber, labdanum, musk. Moisturizing and softening, tiare oil is extracted from its emblematic flower of Tahiti. A tender and light formula on the skin, perfect to rehydrate, soothe. Dough slightly orange. Eu Vent du Vous Soft Perfume: “Sometimes we are left as perfume, unique eloquent traces of a splendid and decisive encounter.”
              Pumpuli Nourishing Hand Cream 50ml        
    Mia Höytö Cosmetics. Nourishing hand cream with argan oil, almond oil and other moisturising oils. Perfect also for your nails, elbows and foots. 
    Let yourself be enchanted by picturesque villages and breathtaking landscapes in a far eastern fantasy world. But unfortunately a shadow has been cast over this land: The influence of the Metin Stones has brought about fear, turmoil and war. Raise your sword and take charge of your destiny.
              Post-storm Northerly Island update        
    BirdsStorm damage Northerly Island

    Storm debris, broken fence, closed path, and erosion under the east trail at Northerly Island. 

    Northerly Island, the Museum Campus park that occupies the peninsula where small planes once took off from Meigs Field, was re-opened last fall after a two-year, $9.7 million renovation project. I wrote a review of it at the time. One of my concerns that I wrote about was a last-minute modification to the plans: due to storm damage that occurred during the construction, a large wall of rip-rap was added to the lakeshore in an attempt to protect the park from future storm damage. While perhaps important from a structural perspective, the wall had the unfortunate effect of blocking off visitors' views of the lake as they enjoyed the wide path around the newly constructed lagoon. 

    A major storm system passed through Chicago on December 28, bringing with it howling east winds, which in turn created huge waves that pounded the lakeshore. Lake Shore Drive flooded and much of the lakefront bike path was closed. Two days later, it was announced that the east (lakeside) trail at Northerly Island would be closed for the remainder of the winter, because "high wave events have been eroding the trail and is [sic] tossing rocks along the trail." Curious, I headed over there to take some photos and see the damage for myself. I was especially interested to see if the rip-rap wall succeeded in limiting damage to the areas it was built to protect and to see how much disturbance there was to the fragile vegetation. While the damage to the trail and vegetation was less in areas where the rip-rap wall was, even that couldn't fully contain the enormous waves, which knocked down a long stretch of adjacent fence. 


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    With the Chicago skyline in the background, you can see the rocks and gravel strewn about the recently planted grasslands. The trail is also covered with debris. This area was not protected by the wall of rip-rap along the shore. 


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    This area has been planted with native grasses during the renovations, but all that was covered by gravel and stone in the storms. 


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    A view of the east trail looking south, where it is covered in stones, gravel, and storm debris. The fence is damaged in places as well.


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    Storm debris, broken fence, closed path, and erosion under the east trail at Northerly Island. 


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    Water washing over the rip-rap wall knocked down the path-enclosing fence in some places.


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    This photo shows the knocked-down fence and extensive erosion under the trail on the east side of the lagoon. The soil underneath the path was already eroding quite severely before the storms; the park district had put down the rocks seen here to try to prevent further erosion. It didn't work in the face of the big storms that passed through on December 28. 


    Storm damage Northerly Island
    The fence was knocked down and sand and rocks covered the recently planted vegetation along parts of the east side of the lagoon.


    Storm damage Northerly Island map

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              Oil Trading Group ***Updated Review***        

    Oil Trading Group…6 months later. This past December, 2014, I posted a very positive review of The Oil Trading Group. You can read the original review by clicking here. What is the Oil Trading Group? The Oil Trading Group is a live day trading room, owned and moderated by Jason Love. Since my last review, The Oil Trading Group has grown a bit. There is now has a full time assistant named Dave Hamman. Dave’s job is to handle subscribers, answer technical questions, help subscribers set up their trading platforms correctly, take sales calls, basically Dave Hamman allows Jason Love to

    The post Oil Trading Group ***Updated Review*** appeared first on Trading Schools.Org.

              Westinghouse Completes Acquisition; Accelerates Energy Market Opportunities        

    Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, as a Toshiba group company, today announced it has completed its acquisition of Mangiarotti S.p.A., an Italy-based manufacturer of components for the nuclear, oil and gas industries.

    (PRWeb September 23, 2014)

    Read the full story at

              Westinghouse Acquisition to Expand Nuclear, Oil and Gas Business        

    Westinghouse Electric Company LLC today announced its intent to purchase 100 percent ownership of Mangiarotti S.p.A., an Italy-based manufacturer of components for the nuclear, oil and gas industries.

    (PRWeb July 02, 2014)

    Read the full story at

              Enormous exoplanet has an atmosphere hot enough to boil iron        
    A planet nearly double the size of Jupiter and 900 light years away has a glowing stratosphere and an atmosphere hot enough that iron there exists as a vapour
              Quantum gravity detector will use atom clouds to survey for oil        
    A commercial device that uses quantum technology to detect subtle differences in gravity, should be able to detect coal, oil or pipes underground
              Hand Therapy Using Hand Bath        
    Special Recommend information on A H1N1 (swine flu)
    As it is known to all, currently we human being are all faced with a big enemy-A/H1N1 flu (swine flu) which has been threatening our life. Now the situation is worsening. As health and medical to AH1N1organ, we shoulder more responsibility to handle outbreak of this emergency.

    In TCM, A/H1N1 belongs to epidemic febrile disease of TCM which is the same as human avian influenza and SARS and similar to A/H1N1 flu syndrome differentiation and treatment of TCM prevention and cure. It is advocated “dispelling wind, reducing fever and dissipating dampness in clinical.

    TCM center will provide latest Special Report Globally on the A/H1N1 flu; and you still can find the Symptoms and Prevention about A/H1N1 flu ; further more, TCM prevention for swine flu provides latest global news; Chinese medicine prevention for A/H1N1 flu ; Chinese herbal medicine and so on.

    Hand bath is a steaming and washing therapy. The hot steam from an herbal decoction is used to heat the hands which are then soaked in the warm decoction after it gradually cools down. Diseases can be cured by the hot stimulation applied to the meridians and acupoints of the hand and by the gradual absorption of herbs through the skin.

    1. Origin and classification of steaming and washing therapy:

    Steaming and washing therapy originated in ancient times. Among 52 ancient herbal therapy recipes unearthed from the Han Dynasty Mawangdui Tomb, eight were used for steaming and washing therapy. This indicates that steaming and washing therapy has been used by Chinese people to treat diseases for at least 2,000 years. This therapy is also mentioned in classical medical books of the Han (206 B. C.-220) and Jin (265-420) dynasties. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), this method was used to treat carbuncles, cellulitis, skin rashes, dermatitis, frostbite, hand and foot diseases, and gynecological and eye disorders. In the Kin (1115-1234) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties this method was classified as an essential medical therapy. In the Qing Dynasty ( 1644-1911 ), Wu Shangxian, a famous physician of traditional Chinese medicine, divided this therapy into smoking, steaming, shower, sitz bath, and hot ironing. It is a folk treatment used by common people to treat acute sprains, bone injuries, and contusions with a good therapeutic results.
    Steaming and washing therapy can be classified as general and local. Local treatment includes steaming and washing therapy for the hand, foot, and eye, and sitz baths. Hand bath is steaming and washing therapy for the hand.

    2. Function and characteristics of hand bath:

    As demonstrated by the experiments of modern medicine. steaming and washing therapy with hot and moist air can promote the absorption of herbs through the skin, dilate the skin's small blood vessels, promote the circulation of blood and lymph, enhance the phagocytic functions of the reticuloendothelial system, increase the permeability of cellular membranes, and promote metabolism by stimulating the sensitive sensory nerves scattered along the skin. The effective components of herbs used in steaming and washing therapy can directly kill the pathogenic germs on the skin. According to the theory of traditional medicine, the meridians of the hand are closely related to the organs and meridians of the entire body. Therefore, this therapy can clear stagnation in meridians, adjust bodily deficiency and excess, and promote circulation of qi and blood.
    The hand bath is simple, cheap, and easy to learn and practice, with numerous indications and good therapeutic effects, and without any harmful side effects. It is most useful for patients proscribed from taking drugs.

    3. Methods of manipulation:

    1) The proper recipe is selected according to the diseases and the basin, towel and sheets are prepared in use.
    2) The hot decoction of herbs is poured into the basin and the hands and arms are put over the basin. Cover the arms and basin with a sheet to reserve the hot air from quickly escaping away. Some boiled water may be added to the basin to maintain the temperature. After the decoction is cooled down to an adequate temperature, the hands may be soaked and washed in the decoction.
    3) After steaming and bathing, the hands should be dried with a towel and protected from attack of wind and coldness.
    4) The steaming and washing therapy may last for 20-30 minutes, twice a day.

    4. Precautions:

    I) The water used to boil the herbs should be adequate to prepare a decoction of the proper concentration. Aromatic and volatile herbs should be boiled for only 10-15 minutes; and roots, stems and herbs in large clumps should be boiled for 30
    2) The temperature of the decoction for bathing and soaking the hands should be monitored to avoid burning the skin.
    3) These decoctions are not for oral administration.

    More information from TCM and health: Hand Therapy Using Hand Bath
              Can programming be liberated from function abstraction?        

    When you start working in the programming language theory business, you'll soon find out that lambda abstraction and functions break many nice ideas or, at least, make your life very hard. For example, type inference is easy if you only have var x = ..., but it gets hard once you want to infer type of x in something like fun x -> ... because we do not know what is assigned to x. Distributed programming is another example - sending around data is easy, but once you start sending around function values, things become hard.

    Every programming language researcher soon learns this trick. When someone tells you about a nice idea, you reply "Interesting... but how does this interact with lambda abstraction?" and the other person replies "Whoa, hmm, let me think more about this." Then they go back and either give up, because it does not work, or produce something that works, in theory, well with lambda abstraction, but is otherwise quite unusable.

    When working on The Gamma project and the little scripting language it runs, I recently went through a similar thinking process. Instead of letting lambda abstraction spoil the party again, I think we need to think about different ways of code reuse.

              Normal system resumes...        

    I'm always very pleased to be able to earn a little extra money but I'm also so grateful to return to my lovely 'retired' life.  Because of being a poll clerk at the general election I had to do the food shopping on Friday instead of last Thursday. There were several errands to run in town and of course there was the school run. I still found time to visit the 3:16 charity shop though, and picked up this little lacy cardigan in the 1.00 basket. The last time I had a rummage in the 1.00 box here I found a Ted Baker skirt and top for my daughter!

    Everything is charity shopped except the shoes - local retail outlet.  The patterned tunic is from Debenhams and is a stalwart of my summer wardrobe since I bought it about four years ago.
    Photos courtesy of youngest grandson.
    I  recently bought the blue necklace in the Red Cross shop and the white jeans. I've had the earrings for many years; the silver and turquoise cuff was bought for 2.50 in the RSPCA shop in Bedford.

    In the 3:16 shop I also bought 3 colourful (pink, blue and yellow) painted bangles for 50p each and a nice Marcasite brooch for 1.00. I wore it on this jacket when I was running my errands but it was too warm on Friday really for a jacket.

    Saturday was a lovely day with a clear blue sky, very warm and a good breeze. I had a leisurely stroll around town to do more errands and spent the afternoon in the garden reading and sewing the ends of the blanket in.

    All jewellery charity shopped. I'm wearing two of the bangles I bought on Friday.

    Everything charity shopped. The tunic is by H&M and was a 1.00 rail bargain somewhere; the white lace top the same and I can't remember where I bought the harem pants from but it was a charity shop. I have a similar pair I bought from Bedford market years ago for £5.00 but with a different pattern and set of colours.

    The  gold sequinned shoes were brand new and picked up at Barnardo's in Great Denham for 99p!

    I spent the rest of the afternoon at my best friend Ann's house. We hadn't seen each other since the 60th birthday party in March and it was good to catch up. We're going to have a day out together next Thursday. Ann is a carer for her husband who had a stroke 18 months ago and it will be a good break for her.

    I had just washed my hair and it wasn't quite dry. When it is dry I use Argan oil on it which gives it a shine...

    On Sunday I went out early for a walk and walked 7 miles. I came back and did the usual Sunday housework and cooked Sunday dinner.

    Necklace present from OH; earrings, Bedford market and all other jewellery charity shopped.

    Everything is charity shopped. The top was from a 1.00 rail at the Red Cross; the grey embroidered skirt from Barnardo's in Ampthill - it's by The White Stuff and was 2.99; the gold slip on shoes were 99p at Barnardo's in Great Denham.

    On Monday I volunteered at the Red Cross. I rescued a Monsoon pleated skirt from the rag bag...

    On Tuesday I was at the Guild House in the morning and did an extra shift in the afternoon at the Red Cross. I'm going to be in Ireland for two months so felt I should offer to do extra to make up for my long absence...

    I was on my feet from ten in the morning until nearly five so I was in need of a good sit down when I got home! I wore my floral trousers bought from Age UK in Stevenage; blue t shirt charity shopped somewhere a few years ago; cardigan from La Redoute sale about six years ago. It was the very first thing I ever bought at La Redoute.
    I must have been looking at a bird...

    Pink Mary Jane's charity shopped.

              Homemade baked kale chips yummy!        
    Beyond easy too! You take two bunches of kale , pulling the pieces off the stalk and breaking them into bite size pieces, preheat oven to 350 or 175 celcius, and on a cookie sheet with parchment paper lay the clean dried kale pieces, and drizzle 1/2-1 tablespoon oil over them and sprinkle on salt bake 10-12 minutes until light brown and crispy
    Delicious best served warm
              A Sweeter Hops        

    Federal scientists have bred a new, antimicrobial-rich hops variety for tea

    Food for Thought

    Brewers prize hops for the characteristic bitter flavors they impart to ales, lagers, and other beers. But aficionados of another class of brews—certain herbal teas—would prefer their hops bitterfree. And federal scientists may have come up with just what the doctor ordered.

    "People have used hops medicinally for a long time. It's a fairly ancient remedy," notes plant physiologist Barbara M. Reed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Corvallis, Ore.

    The bitter tonic made from hops has putative sedative, hypnotic, and antianxiety properties. Hops tea has been offered as a folk remedy for conditions ranging from fever and insomnia to bruises and cancer, according to a report by botanist James A. Duke, who has authored several books on medicinal plants. A quick browse on the Internet will turn up numerous sources of hop tea.

    The new cultivar, named Teamaker, may produce an especially palatable brew owing to a unique ratio of certain acid components. Moreover, the components that predominate in Teamaker have long-established antimicrobial properties. Indeed, their germ-fighting function appears to have won the appreciation of brewers more than a millennium ago, notes John A. Henning, who leads hop genetics and breeding at a USDA research center, also in Corvallis. Beer producers realized that when their recipe included hops, brews not only proved tasty, but had a longer shelf life.

    Hops breeder Alfred Haunold and his colleagues at the Corvallis center will formally register their debittered cultivar this month.

    What brewers of all stripes refer to as hops are actually the cone-shaped dried female flowers of the Humulus lupulus L. plant. Inside are glands that contain flavorful oils and some fairly bitter water-soluble components.

    To extract the flavorings for use in beer, or merely to make a cup of tea, brewers boil the cones to release their characteristic flavorings. However, the altered chemistry of USDA's new hop has dramatically boosted the production of flavorings possessing natural, antibiotic properties.

    In fact, the elevated antibiotic attributes of the new hop might open new markets for this crop, observes Henning. For instance, sugar producers might turn to it as a preservative to prevent microbial degradation of their product during processing. Alternatively, he notes, manufacturers and others may substitute it for the formaldehyde used to control pests and fungal growth in everything from animal feed and plywood to tissues that are being stored for use in research.

    Alpha vs. beta

    The key flavor compounds in hops trace to two families of chemicals: water-soluble alpha acids, and beta acids that develop in the plants' essential oils. Breweries prize the alpha acids for their hearty, if bitter, taste: These serve as a natural foil to the sweet compounds that develop in many beers. Indeed, some brewers just buy isolated hop-derived alpha acids and dispense with the beta acids entirely.

    The new Teamaker hop derives from experiments several decades ago when Haunold wanted to see the extent to which he could preferentially maximize a plant's production of alpha or beta acids. One successful beta-rich cultivar proved virtually devoid of alpha acids. A technician who tasted it jokingly said the bitterfree product would be great for tea—eventually giving rise to its name.

    In the January Journal of Plant Registrations, Henning, Haunold, and their coauthors describe Teamaker's pedigree—at least as much as is known. Most of its initial ancestors appear to have come from old English lines, such as cultivars known as Fuggle and Late Grape. However, Henning points out, because these lines are rich in alpha acids, there must have also been beta-rich ancestors. He now suspects that these were probably wild U.S. hops that pollinated their English cousins growing openly in Oregon fields, early in the last century.

    Currently, U.S. farmers produce some 55 million pounds of hops annually. Since the big market for hops has always been beer, the alpha acids-shy Teamaker languished in a few test plots for decades. A beer company or two checked the variety out, but ultimately exhibited no commercial interest.

    Recently, however, interest in beta acids—and their antimicrobial prowess—has been growing, independent of hops' use in beer. For instance, European sugar refiners have begun buying beta-acid extracts—essentially leftovers from alpha-acid production for breweries—as a bitterfree, all-natural preservative for use during manufacturing. At the same time, some feed suppliers have begun substituting beta acids for low-dose antibiotics as a livestock growth-promoting dietary additive. Feed producers couldn't use conventional hops directly, Henning notes, because the alpha acids' bitter taste would have soured the animals' interest in their chow.

    However, with Teamaker, the hop is essentially alpha acids-free: It certainly has the lowest quantity of alpha acids of any commercially available hop.

    Teamaker is available to breeders through the National Clonal Germplasm Repository—essentially a federal library with holdings that include more than 510 different hops. Some are wild natives collected throughout the United States. Others are cultivated varieties collected from throughout the world.

    But if the idea of bitterfree hops appeals, Henning says, stay tuned. In a year or two his group expects to announce a new and improved variety. Think of it, he says, as bitter-Terminator 2.

    If you would like to comment on this Food for Thought, please see the blog version.


    John A. Henning

    Forage Seed and Cereal Research

    U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Agricultural Research Service

    3450 SW Campus Way

    Corvallis, OR 97331

    Barbara M. Reed

    National Clonal Germplasm Repository

    U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Agricultural Research Service

    33447 Peoria Road

    Corvallis, OR 97333-2521
    Further Reading

    Carter, P.R., et al. 1990. Hop cultivation and use information. In Alternative Field Crops Manual. University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service. Available at [Go to].

    DeNoma, J.S. 2000. Background information on Hops. USDA ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository. Available at [Go to].

    Duke, J.A. 1983. Humulus lupulus L. In Handbook of Energy Crops . Available at [Go to].

              It's Spud Time        

    The United Nations wants more people to appreciate the potato's potential to fight world hunger

    Food for Thought

    As 2007 winds down, thoughts naturally turn towards what might lie ahead. Meals rich in high-carb tubers, perhaps? That's what the United Nations would like everyone to contemplate throughout 2008, which it is designating the International Year of the Potato.

    Farmers now harvest more than 300 million tons of potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) worldwide. That makes it the fourth biggest food crop, trailing only corn, wheat, and rice.

    For 8,000 years, the humble potato has been a staple in the South American Andes, its homeland. Spanish adventurers encountered the New World crop roughly 500 years ago and brought various types back to Europe. Today, potatoes are cultivated not only throughout the Americas, but also from China's uplands to India's subtropical lowlands—even on Ukraine's arid steppes.

    A testament to the potato's Western roots, production of this crop in the States and southward leads the world. Fully 40 percent of the 2006 potato harvest came from North America, with Latin American farmers contributing another 16 percent.

    However, appreciation for this nutritious starch within developing countries outside of the Americas—especially in Asia—has been growing steadily, with production of the crop in those regions climbing some 5 percent annually. Indeed, 2005 marked the first time in recent history that production of potatoes in the developing world exceeded that in developed nations.

    Although most people think of potatoes as a commodity, in fact, more potatoes are processed to make fast foods, snacks, and convenience items than are sold fresh in the market place. Today, China is the leading producer of spuds, followed by the Russian states and India. International trade in potatoes—worth $6 billion annually—has also been growing within developing nations.

    You might then ask why, with all of this pre-existing global interest in potatoes, the UN feels compelled to devote a year of workshops, research contests, and other focused attention on this one particular food. And the reason, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization argues, is that much of the spud's potential to feed the poor remains untapped.

    For instance, although Asians eat nearly half of the world's potatoes, per capita consumption even in Asia remains modest—just 25 kilograms per year, or roughly 45 percent of U.S. consumption and just 27 percent of what's typical in Europe.

    Even were potatoes to win greater respect for their nutritional attributes and ability to serve as industrial feedstocks, they couldn't necessarily make a big contribution in new regions of the world without significantly more research. The tubers are vulnerable to a host of major diseases—like the one that set off Ireland's 1845 potato famine. Some varieties of potato are especially resistant to particular diseases, but may not grow well in new regions of the world or taste that yummy.

    That's where potato scientists come in. They can identify the climate, soil types, day length, and native diseases with which any new potato crop would have to contend. Then they'll cross lines of wild or cultivated spuds to develop ones with traits that will allow them to thrive outside the Americas. The good news, the UN program notes: "The potato has the richest genetic diversity of any cultivated plant." So there's plenty of potential to tailor a new cultivar to meet the needs of farmers in most places on the globe.

    But the potato's biggest advantage, according to the International Potato Center, based in Lima, Peru, is that it yields more food, more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than any other major crop. Up to 85 percent of the plant is edible, compared to only about 50 percent for cereal grains. Moreover, the Center notes, potatoes "are ideally suited to places where land is limited and labor is abundant—conditions in much of the developing world."

    To help get this word out to agricultural agencies in parts of the world not already turned on to spuds, and from them to farmers, the International Potato Center will be sponsoring a March 2008 meeting: Potato Science for the Poor–Challenges for the New Millennium ( Those who attend will have the opportunity to explore the possibility of cooperating to fine tune existing potatoes into higher-yielding varieties.

    The International Potato Center's gene bank safeguards the largest biodiversity of potatoes—7,500 different varieties, of which 1,950 are not cultivated. Research on spuds, especially studies aimed at fostering food security and the alleviation of poverty, have become a focus for the center.

    With all of this talk of potatoes, are you hungry yet? The UN program has so far identified 172,000 web pages containing recipes for using potatoes. Stay tuned, it says: "We will gather the best of them" and share them on the Year of the Potato website.

    If you would like to comment on this Food for Thought, please see the blog version.


    International Year of Potato (IYP) Secretariat

    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

    Room C-776

    Viale delle Terme di Caracalla

    00153 Rome


    International Potato Center

    Apartado Postal 1558

    Lima 12,

    Further Reading

    Gorman, J. 2000. Novel sensing system catches the dud spud. Science News 158(Nov. 25):341. Available at [Go to].

    C. Graves, Ed. 2001. The Potato, Treasure of the Andes: From Agriculture to Culture. Lima, Peru: International Potato Center (208 pp). Available at [Go to].

    Raloff, J. 2005. Food colorings: Pigments make fruits and veggies extra healthful. Science News 167(Jan. 8):27. Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2004. How carbs can make burgers safer. Science News Online (Dec. 4). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2004. Coming soon—Spud lite. Science News Online (June 19). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2003. How olives might enhance potatoes—and strawberries. Science News Online (May 24). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2002. Acrylamide—From spuds to gingerbread. Science News Online (Dec. 14). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 1998. Taters for tots provide an edible vaccine. Science News 153(March 7):149. Available at [Go to]

              Cleaning Up after Livestock        

    Food for Thought

    As any pet owner knows, the more food that goes into an animal's mouth, the more wastes that eventually spew out the other end. The bigger the animal, the bigger its appetite. So imagine the volumes of manure—often tainted with germs—that farmers must manage for even a small feedlot with perhaps 3,500 head of cattle.

    Ordinarily, beef producers house their animals in pens—some the size of football fields or larger. They're designed to leave each animal about 80 square feet of space. Cattle wastes just fall to the ground and collect—often for a month or more—before feedlot crews periodically scrape away the muck. After composting, the dried manure will be applied to fields as a rich fertilizer.

    The real problem develops when it rains. Then, a manure-rich, watery slurry can drain off the fields. Conventionally, feedlot managers would divert this liquid into huge, smelly ponds or lagoons—some 10-feet deep or more, explains Bryan L. Woodbury, an agricultural engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Nebraska.

    His team has been developing a literally greener alternative to pond storage for manure-laced runoff from feedlot pens. The new system directs that runoff into a foot-deep drainage basin. Leading out of it are a series of narrow pipes. Because the interior diameters of these pipes are small, rain-deposited wastes temporarily back-up in this glorified drainage ditch. It typically takes hours for all of the liquids to fully drain out through the pipes. While they wait, solids in the rain-manure slurry tend to settle out as sediments that will accumulate on the basin's bottom.

    Exiting liquids, meanwhile, flow gently into a mildly sloping field of grass, where the animal wastes will fertilize the plants' growth. At the end of the season, farmers harvest that grass as hay, bale it, and then feed it back to the herd.

    For much of the past decade, Woodbury's team has tinkered with the system's design to optimize gravity's removal of solids from the initial rain-manure slurry and the pace at which fertilizing water enters the hayfield. In terms of those features, the system appears ready for prime time—at least in the Midwest, Woodbury says.

    However, what hadn't been evaluated was the fate of germs that were shed by cattle along with those wastes. If the brief holding of the manure-water slurry and its subsequent release into fields promoted the growth of disease-causing microorganisms, those germs might eventually find their way into plants (see Not Just Hitchhikers). That would risk re-exposing animals that later dined on the tainted hay.

    A new investigation now indicates that although the raw manure often hosts germs, most of the nasty microbes hitchhiking in it appear to settle out along with sediments in the initial holding basin. Bugs that remain suspended in the water long enough to travel on to the fields don't appear to survive there long, Woodbury and his colleagues report in the Nov. 1 Journal of Environmental Quality.

    Indeed, the researchers note, while their new data "indicate that there is some risk for hay contamination, it appears to be low." For instance, on one day that hay was cut—two weeks after a major rainfall that shunted diluted manure into the field—only four of 10 tested soil samples hosted Escherichia coli O157.

    Yet only one of the 30 samples of loose hay that was cut that day from parts of the field that had received manure-fertilized rainwater tested positive for that E. coli strain. Microbiologists also failed to later detect that E. coli O157 in hay following its baling and storage.

    That's encouraging news because this bacterium has a long track record of causing disease. It was, for instance, responsible for the major food poisonings associated with tainted spinach in September 2006—an outbreak that sickened more than 200 people, killing five. These microbes can set up housekeeping in the bovine gut, causing no harm to the animal. However, germs shed in the cow's feces can infect people or crops that contact it.

    The Nebraska researchers also probed for evidence of Campylobacter, another bacterium shed by cattle that can provoke gut-wrenching illness. And although three of 10 field-soil samples tested positive after one major rain, none did 2 weeks later. The germ also failed to show up in loose or baled hay.

    Similarly, even though the test herd of 750 cattle had been periodically shedding large quantities of Cryptosporidium and Giardia—two common parasites responsible for substantial human disease, especially in persons with weakened immune systems—biologists found none of these microbes in field soil, much less the hay that had been grown on it.

    Woodbury and his colleagues conclude that their vegetative filtering of manure washed off of feedlots is effective in dramatically sequestering and ultimately removing several of the major families of microbes responsible for human, food-related illness.

    What they don't yet know is whether there will be significant rainfall constraints to their system's efficacy. Will arid regions benefit from it? Will very wet areas send so much fertilizer to hayfields that they burn the grass? "That's what we're in the process of testing right now," Woodbury says. "The jury's still out."

    Other advantages

    Earlier tests showed that the short-term basin storage of wastes upstream of the hayfield removes about half of the nitrogen in manure and almost all of the phosphorus, Woodbury says. That's important because one of the primary problems associated with fertilization of farm fields has been their release during rains of any unused nitrogen and fertilizer into streams.

    Eventually, the fertilizing effects of these nutrients in surface waters can fuel the growth of algae that ultimately suck most of the oxygen out of large patches of coastal waters, creating what are colloquially termed dead zones (see Limiting Dead Zones).

    The new waste-sanitizing system's basin also removes most of the solid material suspended in the rain-manure slurry. This means that about once a year, people must excavate the buildup from the basin. However, what they remove is no longer a waste, but yet another fertilizing amendment for farm fields.

    Oh, and Woodbury points to another potential advantage of his team's new system—something that he refers to as the "white picket fence effect." When people see a picket fence out front, they focus on that pleasant feature, and not every detrimental facet of a house or yard. Well, nobody views a big, smelly lagoon filled with bovine fecal material as the farm equivalent of a white picket fence, he says. A hayfield, on the other hand: That's almost Norman Rockwell Americana.

    If you would like to comment on this Food for Thought, please see the blog version.


    Bryan L. Woodbury

    Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center

    Agricultural Research Service

    U.S. Department of Agriculture

    P.O. Box 166, Spur 18D

    Clay Center, NE 68933-0166
    Further Reading

    Milius, S. 2007. Not just hitchhikers. Science News 172(Oct. 20):250-252. Available at [Go to].

    Raloff, J. 2006. Protozoa aid food-poisoning germs. Science News Online (March 18). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2004. Limiting dead zones. Science News 165(June 12):378-380. Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2004. Marsh farming for profit and the common good. Science News Online (May 15). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2001. Retail meats host drug-resistant bacteria. Science News 160(Oct. 20):246. Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2001. Germ-fighting germs. Science News Online (Aug. 18). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 2001. Antibiotic resistance is coming to dinner. Science News 159(May 26):325. Available to subscribers at [Go to].

    ______. 2000. Sickening food. Science News Online (Jan. 1). Available at [Go to].

    ______. 1999. Food poisoning: Sprouts linked to bouts. Science News 155(Jan. 23):63. Available at [Go to].

    ______. 1998. Hay! What a way to fight E. coli. Science News Online (Sept. 19). Available at [Go to].

    Seppa, N. 2000. Venison can contain E. coli bacteria. Science News (Aug. 5):95. Available to subscribers at [Go to].

              LA Art Show 2017 PhotoJournal Interview with Chinese Artist, Si Bowen by Ginger Van Hook        
    Chinese Artist from Beijing exhibits painterly expressions of time through space.
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook©2017

    On the Opening Night of the LA Art Show 2017, the first artist to capture my eye with his painting was Si Bowen. This was not easy to do as I was carried away by the crowd at the entrance and was led through a throng of art lovers all but covering the paintings and artworks with their own presence of appreciation. The fact that we are about a week from the inauguration of a new President, it seemed fit to come across a painter with an outside perspective of our election process. Si Bowen, an artist born in Beijing, China who studied art not only in Beijing, but in France and New York, described to me that his rendering of the television debate versions of Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton were painted to describe the passage of time. Viewed as duplicate and triplicate images of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton side by side on their podiums with hand gestures superimposed one over the other, yielded an out of focus picture of the debate postures from last year. That the image captured my eye because it looked politically vaguely amusing or satirical yet timely or that it expressed a unique and clever perspective was something that made me stop and want to meet the artist. The American People might agree that our process is somewhat murky when we transition from one administration to another, so the artist Si Bowen, might have captured in his painting, the unclarity of our union in mid-gesture. Nonetheless, his portfolio of non-political images was of even further interest as one of his favorites was the wonderful painterly expression and focus on his grandmother's hand. Si Bowen stated that he had studied in France as well as spent time in the arts in New York and that he started drawing at the age of three. When his father observed his talents, he enrolled him in the art schools at an early age. Some of the works that Si Bowen showed me in his catalogue were even more spiritually related than just his exploration of time and space and matters of death and spirituality. 

    Si Bowen is a multi-diciplinary artist creating works in sculpture, oil paint, and installation works. Si Bowen is represented by the LIAHONA ART SPACE representing the strong forces of young Chinese artists.

    PhotoJournal by 
    Ginger Van Hook, Photographer, Writer, Curator, Artist
    Van Hook Fine Arts, Beacon Arts Building Studio 1D
    808 N. La Brea Inglewood
    Los Angeles, California

              Inglewood Community Garden Thrives with Art, Culture & Music!        
    Inglewood, California  Written by Ginger Van Hook May 20, 2010
            Inglewood Community Garden is a dream students at Morningside High School have realized today with the help of Inglewood City Council member, Ralph L. Franklin of District 4, Teachers and Mentors, Miss Roshondra Woods, World History Teacher, Mr. Shawn Stanton at Morningside High School with Mr. D'Artagnan Scorza, Director at The Social Justice Learning Institute, and Mr. Sirls, the Principal of Morningside High School. Photography Ginger Van Hook, 2010
    For some of the students, it was hard to believe that these beautiful green corn leaves had come from all this dirt and gravel, but the miracle on Yukon and 107th Street in Inglewood was in full bloom. A student by the name of Jazz told the audience that she has been disheartened at first to see that this was a big empty lot with what seemed endless rocks. Then the students started clearing the land and putting their hearts and souls into the earth and the soil responded to their efforts to grow everything from tomatoes to chilies, jalapenos, lettuce, squash as well as herbs like parsley and oregano too.

    'Jazz' told us about the transformation of the garden and the friendships that she had made. She explained how there was a new community where before there had been an empty space. The audience cheered for the success of the students and there was a heightened sense of community achievement in the air. There was a slight breeze coming from the ocean that brushed the leaves of the  tomatoes and the peppers ever so slightly. The sun beat down upon the earth and music filled the air. Musicians played the guitar and percussion rhythms with their hands and their bodies moved to the beat. Guests were invited to take a water bottle from the center of the garden and in ceremonious ritual to bless the land with the names of their ancestors. I watered a patch of tomatoes and recalled my grandparents in the past. It was hard to remain objective. I was involved. I was now a part of this new blessing upon the community.  I was no longer a reporter, witnessing for the writing of a story, I was pulled into the land, the dirt, the rocky earth and right into the story, taken in by the aroma of fresh tomato leaves and the scent of strawberry flowers and consequently, the encouragement of artistic, poetic, talented new friends.

    D'Artagnan ScorzaDirector for The Social Justice Learning Institute 
    said his students are working on a Food Initiative

     Mr. Sirls, the Principal of Morningside High School, gave the students and supporters encouragement then went over to the wall and autographed his hand print in green.
    Mr. Sirl leaves his mark on the community garden wall.

    Janet Simmons read her poem that she wrote for the Inglewood Community Garden:

    I dedicate...
    I dedicate...
    my words,
    my voice,
    my sound,
    and my choice...
    of speech
    I speak of here.
    I dedicate...
    I dedicate...
    what I have seeked here
    throughout, without and within this garden
    I dedicate...
    I dedicate...
    my rough hands
    and my
    rock indented knees
    my wind tormented hair 
    the dirt infected breeze
    that flows through this garden
    like a stream of music through my ears
    When it comes down to it
    this would not mean as much
    without you, me, us
    I dedicate myself to you.

    There were cooking demonstrations and watermelon slices.

    The Los Angeles Times came to cover the event and I captured Glenn Koenig working in earnest covering the tree planting ceremony. This Photo is by Ginger Van Hook, but at least four or five reporters were on scene to witness this miracle transforming strangers into friends, and smiles turning lives into a tight knit community bonding over vegetables and issues of social justice, friendship and healthy meals...All good things going on in the City of Inglewood!

    Julie Prejean a Forestry Senior Manager for TREE PEOPLE 
    came to support the garden opening and to donate and help plant  a special tree. 
    She told her eager audience of new gardeners that they could choose its name.

    City Council Member Ralph L. Franklin praised the students, 
    teachers and supporters for taking the initiative and making it all happen, 
    and 'what a beautiful day it is for a planting ceremony!'

    USC reporter Christine Trang from the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism
    interviewed various participants and was preparing her report for

    Inglewood Artists and supporters, Ken Ober, Renee Fox and Ceres Madoo, Alumni Relations at Otis College of Art and Design came to support the Morningside High School Community Garden Opening Ceremonies. 
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook 2010.

    As an Inglewood Artist I was invited to attend this event, thanks to Ceres Madoo and when I arrived,  I did not know what to expect; but whatever it was to be, I knew this was a GREAT IDEA! As I milled about I got the opportunity to meet Mr. D'Artagnan Scorza who told me how the students from Morningside High School had gotten together to discuss civic engagement, how to show school spirit,  how to improve the community and how to better serve the needs of the school district.  The students themselves came up with the concept of a community garden, but at first, did not  have the means to make it happen. The original students were from Miss Roshondra's class and Mr. Shawn Stanton's class. A good idea took root then and there. One thing led to another and with the help of Inglewood City Council Member Ralph Franklin, their project got the encouragement and the support they needed right there from the school district's land.  
    This property belongs to the school so now the students are able to 
    develop a way to empower themselves to be a self sustaining community 
    with healthy nourishing meals for its students. 
    No better way to grow fine artists, fine students and fine citizens
    than to take the seeds and cultivate, 
    water frequently, daily, encourage with wisdom and respect for the land.
    The students have a great number of plans which includes a farmer's market, music, art and culinary culture events.

              The Art of Lovin' Animals --- Featured Group of Artists Inspired by Their Beloved Pets.        
    "Enilde And Our Children" Oil on Panel 42" x 60"
    Painting by Luke Van Hook, 2003
    Painting and Photograph copyright by Luke and Ginger E. Van Hook, 2004
    Courtesy of the Van Hook Collection

    The Art of Lovin' Animals
    Features a group of artists inspired,
    motivated or influenced by their beloved pets
    and appear in this blog in the following order:

    Joshua Elias, Simone Gad, Betty Glass, David Newsom,
    Monrovia Association of Fine Arts supporters
    (KidsArt Studio, PaintNPlay Art Studios, Tyson & Tillman Skate Dogs)
    Family Dog and Cat Hospital in Monrovia, California (displays animal artwork).
    Ginger Van Hook, Luke Van Hook,
    Alex in Welderland, Elena Wolek, and Zareh.

    Additionally as part of the "Art of Lovin' Animals"
    there is a special book and movie review of
    John Grogan's book "Marley and Me", and the recent hit movie
    starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson

    Written by Enilde G. Van Hook with special thanks to all participating artists!

    Do you remember your first pet? I do. I even have a picture of how much bigger my cats’ paws were than my two feet put together at the age of three. My mother, tells me I had a yellow duck, a small dog and a large yellow tabby cat that owned me as a child.
    These three pets were protective, possessive and they were my first companions as I ventured out, for the first time, into my wild back yard of dirt and weeds. I was born in Rosario Argentina and to me now as an adult, my backyard is still my world. I live in Los Angeles, California but the romance of the Argentinean Pampas is not lost on me. From the pictures of my past, I gathered that my Belgian Grandfather, Francisco, ran a plant nursery in Buenos Aires and that my father, Luis, grew up to be an inventor in America. But the most unique connection I have to my past is my relationship with animals. I’ve had a pet at almost every age as I grew up. The importance of this type of companionship has not been explored enough in the art world, at least, this is my opinion. This is the reason I am blogging about the subject of the art and inspiration of lovin’ pets. I hope to instigate discussion, if not compassion. I hope to motivate an artistic response to my thoughts as well. You may have a completely different experience, so I personally encourage you to post your comments after you read this entry.
    This is what I asked myself for the subject of the essay for Ginger's Art Journal. What is the relationship of animals and pets to the art world? How involved are animals throughout the art strata? How much inspiration is gathered from the love of a pet? Can that even be measured? Does the love of a pet inspire political causes? Activism? How does one explain the pangs of loneliness from the loss of a pet? Does the death of a pet make an artist create more art? Does the gift of a new life of a pet inspire hope and renewal in artists? How do artists express their love and affection for the four-legged critters of our earth? How do animals, pets, pet trees, pet rocks or pets of any kind affect the process of making art?
    There are a number of artists that I have followed for a period of time to investigate the questions that will make up this entry. Studying the work of a number of local artists from the Los Angeles and surrounding areas that work with pets in their art practice, I will present some of their unique stories with photos. The artists, in alphabetical order, include Joshua Elias, Simone Gad, Betty Glass, David Newsom, Ginger Van Hook and Luke Van Hook, Alexandra from Alex in Welderland, Lena Wolek and Zareh. Additionally, the art of lovin’ animals has made a seamless transition from the literary art into the film arts so I will discuss one of my favorite books by John Grogan named “Marley and Me” as it compares to its latest movie version of “Marley and Me” starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson which opened in December for Christmas Day.
    The method selected to choose these artists was random. I began my animal photographic study in 2006. Through my daily practice of studying the arts, I have come across people who were “in my back yard” and came to connect with me in a special way. I didn’t set out to write a story about animals. I merely went about my daily routine of photographing people and artwork that caught my “eye” because I was at the right place at the right time. Believing that the universe has a special plan for me, I allowed this story to evolve of its own volition. What I discovered both surprised me and opened me up. What I mean by this is that I was surprised to discover that artists who had pets had a great deal in common with other artists who had pets. Most people know and understand the history that reveals how the Egyptians revered cats and how the dog is considered “man’s best friend”. While it was common to have general conversations about how great it was to have pets and create pet portraits, I rarely came across artists that spoke to the deeper underlying significance in the arts about this specifically. While doing this research, I came across the most extreme case of worshiping our pets. The act of cloning has been in the news ever since the cloning of “Dolly” the sheep, but did you know that now there is a company that has launched itself into a commercial venture to clone man’s best friend? I discovered this and lots more so enjoy the new year in 2009 with a renewed commitment to your beloved pet. This is an ongoing story so don’t feel left out if your best friend isn’t included in this entry. I’m still reviewing artwork and pet portraits,
    feel free to send me an email about your animal story and I’ll include it in the followup stories!


    Fine Arts Painter

    Joshua Elias, Exhibition, DCA Fine Arts
    Santa Monica, California
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook, 2007
    Winston and Lucille read art literature on the couch and
    wait for Joshua Elias to become inspired to feed them.
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook, 2008
    Paintings by Joshua Elias
    Art in the making at the Brewery Artist Colony
    Los Angeles, California, 2008
    Studio visit by Ginger Van Hook
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook
    Artist brushes belonging to Joshua Elias
    The instruments by which Joshua Elias creates the canvas of weather and inspiration.
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook, 2008
    DCA Fine Arts Gallery, Joshua Elias with Mathew Heller and his girlfriend
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook 2007
    Joshua Elias, Exhibition at DCA Fine Arts Gallery
    Santa Monica, California
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook, 2007
    Joshua Elias with his cats Winston and Lucille
    in his studio at the Brewery Arts Complex in Los Angeles, California
    Photo copyright Ginger Van Hook, 2008

    Joshua Elias
    Artist Statement

    Art has become about large quantities of Resin, masquerading as Content. The focus has been on Process, confusing it with Content. Enough. I wish to focus on Content. Story and Vibration lead the way for me to paint.

    I work in oil because of the depth and movement that it allows for me, as a medium. I focus on Landscapes that are rearranged. Traveling spirits act as guides, to the movement of a particular painting. The influence of Moorish architecture and its many doorways offers and allows entryways into paintings.

    At present we are in a period of Time where there seems to be long standing fights over Space, Time Religion, Money, Ideology, and Relationships. Enough. The one thing we do all share is Weather. Through the action of Creating our own environment, our own personal Weather, the Repositioning of Weather can illuminate and allow for more Creation to happen, more of a Life Force to shine and to take shape.

    ï¿_ Joshua Elias

    Courtesy of the DCA website

    Fine Arts Painter, Collage Artist, Actor and Performer
    Simone Gad, Artist, Solo Show, L2Kontemporary Gallery
    February 2008 Chinatown, Los Angeles, California,
    Photograph by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2008

    Selfportrait with Max and Bella/Autoportrait avec Max et Bella
    Private collection, photo courtesy of Simone Gad, Artist, copyright 2005
    Gad/Rin-Tin-Tin Collection Long Beach Museum of Art
    Courtesy Simone Gad, Artist, copyright 2005

    Picture Holocaust Clowns - Pinups 127, Gad and Poodle
    Courtesy Simone Gad, Artist, copyright 2005

    Selfportrait with Cat and Jesus
    Private collection, Courtesy of Simone Gad, Artist, copyright 2005

    Hommage a Ma Mere 2005 Painting Collage
    Copyright and Collection- Simone Gad
    Courtesy Simone Gad-Artist
    Photograph by Antonio Garcia

    Autoportrait avec Kashmir, painting collage 2005/06
    Courtesy Simone Gad- Artist and L2Kontemporary Gallery
    Chinatown, Los Angeles, California. Copyright Simone Gad

    Portrait of Bella, the Brindle cat, acting secretary for Artist, Simone Gad
    Los Angeles, California, Artist studio visit
    Photograph by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2008

    Bella the Brindle Cat, (on the Marilyn and JFK Installation)
    Photo copyright and courtesy of
    Jesse Bonderman and Simone Gad,

    Bella, the Brindle Cat #2 (Marilyn Installation)
    Photo courtesy of Jessie Bonderman and Simone Gad

    Portrait of Simone Gad, Artist with companion, Bella.
    Los Angeles, California, Artist studio visit
    Photograph by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2008

    Portrait of Bella
    The Brindle cat, Artist assistant, model
    and loyal companion to Simone Gad.
    Los Angeles, California, Artist studio visit
    Photograph by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2008

    Max and Bella pose for pictures in the window of Simone Gad's artist studio
    Los Angeles, California
    Photograph by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2008

    Simone Gad poses with one of her paintings of Chinatown
    during her solo show at L2Kontemporary Gallery
    Chinatown, Los Angeles, California
    Photograph by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2008

    Enilde Van Hook writer's notes: I met Simone Gad at an exhibition of her work in Chinatown in the spring of 2008. The L2Kontemporary Gallery is a unique gallery located at 990 N. Hill Street #205 in Downtown Los Angeles (90012), California. I received an email from ArtScene, a wonderful source of local Art Events that is produced by the staff of Coagula Art Journal. Special thanks to Michael Salerno and Mat Gleason, because somewhere in the announcement, I read that Simone Gad was a Belgium-born artist and this led me to want to meet her to talk about the art in Belgium, where my grandfather had been born. Once I attended her exhibit and got a chance to meet Simone, I realized there was a distinct cultural connection we had through our reverence to the animals. She used images of her cats to make intriguing and poignant self-portraits and insightful photographic collages.
    I have followed Simone Gad’s work into 2009 and you will enjoy visiting her site through the L2Kontemporary Gallery located in Chinatown in Los Angeles: Follow these links to get to know a renaissance artist, a versatile film and TV actress, a woman of many talents and an artist who has a great deal of compassion to show for her animal friends: visit the online gallery site at to view her solo show at L2k for Feb 08 plus her updated resume which may be viewed at by writing in her name or by writing in Simone Gad’s name.
    Special thanks to the L2Kontemporary Gallery for cooperating with my interview! ( and and phone: 323-225-1288)

    Simone Gad
    Artist Statement and Biography: 2009

    I've been showing in museums and galleries for 40 years-am a 6 times grants recipient, including a CRA Grant 1986, the Woman's Building 1985/6, New Orleans Contemporary Museum of Art 1984, the Gottlieb Foundation-NYC/Painting Medical Emergency Grant, Change Inc-Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Grant-both in 2002 for painting and medical emergency, and Artist Fellowship Foundation Grant in 2007-NYC. I am included in the Archives of the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian-Washington, DC, and will also be included in the Lyn Kienholz Encyclopedia of Los Angeles Artists who have shown between 1944 and 1979. In Los Angeles, I am represented by L2kontemporary Gallery-Chinatown, Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco, and am showing in Spain. I am also in the traveling museum exhibition-Your Documents Please thru 2010 in Japan/Europe/Mexico curated by Daniel Georges of Brooklyn, NY. I was born in Brussels, Belgium to holocaust survivor parents, from Poland. We came to the US in the early 1950's and settled in Boyle Heights/E.L.A, after arriving at Ellis Island. My mother got me into show-biz at the age of 4 upon our immigration. I grew up in the entertainment field as a young actress-have been working professionally in film, tv, commercials and theatre ever since. Have always had a dual career-.visual/performance artist and actor. George Herms and Wallace Berman were my first mentors. Al Hansen was my mentor from 1972 to 1995 when he passed away in Koln, Germany.

    My cats Max and Bella Bettina Kashmir are my inspiration for many of my painting collages-have been so for many years. I've always been inspired by my cats and dogs that I've had since I arrived to this country from War torn Europe. My father got me my first dog-Teddy Queeny when I was a child living on Folsom Street-We had just returned from a movie on Brooklyn Avenue when we saw the puppies on our way home. I was allowed to have one-and I was so happy. But my mother hated animals and wouldn't let me keep my pet with me in my bedroom and it cried all night. I was heartbroken when I got home from Nursery School the following day and found that my dog was gone. My mom told me she had sent it to New Jersey to live with my Tante Sally. I wasn't allowed to have any animals after that. Years later I visited my aunt and asked her if she had taken care of my Teddy Queeny and she told me she never did-she never got the dog-didn't know what I was talking about. I realized that my mother had lied to me and had possibly killed my beloved doggie. I had moved to Topanga Canyon for a while in the late 1960's-that's where I got to know Wallace Berman and George Herms. I was given a miniature sheppard-who I named Lady. She was my constant companion and I adored her. She was run over by a couple of friends who were staying with me one night. I found her bleeding from her mouth by the driveway. She died in my arms and I could feel her spirit leave her body. We buried her the next morning. I was devastated for years. A friend of mine gave me a dash-hound and I took it home to be with me when I left Topanga and stayed with my parents for a while. I named her Wiggle Butts because she had this habit of wiggling her behind when she walked. I was not allowed to keep her-once again-so I called a friend and had her drive from The Canyon to pick Wiggles up and take care of her for me. When I left my parents and got an apartment, I got a cat-Nathaniel-my very first cat-who was with me for 15 years until he passed away. It was then that I started to incorporate animal objects into my collages-in the mid 1970's.

    copyright Simone Gad 2009 to view Simone Gad’s solo show at L2k for Feb 08 plus her updated resume-you may also get it on by writing in her name or by writing in Simone Gad’s name-



    Focus One Gallery in Monrovia, California. Sponsored by M.A.F.A.,
    the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts and Focus One Community Credit Union.
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook, copyright 2006

    Betty Glass celebrates Christmas with Lulu at home in 2008.
    Lulu, wearing her new holiday sweater,
    pokes her nose into the gift bag
    to see if she likes what Santa has brought her.
    Photo copyright and courtesy of Betty Glass and James Glass.
    Turtle Painting, Watercolor Artwork by Betty Glass reminiscent of her pet turtles.
    Photo copyright and courtesy of Betty and James Glass.
    Trojan Horses, Watercolor painting by Artist, Betty Glass
    Photo copyright and courtesy of Betty and James Glass.
    Hummy, Watercolor Painting by Artist, Betty Glass.
    Photo copyright and courtesy of Betty and James Glass.

    Yankee and Sugar, Watercolor Painting by Artist, Betty Glass
    memorializing the life of her beloved friends.
    Photo copyright and courtesy of Betty and James Glass.

    Yankee (5-17-80 --- 4-20-94)
    the larger white and orange Brittany on the right,
    and Sugar (7-20-90 --- 12-24-04)
    the smaller Brittany on the left.
    "Beloved Friends and Forever in our hearts!"
    Loyal Friends, Inspiration and Companions
    to Artist, Betty Glass and her family.
    (Special thanks to husband, James Glass
    for his technical computer assistance
    with digital photography formating of Betty Glass Artwork.)
    Photo copyright and courtesy of Betty and James Glass

    Enilde Van Hook, Writer's Notes:
    I met Betty Glass through the Monrovia Association of Fine arts in 2006. We were showing together at the Focus One Gallery on Huntington Drive in Monrovia, California. When Betty came into the gallery, she was toting her adorable poodle named Lulu. I was charmed immediately and I just had to have a photo of this beautiful female pooch with a twinkle in her eye and the gumption to come into an art gallery where only humans gathered. This little poodle had no clue there was any difference between her and her owner, and she acted like she was looking at the art just like everyone else. At the time, I considered this a very cultured poodle and I told Betty so. Betty giggled and let me take her snapshot with Lulu and then we did not see each other again until we had another show together, also at Focus One Gallery two years later in December of 2008. When I saw Betty this time, I saw the connection of her artwork and the love of her animals come through her work and later, she agreed to participate in the interview for my blog. You may enjoy Betty Glass's artwork by visiting her website at

    Betty H. Glass
    Artist Statement about Animal Art

    Through art we communicate our feelings and thoughts.
    Our art reflects what experiences in life have influenced us.
    I have had a lifetime of pets
    ranging from goldfish, parakeets, and turtles and, of course,
    the loyal dog—always your friend even when the sky seems to be falling.
    I am still sketching and painting animals, birds, and fish.
    The softness of their fur, the texture of their feathers and fins,
    the variations of color are very appealing to me,
    because color is part of my artistic signature.
    Sometimes they are presented in a realistic fashion.

    Other times I use animals in a more stylized way—
    using their shapes as patterns, semi-abstracting them and their background.
    For example, my painting Trojan Horses shows flattened stylized figures of horses.
    Hopefully artistically pleasing and calling to mind ancient Greece.

    The Entrance to the Brand Library Art Galleries in Glendale, California hosts a prominent postcard of the show "Circle in the Square" now exhibiting through September 5th, 2008


    Photo above: 
    Cathy Billings, Art Librarian and Gallery Manager of the 
    Brand Library Art Galleries and Co-Curator of 
    "Circle in the Square" selected Luke Van Hook 
    as one of the artists to show his circle paintings 
    which explore Giotto's fabled "perfect circle.
    Photo below: 
    Alyssa Resnick, Senior Library Supervisor, Gallery Director 
    and Co-curator pictured with Luke Van Hook.
    Both ladies made studio visits all over Los Angeles and surrounding communities in search of the "perfect circle" of artists to represent the illusive qualities of the circle.
    It takes over a year to prepare for a large show at the Brand Library Art Galleries and no one will have a better story to tell you about the waiting process than Galleries Manager and Curator, Cathy Billings or Alyssa Resnick, Senior Library Supervisor and Gallery Director. These ladies traveled to Inglewood, California for a studio visit to see Luke Van Hook's circle paintings some time in the early summer of 2007. They told Luke that they were preparing to curate a show of artists working on the motif of the 'circle'.  They had already reviewed a number of artists and found making the final decision difficult, first because there were a number of artists who worked with this subject and secondly, the talent was very competitive. The subject of the circle and how each artist approaches this topic is worth dedicated study in and of itself.  These lovely ladies, Cathy and Alyssa, with a keen eye for artistic talent, selected a total of five talented artists to show together this summer.   
    Here you will find photos of how each artist expressed their obsession with the circular form.  I'll begin my blog entry with a brief history of what I believe may have led Luke Van Hook to painting the circle and continue with the photos and biographical information of the additional four artists each selected for working with the motif of circles, independently of each other, with their own unique and individual interpretations of the circle: Yesung Kim, Barbara Kolo, Susan Sironi, and Cheryl Walker.
    Luke Van Hook began his present study of the circle in 2005. He first discovered the legend of Giotto's "Perfect Circle" in a class about ancient history; but the idea didn't sink in at first. He needed time to reason with his quest. While Luke approached the specific task of painting the circle with thin paintbrushes and applying layer upon layer of color to a raw naked canvas, I set about trying to understand what the hell prompted my husband to go circle crazy in the first place.  I started researching what the circle meant and I found a lot of literature in the realm of magic, rituals, mathematics, secret societies and romance. But my first impression was that the circle was a way to get back to the beginning of things.  Then I delved deeper.  Was Luke trying to say that he was going in circles?  Were we at this artistic point in our lives as a result of a past life?  Was our circular existence referencing our cycle of birth, death and rebirth?  Or was the answer more basic than that, like "the earth is round and it's an orbital thing.' There were other issues on the table I was urged to deal with also.  Were these circle paintings partly influenced by the school we had attended?  Once we leave school we are expected to make works of art that have fresh meaning and to blow out the cobwebs of old thinking.  While at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, Luke Van Hook studied all the required areas to excel in his chosen profession as a fine arts painter including the figure, landscapes and abstracts. But the abstract visual image is what finally drew Luke back in.  Could it be the understated obvious fact that the big 'O' (which formed a circle on every memo, syllabus and brochure in the name of Otis College) was influencing him subconsciously?  
    Luke's earlier work involved intricately small hatch marks that evolved into large abstract images full of vibrant colors.  This work was very reminiscent of Jasper Johns.  So where did this circle idea really emanate from?  Did his hatch marks get married or what?  Observers of Luke Van Hook's work have stated that it raises the question, 'Is it a painting or a drawing?  Is it text or writing?'  Luke will often begin a row of circles that reads from left to right just as western literature is expressed.  But sometimes he changes his mind, and the direction of his technique, and he starts to paint his rows from right to left. At other times, he completes a horizontal column of circles which refers more to ancient Asian forms of writing going from the top, down.
    During his graduating year at Otis College in 2004, Luke went on a mission to explore machine technology as it pertained to replacing humans.  He painted large canvases with a number of faces and shapes that represented cyborgs expressing the fear, uncertainty and ambivalence that humans have toward our technological future.  But once out of school, a full year later, in 2005 Luke seem to have turned a corner.  He seemed to have replaced his fear of technology with a competitive defiance that defied all reason.  Luke started working with his father-in-law, in his machine shop, where he started to observe how everything around him involved the circle in one way or another.  He watched the machines (Fadal CNC's- numerical control production machines) in action. The tool would spin in circles, plunging in and out of aluminum, stainless steel and plastic materials. The space left behind was almost always a perfect circle.  Perhaps, this was Luke's starting point. It was the first time he'd really seen a machine make simple circles and Luke probably said something to himself like 'I can do this! Just watch me!' then promptly, decided to take on his destiny. To compete with a machine, may have been the early impulse that drew Luke to paint the circle, but the legend of Giotto's 'perfect circle' was what has kept Luke going full steam ahead into production of abstract works of art.  The initial pieces he created were prototypes. These were the experiments he and his father-in-law Luis Ingels, worked on before moving into the hand made pieces. As his first experiment, Luke inserted a paint brush into the collet of the machine and programmed the coordinates to match the canvas. He overshot his calculations and the brush came crashing down upon the canvas; the collet smashed the brush right through the canvas and even broke the frame. Perhaps, Luke might have thought as he and my father, Luis, looked at each other, 'it was time to go back to the drawing board'. Undaunted by initial failure, Luke did complete an entire series of machine made circles before he went on to the main event, the competition of drawing the circles, one by one, by hand.  
    Each piece of artwork created since his first attempts, is meticulously reinvented into creative visual landscapes layering circles upon circles of color schemes in gradations of complementary hues.  The colors reveal very subtle changes.  The circles pull the eye in.  The images seem to have a life of their own, a vibrant quality of pushing the viewer to look for patterns while pulling the eyes into fishers, crevices, or 'wormholes' as one collector observed. I have witnessed the intimate evolution of Luke's circles only because I have the honor and privilege of being Luke's wife.  The fact that I am discussing my husband's art work is of significance only in the sense that it is somewhat rare, although not unheard of, for the artist's loved one to interject a provocative discussion of the artwork publicly in a blog; however, this is a sign of the times we live in today and I feel blessed as a writer to have this open forum to share with you the joys and struggles inherent in Luke's artistic process.
    The way I see it, Luke has taken on  the impossible task of creating the perfect circle, where no perfect circle has ever existed before, despite Giotto's legend.  All mathematical equations to date reveal that there is no perfect circle. It is a myth. So why Luke has persisted in this impossible feat only reminds me of the story of Don Quixote. Here is where I see Luke chasing his windmills. This is where in my imagination, I view the circles on the canvas as Luke's quest for the impossible dream and his circles are his windmills.  His paintbrush is his sword.  Thus Luke 
    Van Hook's paintings, for me, exhibit all the romantic qualities innate in a love story.  Seeking to please his beloved Lucia, these references emerging from raw canvas could be read practically like text.  Some art collectors saw the circles as Braille text or some secret code or language.  The secret, I think, lies in Luke's love of sports!  Sometimes I interpret this circle code to reflect images of the sports activities I see Luke enjoy daily;  I make visual connections to the circles on the wheels of his bicycles which hang in his studio or his skate boards that decorate the rafters of the painting bays or even the wheels that drive his car which sits resting on almost perfect circles on the driveway.
    For a while, I was convinced that Luke's enthusiasm for cycling was directly influencing the subjects of his paintings because one day, I was staring at one of his earlier images, (which is hung lovingly on the wall of the dining room right over the microwave oven); I saw it hanging next to a photograph of Luke participating in the 'Death Race 1999', a bicycle ride that cycle enthusiasts pursue along the most dangerous mountainous roads known as the California Alps in Northern California at the edge of the Northern Nevada border where Markleeville meets the Carson Valley.   The image Luke had painted in 1998, while recovering, ironically, from a broken ankle suffered in a bicycle race in Minden; was the image of three bicycles in a dead heat on the gray pavement with the yellow dividing line providing a ground for what appears as three large helmets (representative of the riders) in red, green and yellow.  The eventual emergence of Luke's hatch marks from work created in 2000, can be seen on the helmets and if you are really looking for this, (with your microscope) you may even find, the very beginnings of the influences which have eventually led to this mad case of circle paintings!  The circle imagery you might be searching for could have started at the base of the bicycle's anatomy with the wheels spinning along the highway to Kingsbury Grade, somewhere near Genoa, along the bottom of the hill leading to Lake Tahoe.  I comfort myself as painter's wife, that even Picasso had his periods, as did Rembrandt, Vincent Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin and so long as Luke Van Hook doesn't try to cut off his ear we are doing just fine with these circles.

    But don't take my word for it. Luke Van Hook's circle paintings are something you should see for yourself.  The subtlety of the work is difficult to capture on film, although I tried my best to create a video after struggling with photographing the stills for three years.  But even the video work fails to reveal the whole story.  You've got to stand in front of one of these pieces to involve yourself in the novella of Luke's life.  Although I can decode a small portion of what I see through his work, the rest of the circles on the canvas are still a vague mystery to me as well.  Every relationship has its secrets.  Thus Luke and I, as artists, are no different.  Even when we know each other, there are elements of surprise and adventure that we have yet to tell each other.  The mystery in his canvases is what really thrills me to see Luke's work on display under gallery lighting! (Sales don't hurt my enthusiasm either!)

    When I think of Luke Van Hook's circle paintings, today, in 2008, I often think of Luke riding a skateboard doing 'ollies' and then trying for a loop-de-loop in mid-air.  This is because in January of 2008, Luke begged for a skateboard for his birthday and little did I know what would happen when I wrapped it up for him!  He has returned to the love of his youth.  Luke Van Hook has come full circle to his beginnings to land on his home base. The skateboard has also flown in mid-air, in harmony with gravity, and both land as one in a perfect execution of a move I would never dare try to do myself.  I see each circle on the canvas as Luke's attempt to catapult his work into the mainstream of the art-world with each rotation of the paintbrush on the surface of the canvas.  This is where I see Luke Van Hook in mid catapult, surfing on the air, light in transition, from youth to inspired maturity; from student to master, with paintbrush in hand landing and continuing to roll on four wheels with a great big shit-eating grin on his face. ('four' being the lucky number of his numerology charts). I see the ordered struggle, the innate joy in the success of one loop-de-loop after another. And once in a while, I also see the crash landing and the bloody injuries.  What is more important is that Luke gets up and does it again each and every time.  Luke has to begin again with each new circle, every circle becoming a part of a larger layer of community, thus his canvases vibrate with activity, mystery, romance and adventure.  I find my own meanings in each image  as it develops day by day and I am privileged to stand beside him, admire and witness the struggle of our Don Quixote in the new millennium, first hand.
    There is still time to see these painting up close and personal. The Brand Library Art Galleries is part of the Glendale Public Library, located at 1601 West Mountain Street in the City of Glendale, 91201  Telephone:  818-548-2051/ fax 818-548-2713 ;  visit the Brand Library Art Galleries online at    to  check for Library hours.
    Cookie Gallegos, Ana Porras and Martha Ingels attend the opening of "Circle in the Square" to support Luke Van Hook. Brand Art Library Galleries, Glendale, California August 2, 2008 Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    (From left to right) Margo Payne, Lynn Nantana-Green and Angela Williams attend the exhibition "Circle in the Square" in support of Luke Van Hook.
    Lynn Lantana-Green came to support Artist, Luke Van Hook at the opening reception of "Circle in the Square" an art exhibition held at the Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California, August 2, 2008.  Photos by Ginger Van Hook
    Kevin Powell came to support Luke Van Hook and enjoy the paintings at the Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale California, August 2, 2008. Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artist Luke Van Hook brought home-made pies to his reception of the exhibition "Circle in the Square". In addition to painting, Luke Van Hook has a reputation for making awesome pies from scratch. Photographed milling around the Double Fudge Pican Pie and the Sweet Berry Pie were the grandchildren of Hector Sticker. Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California August 2, 2008. Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    (From left to right) Claudio Sticker, Hector Sticker, Peter Bolten, Martha Ingels, Luke Van Hook and Luis Ingels attend the reception of  "Circle in the Square". Luke Van Hook and Luis Ingels worked together to create circles on canvas with the use of robotic CNC machines. After creating a little over a dozen machine-made paintings, Luke went on to compete with the machine and do the circles on his own by hand, one by one. Each circle is represented as being one breath and Luke Van Hook states that these are the marks he is leaving behind which define his existence during this lifetime as he continues to pursue the legend of "Giotto's Perfect Circle". Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California, August 2, 2008. Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    From left to right, Ohannes Berberian, his daughter Melanie, Luke Van Hook and Rouzanna Berberian attend the opening reception of "Circle in the Square" at the Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008.  Ohannes Berberian owns DigiTECH Camera Repair in Monrovia, California ( Luke Van Hook and Rouzanna Berberian are both fine art painters and members of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts (M.A.F.A.). Rouzanna Berberian is a teacher in the after-school arts programs supported by M.A.F.A.  which promotes the goal of enhancing the lives of those within the community through interaction with the arts and to increase the opportunities of children through art education. Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    From left to right, Kathleen Zgonc, photographer Frank Zgonc and artist Luke Van Hook attend the opening reception of 'Circle in the Square' at the Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008. Frank Zgonc is a an executive member of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts in Monrovia, California. Frank Zgonc is the vice-president and official curator of Monrovia's yearly October Art Festival. This year the October Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday October 11th and 12th, 2008 at the Monrovia Community Center located at 119 W. Palm Avenue in Monrovia. Free and open to the public, this art event will feature work by photographer Frank Zgonc; (Scheduled from 10 am to 6pm both days).  There will also be an Opening Night Celebration Saturday, October 11th from 7-9:30 pm where the special Renaissance Award will be presented to a worthy individual who has made significant contributions to the arts. 
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    Mr. and Mrs. Luke and Ginger Van Hook attend the opening reception of 'Circle in the Square' at the Brand Libraries Art Galleries, August 2, 2008 in Glendale, California.  Luke Van Hook an artist working from Inglewood, California earned a BFA  at Otis College of ARt and Design.  For several years, Van Hook has been exploring in his work, Giotto's fabled "perfect circle".  Over time the single-minded focus on the perfection of the circle has been subsumed by the artist's interest in the aesthetic and expressive qualities of the circle. New works depict ritualistically repeated circular brushstrokes on canvas, hemp, and other materials. Van Hook states that he began " as a challenge to myself to see if a perfect circle was possible; these circles have now morphed into a challenge to myself to see if a perfect circle is  possible. These circles have now morphed into a study in patience. The sense of time and the marking of time is inherent in the meticulous application of paint. The viewer can appreciate these temporal qualities but is also compelled to bring their own  interpretation to the work. Are these circles pure abstraction? Combined do they conceal deliberate shapes and forms? or are they perhaps a secret code or language? Van Hook has exhibited at TAG Gallery, Focus One Gallery, and the Bolsky Gallery in  Westchester. Luke Van Hook's painting may also be viewed on his website:
    Photo courtesy of Peter Bolten

    Kevin Powell comes to support Luke Van Hook for his opening reception. Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California, August 2, 2008.  Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    Jason Porras attends the opening reception to support Luke Van Hook in his endeavors to pursue Giotto's legend of the 'Perfect Circle'. Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California August 2, 2008. Photo By Ginger Van Hook.

    Zoe Hengst, Ginger Van Hook and Martha Ingels attend the opening of "Circle in the Square" to support Luke Van Hook. Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California August 2, 2008. Photo courtesy of Peter Bolten.
    Zoe and Jopie Hengst walk through the center of the exhibition "Circle in the Square" to support Luke Van Hook at the opening night, August 2, 2008. Paintings by Susan Sironi in the background. Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California. Photo by Ginger Van Hook.

    Cookie Gallegos, Ginger Van Hook and Luke Van Hook pose for photographs in front of Luke Van Hook's painting at the Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008 Glendale, California. Photo courtesy of Peter Bolten.

    Cookie Gallegos and Ana Porras watch the dance performance choreographed by Cheryl Walker, Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008, Glendale, California.
    Paintings by Yesung Kim, Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008, Glendale, California. Photo by Ginger Van Hook.
    Paintings by Yesung Kim, Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008, Glendale, California.
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    Yesung Kim poses for a photograph in front of her paintings at the Brand Library Art Galleries, August 02, 2008, Glendale, California. Yesung Kim from Upland, California, was born in Seoul, South Korea and holds MFA degrees from Chung-Ang University and Claremont Graduate University. Kim's mixed media pieces are seductively simple. Ordinary brown packing string is deftly applied to a painted canvas creating organic shapes that shimmer and reflect light. At times these shapes appear to be on the brink of an amoeba-like division as they spread and expand, dropping off the edge of one canvas and continuing on to another. Kim  cites the natural world and light and color as the underlying themes that both inspire and permeate her work.  Following solo shows at the Seoul Museum of Art and the Seoul Arts Center, Kim's work was most recently exhibited at the San Bernardino County Museum's Multi Media Mini Show. More information about Kim's work can be found on her website:
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    Painting by Susan Sironi, Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008 Glendale, California.
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook
    Glass curtain by Susan Sironi, Brand Library Art Galleries, August 2, 2008,Glendale, California. Photo by Ginger Van Hook.
    Cheryl Walker designed a curtain of vinyl layers of color called 'Waterfall IV' that became the backdrop for a beautiful dance performance using the 'circle in the square' theme exhibited at the Brand Library Art Galleries in Glendale California, August 2, 2008. Cheryl Walker holds in her hand some of the vinyl circles that were placed upon the windows at the exhibition hall. Her vinyl circles upon the windows created an illusion of  the stained glass effects. The dance piece entertained a large audience on opening night as artists, collectors, art appreciators and family and friends celebrated the mythologies, geometries, magical and mystical qualities of the circle.   Dance Performers Liz  Curtis, and Martha Carrascosa performed a dance which included participation from members of the audience.  
    Members of the audience interacted with the dancers Martha Carrascosa and Liz Curtis at the Brand Library Art Galleries participated in creating a colorful cascade of window art on August 2, 2008 in Glendale, California.
    Audience watches dancers Liz Curtis and Martha Carrascosa from Glendale Community College as they perform a choreographed piece by Cheryl Walker, artist. "Circle in the Square", Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale California, August 2, 2008.  Photo By Ginger Van Hook
    Dancers Liz Curtis and Martha Carrascosa performing dance choreographed by artist Cheryl Walker, (within the green curtain), Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California. 
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook.
    Cheryl Walker engaged in performance art intersecting with window art using the artistic theme of 'Circle in the Square'. Brand Library Art Gallery, Glendale, CAlifornia August 2, 2008. Photo by Ginger Van Hook.

    Cheryl Walker smiles happily on opening night, Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale California. August 2, 2008. Cheryl Walker, a Los Angeles artist, earned her BA in art in her home state of Minnesota, and her MFA from California State University, Long Beach. In this exhibition Walker created two large site-specific installations of vinyl, oil pastel and natural and artificial light.  Walker explains that the driving force behind her work is "human interaction and improvisation in response to a natural phenomenon or situation." Trained as painter, Walker's installations have some of the qualities of painting; when viewed head-on the suspended layers of vinyl can appear to be two-dimensional because of their transparency and the cut shapes and forms applied to the vinyl are reminiscent of brushstrokes--but removed from the wall these works are thrust into what she calls an "interactive field of play." The fluidity of the material she works with and her interest in collaboration between the artist and the viewer have inspired Walker to create works that can be transformed into performance pieces by dance, music and in-situ art-making. In this exhibition, a dance performance captivates the audience on opening night at the Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California. August 2, 2008.  Photos By Ginger Van Hook

    Barbara Kolo, Artist from "Circle in the Square" poses for a photograph in front of her painting with her husband Mr. Kolo. Barbara Kolo, a Santa Monica Artist, earned her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Kolo Participated in a successful two-person show at the Brand Library Art Galleries in 1999. The Brand Library Art Galleries are pleased to present (nearly ten years later) a new body of work by Barbara Kolo that connects to that which was here before. In those works and these, her focus is on representing organic materials. The current large scale acrylic on canvas works are saturated with color; the stippled application of paint creates organic shapes and patterns representative of the natural world.  The subject matter is open to each viewers interpretation, where one may see a birch forest at dusk, others may see the  bold aesthetic of pure color and abstraction. Kolo has had recent solo shows at Topanga Canyon Gallery and the Off Rose Gallery in Venice, California. More information about Kolo's work can be found on her website: Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale California. Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Barbara Kolo poses for a photograph during opening night celebrations for the exhibition, "Circle in the Square" at the Brand Library Art Galleries, Augusts 2, 2008. Glendale, California.

    Susan Sironi,  an artist living in Altadena, California posed for her photograph in front of her paintings at  the Brand Library Art Galleries, Glendale, California. August 2, 2008.  Susan Sironi earned her BFA at California Sate University, Long Beach. This exhibition will showcase Sironi's recent paintings as well as her Glass Curtain installation which is comprised of conjoined antique optometric lenses. Her paintings are about texture, color and process. Small dabs of oil paint are painstakingly applied to aluminum, building up an intricate, thorny surface. Highly textured and multihued when viewed up close, this surface belies the color play minimalist color-field appearance of the work at a distance . In the artist's own words "texture and color play equal roles in these works. They ... set up contradictions within each piece. Painitings  that seem to invite touch and intimacy are also reserved and automomous. Time and process are weighed against a static and minimal structure. Sironi's work was most recently seen in the Brea Art Gallery's Made in California exhibition, at the Chouinard School of Art Gallery, and the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art.  More information about Sironi's work can be found on her website:
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook.  

    Yesung Kim, Brand Library Art Gallery, Glendale, California, August 2, 2008.

    The Entrance to the Brand Library Art Galleries in Glendale, California hosts a prominent postcard of the show "Circle in the Square" now exhibiting through September 5th, 2008

                       Luke Van Hook paintings are now showing at the Brand Library Art Galleries in
              Best Time To Invest in Art, NOW! by Ginger Van Hook        
    TV celebrity Jason Alexander supports the arts at the TAG Gallery in Santa Monica, California on August 18, 2007 for the CALIFORNIA OPEN EXHIBITION show juried by Peter Frank. Now showing NEW WORKS, painting, mixed media, sculpture, photography and video through September 1st 2007. Jason Alexander, an actor who played the part of "George" in the long running and popular hit TV show "Seinfeld",
    is pictured here beside sculpture artist Ali Alinejad.
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Christine Owens, president of the Focus One Community Credit Union and sponsor of the
    Focus One Gallery in Monrovia, California is presented with the Renaissance Award
    by Monrovia City Councilman, Joe Garcia at the Monrovia Arts Festival Association Gala Black Tie Annual Fund-raising Event May 12, 2007. The Renaissance Award is given to honor and recognize a special member of the community whose contributions to their fellow citizens leads to the cultural enrichment of the community as a whole. Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artist, Photographer and Actor, David Newsom poses with his dog in front of his latest photographs (Thistle #1) being exhibited at the DCA Fine Arts Gallery, in Santa Monica, California, (June 1, 2007 through July 14th, 2007). Three miles of Idaho is an exhibit focusing on the landscape between his brother and his sister's properties in a unique and poignant family setting. David Newsom released large scale renditions of his work currently published from his best-selling book titled SKIP.
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Peter Frank, Jurist, for the TAG Gallery, CALIFORNIA OPEN EXHIBITION,
    stands beside emerging Los Angeles based artist, Luke Van Hook, August 18th, 2007.
    The Painting in background, oil on canvas, "May", the study of Giotto's perfect circle.
    by Luke Van Hook
    (Investigating the legend that Giotto drew a perfect circle for the Pope)

    As the economy goes up and down, so do the trends in the arts and art collecting. This is an exciting time for the arts because we have many historical markers and world conditions that exist today that make it a good time to invest in the arts. For instance, instability in the stock market often releases money to make investments in art, that, like real estate, also goes up in value as the years progress. Additionally, there are wars raging around the world so instability in world economic markets are impacting the art market too. The best impact that market instability plays upon the arts is that it gives incentives to support artists in your local communities. These artists are here and now. Their work is presently available, and like property, it too can be insured, placed into a family trust or safety deposit vault and along with the family heirlooms, art can be bequeathed as a legacy or inheritance to members of your family. Both the housing market and the stock market have been riding a roller-coaster in recent years making a good piece of tangible artwork a far more solid investment than betting on governments, point spreads or Las Vegas Mega Slots.

    y husband Luke and I have explored a number of fine art galleries and art communities that will interest the art lover, the art collector and fellow artists in the pursuit of great works being created in the NOW, as well as some works that have survived the test of time. In my Blog I intend to discuss some of the hot spots and hot artists in Sunny Southern California. I'll share photos with you of some of these exciting options available to the every day collector, the seasoned collector, the art aficionados, or the emerging collectors eager with new money to infuse into an already thriving and ripe harvest of works in Oil Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Conceptual works, Collage, Digital Photography, Digital Film and Electronic Visual Art.

    Through this summer we visited communities on the West side such as Santa Monica, West LA, and Culver City. In the inland areas, we visited some of the foothill mountain art communities such as Glendale and a little further inland, we visited Old Town Monrovia. Starting with the inland foothills we find the quaint town of Monrovia where I grew up and went to school at Immaculate Conception Elementary on Shamrock Avenue. In Monrovia, the City of Art and in Duarte, the City of Health, I grew up as a child. I volunteered about 300 hours as a candy striper for the City of Hope in my teenage years, went on to work for the Duarte Library and attended Alverno High School for girls in Sierra Madre. This is the place where I was raised marching in parades with the Brownies and the Girl Scouts and where I learned to tap dance, twirl a baton and where I rode a ferris wheel for the first time at the fiesta, (as well as ate a lot of cotton candy), I came back as an adult to find an incredible amount of support for the arts in local schools. The arts are not limited to crayons and pencils either. There is an extensive array of art mediums in which students, and some very young students at that, learn to hone their creative skills. For instance, at Paint N Play on Myrtle Avenue, they learn how to throw pottery. Also, with after school teacher, Rouzanna Berberian, children learn the art of drawing, photography and gallery showmanship as well. There are art lessons going on, on almost every street corner you encounter in the busy Old Town Center on Myrtle near the Krikorian Movie theatre. You'll find this charming section of town both soothing and exhilarating. You ought to try walking up and down the main street where there are sidewalk activities, new park benches to rest under shade trees, new lampposts and lanterns all reminiscent of a nostalgic time. Artists show their work on wide city blocks and inside cool and dim lit gallery spaces. The mountains loom in the distance and the afternoons yeild a light summer breeze in the early evening.

    We support the Monrovia Arts Festival Association in their endeavors to promote the arts to the children at a very young age. It is not uncommon for lots of families that are raised to appreciate art to blossom into artists later in life. MAFA is a nonprofit organization led by President Bill Beebe with a history of supporting local artists and local after-school art programs. Over the years, the Monrovia community has begun to expand its outreach of art by developing local talent through a number of venues: Focus One Gallery for instance, is located in the lobby of the Focus One Community Credit Union at 404 East Huntington Drive on the corner of California and Huntington Drive. The president of Focus One Community Credit Union, Christine Owens is known for her support of local artists and was recently nominated for and awarded the annual Renaissance Award by Monrovia City Councilman Joe Garcia at the MAFA Black Tie Fundraiser in May 2007. This is a prestigious award that goes to honor and recognize a special member of the community whose contributions to their fellow citizens leads to the cultural enrichment of the community as a whole.

    MAFA Marketing coordinator, (on left)Denise Daniels is pictured here with Christine Owens, President of Focus One Community Credit Union and Bill Beebe, President of MAFA at their annual Black Tie Fundraiser that occurs in May.

    Monrovia, California
    Foothill Mountain Communities
    Some Artists in Action...

    THE MONROVIA ARTS FESTIVAL ASSOCIATION otherwise known as MAFA, is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization and is dedicated to the cultivation and support of the arts in children's after school programs as well as educational awareness of the arts in the community at large. MAFA P.O. Box 92 Monrovia, CA 91017 ( 626-256-3124

    Several galleries and art venues have developed over the years which participate and support MAFA. The following information is current as of August 2007: If your event or venue is not listed, please contact Ginger Van Hook, press liaison, for MAFA at (

    The AZTEK ART GALLERY, is located beside the Aztek Hotel at 305 West Foothill Blvd. Exhibits local artists work as well as holds art classes during scheduled times. The contact person is Bill Hyatt, (

    California Wine and Cheese, LLC supports local artists. New Artist reception for Frank Zgonc, Photographer is scheduled for the evening of Friday August 24th, 2007. Frank Zgonc shares images from his travels through Europe, scenes from Bodie Flats, Nevada and local scenes in Monrovia along with his signature digital watercolor manipulations. California Wine and Cheese is located at 115 W. Foothill Blvd., Owned by Janet and Tom Dugan, their website can be located at (Contact by phone 626-358-6500 for reservations.)

    The MONROVIA COFFEE COMPANY supports local artists and is located at 425 South Myrtle Avenue. Exhibits contemporary and emerging artists work. Next artists showing September 1 through December 30th, Ginger and Luke Van Hook Photography exhibit, Methusula in the Bristlecone Pine Forest. (Landscape photographs of some of the oldest pine trees on the planet. Some trees aged over 4,700 years, older than the Egyptian Pyramids.) (Additional digital photography of flowers and collage by Ginger Van Hook.) For artist schedules, contact person is Carol Curtis, (

    The PAINT 'N PLAY ART GALLERY is affiliated with Monrovia Arts Festival Association in its' support of the arts by providing a meeting place for MAFA members to discuss and plan their upcoming events for the community on a monthly basis. Contact Lisa or Rachel at Paint 'N Play is located at 418 South Myrtle Avenue. Paint N Play sponsors the SUMMER ARTWALKS in Old Town Monrovia along with several merchants who participate every year. KidsArt, Segil Fine Art, Oh My Goddard Gallery, Family Festival Productions, Scoops, Joy Print and Design, Box Jewelers and Baldwin's Baked Potatoes as well as the Outback SteakHouse- Arcadia and Trader Joe's also participate in art festivities that promote the education of art in schools through Summer Artwalks. For more information regarding Summer Art Walks and how you may participate, you may also contact Betsy Thurmond (626-358-7800) or The next SUMMER ARTWALK is scheduled for Saturday evening, August 25, 2007 from 6:30 to 9pm.



    August 11 - September 28th, 2007.
    Glendale Public Library Associates of Brand Library
    1601 West Mountain Street Glendale, CA 91201

    A group show Titled: PATTERN PLAY. Four artists demonstrate the variety of patterns available in color schemes, pattern originality, unique images in oil paints, sculpture, and graphic designs. Artist reception August 18, 2007. Artists featured are Patsy Cox, Yuriko Etue, Melanie Rothschild, and Jerrin Wagstaff. Definitely a great show for the entire family. You'll experience a great variety of brilliant colors and patterns that pop out of the walls, rise from the floor and reveal creative abstract patterns that draw you in, spiral you out and make you feel good.

    Artist, Melanie Rothschild

    Artist, Patsy Cox

    Artist, Yuriko Etue

    Artist, Jerrin Wagstaff



    16:1 Gallery, Santa Monica, California Summer 2007


    Kathryn Andrews
    Chris Lipomi
    Donald Morgan
    Stephanie Taylor
    organized by Kathryn Andrews

    Showing August 11 through September 8, 2007

    2116 Pico Blvd., Unit B
    Santa Monica, CA 90405



    Delia Cabral, Gallery Director
    3107 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405

    From Exhibition, THREE MENDACIOUS MINDS, (The Return of Paris' New Pestilence School) David Schoffman, Currado Malaspina, Micah Carpenter July 23- August 31, 2007 310-770-2525
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook



    TAG Gallery
    Elizabeth Sadoff
    Gallery Director
    2903 Santa Monica Blvd.
    Santa Monica, CA 90404

    Elizabeth Sadoff, Gallery Director, TAG Gallery
    handing out awards to the winning artists.

    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Jason Cimenski accepts award from Peter Frank and Elizabeth Sadoff
    TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    First Place Winner, Artist, Jason Cimenski with his daughter "The Flooded Room" TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007 Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artist Kim Kimbro, TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artist, Lorien Suarez,
    TAG Gallery August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artist, Carlos Daub,
    TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Derek McMullen, Luke Van Hook, Dennis Treretola Three artists, oil painters, from the same graduating class at Otis College of Art and Design, 2004
    TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artists, and fine art painters, Carlos Daub, Luke Van Hook, Dennis Treretola
    TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Artist, Carole Garland, "Midnight Mystery", oil on canvas
    TAG Gallery, August 18, 2007

    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    TAG Gallery, Santa Monica, California
    August 18, 2007
    Standing room only at the popular show

    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

    Peter Frank thanks the artists and their guests who have participated
    at the TAG Gallery, Santa Monica, California Open Exhibition,
    August 18, 2007
    Photo by Ginger Van Hook

              Comment on Coconut Oil Hair Mask by made2style        
    You can do it as often as once a week or twice a month it's up to you!
              Comment on Coconut Oil Hair Mask by JaiLynn        
    How often do you do this?
              stag hare / crown of eternity        

    stag hare ~ velvet & bone (inner islands, 2016)

    «Velvet and Bone is structured as a gothic fable. It is about the act of self reflection through knowing another. It is about seeing the shadow and knowing the shadow. It is about seeing death and knowing death. It is about bones, and the way they are shaped by the tensions put on them by various opposing muscles. It is about the swamps of depression. It is about love in its most tragic and therefore most beautiful form». ~ stag hare

    Being a huge fan sometimes stops me from writing reviews – maybe it's just subconscious feeling that words can spoil the fragility of music, especially when the music is as personal as Stag Hare are. There are so many kinds of art, of sound, ways of expression, but not that many artists are interested in putting their true emotions into art. Looks like image and the presentation are more important than revealing the personal side  of life and it's understandable. But when the image contradicts to inner story it may say something about our ability to feel the difference. What I like about Stag Hare (and the whole Inner Islands roster, actually) is sincerity, openness, fearless sharing of life as it seen by the artist, reflecting everything in music, telling stories which at some level are universal for all human beings – we just go through them by our own patterns. So, here it spins, new tape with Stag Hare's songs and this time they're actually songs with lyrics printed on j-card! «Opening (Depression)» starts with deep drone tune and it's actually not so dark, as drone ambient can be, but it has this longing which fades in second track – slowly, but confidently building sparkling layers of blissful folk song and entering the same territories Stag Hare known for, but this time with the strong presence of the new kind of energy. Dreamer has awakened and discovered that real world is the challenge and was never separated from the dream. The inner and the outer are not that different categories, simply matter of viewpoint. These songs are still dreamy and so magical, they bloom like astral flowers from the deepness of psychedelic revelation, but at the same time the thickness of the physical is present, like never-ending drone – it simply stitches once separated into whole... Natural & urban, transcendence and routine, simply life as it is. Aspiration to non-duality is primal to every spiritual being, but the ability to separate things is not less important, it's actually the only way our mind can work, endlessly dividing and then synthesizing at new levels of understanding, just to separate again... Okay, think I went too far, so let's say it's just wonderful music for everything you want from it. Â«Velvet and Bone» can be just beautiful background for your daily activities as successfully, as the impetus for philosophizing (which is clear in my case), it chills and gives energy, it brings joy and contains many different moods at the same time. Music of high potential to unfold. Truly personal, but universal – you may learn something from it, consciously or not. In any case, you won't regret hearing it. 

    listen ~ buy tape

    crown of eternity ~ dream architecture (inner islands, 2017)

    «Dream Architecture contains the deep and complex harmonics of 11 gongs, as well as the sonorous tones of more than 60 bells, sound plates, sound triangles, tuned metals and singing bowls. Crown of Eternity carefully and patiently blend and orchestrate their instruments to create harmonic fields that invite the listener to dive in and not only explore the nature of the sound current, but also their inner landscape». inner islands

    Some things change and some not. But it depends on the perspective, of course. Music of gongs, singing bowls and similar stuff was in the New Age genre since its inception. Of course it existed before, but not as music, but more as a spiritual practice. And this function of primal metal instruments vibrations resonating through your body remains unchanged – you'd rather hear such music at some yoga place, than in the concert club. Same private and personal feeling is present at this tape, as with Stag Hare release above. We are left alone with resonance, created with carefulness. It nurtures your senses, sets the right mood for relaxing contemplation, it gives landscape for your inner gazing... The experience of listening to such tape may be rewarding, but I guess it's nothing compared to Crown of Eternity live sets. The amount of gongs, plates, bowls and other metal resonators seen on photos has its own impression even without hearing the music! But if you had the chance to join such session at least once in your life, then you know what I mean. Here the point which turns spiritual practice into music – the act of recording. Same can be told about about any "sacred music" like tibetan monks' throat singing or orthodox chorals: when you are out of the moment of actual happening, when this is recorded or even just put into the studio or onto stage – it turns into completely different story. But this is really one big theme and it leads us away from music itself. Which is, by my humble opinion, can be always regarded as thing in itself without looking at its context and further analysis. Call me consumer, but some things need to be simply enjoyed. This tape is highly enjoyable even if my sound system is unable to produce same effect as live session with all those beautiful resonating stuff. But still, the sound resonates with my soul and think that's the most important here. Usually I listen recordings like this (Klaus Wiese, Danny Becher, Karma Moffet to name just a few) when I'm tired of any other music and it's always refreshing, kind of pleasant pause in the never-ending stream of music and always-present daily noise. Harmony & meditation, and nothing else here actually. What else do you need? 

    listen ~ buy tape

              Omega-3 Shows Protective Effect Against Skin Cancer        

    The anti-inflammatory effect of fish and fish oil supplements have long been used to bring down high blood pressure and keep heart disease at bay. The secret ingredient is their omega-3 fatty acids. A new study shows that omega-3 may be good for your skin, too. Most skin cancer is the result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation […]

    The post Omega-3 Shows Protective Effect Against Skin Cancer appeared first on 80beats.

              Re: Solomon Durrett (parents Richard Durrett Jr & Esther Smith) m. Martha Smith (parents Thomas Smith and Mary "Polly" Meadearis)        
    The book was published by Sundown Publishing last year and the first run has sold out. A second run will be available as of Monday March 17th. I will have them at a book signing on March 22, 2014 in Luling, TX at the Oil Patch Museum from 10am to 3pm. I will also have A Lawless Breed, John Wesley Hardin and Early Settlers of the Panhandle Plains.
    We offer free shipping and handling on any book order via mail so contact for signed copies.
    Norman Wayne Brown
    email turfbinder (at) yahoo (dot) com
              Ignacio de Balderes        
    Ignacio de Balderes 
    Attributed to José Francisco Xavier de Salazar y Mendoza 
    c. 1790 
    Oil on canvas, 45 1/2 x 33 1/2 inches 
    Louisiana State Museum, Gift of Mr. Harvey Truxillo, M141.2
    Born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1757, Balderes entered military service as a private at the age thirteen as a private. He was sent to West Florida to work as a surveyor and rose through the ranks. As a sergeant in 1779, he earned distinction by capturing a post at Pass Manchac during the Battle of Galvez-Town. Balderes was knighted by the king of Spain and given a large land grant near Pensacola. 

    Salazar painted many of Colonial Louisiana's prominent citizens, figures associated with the government, the military, and the church. Well-versed in the late Baroque style popular in Spanish colonies, Salazar was the first significant painter to work in New Orleans

    In the early 1790s, Balderes was a Sub-Lieutenant of the Grenadiers, Second Battalion of the Regiment of Louisiana, and commander at Balize, an outpost guarding the mouth of the Mississippi River. The single epaulette - which is in the Museum's collection - indicates his rank as a lieutenant. Balderes was respected for his zeal and leadership. Francisco Bouligny, his commander, wrote "I believe it is always fitting to provide officers of well-known courage, good conduct, assiduity and who are intelligent" with promotion when he became adjutant-major of the Third Battalion in 1793. Balderes eventually reached the rank of captain in 1798, and died in 1815 at the age of fifty-eight.

    His son Antoine became a lieutenant as well.  His children married into many families of Louisiana.

    1. Diocese of Baton Rouge Catholic Church Records, Department of Archives, v3, p66, Lafayette Public Library, 301 W. Congress St., Lafayette, LA 70501.

    2. Holmes, Jack D. L., Honor and Fidelity: The Louisiana Infantry Regiment and the Louisiana Militia Companies, 1766-1821, Birmingham, AL, 1965, p92, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Edith Garland Dupre Library, PO Box 40199, Lafayette LA 70504.

    3. Charles E. Nolan, editor, Sacramental Records of the Roman Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Vol 3, 1772-1783, p12, Lafayette Public Library, 301 W. Congress St., Lafayette, LA 70501, LA 929.376335 WOO.

    4. Churchill, C. Robert, Officers, Spanish and Natives of Louisiana, serving under Gen. Don Bernardo de Galvez in his Campaign Against the British, 1779, 1780, 1781, p11, Tulane University Library, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, 7001 Freret St, , New Orleans, LA 70118, Ph:(504) 865-5605.

    5. Granville W Hough, Spain's Louisiana patriots in its 1779-1783 war with England during the American Revolution, Midway City, CA, SHHAR Press, 2000, p29, Tulane University Library, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, 7001 Freret St, , New Orleans, LA 70118, Ph:(504) 865-5605.

              Monkeying around        

    Despite not getting to Angkor Wat, Cambodia ended up offering me a few good experiences.  On the last Friday evening I went out for a bit of culture.  Not the classical dance, unfortunately, which is hard to find in the capital, but a performance by an arts group of what they called 'Hanuman and the big drum'.  There were actually two very big drums, two quite big drums, and a number of smaller drums and gongs.  Not to mention a few other traditional instruments (not sure what they are called, but the Cambodian equivalents of the West African balafon and njarka).  The drumming was excellent, and was accompanied at one point by some very good male dancers.

    The best part for me though was the reference to Hanuman (the monkey god).  We were making our way back to our seats after the interval when some 'monkeys' came through the audience area to investigate the empty stage.  These were the male dancers but this time wearing sky blue ceramic monkey masks, and displaying all the mannerisms of monkeys in the way they moved, scratched, etc.  There was just something about their behaviour, and in those masks, that made all of us in the audience smile, then giggle, and then laugh out loud, and I really did go back to the hotel with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

    Then on my last Saturday morning, just before heading home, I tried out a completely different activity, with a visit to the Phnom Penh shooting range.  You can try your hand at everything from AK47s to a Rocket Propelled Grenade (although the latter costs $350).  I went for the revolver and the Ruger sniper rifle.  The revolver was difficult - the recoil was strong and tilted the gun upwards even before the bullet had left, so all my shots flew well over my target's head.

    But I was much better with the rifle.  As you can see I didn't manage to hit the actual target (it looks as though I was aiming for his gun instead!), but nine of my ten shots would have killed my target man, and the tenth probably broken his shoulder, which isn't bad for a first attempt.
              Conklin Oil & Propane Co./The Flame Company        
              Comment on Oil & Water Don’t Mix by vanimator        
    Amazing, Thanks for the share. Vanimator
               cddam a dit:        
    Tout à fait. C'était justement ce qui était précisé. C'est qu'au début, tout le monde pensait qu'il était une victime alors que non. Mais c'est vrai qu'au tout début, c'était une possibilité scénaristique. Mais elle était trop simple à deviner et surtout, l'histoire derrière devenait moins intéressante. Il y a une autre piste qu'il était possible de dessiner, mais je n'en parlerai pas car elle peut encore être à peu près mise en place ^^ mais pas mal l'auto-spoil
              MPEG decoding, state save/restore, NRF emulation, ...        
    It's been a while since I wrote anything here, but that doesn't mean that work on CD-i Emulator has stopped. On the contrary, a lot has happened in the last month and describing all of it will take a very long blog post. So here goes…

    Last January an annoying date-checking bug was found which forced me to release beta2 somewhat earlier than anticipated. After that I did no further work on CD-i Emulator. There were various reasons for this, but the most import one was a very busy period at my day job.

    After a well-earned vacation I resumed CD-i related work in early August. First I spent a few days on Walter Hunt's OS-9 port of gcc, the GNU C/C++ Compiler that I found in October of last year. Getting it working on a modern Cygwin installation was interesting and something very different from my usual line of work. The result could be useful for homebrew activities: it's a much more usable C compiler then the Microware OS-9 one and supports C++ as a bonus. I intend to use this for ROM-less emulation validation some day; see also below. The sources need to be released but I haven’t gotten to that stage yet.

    After that I had another go at the Digital Video cartridge emulation. At the point where I left off last year the major stumbling block was the presumed picture / frame buffering logic of the MPEG video driver. When the appropriate interrupt status bits are set the driver starts copying a bulk of status information to an array of device registers and it will sometimes also read from those registers. This is all controlled by several status and timing registers that are also referenced elsewhere and I previously could not get a handle on it.

    My first attempt this time was spending another few days staring at it and tracing it, but this did not gain me much new understanding. Finally I decided to just leave it for now and see how far I could get without understanding this part of the driver. I decided to once again attempt to get "CD-i Full Motion Video Technical Aspects" working.

    This CD-i was produced by Philips to give future Full Motion Video (as the new MPEG playback functions were called at the time) developers a demonstration of the technical capabilities of the new hardware, at a time when this hardware was still in the early beta phase. The CD-i actually contains the compiler libraries necessary for making FMV calls from CD-i applications, as these had not previously been widely distributed.

    It is not a very slick disc visually, being intended for developers, but it demonstrates a number of FMV techniques such as regular playback, playback control including pause, slow motion and single step, freeze frame and forward/backward scan, special effects like scrolling the FMV window, a seamless jump and a sample of overlay effects with the CD-i base case video planes.

    I had previously tried to run this disc on CD-i Emulator, but it always crashed for an unknown reason that I attributed to MPEG device emulation problems. This time I traced back the crash and it turned out to have nothing at all to do with FMV playback but was instead caused by an incorrect emulation of the 68000 instruction "move ea,ccr" which is supposed to set the condition code register (ccr) to the value specified by the effective address (ea). In the processor manual this is classified as a word instruction and I had emulated it as such, which turned out to be wrong as it caused a word write to the full status register which should have been a byte write to the lower eight bits of it which hold the condition codes.

    The problem manifested itself when the application calls the math trap handler for some mundane number calculations, which were naturally supposed to set the condition codes. The value written to the status register inadvertently changed the processor from user to system mode (and also scrambled the active interrupt masking level) which caused an instant stack switch that caused a bus error when the trap handler attempts to return to the application program (the cpu took the return address from the wrong stack and got garbage instead).

    Most CD-i applications probably don't use the math trap handler so the problem went undetected for a long time. Now that it's fixed some other titles have probably started working but I haven't tested that.

    After this, the FMV Technical Aspects application would get to its main menu screen, allowing me to start FMV playback operations. Regular playback worked fine until the end of the video clip, where there turned out to be status bit generation issues that prevented the application from properly detecting the end of video clip condition (the decoder is supposed to send a "buffer underflow" signal, among others, after the end of the MPEG data and my emulation didn't do that yet).

    This was not very easy to fix because of the way that MPEG data buffering and decoding is handled inside CD-i Emulator, which I'll get into below. So it took me some time.

    Regular play working fine, I started worrying about window control. This was the area where I feared the picture buffering stuff, but it turned out that this was easily bypassed. The horizontal / vertical scrolling functions were ideal to test this but it took me some time to get it working. There were bugs in several areas, including my integration of the MPEG video decoding code, which I took from the well-known mpeg2dec package. This code is written to decode a single video sequence and consequently did not handle image size changes without some re-initialization calls at the appropriate times. Failing that, it mostly just crashed (at the Windows application level) due to out-of-bounds video buffer accesses.

    Another issue was the timing of device register updates for image size changes; I turned out to have the basic mechanism wrong and consequently the driver would keep modifying the window parameters to incorrect values.

    Having all of the above fixed, I returned my attention to playback control. So far I can get the video playback properly paused, but I haven't been able to get it properly resumed. For some reason the application resumes the MPEG playback but it doesn't resume the disc playback. Since the driver waits for new data to arrive from disc before actually resuming MPEG playback nothing happens (this is documented as such). The application is presumably expecting some signal from the driver to get into the proper state for resuming disc playback, but I haven't found it yet.

    At this point, it seemed promising to look at other CD-i titles using playback control and the Philips Video CD application is an obvious candidate. Again, regular playback appears to work fine, but playback control (including pause/resume) does not. It turns out that this application uses a different driver call (it uses MV_ChSpeed instead of MV_Pause, probably in preparation for possible slow motion or single step), which never completes successfully, probably again because of device status signaling. Similar issues appear to block playback control in a few other titles I tried.

    I've given some thought to tracing driver calls and signals on an actual player to see what CD-i Emulator is doing wrong, and it appears to be relatively simple, there's just a bandwidth issue because all of the trace output will have to go out the serial port which can go no higher then 19200 baud. Some kind of data compression is obviously needed and I've determined a relatively simple scheme that should be enough (the CD-i player side will all need to be coded in 68000 machine language so simplicity is important!), but I haven't actually written any code for it yet.

    I know there are issues with the proper timing of some video status signals. Things like start-of-sequence, end-of-sequence and start-of-picture-group should be delayed until display of the corresponding picture, at present they are delivered at decoding time, which can be a few pictures early. But that does not really affect the titles I've tried so far, because they do not attempt picture-synced operations. An application like The Lost Ride might be sensitive to thinks like this, though, and it needs to be fixed at some time. Similar issues are probably present with time code delivery. In addition, the last-picture-displayed and buffer-underflow signals are not always properly sent; I'm fixing these as I go along.

    In the process, I decided that the magenta border was getting annoying and tried to fix it. That turned out to be harder then I thought. The MPEG chip has a special border color register that is written by the MV_BColor driver call and it seemed enough to just pass the color value to the MPEG window overlay routines. Well, not so. Again the issue turned out to be timing of decoder status signals, but of a different kind. The driver doesn't write the border color registers until it has seen some progress in certain timing registers related to the picture buffering thing, presumably to avoid visual flashes or something on the actual hardware. Fortunately, it turned out to be easy to simulate that progress, taking care not to trigger the complicated picture buffer code that I so far managed to keep dormant.

    At some point, possibly related to slow motion or freeze frame, I might need to actually tackle that code but I hope to by that time have gained more understanding of the supposed workings of the MPEG chip.

    Looking at the above, you might think that all of the difficulties are with the MPEG video decoding and that is indeed mostly true. I did have to fix something in the MPEG audio decoding, related to the pause/resume problems, and that was the updating of the audio decoder clock. When audio and video playback are synchronized the MPEG video driver uses the MPEG audio clock as it's timing reference, which means that it has to be stopped and restarted when video playback control operations occur. Since I had never before seriously tested this, the audio clock wasn't stopped at all and the video driver obligingly continued decoding and displaying pictures until it ran out of buffered data.

    There is currently just one known problem with the MPEG audio decoding: the audio isn't properly attenuated as specified by the driver. This causes little audio distortions at some stream transitions and when buffers run out. There is also a problem with base case audio synchronization but that is hard to trigger and possibly even not audible in many titles so I'll worry about that much later.

    Above I promised to get into the MPEG data buffering and decoding issue. The basic problem is one of conceptual mismatch: the CD-i decoding hardware gets data "pushed" into it (by DMA or direct device I/O) at the behest of the driver, whereas the MPEG decoding code (based on the publicly available mpeg2dec and musicout programs from the MPEG Software Simulation Group) expects to "pull" the data it needs during decoding. Things get messy when the decoding runs out of data, as the code does not expect to ever do so (it was originally written to decode from a disc file which of course never runs out of data until the end of the sequence). Some obvious solutions include putting the decoding in a separate thread (which given multi-core processors might be a good idea anyway from a performance perspective) and modifying it to become restartable at some previous sync point (most easily this would be the start of an audio frame or a picture or picture slice). Both options are somewhat involved although they have obvious benefits, and it may turn out that I will need to do one of them anyway at some point. For now I've avoided the problems by carefully timing calls into the MPEG decoding code so that enough data to decode a single audio frame or video picture should always be available; the MPEG data stream at the system level contains enough timestamp and buffering information to make this possible (in particular, it specifies the exact decoding time of every audio frame or video picture in relation to the timing of the data stream, thus making it possible to make those calls into the decoding code at a time that a valid MPEG data stream will have already filled the buffers far enough).

    The approach depends on the timing of the MPEG data entering the decoder, which means that it does not handle buffer underflow conditions unless you add some kind of automatic decoding that continues even if no more MPEG data appears, and this is basically what I’ve done. In the end it was just relatively straightforward extension of the automatic decoding already there to handle the fact that MPEG audio streams do not have to explicitly timestamp every single audio frame (the CD-i Green Book does not even allow this unless you waste massive amounts of space in each MPEG audio data sector) and would have been needed anyway to correctly decode the last pictures of a sequence, but that had never been tested before.

    For performance and possible patent reasons I have taken care to edit the MPEG decoding code (placing appropriate #ifdef lines at the right places) so that only MPEG 1 video and audio layer I/II decoding code is compiled into the CD-i Emulator executable. This is all that is needed for CD-i anyway and MPEG 2 video and audio layer III greatly complicate the decoding and thus significantly enlarge the compiled code.

    Being somewhat stymied at the FMV front, I next decided to spend some time on another lingering issue. During testing, I often have to do the same exact sequence of mouse actions to get a CD-i application to a problem point and this is starting to be annoying. Input recording and playback are a partial solution to this but then you still have to wait while the application goes through it, which is also annoying and can sometimes take quite some time anyway. The obvious solution is a full emulation state save/restore feature, which I've given some thought and started implementing. It's nowhere near finished, though.

    During the MESS collaboration I spent some time investigating the MESS save/restore mechanism. If at all possible I would love to be compatible for CD-i emulation states, but it turns out to be quite hard to do. The basic internal mechanism is quite similar in spirit to what I developed for CD-i Emulator, but it's the way the data is actually saved that makes compatibility very hard. Both approaches basically boil down to saving and restoring all the relevant emulation state variables, which includes easy things like the contents of cpu, memory and device registers but also internal device state variables. The latter are of course not identical between different emulators but they could probably be converted if some effort was thrown at it and for a typical device they aren't very complex anyway. The MESS implementation uses an initialization-time registration of all state variables; at save/restore time it just walks the registrations and saves or restores the binary contents of those variables. CD-i Emulator has a somewhat more flexible approach; at save/restore time it calls a device-specific serialize function to save or restore the contents of the state variables. The actual registration / serialization codes are structurally similar in the two emulators (a simple list of macro/function calls on the state variables) but the code runs at different times.

    The real problem is that MESS includes very little meta information in the save files: only a single checksum of all the names and types of registered state variables in registration order. This is enough to validate the save data at restore time if the state variables of the saving emulator exactly match those of the restoring emulator, because there is no information to implement skipping or conversions. This holds between different versions or in some case even configurations of MESS emulators, but it holds even more so between MESS and CD-i Emulator! The meta information could of course be obtained from the MESS source code (relatively simply macro modifications could cause it to be written out) but that would require exact tracking of MESS versions because every version could have its own checksum corresponding to different meta information (in this case CD-i Emulator would need meta information sets for every MESS checksum value it wants to support).

    I want CD-i Emulator to be more flexible, especially during development, so I decided to make full meta information an option in the save file. The saved state of every device is always versioned, which allows the save/restore code to implement explicit conversion where needed, but during development this isn't good enough. With full meta information turned on, the name and type of every state variable precedes the save data for that variable in the save file. This allows more-or-less automatic skipping of unknown state variables and when properly implemented the restore code can also handle variable reordering. At release time, I will fix the version numbers and save full metadata information sets for those version numbers so that the same automatic skipping and handling of reordering can be done even if the metadata isn't in the save file (it probably won't be because of file size considerations, although that may turn out to be a non-issue because save files need to include the full RAM contents anyway which is 1 MB of data in the simplest case without any compression, which is of course an option).

    In addition to all of the above, I made some progress on the ROM-less emulation front. First I spent some time reading up on the internals of OS-9 file managers, because writing a replacement for the NRF file manager (NRF = Nonvolatile RAM File manager) seemed the logical next step. Actually writing it turned out not to be that hard, but there were of course bugs in the basic ROM emulation code. Most of them had to do with handlers not calling into the original ROM, which totally screwed up the tracing code. Some new functionality was also needed to properly read/write OS-9 data structures inside the emulated machine from the ROM emulation code; I wanted to implement this in such a way that compilation to "native" 68000 code remains a future option for ROM emulation modules. And of course the massive tracing described in the previous blog post had to be curtailed because it was impossible to see the relevant information in the morass of tracing output.

    The new emulated NRF stores its files in the PC file system and it currently works fine when you start it with no stored files (i.e., the player will boot). In that case it will write out a proper "csd" (Configuration Status Descriptor) file. However, if this file already exists, the player crashes, although I have so far not found any fault in the NRF code. The origin of the problem probably lies elsewhere; I suspect it has to do with the hidden "player_shell_settings.prf" file. This file is read and written by the ROM bootstrap even before OS-9 is running; it does this by directly accessing the NVRAM memory (the file never changes size and is always the first one in NVRAM). Since the bootstrap accesses of this file do not go through the NRF file manager or even the NVRAM driver they are not redirected by the OS-9 emulation. However, later accesses by the player shell *are* redirected and the player shell does not seem able to handle the file not existing in the PC file system in the case where a csd file already exists. Solutions include extending the emulated NRF to always access this particular file from the NVRAM instead of the PC file system or somehow synchronizing the two locations for the file. The latter is probably the easiest route given the fixed location and size of the file, but the former is also useful as it would provide a full reimplementation of the original NRF that could in principle be compiled to native 68000 code to replace the "original" NRF in ROM (this is where gcc comes in as alluded to earlier, since all emulation code is written in C++).

    In either case, I do not want the file manager to directly access emulated NVRAM although it could do so easily, as there is already an internal CNvramPort interface that provides just such access independent of the actual emulated NVRAM chip. The NRF file manager should instead call the NVRAM driver, which means that I need to implement cross-module calling first. It's not really hard in principle, the design has been done but there are a lot of little details to get right (the most obvious implementation uses at least 66 bytes of emulated stack space on each such call which I find excessive and might not even work; smarter implementations require some finicky register mask management or a "magic cookie" stacking approach, the latter having the best performance in the emulation case but being impossible in the native 68000 compilation case). When cross-module calling is working, I can also have the file manager allocate emulated memory and separate out the filename parsing functions by using the OS-9 system calls that provide these functions (the current emulated NRF does not allocate emulated memory which is arguably an emulation error and has the filename parsing coded out explicitly).

    When everything works correctly with the emulated NRF, I have to find some way of integrating it in the user experience. You could always start over without any NVRAM files, but I'd like to have some way of migrating files between the two possible locations without having to run CD-i Emulator with weird options. Extending the CD-i File Extractor (cdifile) by incorporating (part of) the emulated NRF seems the obvious choice, which would also provide me with some impetus to finally integrate it with the CD-i File Viewer (wcdiview) program that's supposed to be a GUI version of cdifile but so far is just a very thin skeleton barely able to graphically display a single CD-i IFF image file passed on the command line (it doesn't even have a File Open menu) and will often crash. A proper implementation would look like Windows Explorer with a tree view on the left (CD-i file system, real-time channels and records, IFF chunk structure, etc) and a variable content display on the right (raw data view, decoded sector view, code disassembly view, graphical image view, audio playback, slideshow playback, decoded MPEG view, MPEG playback, etc).

    That touches on another area in which I did some work last month: the saving of CD-i IFF image files for each emulated video frame. The motivation for this was to bring full-resolution real-time frame saving into the realm of the possible, as it would write only about 2 x (1024 + 280 x (384 + 32)) = 247 KB of raw CD-i video and DCP data per frame instead of 560 x 768 x 3 = 1260 KB of raw RGB. At least on my PC this has turned out not to be the case, however. The data is written out fine, which is not as easy as it sounds since video line data size can vary with each line because of pixel repeat and run-length encoding, but it's still too slow. That being so, I am not really very motivated to extend the CD-i IFF decoding implementation to actually decode this information. Some kind of compression could be an option, but that takes processor time and makes things even harder and possibly slower. Perhaps using another thread for this would be a solution, on a multi-core machine this should not greatly impact the basic emulation performance nor the debugging complexity as the compression code would be independent of the emulation itself.

    So there is still a lot of work to be done, but it's all quite interesting and will provide for some entertaining evenings and weekends in the coming weeks or possibly months.

              Tic-Talk Tonight: Elias Portwin        
    Welcome to the newest edition of Tic-Talk, the transcript that follows is the full interview as conducted by Indira Nooyi with our guest interviewee, Elias Portwin, captain and operator of the Bolide. Interview was carried out at the Central Advocacy Detention Centre in the Ferron system on February 14, 2947. Indira Nooyi(IN): Good evening and welcome to another edition of Tic-Talk, I’m your host for the evening Indira Nooyi and with me tonight I have the captain and operator of the mining ship, the Bolide. Thank you for granting us this interview, Mr. Portwin. Elias Portwin(EP): Uh… It’s my pleasure ma’am. It’s just good to be able to tell my side, you know? IN: Indeed and we are looking forward to giving you the opportunity to tell your side. Now… Mr. Portwin, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you become a miner? A few personal details of that nature. EP: I’m from Tram, on Asura, here in Ferron. Things are tough there… but there’s still a lot of mining know how to go around.  My family were some of the lucky ones, still have a bit of money. My parents made a living off of refurbishing and selling used mining equipment. I worked with my folks until I had enough credits for my beautiful Bolide. IN: Thank you. For those folks unfamiliar with the events that have brought you here tonight. Could you in your own words give our viewing audience a little backstory on what happened? EP: Well, ya see, I’d had a few run-ins with the Chomper crew. They were always tailin’ me, because I actually know how to find the veins. They’re a gang of talentless thieves, they are. Anyhow, I had uncovered this beauty cluster of platinum asteroids here in Ferron and I was ‘bout to start up my drillin’ when along came the fuckin’... wait, can I swear? IN: Well, this is a live feed and would prefer if you kept it to a general tone in terms of language, please continue. You mentioned a vein of platinum... EP:  Yeah… yeah. I’d found some nice platinum asteroids out on the ragged edges of Ferron. Along came Chomper to try to push me out. Ya see, Orions have weapons. Not much a little Prospector like Bolide can do to defend a claim. I sure don’t have the credits to hire mercs. I had had enough, ya know? It’s hard enough gettin’ by out there in the black all by your lonesome without a monstrosity like that breathin’ down your neck. So I decided to do something about it. IN: I see, but Ferron is a system open to trades like miners such as yourself to scout and claim these precious resources. So the Chomper, Orion mining vessel, had equal opportunity and rights to chase the same veins of resources you yourself were. I guess my question would then be, did you consider what it would mean for yourself if you decided to take the situation into your own hands? EP: With all due respect Ms. Nooyi, I don’t think you know what it’s like out there. Code among miners is that if you discover a claim and are actively mining, that’s yours. Full stop. They just waltzed in there throwing their weight around… like they always do. Did I consider what it would mean when I ruffled their feathers? Honestly, not really ma’am. I was angry and fed up. IN: Such rash action has in turn brought you into Advocacy custody waiting to hear whether or not charges are going to be laid against you or more than likely what charges will be brought forward. So in your eyes, was it worth it in the end? EP: You don’t pull your punches, do ya miss? I… well, you know, at the time it was pretty rewarding to finally get a chance to stand up for myself.  But I know it was wrong.  And was it worth it, really? No… not in the end. IN: Just for the record, do you know of or are you acquaintances with the Chomper’s captain? I know in some of these industries you run across the same people from time to time. It wouldn't take much to build a small personal grudge if one was rubbed the wrong way on a prior occasion. EP: Yeah, I know him. As I said, we’ve had some run-ins. He’s always on me because I’m good… makes the life of his crew easy to use me as a dowsing rod. We’ve had words… many times. I was tired of bein’ used. IN: It would then not be much of a stretch to say that this was more or less a simmering pot ready to boil over. I can understand how frustrating this whole situation could have been for you and in the end I think you can probably count yourself lucky no lives were lost during this incident. Now that we heard your version of events in your own words, I would like to just get some clarification on how things unfolded. To my knowledge, it was stated that you maneuvered an asteroid into the Chomper which then caused significant damage. Could you please elaborate for me not only how you managed that but what gave you the idea in the first place? EP: Yes ma’am. Well, you see… I love the Bolide but she comes equipped with just the one set of small guns up front. Not much protection and completely useless to actually attack anything. So I had to come up with somethin’ more… improvised. I discovered awhile back that if you pour energy into your front shields and are very gentle with the initial contact, you can actually push asteroids with the Bolide. I settled her nose into an impact crater on an asteroid about half the size of the Orion. I poured my power into shields, engines, and a bit into the tractor to keep the rock tight to the shields… and I pushed it right into Chomper. Those Orions are like freakin’ space whales. They can’t move worth sh… uh… worth anything. It smashed right into them, wrecked their engines before they could do anything about it. I knew I want you to know… I knew it wouldn’t destroy them. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to push back a bit… stand up for myself. IN: Since you’ve now had a chance to tell your side of the story, what was your reasoning for accepting this interview? Aren’t you concerned the information you gave today can be used to incriminate you? EP: Ms. Nooyi, I haven’t hidden anything. The sensor data from Chomper, the sensor data from Bolide. It’s clear what happened. I’m not going to avoid punishment. I hope that the judge in my case will take into account the history involved but there’s no need to try and twist the truth. I’m glad no one was hurt. I just wanted a chance to tell folks my side of what happened. Thank you for giving me that chance ma’am. IN: Thank you for sitting down with me this evening, I do wish you the best of luck going forward. I’m Indira Nooyi and this has been another edition of Tic-Talk, thanks for joining us and see you next week.
              Obama to join ranks of our roadless forest heroes?        

    I had the honor Monday of joining two of my heroes — former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck and U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva from Arizona — to share with reporters what steps we would like to see the Obama Administration take to protect our nation’s roadless forests. Recent court rulings favored by President Bush and his oil-and-gas-industry cronies have inserted what we hope is just a temporary sliver into protection for areas that play a critical role in improving the quality of life for people and safeguarding habitat for wildlife.

    Grijalva, chairman of the House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, noted that our incoming president is already a champion of these values. Obama co-sponsored legislation that would permanently protect America’s unroaded forests when he was a senator and he often mentioned their importance as a presidential candidate. Now that he’s set to take office in a week, The Wilderness Society and many of our friends in the conservation community including the Pew Environment Group can move from addressing the question of whether a new president will protect these pristine forests to how he will do so.

    Our immediate focus is on asking the new administration to make it a lot more difficult for the still Bush-heavy Forest Service to approve any projects that would destroy the integrity of our roadless forests. This can be accomplished by stipulating that any destructive activities such as road building, logging, oil and gas development, and mining be reviewed by an Obama appointee rather than allowing such decisions to be made by the Forest Service at the local level.

    There are two other items we will work with the administration to accomplish in the short-term. (The phrase “working with the administration” is a refreshing change after the last eight years.) As we all told reporters yesterday, we would like President Obama to:

    • Require the Department of Justice to vigorously defend our roadless forests in the various on-going court cases that we hope will result in a victory for the millions of people who care so deeply about roadless areas.
    • End the temporary exemption from the national roadless rule that Bush placed on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

    All three of the principles I’ve mentioned here are expressed in The Roosevelt Resolution, a request to help our forests that honors the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt. By clicking on the link above, you can also listen to yesterday’s press conference so that you can hear directly from the roadless rule architect, Mr. Dombeck, and one of our most courageous public lands advocates, Rep. Grijalva.

    I don’t think it will take you long to discern why they’re heroes of mine, or why protecting our roadless forests is so close to all of our hearts.

              Salvia Divinorum Usa        

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              Friday Night Family Fun!        
    My nephew helped me cook up a storm this past Friday. It was So much fun sharing my joy of cooking with him.

    On the menu:

    Brown Rice

    Guacamole - avocado, garlic, olive oil, sea salt in the Vitamix

    Hummus - chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, sea salt in the Vitamix

    Garlicky Kale and Roasted Chickpeas-
    6 cups torn kale
    30 oz can chickpeas
    Olive Oil
    3 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 2 Tbsp paprika, 3 tsp ginger, 2 tsp coriander, 2 tsp cardamom. 
    Dressing-1 head garlic - roasted
    1/4 cup tahini
    2 Tbsp olive oil + more for roasting garlic
    2 lemons, juiced (~1/3 cup)
    1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
    Tear the kale and place in large bowl. Roast chickpeas with olive oil and spices for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Roast garlic at same time. Prepare dressing. Pour chickpeas onto kale, top with dressing. Fabulous!

    Burritos-beef, refried beans, seasoning, flour, wheat and corn tortillas and fixings: cheese, salsa, sour cream, hot sauce

    Roasted brussel sprouts because we always have roasted brussel sprouts!

    Blue Corn and Black Bean chips

    Vegan donuts with lemon icing.  I was going to make with espresso icing but midstream we chose lemon, instead :)

    • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (carton not canned)
    • 1/3 cup oil
    • 1/3 cup maple syrup or agave*
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 package active dry yeast
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 4-4.5 cups flour (give or take)
    • ESPRESSO GLAZE-I made lemon glaze
    • 1 shot quality espresso or strong coffee (2-3 T)  I used lemon juice instead
    • 4 cups powdered sugar
    • STREUSEL TOPPING: (optional)
    • 3-4 Tablespoons butter (non-dairy for vegan)
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2-3 Tablespoons flour
    • I didn't use the streusel topping-we sprinkled with sprinkles :)
    1. Bring soy milk, oil, maple syrup or agave, and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan.
    2. Once boiling, remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm or 110 F (30 minutes)
    3. Once cooled, stir in yeast and let set for 5-10 minutes.
    4. In a large bowl, add 4 cups of flour and salt, then add to wet mixture and stir, mixing well, then covering with a towel and letting rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
    5. Once doubled in size, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, (or until the dough is no longer incredibly sticky). Mix well and then let the dough sit for about 10 minutes.
    6. On a floured surface make about 2-inch balls and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving room for expansion.
    7. Preheat oven to 350 and cover with light towel while warming.
    8. Once preheated, bake for 10-11 minutes, being careful not to over bake as you don't want the bottoms too brown.
    9. Prepare glaze and streusel while baking. Once donuts are done, let them cool slightly and then dunk in glaze and cover with streusel. I put the streusel on both top and bottom, and would recommend it for best flavor.
    10. Serve immediately for best result, or store in air-tight container for up to 2 days.
    This made 12 large donuts that I baked in two 9 inch round cake pans. I had to bake them for 20 minutes, probably because they were larger than 2". 

    These donuts were all gone within 24 hours! 

    We also brewed a batch of KOMBUCHA. What a blast!

    Getting our supplies together.

    Checking the PH.

    Time to brew for 3 weeks !

              My Authentic Self        

    Sometimes I really surprise myself.  I don’t know how this all happened, in the realm of two days..but it has happened and I like it. I feel liberated...from myself?

    I have been coloring my hair for 25  years. I first began with foil highlights added in to my strawberry blonde hair. The darker blonde would grow in and back to my colorist I would run.  After a few pregnancies my hair grew in darker. I’ve gone brunette, blonde, red…all colors of the rainbow. The past 10 years I’ve been coloring and foiling to keep up with the gray. Or the darks. I'm not sure what color my hair is any more.  I hadn’t even thought of the alternative: my authentic self.  My gray self.

    I’ve heard others say “I’m not ready to be old” and I’ve just nodded my head in agreement. Gray and old are no longer synonymous in my world. One might begin to gray at 25, or 45 or 65. Age is how I live. Not how I look. Age is how I feel. Now how I look.

    I have a couple of fantastic  friends who sport their gray beautifully.  I’ve always looked at them with longing as I wished I could do the same but that's where my thought would end. I’d then make the call for an appointment and I’d go to my stylist.   $150 every 6-8 weeks for color, foil, cut, style, wax and tip.

    As I was driving into work yesterday I saw the grays and darks coming through my roots and thought to myself that  my last appointment was February 15, it’s about time to call for an appointment-I came into work and thought about my hair. Why do I continue to color it? Why do I continue to change who I am. I haven’t had botox-my skin is who I am. I haven’t had liposuction. My body is who I am. I realized I no longer wanted to color my hair. I want to be my authentic self.

    My authentic self.

    That’s who I want to be. Who I am. Gray hair and all.

    During the course of one day I realized I no longer want those chemicals placed upon my head. My hair is dry and processed. My head itches. I live a pretty healthy life. I consume a plant based diet, we grow food in our garden, I move my body daily, I do what I can to battle the genes I was dealt. Why would I continue to place chemicals upon my scalp? It was the normal.

    I sometimes make the mistake of thinking that what I look like is more important than who I am.

    No longer.  Granted, I’m only 7 weeks from my last foil. I’m only 2 days into this way of thinking. I’m thinking of beautiful Nancy, Karen, Simona, Bonnie, Denise, Twyla and Lynette, with their beautiful silver hair. They are their authentic selves.

    Women with gray hair strike me as being high priestesses of sorts. They are  beyond societal beauty norms so much so that they've created their own niche where they are alluring without the battle of aging. We  are beautiful as gray or blonde or brown. 

    These  women are also beautiful because they aren't slaves to narcissism. They have the moxie to take their vanity in moderation, which gives them an air of wisdom and strength.

    Gray. Silver. Authentic. Me. I’m going with it. 

    Are you rockin' your gray? Are you coloring?

    I'll keep you posted. I'll let you know if I continue to feel this way.  Who knows? I could change my mind.

    For now, it feels right.
              Venezuela is Socialism's Last Nail in the Coffin        

    From a so-called “economic miracle” to a human rights disaster, Venezuela has followed in the footsteps of literally every single socialist or communist country ever with its country in complete collapse. Crime is on the rise, the people are starving, protests are going all throughout the country, and unconfirmed rumors are coming out that President Nicolas Maduro is considering leaving.

    In the never ending desire to achieve an impossible utopia, Venezuela is living in a nightmare that may serve as the best evidence against government mismanagement.

    To be blunt, the people are starving. Roughly 75 percent of the country lost 19 pounds in 2016. This actually coincides with reports that Venezuelans were looking for food in the trash.

    It is not just food that Venezuelans seem to be running out of at the moment. The country is lacking medicine, toilet paper, and even goods for religious sacraments as well. All sorts of goods are disappearing from the country faster and faster.

    Meanwhile, their economy is in complete shambles. At the start of the year, inflation had hit 800 percent while their GDP had shrunk by 19 percent. To make matters worse, 2016 marked its third year of recession.

    Of course, the elite of the country have not seemed to notice the problems their citizens are facing. Accusations fly of the leaders of Venezuela living luxurious lifestyles despite the recession. Unsurprisingly, reports have the daughter of Venezuela’s last President Hugo Chavez at a networth of $4.2 billion.

    So the big question is: why is Venezuela falling apart? The simplest answer is government mismanagement as it started taking over the economy. Under the watch of Socialists Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro, the socialist leadership in the country has greatly increased its influence in economic affairs, resulting in decreased investment, business failures, and scarcity.

    Over the past decade and a half, the Venezuelan government has nationalized multiple industries, including oil, agriculture, finance, steel, electricity, and telecommunications. Unsurprisingly, this led to significant ruin in the various industries it controlled, especially oil. Case in point, the Chavez regime largely underfunded the investment necessary to bring about increased oil production.

    Large portions of oil revenues were transferred to generous social programs but there was lackluster reinvestment to make sure that more oil was produced to keep revenue flowing. As a result, oil production starting dropping consistently after 2007 which saw a major decline in revenue (and helped lead to the debt that caused hyper inflation). Additionally, Chavez demanded more money from oil companies investing in the country and the ones that refused saw their assets seized. With such a clear lack of respect for human rights, it should come as no surprise that foreign investment has been on the decline recently in the country which is also hurting business and revenue.

    To make matters worse, many workers were fired and replaced with government loyalists. In one case, a company that had never created an oil well was hired to create several since it had ties to the government. The lack of experienced workers unsurprisingly has also added to the decline of the oil industry that was a huge part of the government’s revenue.

    Just about every industry the government has touched has fallen apart. Steel production was reduced by 70 percent after it was nationalized, food production has been on the decline while the government redistributed farmland for the production of food the land was not suited for, and the Venezuelan government is instituting blackouts to reduce consumption to reduce electricity use due to decreased supply. Overall, it seems Venezuela is in the process of running its economy into the ground.

    Venezuela has also added newer regulations and laws to improve the economic situation of its country that had the opposite effect. Case in point, the minimum wage was increased recently by 50 percent despite the fact overall wages still decreased by 17 percent. Other reports have increased labor protections actually hurting business while price controls that were implemented to reduce profits and keep prices low also helped to reduce food productions which also helped cause the food crisis. With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the number of businesses in Venezuela has gone down from 800,000 in 1998 to 230,000 in 2016, a decline of 570,000.

    It is important to remember though that none of this should even be looked at as being done as a love for the people from the state. As was noted by a former education minister, the goal of the people reforms is “‘not to take the people out of poverty so they become middle class and then turn into escuálidos’ (a derogatory term to denote opposition members).” Translation: it’s not for their benefit but to create a dependent class of supporters.

    For more evidence of how the government does not care about its people, look no further than its human rights records. The Maduro government has been seizing power by stacking the courts with supportive justices and then met the protests against that with violent crackdowns on dissenters. Meanwhile, accusations of sham elections are now flying in the wake of an election referendum to give him the power to rewrite the country’s constitution. In the end, the increase in power has come to the detriment of the people backed by phony promises.

    As is always the case, the promise of helping the people through government intervention completely falls apart. Just like with China and Russia, the result is always economic ruin with the well connected few reaping the benefits. Unfortunately, the US is not free from these mistakes as states like Connecticut or cities like Seattle implementing their own interventions in the economy that results in disaster. If the US wants to head down the path same economic path as Venezuela that leads to destruction and corruption, it will inevitably end there.

              BWW Review: LIMINAL STATE at 2017 KC Fringe Festival        

    "Liminal State - A Travel's Guide" now in performance at Musical Theatre Heritage's Main Stage in Crown Center as part of the 2017 Kansas City Fringe Festival is absolute experimental theater. Directed by Fishtank Theatre Founder Heidi Van and Logan Black, the directors offer an experiential hour spent in a state of being between what the audience knows and what the performers and directors want them to feel.

    If all this seems a little too mystic, I suspect that is because that was the intent. Honesty, this viewer didn't get it. That doesn't mean that there isn't a bunch to chew on from this presentation. There is value. "Limanal State" is deliberately conceived, impressively scored, inventively lit, delicately performed, and detailed in a most intimate way.

    The audience enters the theater and elements of the performance are already in progress. Sparse settings and set pieces in various states of being refer to more than we can know. Seven women dancers / actors flow around the stage, occasionally connecting with each other before spinning off in various orbits as if they were electrons circling a nuclear center. It would seem random if the movements were not so obviously calculated.

    The women are dressed in spandex white tops and flowing black bottoms slit up the sides to reveAl White tights. Around their necks are translucent hats, scarves, costume acoutrements - call them what you will - that can be used as props during the performance. The actors are Lindsay Adams, Jamie Turner, Emily Sukolics, Mackenzie Goodwin, Aimee Nelson, Stephanie Laaker, and Bethany Elliot.

    The show is divided into a number of scenes. Some depict birth, some life, some coming of age, some age, some death, and some show the essence of existence in between. There is no dialogue or leading character. Different ladies take the lead in different sections of the piece. A deliberateness to the performances demonstrates the seriousness and intent.

    Prior to the beginning of the exhibition, the directors explain just enough of what is going to be displayed to make the audience wonder. They say it has it roots in an idea that manifested during the U.S. post World War II occupation of Japan and the Japanese cultural reaction to thousands of new American personnel suddenly in their midst. One wonders about the possibility of a statement about current political turmoil or a comment about the introduction of nuclear weapons into 1945 Japan, but l cannot be sure what were the creator's intents.

    There is a tendency, especially on the part of my twisted mind, to say something flip about "Liminal State." Instead, I am reminded of exercises in movement and improvisation that I experienced while briefly a student at the Goodman in Chicago only in this case the exercise is taken to the next level.

    If there is a place for proper experimental theater, than Fringe is it. I didn't get it, but that doesn't mean that you (as an audience member) won't. Find your own bliss and level of involvement. "Liminal State" closes Saturday night at MTH.

              Clean Kali: All eyes now on govt        
    The water of East Kali is heavily polluted. It would hopefully change with the NGT taking notice of it.
    The polluted Kali river. (Image source: Neer Foundation)

    Rampura, situated in Bulandshahr district in western Uttar Pradesh, is one of the 1,200 villages on the banks of the 300-km long East Kali, a tributary of the Ganges. The river is named after goddess Kali who, according to the Hindu mythology, is fierce and fights evil by ingesting it.

    Till the 1980s, the river was a symbol of purity. Things have changed now with the river turning into a nullah brimming with industrial effluents. “We used to drink its waters when young. Today, it's so toxic that forget drinking, I dread touching it,” says Devendra Kumar Sharma, a resident of Panwadi, a village in Meerut district. The river’s toxic water now symbolises death and not life.

    Foul flows in streams

    As per a study by Neer Foundation, a Meerut-based non-profit working on environmental issues, as the river is polluted, the groundwater of the area which gets replenished by the river too has turned into a receptacle for toxic waste. Unsuspecting people, however, continued to draw water through the handpumps till recent studies rang an alarm bell.

    The study conducted in 2015-16 reveals that in Rampura, the groundwater recorded a total dissolved solids of 1760 mg/litre, way above the permissible standard of a maximum of 500 mg/litre for drinking purposes. Soil stratum was harmed as iron and lead contamination spread from river water to aquifers (underground reservoirs that hold groundwater) that are recharged by it.

    A study by Neer Foundation reveals that the pollution load in the river is unmanageable. (Image source: Neer Foundation)

    Lead is recognised as highly toxic, and damages the nervous system in humans while iron is therapeutic in low doses but lethal when present in excessive quantities.“This toxic water gets distributed and is used for drinking and irrigation purposes in rural areas. This has a severe health impact on us and our animals. The outfall of water from nullahs to the river must stop,” says Satish Kumar, a farmer from Jalalpur village in Meerut district.

    The water from handpumps has shown iron concentration measuring up to 0.35 parts per million, which is enough to cause water to turn reddish brown in colour. Lead concentration too was high at  0.5 parts per million in Rampura. According to Indian standard drinking water specification 1991, the highest desirable limit of lead in drinking water is 0.05 parts per million. “The possibility of geogenic contamination i.e., naturally occurring contaminants in the water, too cannot be ruled out. The Central Ground Water Authority is studying these aspects,” says Atulesh Yadav, regional officer, Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, Meerut.

    Rampura is one of the several villages of the eight districts of western Uttar Pradesh where people’s lives at one time depended on the river water for everything--from drinking to irrigation. The village that once boasted of lush green guava orchards has no original water left in its river. The prime villains in this regretful story are the ceaseless discharge of industrial wastewater and municipal sewage into the river.

    “The three main cities of Meerut, Hapur and Bulandshahr through which the East Kali passes have several sugar mills, allied alcohol manufacturing distilleries, paper industries, dairies, tanneries and textile mills that discharge their effluents into the river,” says Raman Kant, director of Neer Foundation. The effluents from the sugar and paper mills are highly toxic and these two industries are enlisted among the 17 most toxic waste releasing industries by the standards provided under the Environment Protection Rules, 1986.

    The pollution load in the river is unmanageable and it can barely assimilate the pollutants. Dilution with freshwater isn't a viable treatment option any longer. In most villages--right from Antawada in Muzaffarpur where the river originates, to Kannauj, its confluence with the Ganga--the water, laced with industrial toxins, is lifted from both the river and under the ground for irrigation. “Water flows from the underground caverns in the forest adjacent to our village forming a river that used to collect rainwater. Once a life-giving force, the river is dry at its origin and gets polluted by industrial effluents a few kilometers downstream,” says Bilam Singh, a farmer from Antawada. “The effect of this on our food is mostly unknown. It is possible that some of the most toxic chemicals like cancer-causing dioxins and organochlorines released by factories are present in the water that is irrigating the farms,” says Raman Kant.

    Water flows from the underground caverns in the forest at the origin of the river. (Image source: Neer Foundation)

    In 2001, Neer Foundation tested the water quality in government accredited laboratories which showed the presence of persistent organic pollutants or PoPs in the two samples near Saini village, downstream of Nanglamal sugar factory. PoPs are known for their impacts on human health and the environment as they are resistant to environmental degradation. “Farmers knew of the contamination but continued to irrigate from the river,” adds Raman Kant.

    “It is only on the river’s downstream stretch as it crosses the city of Aligarh that its pollution level declines as freshwater is added to it from the upper Ganga canal. Besides this, industrial wastes are not added in the river’s stretch between Aligarh and Kannauj,” says Raman Kant.

    The green court takes note

    Many civil society groups have raised the issue of river clean-up. Come monsoon and stretches of the effluent-laden river turn red as it passes through industrial sites. An otherwise seasonal river has now turned into a perennial one, thanks to the discharge of industrial and municipal wastewater into it. For years, this has been a concern as villagers were left with no option but to drink this contaminated water. The union environment ministry had in 2012 directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to monitor the quality of the river water and the major wastewater outfalls. “The Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board too does regular monitoring of the river waters,” says Yadav.

    Yet small pockets of industries are polluting the waters of the predominantly rural catchment that is largely dependent on the untreated water from the river as well as the ground. This is leading to the spread of cancer and various other life-threatening diseases. Seeing the impasse, Raman Kant put up a public interest litigation (PIL) which was heard by the principal bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar, chairperson, National Green Tribunal (NGT). Neer Foundation had two demands--the Environment Protection Rules, 1986 that prescribes the standards for effluent discharge is followed and municipal authorities who are responsible for managing municipal wastes adhere to the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2016.

    “The industries not only abstract large volumes of water during their manufacturing processes reducing dilution of pollutants present within the surface water bodies but also contaminate the river by draining their effluent wastes into it,” the PIL states.

    The NGT has, in an order dated May 24, 2017, asked the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board to test the groundwater along the course of the East Kali river. The order is applicable to districts of Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Kasganj, Aligarh, Kannauj and Farrukhabad through which the river passes. The NGT has directed the authorities to test the water immediately and seal those handpumps that supply contaminated water. The PIL also says the Kali clean-up is a prerequisite to cleaning the Ganga. The green tribunal’s order has come as a temporary respite for thousands of villagers living along the river. They are nonetheless waiting for the government to establish long-term policies to resolve the crisis. This could be in the form of a comprehensive action plan for cleaning the East Kali river.

    “The Supreme Court had in 2014 transferred a public interest litigation by noted environmental activist M.C. Mehta, pending since 1985, to the green tribunal. It deals with issues of the river Ganga, especially those involving discharge of domestic sewage and other sources of pollution in the Ganga. This is the larger case which is being heard on a daily basis by the tribunal. As a result, some of the prayers of the petitioner in the case of Kali river were not heard separately,” says advocate Adarsh Srivastava, one of the applicants on behalf of the petitioner.

    “We hope to get an official assessment of the water quality in the riverside villages as per the present order on the East Kali river soon. However, since we have been working on the river’s revival, we look forward to the tribunal’s orders on the Ganga pollution case. The court is likely to give directions on strict measures and penalties to prevent hazardous materials and pollutants from being dumped into the rivers,” says Abhishek Tyagi, secretary of Neer Foundation.

    Without this, it is hard to tell whether the issue of pollution will be resolved in the near future.

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              Centre asks states to prepare for monsoon failure        
    Policy matters this week
    A community well (Source: IWP Flickr photos)

    Centre urges states to gear up for possible monsoon failure

    The agriculture ministry has ordered all the states and union territories to prepare themselves for a possible monsoon failure and operationalise their drought mitigation strategies. For this, the states and union territories have been permitted to earmark 25 percent of funds under centrally-sponsored schemes as flexi-funds for using them for the mitigation of natural calamities. Also, the ministry has allowed the states to expand the coverage of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in order to tackle loss of production in the event of a disaster.  

    Government rejects funds to Gujarat's SAUNI yojana

    On technical grounds, the Central Water Commission (CWC) has rejected the request to fund the Gujarat government's Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI). As per the CWC, the detailed project report for the scheme lacks key details in relation to technical feasibility. Along with expressing concerns about the Gujarat government's failure to consult Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and other concerned states, the CWC has also raised questions over the water storage calculation for the project. However, after getting rejected by the Centre, the state government has decided to fund the project on its own. 

    Ramgarh dam encroachment: HC notice to Rajasthan government

    The Rajasthan high court has issued notice to several authorities in the state against the encroachment on the catchment areas of the Ramgarh dam in Jaipur. In 2004, the court had ordered the state authorities to demarcate the catchment area of the Ramgarh dam and declare it a no-construction zone. Further to this notice in 2012, the court ordered to remove the encroachment on the catchment areas but no action has been taken in this regard; even the demarcation of the catchment areas is yet to be done. 

    Telangana to tackle its water crisis using four waters concept

    Telangana Water Resources Development Corporation (TWRDC) has launched the Jal Doots programme in which 50 volunteers of various NGOs will educate farmers, members of small help groups and gram panchayats across 600 villages in the state on various recharge and water harvesting structures. The basis of the programme is the ‘four water’ concept (ground, surface, soil moisture and rainwater) that aims to conserve each drop of water. The programme will encourage farmers to build soak pits at home, farm ponds in field and adopt various conservation methods like tank renovation, silt application and drip and sprinklers for irrigation.

    India ambitious to mine mineral wealth of the oceans

    The Ministry of Earth Sciences has decided to embark on the ambitious Deep Sea Mission. The project, worth Rs 10,000 crore, aims to explore and mine mineral wealth beneath the ocean floor. The project is expected to begin by the year-end in 2017. According to the ministry, the project would be beneficial to the country as it will provide deep ocean energy, deep sea fishing and minerals. 

    This is a roundup of important policy matters from May 8 - 14, 2017. Also, read the news this week.


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              In the name of development        
    The indigenous community of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been systematically alienated from their land by the colonial and post-colonial policies. A new book chronicles the change.
    The forests and the tribal communities of the islands are being decimated. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

    Pankaj Sekhsaria’s recent book Islands in flux--The Andaman and Nicobar Story is a collection of around 20 years of his writings on the environmental and conservation concerns faced by the indigenous tribal communities of the region. Unlike his previous book, The last wave, a factual fiction adventure story dealing with love, longing and loss, this one is a collection of contemporary developments in the islands. The book is divided into seven parts and several chapters each dealing with the societal and ecological facets of the islands. Issues related to the environment, wildlife conservation and development policies that threaten the island’s indigenous communities have been chronicled by the author who is a long-time member of the NGO, Kalpavriksh.

    Alienation of islanders

    The book begins with the section, Setting the context, in which he writes about the history of the alienation of the island communities living there for over 40,000 years. The author takes a dig at the history writers of the modern democratic Indian state who have left gaping holes in their writings by not sudying the ancient indigenous communities--the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese. It is here that the author mentions “if the real and complete history of the islands is ever written, the British would not be more than a page and India could only be a paragraph”.

    The indigenous people have been systematically alienated from their resources by the British colonial policies and the post-colonial development-oriented policies of India. The Britishers set up a penal colony in the islands in 1858, the Japanese occupied the islands during the World War II, and during the post colonial period, thousands of settlers from mainland India were brought to the island. Though the islanders put up a fierce fight to defend their territories, the social fabric of the island communities has been violently torn apart and their populations decimated while the settlers outnumbered the original inhabitants. The region is witness to nation building exercises, hinduisation of ‘uncivilized junglees’ and even an attempt to rename the islands. The author calls this as an attempt to “reclaim what was never yours”. No effort has been made by way of scholarship or historical studies to take the islanders’ point of view.

    Forestry is the chief source of revenue in cash in the islands but the system of forestry did not suit the region. The author quotes an official report by the Department of Environment, Government of India that argues that “the forestry system was leading to a preponderance of deciduous elements in the evergreen system that would eventually destroy the whole island ecosystem”. The carrying capacity of the islands has been long exceeded, the author says. Ill-conceived schemes like cattle rearing were introduced for a community that does not consume milk. Tourism is a concern in the islands which have been declared as ‘global biodiversity hotspot’.

    The pristine forests and the people living in the Jarawa tribal reserve that covers half the island is under threat because of the ill conceived Andaman Trunk Road that separates the reserve land from the rest of the island. The Jarawas for whom the forests have been a home for ages have been reduced to begging around the Trunk Road that runs through the reserve. The road has been controversial due to the negative fallouts on the island’s ecology and the indigenous people. The Supreme Court had in 2002 passed an order to close it; the island administration chose to ignore it. Its closure was absolutely critical to protect the Jarawa community, the author says.

    Islands turn colonies

    The author chronicles the colonising of the islands in a chapter of the same name and discusses how the settlers look down upon the indigenous communities. Tension continues between the tribal communities especially the ancient tribal community of Jarawas and the settlers over land rights and there is a lack of political will to ease this even as the population of the Jarawas has been reduced to a few hundreds. “There are opinions that the Jarawas should be assimilated into the modern world, but it is clear that it is exactly this contact with the outside world that is rapidly pushing them towards the brink,” the author states.

    In the chapter, A brief history of logging, Sekhsaria provides an account of the timber operations in the Andamans. He notes how as a part of India’s colonisation scheme, mainlanders were settled here. This was done to strengthen India’s claim over the islands. Incentives were offered to settlers by way of land and royalty free timber. Timber-based industry was promoted and liberal subsidies offered. Forests were exploited to benefit settlers who had little stake in the islands or its natural resources. Timber offered for millions decreased after the 2002 Supreme Court order. The order was in response to a petition by three NGOs to stop logging. The Supreme Court order that banned the cutting of naturally grown trees in the Andamans and Nicobar islands were welcomed by the environmental rights groups. But logging continued within the tribal reserve.

    In the section, Environment, ecology and development, the author stresses the need for evolving sensible conservation policies. The author discusses the consequences of introducing exotic species into the island systems. This has led to irretrievable loss of native species and ecosystems. “The Andaman and Nicobar islands are unsurpassed in their botanical wealth, and the ethnomedical knowledge of the tribals who live here is astounding,” he says.

    In the section, December 2004 and its aftermath, the author discusses the turmoil caused by the tsunami of December 26, 2004 which killed around 3500 people in the fragile Andaman and Nicobar islands, the worst hit area in India. The tectonic activity due to the third deadliest earthquake of the world in the last 100 years caused a significant shift in the islands’ geography with a permanent average uplift of four to six feet while parts of Nicobar islands went significantly under, with the southernmost tip, Indira point on Great Nicobar island going 15 ft down. Apart from dealing with how the tsunami destroyed the island, the section also highlights how the people picked up the pieces and started all over again.

    Leave them alone

    The tsunami waters inundated large areas of the islands causing damage to its coastal and marine ecology. In the aftermath of this turmoil, ecologists have suggested ‘no intervention’ and that ‘leaving areas alone should be the preferred management option’. A disturbing facet of the islands in recent times is its water scarcity. The islands have been facing severe water shortages even during the pre-tsunami period but this got worse after 2004. Fresh water sources got hit by the tsunami.

    Talking about the faulty development planning, the author discusses how the former president late Abdul Kalam in 2005 in the aftermath of the tsunami announced a grandiose vision for the development of the Andamans and Nicobar islands. This included ecologically perilous components like deep sea fishing, exploitation of bamboo, value-added coconut products and tourism.

    A central thread of Sekhsaria’s book has been the neglect and acculturation of the Jarawas, and their losing scuffle with the outsiders. The book presented in a journalistic manner handles the issue very sensitively and the author exhibits a keen understanding of the history of the indigenous people and its ecology.

    Don't Show In All Article: 

              Comment on GOP Viewpoint: Republican budget is a new direction by Michael Trahan        
    The Connecticut Senate Republican "No Tax Increase" budget proposal may move Connecticut in a new direction, but it certainly relies heavily on a utility customer bailout and revenue gimmicks to get there. nnLittle mention is made of Senate Republican's reach into the pockets of CT electric and gas utility customers to take $162 million in existing utility customer energy efficiency and renewable energy account money over the next two years. nnSenate Republicans plan to take another $52 million from a second account called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that also funded by electric bill payers. That money is used to lower energy bills for oil customers. nnnnTogether, that's more than $200 million in new taxes in Senate Republican plan. nnThis is the kind of budget trickery that got us into the state budget mess in the first place. Senate Republicans were critical of taking utility customer money when Democrats tried this gimmick last year. Now this utility customer bailout is part of the Republican's new direction for CT.nn The Senate GOP plan impacts all Eversource or United Illuminating electric customers, and also customers from Connecticut Natural Gas, Connecticut Yankee or Southern Connecticut Gas.nnGoing outside the normal budget process and sweeping in off-budget account money paid for, and built by, utility customers to serve utility customers is short-sighted. To suggest to utility customers that using THEIR money to bail out state government is a good method for repairing CT's failing fiscal climate and that this raid on utility customers money is not really a tax in disguise is wrong.
              By: gordon        
    The price of an index grade like West Texas Intermediate or Brent or others isn't "the price of oil". In fact, the markets for these index grades are relatively thin. It would be nice to know what the contract prices for oil actually shipped from the Middle East, Nigeria, Venezuela etc. really are before engaging in speculative explanations of numbers which may not be what is actually being paid.
              By: DickF        
    Josh, Great article! It goes along with something I posted about the 1996 deflation creating a crisis in infrastructure in oil producing equipment. The whole world - with the exception of the US, thank you Democrat congress - is expanding oil production as fast as it can yet there are still demand problems.
              By: E. Poole        
    <p>Nice well-argued piece.</p> <p>Expansive monetary and fiscal policies in the late 1960s/early 1970s appear to have contributed substantially to increases in real oil prices. The critical intermediate variable is the expected real interest rate which was low or negative for many years during that period.</p> <p>In Engel's explanation, the real interest rate represents the opportunity cost of oil inventories. In other models, lower real interest rates would increase output and the demand for oil through investment or increases in the labour supply, especially if the rate shocks are not fully anticipated.</p> <p>Those looking for a tight correspondance to current reality may not find one. The real costs of borrowing capital have gone up. (See the balloon that some US banker floated on the weekend about re-pricing the LBO/privatization of Canadian telecomm giant BCE lower than the C$42.75/share agreed to last summer.)</p> <p>If unexpected higher real energy costs are hinting at the increasing obsolescence of the current capital stock, increased expectations of slower growth could easily drive real borrowing costs higher.</p> <p>There is a more mundane explanation. Markets have generally been awful at forecasting oil price demand elasticities in this decade and have given up <i>over analyzing</i> demand on the assumption of significant inertia in global demand due to robust emerging economy demand. Anything else in the larger economy is treated as spurious noise in this radical decoupling view.</p> <p>FWIW, I'm betting that the price of oil declines between now and October 2008 and natural gas prices will increase in the same time period. Oil and gas stock markets look like they are just starting to heat up. Refineries will drag down integrated company earnings.</p>
              By: don        
    I found Engel's piece useless. His conclusion, that either markets have been fooled over and over or that oil prices are in a bubble, goes far beyond what can be reasonably supported by his scanty analysis. Sounds similar to the proof that manned flight is impossible, based on the finding that no lighter-than-air materials can have the strength needed to support the weight of a human being. For example, what if markets learn over a period of time, rather than being informed suddenly? Surely, it would take some time for a new realization to dawn. Who's to say the one that's dawning now has progressed too slowly? Could any noninstantaneous learning be termed as the market "being fooled over and over?"
              2016 Portland Publication Fair + New Works / Books to be Read at Night & Outside        
    Abiquiu Lake / Elk Lake / Slocan Lake // Books to be Read at Night & Outside // editions in 10

    Prints + Books + Publications / for sale
    2016 Portland Publication Fair
    Wednesday, December 21 / 12 - 6
    The Cleaners at Ace Hotel / 1022 SW Stark / Portland, Ore. / 97205
    Abiquiu Lake / Elk Lake / Slocan Lake / Hand-bound mirrored mylar + bookcloth, foil stamped / 3 5/8" x 5 5/8" / editions of 10 each / 2016 / $20 USD

    Soft-bound, travel editions of my Books to be Read at Night & Outside series. Made in an edition of 10 each, these hand-bound books are durable, pocket sized and, yes, are meant to only be read at night and outside.

    Other printed works / books / publications are also available at the Publication Fair, or by contacting the Librarian at personallibraries {at} gmail {dot} com. Please visit abraancliffe {dot} com for more information and images!
              May 2014 Acquisitions        

    Things have settled down at the Library, after returning to its usual space and shelves. Many new members joined the Library during the Portland Biennial; here are some of the resulting new acquisitions!

    Included in this new batch of books:
    Volumes I & II of Robert Graves' The Greek Myths (Jorge Luis Borges Personal Library)
    Paolo Zellini's A Brief History of Infinity (Italo Calvino Personal Library)

    Above is a spread from The Double Helix by James Watson, showing "Linus Pauling with his atomic models." The front cover elaborates on the title: Being a personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA, a major scientific advance which led to the award of a Nobel Prize. Watson's book is in the Anne Spencer Personal Library, as is Allen Smith's Life in a Putty Factory.

    Space, Time, and New Mathematics, edited by Robert Marks, is a compilation of "writings by Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Gamow, Wiener, Poincaré, and others." This book, in the Robert Smithson Personal Library, is a great companion to related books by Gamow, Wiener, and more in his collection. The above cartoon likens Einstein to a magician.

    Also new to the Smithson Library:
    Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature by L. Sprague de Camp, and
    Language and Myth by Ernst Cassirer

    This beautiful frontispiece and title page is from Robert Mudie's The Earth, from Maria Mitchell's Personal Library. The printing is really extraordinary, with debossed birds on very thick paper; about the printing is stated: Baxter's Oil Colour Printing - 3, Charter-house Square.

    The Zodiac: A Life Epitome, by Walter H. Sampson, not only has a compelling ct ligature throughout the text, but a lovely frontispiece and fold-out at the end of the book. It is from the Robert Smithson Personal Library, along with the related Meditations on the Signs of the Zodiac by John Jocelyn.

    Lastly, is this remarkable book, Within the Circle: Portrait of the Arctic, by Evelyn Stefansson (Robert Smithson Personal Library), with fantastic photographs of land, flora and fauna.

    For any questions about the Library, Collections or books, please contact the Librarian at personallibraries{at}gmail{dot}com. 
              April 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Focaccia         
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    I love making focaccia – I make it twice (sometimes thrice) a week. So this challenge was a breeze since I had two doughs ready in the refrigerator when the challenge was announced.

    See the challenge PDF here

    A big thank you to Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise for hosting this month's challenge.

    A most enjoyable challenge and I stunned at the sheer variety of focaccias made by the other Daring Bakers', the spelt flour focaccia was of note.

    My focaccia recipe uses mashed potato which produces a wondrously soft chewy tender (almost cake-like) moist open crumb with a crisp thin crust and increases the shelf life of the bread. Basically you replace ½ cup of water with ½ cup of mashed potato which produces a softer than normal dough that is slightly tacky which encourages the formation of large holes in the crumb of the bread. Also I like to cold-ferment my dough. That is use ice-cold mashed potato and ice-cold water and rise the dough in the refrigerator (overnight or up to five days) which really produces a very flavoursome bread. Using mashed potato captures a lot of moisture so allows for a higher temperature and longer bake time so the crust can develop a deep brown colour and flavour.  I like to really brown (in a very hot 260°C/500°F/gas mark 11 oven) my focaccia since ¾ of the taste of bread comes from the crust. I usually stuff my focaccia with olives, salami sticks and semi-dried tomatoes (or roasted capsicums) and then cut and slice them so I can use them as pizza bases. 

    Cold-Ferment Potato Focaccia
    Using mashed potato and the cold-ferment method produces a thin crisp crust with a crumb (interior) that is soft, tender, moist and airy with large open holes. The slow cold fermentation process gives maximum flavour to the bread and it's still great to eat the next day. The high hydration dough allows a thin crisp deeply coloured and flavoured crust to develop without the bread drying out.

    1. The dough is about 90% hydration it is soft, pliable and elastic and slowly flows into the shape of the pizza pan which ensures that the focaccia is level when baked. The dough when cold-fermented has the consistency of "warm melted mozzarella cheese". Every day in the fridge the dough will improve its internal structure (up to five days) to produce a silky smooth well-hydrated gluten network.  
    2. Resist the temptation to add more flour, the dough should be soft, tacky and loose these characteristics create a crisp crust with an open crumb. The high water content (hydration) of the dough produces a lot of steam when baking so creating a thin crisp crust and large holes within the crumb (interior) of the baked bread.
    3. Using milk increases the colour of the crust when baked.
    4. Cold-fermentation creates the maximum amount of flavour compounds in the dough. 
    5. If using rosemary coat it lightly in oil so it will not burn in the very hot oven.
    6. Gentle handling of the dough is essential when spreading out the dough in the final rise.
    7. If you find your bread is doming too much you can gentle pat (using a clean tea towel) it level ½ way through the baking time.   
    8. Preheat your oven to maximum for an hour, so the initial blast of heat will really give a huge "oven spring" to the focaccia dough. The baked focaccia should have a thin crisp crust with an airy crumb with large holes.
    9. Using mashed potato gives the focaccia an extra soft tender crumb and extends its shelf life since the potato "locks" in the water so delays the bread going stale.
    10. You can use instant mash potato powder, just make up the required amount then add that to the flour mixture do not add the powder to the flour it will lump-up and these lumps will never go away so you will have to start again.
    11. Use the water that the potatoes were cooked in for the water in this recipe to add extra tenderness to the crumb. I usually freeze the water I cook the potatoes in and use that for all my bread doughs it adds a nice touch of tenderness to the crumb. Also yeast just loves potato water it seems to give the yeast beasties extra lifting power. 
    12. Use the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can afford, it will really add a gourmet taste to your final focaccia.
    13. It is important to add a good amount of olive oil to the baking pan before adding the dough for the final rise. The oil soaks into the dough and during the bake it creates a super tasty "fried" base for the focaccia.
    14. Focaccia is a wonderful treat to bring to BBQs, pot-lucks, parties etc. Since you can make the focaccia look authentically rustic or exquisitely elegant by the decorative placement of the toppings into and on the bread.   

    For the dough
    3 cups (750 ml) (450 gm) "OO" bread flour or all-purpose (plain) flour, firmly-packed
    ¾ cups (300 ml) ice-cold water (or milk), might need a few tablespoons extra
    ½ cup (120 ml) ice-cold mashed potato, make sure the mash is very smooth
    ¼ cup (60 ml) best quality extra virgin olive oil
    2 teaspoons rock crystal (Kosher) salt
    1 teaspoon dried yeast (½ satchel of yeast) for overnight cold-ferment OR ½ teaspoon dried yeast (¼ satchel of yeast) for three day cold-ferment OR ¼ teaspoon dried yeast (1/8 satchel of yeast) for five day cold-ferment
    ¼ cup (60 ml) best quality extra virgin olive oil, for the baking pan
    Toppings for the stuffed focaccia
    500 gm jar (2 cups) pitted olives, stuffed with pimento or anchovies or chilli/garlic or a combination, or marinated artichokes or marinated feta cheese or similar antipasto
    200 grams (7 oz) salami sticks or spicy cooked-sausage, chopped to the same size as the olives
    Optional 2 large red capsicums (red bell peppers) blackened under the grill (broiler), skins removed, chopped to the same size as the olives
    3 tablespoons (45 ml) best quality extra virgin olive oil, for the dimples
    Toppings for the rosemary and sea salt focaccia
    3 stems of rosemary, washed, dried, whole sprigs removed and lightly-oiled
    2 teaspoons sea salt crystals, try to have some large and small crystals
    3 tablespoons best (45 ml) quality extra virgin olive oil, for the dimples

    Making the cold-ferment focaccia
    1. Whisk the flour & dried yeast in a medium bowl. Add the salt whisk until mixed.
    2. Add the ¾ cups ice-cold water (or milk), ½ cup ice-cold mashed potato and the ¼ cup of olive oil.
    3. Mix with a plastic scrapper or wooden spoon until just combined about a minute, it will look like a shaggy blob of just-mixed flour and water with lumps, just make sure all of the flour is moistened with the liquid. Don't worry the cold ferment process will "knead" the dough for you.
    4. Cover the dough and bowl with a thin layer of oil or oil-spray. The dough should be like a shaggy mess. It will be sticky and tacky but over the cold-ferment it will become a smooth elastic soft dough. 
    5. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap.
    6. Place the bowl in the refrigerator's coldest spot overnight or up to five days max.
    7. The dough will hydrate and knead itself to a soft elastic slow-flowing dough (like "warm melted mozzarella cheese") during its time in the refrigerator. The dough's structure will get better each day (up to five day max) during this process. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water if the dough isn't soft enough.
    8. Everyday; turn, stir and fold the dough over itself using a scrapper or wooden spoon about 30-60 secs. Re-spray the dough with oil-spray and re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place back into the refrigerator.
    9. If making the overnight version; turn, stir and fold the dough over itself, after a few hours of refrigeration to ensure max gluten formation. This step is not necessary if making a multi-day cold-ferment dough.  

    Baking the focaccia
    1. Preheat oven to maximum or to very hot 260°C/500°F/gas mark 11 for one hour. Modern ovens can behave erratically at very high temperatures so go as hot as your oven can handle to establish an even stable temperature most likely 240°C/465°F/gas mark 9.
    2. You can use one large deep pan or two medium pans. On the day you wish to make your focaccia take out the bowl from the refrigerator. Cover your baking pan(s) with the ¼ cup of olive oil (the oil layer should be at least 3 mm (1/10 inch), a little more is even better) & gently “pour” (without deflating too much) the dough into your pan(s). Gently level the dough in the pan(s) using your finger tips in slow careful movements. If the dough resists let it rest a few minutes and continue levelling until completed. 
    3. Firmly poke the stuffed olives, salami (or cooked-sausage) into the dough in a decorative pattern. As an option you can poke the capsicum (red bell pepper) pieces into the pattern as well. (If making the rosemary/sea salt version firmly poke the lightly-oiled rosemary sprigs into the dough in a decorative pattern try to make the sprigs look like open-flowers). Cover with oil-sprayed plastic wrap.   
    4. Let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled (about one to two hours could be longer) in volume. The risen dough should almost cover the olives and salami pieces (or rosemary sprigs) just leaving a dimple of olive or salami (or rosemary) showing. You can poke down the olives and salami pieces (and the optional capsicum pieces) (or rosemary sprigs) if they are poking out of the dough too much. If you wish you can dimple the dough between the olives and salami (or rosemary sprigs).
    5. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the focaccia. (Then sprinkle the sea salt crystals over the focaccia if making the rosemary version) 
    6. Bake in a preheated very hot oven for 35-40 mins for the large focaccia and about 20-25 mins for the two medium focaccia, rotate the pans half way, and cover with foil if over-browning (or reduce oven temperature 20°C/40°F half-way through bake). If baking this recipe for the first time watch carefully since very hot ovens can behave erratically check how the focaccias are baking half-way through and adjust temperature or cover with foil. The crust should be well-browned almost blackened in a couple of small places and the sides of focaccia will have shrunk away from the pan. The base should sound hollow when tapped. Using a high hydration dough allows for a crisp deeply coloured crust to develop with a fully developed taste and a moist chewy open crumb interior.

    Stuffed Focaccia with olive and spicy salami sticks
    I usually make pizza with my stuffed focaccia. I slice the focaccia into two pizza bases then top with fried tomato paste, well-fried onions, blue cheese, some sun-dried tomatoes and extra spicy sausage and bake in a moderate oven for 15 minutes. The cooked pizza stays crisp the next day if wrapped in foil and plastic wrap and stored in the fridge.
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    Rosemary and sea salt focaccia I love the look of this rustic looking bread. I always try to use whole sprigs of rosemary and poke them into the dough to look like open-flowers which really adds to the to the appearance of the final bread. Remember to oil the rosemary so it doesn't burn in the very hot oven. I will be bringing this to the Royal Easter Show tomorrow we are having a picnic there.
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              The Daring Cooks’ August, 2014 Challenge: Freezer Meals        
    Hello this is Audax Artifex, I will be hosting this month's challenge. It is all about making best use of your freezer and making meals that can be frozen.

    Freezers allow cooked and uncooked meals to be stored for long periods so when we are in a hurry we can always have a meal prepared quickly.

    I always have cooked beans and lentils in my freezer, as well as baked pizza bases, fish cakes and patties of all kinds. Most soups are excellent for freezing and reheating. Nearly all baked breads (except crusty French loaves) can be frozen and reheated in a moderate oven for 15 mins. Frozen pizza bases make perfect weekday meal; you can bake frozen bases with added toppings and cheese immediately in a moderate oven, no need to thaw the bases at all.

    I find time on the weekends to make meals that can be frozen and then reheated and eaten during the busy week days. 

    I have included a great link in the reference section where you can find information on how to store foods in the freezer.   
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    Recipe Sources: 

    Frost bite (everyday food fresh from the freezer) by Susan Austin

    Blog-checking lines:

      This month, the Daring Cooks challenged us to think inside the box - the icebox, that is! Audax taught us some really cool tips and tricks for stocking our freezers with prepare-ahead meals that can keep our taste buds satisfied even during the busiest of times.

    Posting Date:

    August 14, 2014



    Top 10 freezing tips

    Whether you have a chest or upright freezer, the principles of successful freezing are the same.

    1. Freeze quickly and defrost slowly is the number one tip. This process will give you the highest quality frozen food which retains the taste, texture and nutrients of the meals that you prepare. Always defrost in the refrigerator overnight the frozen meal you wish to make for the next day.  

    2. Cool foods before you freeze them. Freezing food when they are hot will only increase the temperature of the freezer and could cause other foods to start defrosting.

    3. Never re-freeze anything that's been frozen. Even if the food was frozen raw and then cooked, to be extra safe it still shouldn't be re-frozen.

    4. A full freezer is more economical to run as the cold air doesn't need to circulate so much, so less power is needed. If you have lots of space free, fill plastic bottles half full with water and use them to fill gaps. Alternatively, fill the freezer with everyday items you're bound to use, such as sliced bread or frozen peas.

    5. It's a wrap. Make sure you wrap foods properly or put them in sealed containers, otherwise your food can get freezer-burn. Use strong cling-wrap, foil or metal/glass containers.

    6. Portion control. Freeze food in realistically sized portions. You don't want to have to defrost a stew big enough to feed eight when you're only feeding a family of three. Leave a ¾ inch (2 cm) gap to allow for expansion of high water content foods (soups, etc).

    7. If in doubt, throw it out. Contrary to what many people think, freezing doesn't kill bacteria. If you are unsure of how long something has been frozen or are a bit wary of something once defrosted, don't take any chances.

    8. Stay fresh. You get out what you put in, as freezing certainly won't improve the quality of your food. Don't freeze old food because you don't want to waste it; the point of freezing is to keep food at its prime.

    9. Friendly labels. It may seem a bother at the time, but unless you label you might not remember what it is, let alone when it was frozen. Buy a blue marker for raw foods and a red marker for cooked foods. You don't have to write an essay, just label the food clearly. You can use big-lettered abbreviations, for example a big red P means cooked pork or a blue F means raw fish. And always add the date it was frozen.

    10. Defrosting your freezer is a must. An icy freezer is an inefficient one, so make sure you defrost your freezer if ice builds up. Don't worry about the food; most things will remain frozen in the fridge for a couple of hours while the freezer defrosts.

    11. In an emergency... If there has been a power outage or you think the freezer has been turned off at some point, don't open the door. Foods should remain frozen in the freezer for about 24 hours, leaving you time to get to the bottom of the problem.

    What not to freeze...

    Most individual ingredients can be frozen. However, some foods simply aren't freezer friendly:

    Raw eggs in the shells will expand and crack. You can freeze egg whites and yolk in containers.
     Hard-boiled eggs go rubbery.
    Vegetables with a high water content, such as lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts and radishes, go limp and mushy.
    Soft herbs, like parsley, basil and chives, go brown.
    Egg-based sauces, such as mayonnaise, will separate and curdle.
    Plain yogurt, low-fat cream cheese, single cream and cottage cheese go watery.

    Great to freeze

    All these everyday ingredients will freeze well.
    Butter and margarine can be frozen for 3 months.
    Grated cheese can be frozen for up to 4 months and can be used straight from the freezer.
    Most bread, except crusty varieties such as French bread, will freeze well for up to 3 months. Sliced bread can be toasted from frozen.
    Milk will freeze for 1 month. Defrost in the fridge and shake well before using.
    Raw pastry will freeze for 6 months and takes just 1 hour to thaw.

    Cooking from frozen

    Freezer management is all about forward planning, but some dishes can be cooked straight from frozen. When cooking food from frozen, use a lower temperature to start with to thaw, then increase the temperature to cook. Foods include:

        Soups, stews, braises and casseroles.
        Bakes, gratins and potato-topped pies.
        Thin fish fillets, small fish, sausages, burgers, and seafood if added at the end of a hot dish.

    Mandatory Items:

    You must make a meal that can be frozen for later use

    Variations allowed:

    You can make any dish you wish that can be frozen. 

    Preparation time:

    Recipe one – 40 mins – 60 mins depending on type of lentils. (Overnight soaking might be needed.)
    Recipe two – 15 mins preparation time, rising time for dough 1-2 hours
    Recipe three – 40 mins preparation time 

    Equipment required:

    Measuring Cups
    Sharp knives for chopping and dicing 
    Baking dish
    Sauce pan
    Fry pan

    Recipe 1: Lentil, Pasta and Vegetable Soup

    Servings: 6
    This is a simple, toothsome and wholesome soup that can be made up on the weekend and reheated during the week. It is stew-like in its texture. You can add ½ cup of shredded cooked chicken if you wish to make it even more filling. 


    1 cup (250 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) lentils (I used small French lentils)
    6 cups (1½ litres) stock (chicken or vegetable)
    ½ cup (125 ml) (100 gm) (3½ oz) small soup pasta
    1 carrot, grated (or 1/2 cup of finely shredded cabbage)
    1 potato, finely chopped
    1 onion, finely chopped
    Optional 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 bunch spinach (or other greens), leaves shredded
    1 cup frozen vegetables (carrots, broccoli, beans, etc.)
    salt and pepper to taste


    1. Check the cooking time for the lentils on the packaging. Check if the lentils need soaking overnight. Small French lentils don't need soaking while brown/green lentils need an overnight soak in cold water. Use lentils that retain their shape when cooked.  
    2. Simmer the lentils in the stock for 15 mins (for small French lentils) or 30 mins (for soaked brown/green lentils) until three-quarters tender. Add some salt half-way through cooking process. (If you add salt to early it will increase the cooking time of beans and lentils significantly). Check occasionally and add more stock/water as needed.
    3. While the lentils are cooking, saute the chopped onion, chopped potato and grated carrot (and optional garlic if using) in a fry pan using the oil; for 3-5 mins until soften. Reserve.
    4. When the lentils are three-quarters tender add the onion, carrot, potato (and optional garlic) mixture and uncooked pasta to the lentils and simmer until the pasta has increased in size by twice and the vegetables and lentils are tender (about 10-15 mins).
    5. Place into containers (leaving ¾ inch (2 cm) room for expansion), cool on counter for ten minutes
    6. Place into freezer up to one month.     
    7. Defrost overnight in fridge, reheat slowly (check for seasoning). When simmering add frozen vegetables. Simmer until almost tender then add fresh spinach (or others greens). Simmer until wilted, serve with crusty bread. 

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    Ingredients – French lentils, brown/green lentils and soup pasta. French lentils need no soaking and take 25 mins to cook while brown/green lentils need an overnight soak and take about 40 mins to cook.

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    Cooked lentils and soup pasta

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    Finished soup

    Recipe 2: Potato Bread Pizza Base

    Servings: makes 6 large thin crust pizza bases, or 3 large thick crust pizza bases, or 1 very large extra thick pizza base

    Potato bread (using the water that the potato was boiled in and the mashed potato) makes for a crisp crust and extra soft crumb (interior texture) in the pizza base, and also increases the shelf life of the baked bread. Also yeast just love potato starch which makes the rising process a joy to watch; your dough will be full of large, soft, luscious bubbles during the proofing stage. This is my standard pizza base and makes a lot of bases. You can halve the recipe if you only want to make a couple of bases (keep the same amount of yeast and use 2 teaspoons of salt). Use the pizza base frozen straight from the freezer, just top with tomato sauce and your favourite toppings (sausage, chopped cooked chicken, mushrooms, etc.) and cheese and bake in a moderate oven until piping hot. A pre-baked pizza base gives the best pizza result since the base has been baked at a much higher temperature, giving a great texture (to the crust) and taste (to the crumb), while the toppings are baked at a much lower temperature just to heat the toppings and melt the cheese.    


    6 cups plain (all-purpose) flour (or strong bread flour)
    2 cups of warm potato water (use the water that the potato was boiled in)
    1 large potato
    3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon of active dry yeast (or one packet of yeast)
    1/4 teaspoon of sugar
    3 teaspoons salt


    1. Chop the potato and boil in 3 cups of water until tender. (You can peel the potato or leave the skin on). Mash the potato.
    2. Wait until the potato water is warm. Top up the volume until you have 2 cups of liquid.
    3. Add the sugar and the yeast into the water. Wait about 5-10 mins until the yeast becomes foamy.
    4. In a large mixing bowl add the flour, mashed potato, oil, yeast mixture and the salt.
    5. Knead the dough mixture until a ball forms, about 3 mins. (At this stage you can place the dough in the fridge up to three days; allow the chilled dough to warm up to room temperature and proceed with the recipe as below.)
    6. Place into an oiled bowl covered in plastic wrap or a clean tea towel. Set aside in warm place until it has doubled in volume.
    7. Punch down the dough and knead until soft and pliable (about 5 mins).
    8. Spread the dough over your baking trays cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel. Set aside in a warm place until it has doubled in volume.
    9. Bake in a preheated hot oven (425°F/220°C/gas mark 7) for 20 mins for thin crusts, 30 mins for medium crust or 40 mins for the very thick crust base respectively. Check the base to see if it is brown and crusty
    10. Cool completely on a rack.
    11. Cover tightly in plastic wrap (or foil), place into freezer up to one month.
    12. When needed, bake the frozen base with toppings added in a preheated moderate oven 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 for 20 mins for thin crusts or 30 mins for thick crust bases.          

     photo bread02.jpg
    Dough ball

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    The risen dough – notice the huge bubbles in the dough

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    Dough ready to be baked on a pizza pan

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    Baked pizza base

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    Notice the crumb of the pizza base

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    I usually make one extra thick pizza base and split into lunch sized pizza bases. I can make 8 bases (only four are shown)

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    Unbaked frozen pizza base with toppings

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    Pizza ready to eat (yum)

    Recipe 3: Lentil and Sausage Lasagna

    Servings: 6
    Lasagna is the perfect freezer meal. You can make up the unbaked lasagna on the weekend then store in the freezer up to one month. You can cook the lasagna straight from frozen (baking time is doubled) or thaw overnight in the fridge and bake for the normal time. This recipe uses lentils and sausage with tomato sauce. If you wish you can use some cheese sauce.


    1 packet (250 gm) (9 ozs) of fresh lasagna sheets
    3 cups (750 ml) tomato passata, (Italian tomato cooking sauce)
    2 cans (3 cups) drained cooked lentils
    1 onion, chopped, fried and cooled
    4 sausages, cooked, thinly sliced and cooled (I used turkey sausages)
    1 cup of shredded cheese


    1. Ladle a thin layer of passata on the base of a baking pan.
    2. Place a layer of lasagna sheet on the passata.
    3. Place 1/3 of the lentils and 1/3 of the onions on the pasta layer, cover with some passata.
    4. Place another layer of lasagna sheets on the passata. Cover the lasagna sheet with some passata.
    5. Place a layer of thinly sliced sausage and cover with some passata.
    6. Cover with a layer of pasta sheet.
    7. Continue layering until all the ingredients are used. Making sure the last layer is a lasagna sheet.
    8. Cover with passata and cheese.
    9. Tightly cover the baking dish in plastic wrap or foil.
    10. The dish can be frozen for one month.
    11. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 350°F/180°/gas mark 4 for 1 hour if thawed or 2 hours if frozen. 

     photo pasta01.jpg
    Ladle some tomato passata on the base of the baking pan

     photo pasta02.jpg
    Cover with lasagna sheet

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    Cover with lentils/onion mixture

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    More passata on top
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    A layer of sliced sausage, repeat this process using up all the ingredients

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    Top with passata and cheese

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    Baked lasagna

    Additional Information: 

    27 tips for freezing foods -

              Daring Cooks Challenge June 2013 Meatballs         
    This month's challenge was MEATBALLS my favourite recipe of all time I have so so so many great recipes here a couple of personal fav's enjoy the colour and flavours.

    This month's hosts were  Shelley and Ruth and here their introduction to the challenge

    Hi there! We are Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood. We are twin sisters who share a love of food, but who have very different cooking styles. Ruth keeps a vegetarian home while Shelley is a carnivore through and through.  Despite our differences, we both love all aspects of food – eating it, preparing it, and sharing it with the people we love.

    For this month's challenge, we wanted to do something a little bit different.

    So many of the challenges this year have helped us learn skills or techniques that are pretty specialized - and that have proven to be very challenging. And while the big challenges absolutely bring big rewards (not to mention yummy results), this month we thought we would go a bit more creative.

    There are many foods that appear across a variety of cultures, with only slight differences or variations.  This month we wanted to test out one food across many cultures to see how many variations we can bring to the blogosphere.  So this month we challenge the community to bring us meatballs from around the world.

    A meatball, at the most basic level, is some kind of ground meat that has been rolled into a ball and cooked.  But that is where the basics end.  Usually other ingredients are involved – generally breadcrumbs and eggs, to give the ball body and bind it together, and a variety of spices for flavor.  The type or types of meat used, the method of preparing the balls and especially the way the meat is served can vary so greatly that it is sometimes amazing to think that they are all the “same” kind of basic food.

    It is these differences that we are looking to celebrate this month – to create more meatball dishes than anyone ever would have thought possible, and to show the world just how versatile the “simple” meatball can be.

    Recipe Source:  Basic meatball recipes or based on recipes from and Mark Bittman, with additional inspiration recipes provided from various online sources.

    Blog-checking lines:  The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice.

    Here follows my meatball recipes please enjoy them as much as I and my friends and family did!!!

    Kangaroo and beetroot meatballs in red wine sauce

    I LOVE meatballs and I KNOW how to make them after doing them many 1000s of times and I never get tired of them. This is one of my personal best meatball recipes made with kangaroo steak minced, the ready-made mince is easily available in major supermarkets in Australia (Coles/Woolworths $8.75/kg). I combine it with the other classic Australian taste that is beetroot. It always surprises foreigners how much beetroot is eaten in Australia, in fact it is a standard addition in hamburgers in most takeaways. So how couldn't I combine kangaroo and beetroot into a humble meatball. I use very strongly flavour rye crisp bread combined with robust sun-dried tomato pesto to favour the meatball mixture this combination seems to produce a mellow flavour simmered meatball. This is always a winner at parties and BBQs especially if I have let the meatballs soak in the red wine sauce overnight. The biggest tips for light, moist and fluffy meatballs - use the best ingredients you can afford, freshly minced meat is best, sauté your aromatics, all ingredients must be cold when mixing, freshly made bread crumbs, a gentle touch, make a test meatball check seasoning and simmer the meatballs.
    Kangaroo is a very 'soft' meat; especially lean, tender, and soft-textured well suited for children's palate and also it cooks at a very low temperature and very fast which makes it excellent for simmered meatballs.
    My standard roo and beetroot recipe (roo is Australian slang for kangaroo) is below, this makes the lightest most tender meatballs. I like making a batch and letting it cool in the red wine sauce overnight and then reheating until just hot super tasty.
    It is a very easy recipe.
    Kangaroo and beetroot meatballs simmered in red wine sauce
    Makes a lot, 4 dozen meatballs
    1 kg kangaroo mince, (best if used cold)
    2 large beetroot, finely grated
    1 carrot, finely grated
    2 onions, finely chopped and pan-fried until caramelised
    1/2 cup of cottage cheese (fetta cheese works well, reduce salt if using)
    3-4 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
    3 rye crisp-bread soaked in 3 tablespoons of cream or milk
    1/2 cup freshly made bread crumbs from wholemeal pita bread
    1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto (basil pesto is fine also)
    1 large egg
    2 small hot chillies, finely chopped
    2-3 teaspoons salt (if in Australia use vegemite (1/2-1 tablespoon) instead of salt)
    3 teaspoons pepper
    1 large tin of cherry tomatoes
    1 cup of red wine, good quality (or if using for children cranberry jelly or beef stock)
    1. In a sauce pan combine the cherry tomatoes (smash them with wooden spoon) and red wine bring to a simmer and let simmer while making the meatballs.
    2. In a bowl combine all the other ingredients except meat until well mixed.
    3. Place meat in large bowl add the mixture gently combine until almost mixed. Make a very small meatball, add to simmering sauce, cook, taste, adjust seasoning of the meatball mixture. Finish combining the mixture.
    3. Using 1-1/2 tablespoons of mixture form meatballs, drop immediately into the simmering red wine sauce. Cook for 10-15 mins.
    4. Enjoy!
    Kangaroo Mince - easily available in supermarkets in Australia (cheap & super healthy) I usually mince my own meat but the market was out of kangaroo meat so I used pre-packed mince.

    Ingredients for meatballs (L to R caramelised onion, carrot, beetroot, parsley, in front cream soaked rye crispbread)
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    The mixture that is added to the kangaroo mince (beetroot, carrot, caramelised onion, parsley, cottage cheese, cream soaked crisp bread, bread crumbs, whole egg, sun-dried tomato pesto) which is great on toast by itself.
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    The mixture all ready to made into meatballs
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    I did a fried test batch just to see how these worked out (not my usual procedure)
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    The interior of the fried meatball, nice, soft and fluffy
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    My normal simmered meatballs
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    The interior of the meatball
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    I have to say the fried ones were interesting not has tender as the simmered one but well worth eating. I have road-tested this recipe over many years to get the most tender simmered meatballs (especially made for children and fussy adults) so that is why the fried meatballs were well above average but not as good as the simmered ones.
    Lamb, mint and beetroot meatballs
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    Isn't the colour gorgeous on these bright pink lamb meatballs. This is one of the reasons I love this recipe and it goes so well with cucumber/mint/yoghurt dip. I like making tiny 2 teaspoon-sized meatballs for the kids just one bite for their tiny mouths. The caramelised beetroot and onion really adds to and intensifies the natural sweetness of lamb. This meatball recipe has been developed by me over a couple of years. As the butcher was explaining to me a long time ago the fat in lamb is "funny" it doesn't take too well being mixed with pork or veal or beef. That is why I like adding gelatine to the lamb mixture which adds a lovely tender moist mouth feel to the cooked meat balls. Also I like how the meatballs when fried have a "black" crust the characteristic brown-black colour of the crust results from the browned beetroot it doesn't taste burnt or bitter. If you bake the meatballs you can control the colour of the balls to suit your visual liking.

    A couple of years ago I was researching on the internet about meatball making and discovered a trick professionals use - adding gelatine to the soaking liquid which adds an unctuous mouth feel to the meatball (which is why a lot of meatball recipes add veal which is gelatine-rich). So I tried it in my standard lamb, mint and beetroot meatball recipe. I have to say the gelatine really adds a lot of moistness and a soft tender mouth feel to the interior of the meatballs. I do this gelatine trick to all my recipes now. Several people who had my lamb meatballs before the change commented after I added the gelatine about the tenderness and moistness of them now. (If anything I thought almost too tender and moist the first time I tasted them but that is my opinion.)
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    Lamb, mint and beetroot meatballs based on this recipe
    500 gm (1 lb) lamb mince, freshly ground, best if used cold
    250 gm (1 very large) beetroot, grated and fried until caramelised
    2 onions, grated and fried until caramelised (do the onion and beetroot together)
    1/2 cup of cottage cheese, drained
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons pepper
    1/2 teaspoon of gelatine bloomed in 1/2 cup of warm wine for 5 mins
    3 slices of white bread, torn into small pieces, then soaked in the cooled wine/gelatine liquid for 5 mins then squeezed dry and chopped
    1 bunch mint, finely chopped
    1 large egg if frying the meatballs, 2 large eggs if simmering
    (optional toasted sesame seeds for garnishing the cooked meatballs)

    1. Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl except for the meat. Mix until well combined.
    2. Add meat and gently mix until almost combined. Make a very small test meatball and cook, taste, adjust seasoning then continue combining mixture until just mixed. Make medium meatballs using 1-1/2 tablespoons of mixture or large meatballs using 3-4 tablespoons of mixture. Let rest in fridge for at least one hour and up to one day. Fry or simmer gently. I find it best to fry them first and then simmer (the frying adds a nice crust to the meatballs).
    3. Best served with yoghurt/mint/cucumber dip.
    4. Garnish with the optional toasted sesame seeds.

    The baked meatballs garnished in black and white toasted sesame seeds
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    Spicy Tom Yum Asian Meatballs

    This is the recipe I have when I'm trying to impress at dinner parties. They are made with beef/veal (and the gelatine trick) and the same ingredients as TOM YUM soup. The colour for them is so golden and when fried the meatballs form a beautiful tasty crust. These are so beautiful piled high on a party platter. I know I know this soup is meant for prawns (shrimp) but it seems to work excellently for these meatballs, maybe the saffron, coconut cream and fried tomato paste does the trick.

    Tom Yum Soup Ingredients
    4 lime leaves,finely chopped
    2 lemongrass stalks, chopped into tiny pieces
    4 slices galangal, finely chopped
    2 thumbs of ginger, finely chopped
    4-8 bird's eyes chillies, finely sliced
    1 tbsp palm sugar
    Juice of 1-2 limes
    2 tbsp fish sauce (a good Thailand brand)
    3 large pinches of saffron infused in the lime juice and fish sauce
    2 green onions, thinly sliced
    1 small tomato de-fleshed seeded and chopped finely
    20 gm dried mushroom reconstituted in warm coconut cream with 1 tsp of gelatine
    1 tbsp of tomato paste fried until brown
    1/2 cup reconstituted glass rice noodles (or bread crumbs) soaked in the mushroom/coconut cream/gelatine liquid
    1/2 kg of beef/pork belly (freshly ground)
    the above ingredients plus 1 large egg combined. Form 1-1/2 tablespoon-sized meatballs then fry gently.
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    Lentil and Spinach balls with blueberry sage glaze

    This is an intriguing recipe! It tastes so GOOD yet it is the weirdest combination of ingredients but it's always a winner at parties and surprise pot-lucks and it's easy to cook also (only a couple of mins in a mircowave and if you want an optional light browning in a fry pan.) It always STUNS guests when I tell them what these tasty entrées are made of - lentils, spinach, a couple of eggs and some seasoned bread crumbs served with a sticky blueberry sage glaze. This combination is so delicious and so stimulating to the palate, the different tastes oscillate on your tongue which is exactly what you want an entrée to do to stimulate the appetite for what-is-to-come. The lentil and spinach balls are delicious alone but teamed with the sticky blueberry sage glaze they really seem to switch the taste receptors to the "pleasure" setting. A good recipe to have and their freeze well also.
    I always get so many different answers when I ask what they tasted like, but universally they do say they liked them.
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    The cooked balls (after microwaving for 2 mins in my very old microwave oven)
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    Lentil and Spinach balls with blueberry sage glaze
    Lentil and Spinach Balls (adapted from this recipe)
    2 cups of cooked green lentils (these lentils hold their shape when cooked)
    250 gm packet of frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped (you can use watercress or collard greens make sure that the greens are squeezed dry and chopped finely)
    2 large eggs
    1/2 - 3/4 cup heavily seasoned dry breadcrumbs (Italian-seasoned is fine)
    2 teaspoons of freshly cracked pepper
    1. If you want a very fine texture and even colour in the interior of your vegetarian balls, you can machine-process the spinach and eggs (not the lentils) together to form a bright green purée. (see here for a picture of a puréed lentil/spinach ball)
    2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, form 3 tablespoon-sized balls. Refrigerate for at least one hour up to one day.
    3. Microwave on high for 2 mins (check at 1 min). Serve with a simple tomato sauce or the blueberry sage glaze.
    4. If you want you can lightly fry the microwaved balls to form a crisp thin eggshell crust the balls will brown slightly if fried.
    Blueberry sage glaze (based on this recipe)
    500 gm frozen blueberries (can use a mixture of red/purple berries) (cranberries or pomegranate molasses work well also but will need more sugar) (you can use 1/2 cup red wine but reduce the blueberries by half)
    1 tablespoons white vinegar (to taste)
    2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    1/4 teaspoon hot chilli powder (optional)
    1 thumb of ginger, grated (optional)
    1 spring (green) onion, finely chopped (optional)
    1-2 garlic clove(s), crushed (optional)
    4 sage leaves
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
    1. Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan reduce gently, taste and adjust vinegar or sugar until slightly sweet with a light sour after-taste. Use the optional ingredients if you are serving a meat (or strong tasting) main course.
    2. Remove sage leaves before serving.
    Blue-Veined Watercress Ricotta Balls

    Blue-Veined Watercress Ricotta Balls
    These ricotta based balls are simple to make and only contain a few ingredients; ricotta & blue-veined cheese, eggs, watercress (or spinach), and seasoned breadcrumbs (or flour). I included some puréed beetroot in the mixture (I had some left over) that is why this batch is pinkish in colour usually they are white. They fry up nicely but I like them simmered in soups and stews. If you use flour in the recipe you get "gnudi" a dumping, these are much lighter.
    Blue-Veined Watercress Ricotta Balls1 cup (250 gm) fresh ricotta cheese, broken up into small pieces (I use low fat)
    1 large bunch watercress (or spinach), blanched (1 min), squeezed dried & chopped finely
    1 bunch mint (or basil if using spinach), finely chopped
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or flour if you want gundi), seasoned (may need more)
    1/3-1/4 cup blue-veined cheese, finely crumbed (1/2 cup finely grated parmesan if using spinach)
    (optional 1/4 cup root veggie purée (beetroot, carrot or pumpkin) best if you are using spinach)

    Combine in large bowl all the ingredients mix until almost combined, make small test ball, cook, taste adjust seasoning, finish combining, form small (2 teaspoons), medium (1-1/2 tablespoons) or large (1/4 cup) sized balls, place into simmering soup or stews until cooked (small 3 mins, med 6 mins, large 10 mins)

    Hearty Winter Soup with Ricotta balls and Spinach Balls

    Ballsy Hearty Winter Soup with Ricotta balls and Spinach Balls
    I made up a warm filling pearl barley, red and green lentil, split pea, tomato and beetroot winter soup I served it with my spinach/lentil balls and blue-veined watercress ricotta balls, (each 4 tablespoons-sized). (The spinach and lentil balls recipe has already been posted and the blue-veined water ricotta ball recipe is above). Perfect on a cold winter's day especially with buttered sourdoug rye bread.
    Ballsy Hearty Winter Soup
    1 onion, chopped, fried
    1 carrot, grated, fried
    optional 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 piece celery, chopped, fried (fry (3 tablespoons olive oil) celery, carrot & onion (& optional garlic) together until onion goes translucent then add tomato paste)
    3 tablespoons tomato paste, fried (until brown), then add
    2 cups - 4 cups of good vegetable stock
    1-3 teaspoon salt & 2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
    1 cup pearl barley, soaked and washed
    1/2 cup green lentil, soaked and washed
    1/4 cup split pea, soaked and washed
    2 tablespoon red lentil, soaked and washed
    1 cup of finely chopped (or grated) beetroot
    Add in a large saucepan the fried ingredients, stock, barley and legumes. Simmer for 1-1/4 hrs adding extra stock as needed. Add the beetroot simmer of extra 1/2 hr. Add plenty of spinach/lentils balls and blue-veined watercress balls in the last 15 mins. Serve the balls covered in the thickened soup or stew.

    Super Duper Surf and Turf Meatballs
    These are so so so GOOD I scoffed the entire first whole batch down myself there is something about adding umami (the savoury taste sensation) to food especially to meatballs that really intensifies and accents the taste of all the ingredients. These tasted like something from a super fancy restaurant I even impressed myself, since it was an impromptu recipe just using leftovers and a couple of pantry staples, usually you aren't this lucky with "spur-of-the-moment" recipes. Deeply and profoundly satisfying and so exquisitely tasty. I will be making these again and again.

    I opened the fridge and this is what I had leftover from the night before:-
    1. a half packet (250 gm or 1/4 lb) of good quality hamburger mince (ground beef),
    2. a tin of smoked oysters in oil,
    3. a 1/4 packet of powdered mushroom, nori sheets and sesame (the blue plastic packet),
    4. vegemite,
    5. wasabi powder,
    6. some fresh bread crumbs (not shown), and
    7. 1 large egg (not shown)
     photo 51a_zpsd5515d08.jpg
    I noticed immediately that many of the ingredients were rich in umami. After sweet and salty, sour and bitter, there is umami—the fifth taste. Discovered at the beginning of the last century by the Japanese, the word umami translates roughly to mean "deliciousness" or "deliciously savour" — an understatement if ever there was one. Rich, deep and intensely savoury, umami exists in a number of foods and I had a gold mine of them.
    So I decided to make a surf and turf meatball (technically an umami-rich wasabi beef meatball stuffed with smoked oysters). The powdered mushrooms, nori, vegemite, smoked oysters and beef are all rich sources of umami (the savoury taste in foods). Also roasting, caramelizing, browning and grilling all boost the umami taste sensation in foods. Which is why this is a FABULOUS little entrée super rich in umami literally drenching in "deliciousness". I would serve with blue-vein cheese (rich in umami) or shaved parmesan cheese (one of the richest sources of umami), black olives (rich in umami) with some fried tomato paste (rich in umami) or fresh ripe tomatoes (rich in umami), tabasco sauce or hot chilli sauce, fish sauce (rich in umami), balsamic vinegar (rich in umami) and freshly minced garlic and a some finely chopped herbs parsley or mint, with a little of the reserved oyster oil. YUM YUM YUM. These tasted so good I'm calling them super duper surf and turf meatballs.
    This is the best one so far on my meatball making challenge!. On reflection and making two other batches for my friends who LOVED these, I'm entering these in the college's (that I'm attending) cooking competition next week so tasty and satisfying hummmmmm.
    How to make the meatballs
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    The finished meatballs waiting to be cooked (all the same size)
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    Super Duper Surf and Turf Meatballs
    250 gm (1/4 lb) minced beef, best if used cold
    100 gm (3-1/2 oz) tin of smoked oysters, drained, reserve oil
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs, heavily seasoned
    2 teaspoons of vegemite, mixed into the beaten egg (or 1 tablespoon fish sauce)
    1 teaspoon pepper
    1/4-1/2 teaspoon of wasabi powder, to taste
    1/4 cup of dried mushroom, shredded (or 2 tablespoons of mushroom powder)
    1 sheet of nori, finely shredded
    1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
    1. Combine in a large bowl all the ingredients except the oysters until almost combined. Make a very small test ball, cook, taste, adjust seasoning. Place 1 tablespoon of mixture into a semicircular spoon, poke finger into mixture to form a hole stuff with 3 smoked oysters cover the stuffing with the displaced beef mixture to form a complete meatball, repeat until all the mixture and oysters are used up, makes about 16-18 meatballs (See pictures above).
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    Chicken balls

    I made two sorts of chicken balls; a sun-dried tomato, olive and ricotta chickenball and a sesame seed coated Thai coconut lime chickenball
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    Sun-dried tomato, olive and ricotta chicken-ball
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    Sesame seed coated Thai coconut lime chickenball
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    Sun-dried tomato, black olive and ricotta chicken-ball
    300 gm chicken, mince
    300 gm ricotta, finely crumbed
    1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, finely chopped
    28 black olives, stoned, (use 2 black olives per 1-1/2 tablespoon meatball)
    1 large egg
    2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1/4-1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs, heavily seasoned

    Sesame seed coated Thai coconut lime chicken ball
    500 gm chicken, mince
    3 tablespoons coconut cream
    1 tablespoon fish sauce
    1 packet of Hot and Spicy Thai noodle soup (any spicy Asian style is fine)
    2 lime leaves, finely shredded
    1/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs, heavily seasoned
    1/4 cup of peanuts, pieces
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1 red chilli, finely chopped
    4 tablespoons sesame seeds, for coating

              August 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge - Polenta        
    Blog-checking lines: Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

    This month's challenge was to use cornmeal in a new recipe. What a great challenge so many choices I decided on a new cornbread recipe that used some masa flour which really imparted a lovely Tex-Mex flavour to the final bread.

    Cornmeal bread
    This is a recipe that I haven't tried before it uses yellow cornmeal, yellow lupin flour and blue cornmeal flour with some oat bran for extra flavour. The recipe produces a very light and airy loaf that produces the most beautiful slashes when baked. And the crumb (the bread's interior texture) is amazing crunchy due to the cornmeal and has that slight limy taste of the masa flour which adds a lot of authentic "Mexican" flavour profile to the loaf. Great with chilli or red beans.

    Amazing crumb on the sliced bread
    Deep clear slashes are a sign of a well proven-dough and that you have the correct ratio of dry to liquid ingredients
    Cornmeal bread
    1 cup white bread flour
    1/4 cup yellow lupin flour
    1/4 cup high-gluten flour
    1/4 cup oat bran
    1/4 cup blue masa flour (blue corn flour)
    1 cup of yellow cornmeal
    1-1/3 cups warm water
    2 tablespoons mild tasting oil (up to 1/2 cup of oil/butter if you wish)
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 teaspoons dried active yeast
    1. Add the yeast in a small bowl with the warm water and oil, rest until foamy about 5 minutes.
    2. Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl.
    3. Add the foamy mixture to the dry ingredients mix then knead about 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover bowl to keep in the heat.
    5. Prove in a warm place until doubled in size about 1-2 hrs depending on temperature.
    6. Knock-down risen dough, shape into a large bun. slash with a sharp knife. Cover and rise in a warm place until just about doubled in size (usually half the time of the initial rise).
    7. Bake in a hot oven (220C/425F/gas mark 7) for 50 mins with steam for the first 8 minutes (check at 40 mins) until brown in colour and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
              THE DARING COOKS’ JULY, 2012 CHALLENGE: Cooking "En Papillote"        
    Blog-checking lines: Our July 2012 Daring Cooks’ host was Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie! Sarah challenges us to learn a new cooking technique called “Cooking En Papillote” which is French and translates to “cooking in parchment”.
    Recipe Source:
    • Becky Luigart-Stayner
    • The Envelope Please: Cooking en Papillote by Amanda Hesser, Published May 19, 1999
    • Laura Martin, Cooking Light APRIL 2007
    • Martha Stewart Living, May 1995
    • Jonathan Waxman, Colina
    • As found in the New York Times by Melissa Clark, April 21, 2010
    • “The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook”
    • Paula Wolfert
    • Gourmet Magazine

    What a wonderful challenge I love technique challenge where we learn a new technique and have to apply it, this method of cooking I have not done very often so it's good to experiment for the challenge. After some thought and having a look in my freezer I decided on some seafood .

    Peppered chilli clams with sweet garlic greens en papillote

    I really haven't done this type of cooking before, so I was excited to experiment with some ideas I had while I was reading the challenge write-up. For my first effort I remember a long while ago I had a marvellous dish at a dinner party so I tried to replicate it for this posting.

    The basic dish is sweet clams with spicy peppery greens, chilli, red onions and garlic. It is most important that the vegetables and clams are just cooked that is delicate, soft, tender and aromatic with bright vibrant colours and flavours. And that the flavours are well balanced with a combination of spicy, sour, salty and sweet, the sauce is a mixture of clam juice (released during cooking), extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze.

    Some ingredients for the dish (shown chopped watercress & spinach, thinly sliced red onions, balsamic glaze, garlic; not-shown clams, olive oil, chilli and whole peppercorns.)  

    How to layer the ingredients. Place the greens first then the onions, garlic and chilli and lastly the clams then fold the ingredients over themselves making sure the clams are in the middle of the fold this ensures the seafood is not overcooked

    The parchment paper parcel all tied-up with twine this is a photo after the cooking process notice the browned paper and the amount of liquid given off by the clams and vegetables.

    The just-opened parcel notice the vibrant colours of the greens and onions

    The finished dish

    Peppered chilli clams with sweet garlic greens en papillote
    Serves four
    1/2 kg clams (I used half-thawed frozen clams)
    1 bunch spinach, finely chopped, reserve eight large leaves to line the parcels
    1 small bunch watercress, finely chopped
    2 red hot chillies, finely chopped
    4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    1 red onion, finely sliced
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    1 tablespoon whole red and black peppercorns, cracked
    1. Preheat oven to hot 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
    2. Cut four 8"x8" (20cmx20cm) parchment paper squares.
    3. Combine the oil and the vinegar together in a small bowl.
    4. Line each parchment square with large spinach leaves leaving a boarder of about 2" (5cm) all around the paper.
    5. Add a quarter of the chopped greens, chilli, onions then the clams to each parcel, splash a quarter of the oil/vinegar mixture, lemon juice and the peppercorns onto the filling then fold the ingredients over themselves so the clams are in the centre of the parcel.
    6. Tie up the parcel as a purse using twine.
    7. Place the parcels into the hot oven for about 15-20 minutes, check at 10 minutes if you are using fresh clams. You should be able to see through the paper to notice the liquid given off.
    8. When the parcel feels hot and the paper is browned it should be ready.
    9. Carefully open the parcel so the steam escapes away from you and add a quarter of the balsamic glaze.
    10. Enjoy!

    Verdict - I'm really happy with this recipe I loved how bright and flavoursome the dish was especially the onions, spinach and clams. I think I did a better job on this than the original dish that I remember. Using a lot of watercress really helped emphasize the peppery/chilli flavour profile of the final dish. This method of cooking makes for a very sweet seafood and vegetable dish, the onions, clams and spinach were really sweet and soft.

    Thank you so much Sarah for a most intriguing challenge. 
              June 2012 Daring Cooks Challenge - Cannelloni        

    Recipe Source: Cannelloni di magro – Manuela Zangara; Cannelloni di carne – Manuela Zangara; Cannelloni al pesto – Manuela Zangara; Cannelloni with Ricotta, Ham and Fontina from

    Blog-checking lines: Manu from Manu’s Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family’s treasured recipes!

    I loved this month's challenge since I have always wanted to do a "healthy" version of cannelloni for my gym buddies. I had a great time thinking and working out the method for creating a "gym junkie friendly" recipe.

    Healthy charred onion and spinach cannelloni

    I made a low-fat/high-protein/low-carbohydrate version for my gym buddies who are very health conscious. I made the pasta using a large omega-3 egg, 70 gm of gluten flour, 30 gm of de-fatted soy flour and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and enough extra water to make the dough's consistency correct which made an intensely yellow-coloured and super-high protein pasta with only 14 grams of carbohydrates for the whole batch of pasta sheets. I used a pasta rolling machine to make the sheets as thin as possible giving the sheets a long rest between rollings since the very high-protein content makes stretching the sheets a longer process than if using normal plain flour. Then I made the filling with freshly cooled, cooked, chopped and drained spinach and silverbeet, charred onion rings, low-fat/no-salt ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons of chia seeds made into a gel with 1 cup of strong spinach and vegetable stock, balsamic glaze with tons of pepper and chilli flakes; also I made some olive oil infused wheat germ crumbs for the topping. I didn't use any béchamel sauce at all I made sure that I used plenty of greens (spinach and silverbeet), charred onion rings and the chia gel which really adds a wonderful moistness and creaminess to the dish. I only recently discovered chia seeds and how they can add a lot of flavour, moisture and creaminess to a recipe. 

    I really liked the ease of this recipe and the incredibly tasty filling which was creamy and flavoursome, it went down well with my buddies, the pasta actually tasted good and its mouth feel was just fine.

    A wonderful challenge thank you so much to our lovely host Manu.

    I worked out the nutritional information for the dish, the recipe made enough for four servings. Per serving; energy 350 cals, fat 11.5 gm, carbs 18 gm, protein 44 gm.     


    Here is the link to the challenge recipes Manu did a wonderful job on the write-up I especially like the Cannelloni di magro recipe.   .
              April 2012 DC challenge - create your own recipe        
    What an interesting month this was, our hosts David and Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking challenged us to create our own recipe (using one ingredient) from each of the following lists.

    List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
    List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
    List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas

    Blog-checking lines: Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!

    I really loved this I was almost on the way to the airport when this was posted so I only had a short time to think and do the challenge I came up with the following which was a great meal.

    I'm still on holidays so I could only do one versions this month, so the reason for the short posting this month.

    Ploughman's Dinner
    This is the dinner I had tonight super yum yum!
    I had all day to wait for the delayed flight I was going on, I was looking at the ingredient lists and a brilliant idea came to me in a flash which used nearly all the ingredients it is the ploughman's feed bag which is a classic pub meal here in Australia and the UK. It consists of crusty bread with pickled vegetables and cheese, this meal can be very fancy or very basic depending on the quality of ingredients and the cheese used. I made the cheese from goat's milk a very easy and quick process (and a lot cheaper (1/3 the price) than packet goat's cheese) and then I coated it in powdered seaweed (ground nori sheets) to simulate ash since I couldn't find a good recipe for the ash coating. Then I quick-pickled the vegetables (carrots, cauliflower and small banana chillies) again a fast and simple process I already had a couple of onions and little cucumbers already made from a previous Daring Cooks challenge. Then I made the bread (parsnip, walnut and coffee) again quick and simple.

    Here are the ingredients used for the ploughman's dinner
    List 1: Parsnips, Cauliflower
    List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese
    List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee

    I have to say that home made goat's cheese is nothing like the packet stuff at all it is so white!!! (it glows whiteness), soft and mild with a wondrous tang that goes so well with the quick pickled vegetables which where smashing (not too strong a nice mellow flavour) the use of white balsamic vinegar/maple syrup really adds that touch of elegance instead of using harsh white vinegar and white sugar. And the bread was superb I eat one whole loaf myself. This was a real winner and so quick and simple yet so tasty, the contrast of textures and the balance of sweet sour and tangy is spot on. I will be making this again while I'm in Melbourne for my friends there.

    Quick-Pickled White Balsamic Vinegar & Maple Syrup Ploughman's Vegetables
    Adapted from this recipe
    Makes about 2 litres (8 cups)
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 minutes
    1/2 head of cauliflower
    4 small banana chillies
    3 carrots sliced in crinkle-cut
    4 teaspoons coriander seeds
    4 teaspoons fennel seeds
    4 teaspoons mustard seeds
    2 teaspoons dried thyme
    1 cup white balsamic vinegar
    1 cup water
    1/4 to 1 cup maple syrup (check the sweet/sour balance when you have added 1/4 cup of syrup then add some extra until you get a good balance)
    2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt
    1. Toast the coriander, fennel and mustard seeds in a dry pan until they smell fragrant. Stir or toss occasionally. As soon as you hear the first seed pop, turn off the heat.
    2. Meanwhile, break the vegetables into pieces you’d want to eat as a pickle — neither too big nor too small. Do this by cutting down around the stem, then breaking the clumps or florets into smaller pieces. You may want to trim the stem pieces as you go.
    3. Boil the vinegar, syrup, salt and water until everything is totally dissolved.
    4. Add the vegetables simmer 10 secs then let the liquid cool until room temperature. Can be used after a couple of hours (the vegetables will be crisp and spicy).
    5. You can place the hot pickles and hot liquid into clean glass jars with new lids and store up to one year.

    Homemade Goat’s Milk Ricotta Cheese
    Recipe from Honest Cooking
    Makes two 1/2 cup cheeses

    4 cups / 1 litre goat’s milk
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

    1 stainless steel or ceramic pot (non-reactive material, like aluminium)
    1 large piece cheesecloth
    1 bowl

    1. In a large pot, add the goat’s milk and salt. Heat gently on low-medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom.
    2. Just before the milk boils (no need for a thermometer, just watch carefully), take it off the heat, add the lemon juice and give it a gentle stir (you should see the milk split almost instantly). Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
    3. While you’re waiting for the milk to become cheese, line a bowl with cheesecloth.
    4. Pour the milk mixture gently into the bowl. Pick up the sides of the cloth, tie a string around the top and hang, leaving the curds inside the cloth, and letting the whey drip out into the bowl.
    5. After 45 minutes to 1 hour, your ricotta should be ready to eat. If you prefer a richer, thicker cheese, let it hang for another hour or so. Remember the longer hanging time, the denser cheese. Store leftovers in a glass container in the fridge.

    Roasted Parsnip, Walnut & Coffee Bread
    3 cups bread (12%+ protein) flour
    1 cup roasted parsnip purée (made from ½ kg/1 lb parsnips)
    3 teaspoons instant yeast
    ½ teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons walnut meal
    ½ teaspoons instant coffee
    1/8 cup hot water (approximately)

    1. Add all the ingredients except the water into a large bowl, combine using a kneading motion, add water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture looks like normal unkneaded bread dough.
    2. Knead about 10 minutes until it has the feel of a baby's smooth bottom.
    3. Place into a covered oiled bowl let it raise until doubled in volume (about an hour).
    4. Punch down shape into 2 loaves.
    5. Let the loaves rise until almost doubled (about 1/2 hour).
    6. Bake in a preheated moderately hot 200C/400F/gas mark 6 oven for about 30 minutes - 40 minutes.
              March 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Crackle, tiger, giraffe, alligator, leopard, or Dutch-crunch bread        
    This month's challenge was to make crackle bread (also called Dutch-crunch), this bread is usually a soft textured crumb with a wondrous patterned topping that is similar to a giraffe or a tiger. The topping is very crunchy and has a wonderful taste this type of bread is perfect for sandwiches. This was a great challenge and the results are delicious I had some trouble getting the topping to brown but after eight batches I worked out that it is the sugar in the topping that browns the crust, so if you want dark brown spots add a generous amount of sugar to the topping.

    Recipe Source: The recipe for the Dutch Crunch topping came from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. The recipes for the breads we’ve suggested came from The Bread Bible and an adaptation of a recipe found on (

    Blog-checking lines: Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

    Dutch Crunch Topping

    Servings: This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9x5 loaves (23cmx13cm) or 12 rolls. If you make only 6 rolls in the first soft white roll recipe, you can cut the topping recipe in half.


    2 tablespoons (2 packets) (30 ml) (15 gm/½ oz) active dry yeast
    1 cup (240 ml) warm water (105-115º F) (41-46°C)
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
    ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
    1½ cups (360 ml) (240 gm/8½ oz) rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour) (increase by 1 cup or more for home-made rice flour)


    1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, as shown below, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.
    2. Coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. We tried coating it with a brush but it worked better just to use fingers or a spoon and kind of spread it around. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.
    3. Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends. With the Soft White Roll, you can place the rolls directly into the oven after applying the topping. With the Brown Rice Bread, the loaves should stand for 20 minutes with the topping before baking.
    4. When baking, place pans on a rack in the centre of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Crunch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown colour.

    Crackle, tiger, giraffe, alligator, leopard, or Dutch-crunch loaves and bread rolls

    Today is my bread baking day so perfect timing I will make all the bread today crackle bread and watch for the results.

    WOW I have seen this bread in the shops in Australia it is called tiger bread (occasionally I have seen it called giraffe bread or crackle bread) I have always wondered how they do the topping! I know in the oven, the starches of the topping gelatinize, dry out, firm up and crackle, in that sequence. The topping imparts a slightly sweet, yeasty flavour and a crispy, crunchy texture that contrasts nicely with the light and tender products. The topping can be applied to any type of dough that is baked between 360°F and 375°F. (182°C to 190°C).

    I used my normal soft white bread recipe (3 cups bread flour, 1 cup warm milk, 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons dried yeast, 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon lemon juice), I made two batches of dough. With one batch I made two long loaves and with the other batch I made six (115 gram/4 oz) rolls.

    I used dark sesame seed oil for the crunch topping. The sugar helps brown the topping so increase the sugar if you want a darker topping. The yeast is there to add a yeasty beer taste to the topping.

    WOW how good is the topping it really is crunchy with a slight sweetness and the toasted sesame flavour comes out so well. We ate it all up immediately so sorry for no sandwich pictures.

    I heavily coated the loaves with the paste and let them rise after 20 minutes the paste had crackled and looked so intriguing

    The baked loaves

    Tiger Bread Rolls

    I made up a batch of bread rolls using the bread recipe above but I divided the dough into six balls. I lightly coated these in the paste I used only half of the topping recipe just to see what difference I would get in the pattern.

    The bread rolls coated in the topping

    A third batch of loaves
    I made another batch I very heavily coated the loaves in a very thick layer made up with twice the normal sugar to enhance the browning of the topping and baked them off. This time I only got very large patches on the topping notice how much browner the topping is as compared to the other batches

    Tiger Paste Recipe
    I made another batch of rolls, this time I made up the crackle topping using this recipe (by weight) rice flour 100%, warm water 100%, dark sesame oil 10%, sugar 15%, yeast 15% and salt 5%. This time I made sure that I added the paste about 15 minutes before I baked them. Certainly this was the best tasting topping and also the most crunchy though the least attractive looking LOL LOL.

    Here is a listing of all the tiger paste recipes I could find on the net. They are all about the same (except one) the only difference is when you add the paste (i.e. just after shaping, half way through the final proof, or just before we bake the bread) and how thickly you apply it to the bread (thin for small scales and thick for larger scales).

    'Rye & Beer' tiger paste
    Light Rye flour 7 tablespoons (105 ml) 60gm
    Beer ('Roaring Meg') 80 ml
    Yeast dried 2 gm
    Salt 2 gm

    'Rice & Sesame' tiger paste
    Rice flour 6 tablespoons (90 ml) 60 gm
    Warm water 65 ml
    Sesame Oil 1½ teaspoons
    Sugar 1 teaspoon
    Yeast 1½ teaspoon dried

    'Australian Artisan Bakery' tiger paste my friend's recipe
    rice flour 6 tablespoons (90 ml) 60 gm (or use semolina or tapioca flour)
    warm water 55 ml
    vegetable oil 10 ml (sesame oil is great to use if you want a stronger flavour)
    ½ teaspoon vegemite (or another yeast paste)
    sugar 10 gm
    dried yeast 10 gm
    malt extract ½ gm
    salt 2½ gm

    'Challenge' tiger paste (from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible)
    rice flour 6 tablespoons (90 ml) 60 gm
    warm water 60 ml
    vegetable oil 7½ ml
    sugar 7½ gm
    active dry yeast (6 ml) 3¾ gm
    salt ¾ gm

    'Thin' tiger paste (
    rice flour 6 tablespoons (90 ml) 60 gm
    salt 1½ gm
    sugar 3 gm
    boiling water (1 cup) 240 ml
    dried yeast 1½ gm
    vegetable oil 1½ ml

    Pain Marche's Recipe: (from DB member Gourmande)
    joshinko * 250 g
    cake flour 15 g
    fresh yeast 25 g
    salt 5 g
    malt extract 2 g
    water 275 g
    sugar 5 g
    lard 30 g

    *"joshinko" is for making Japanese sweets, it's not exactly a rice flour, it's more processed, like "instant".

    Batch Two
    I have been trying to get the topping to go brown this batch no luck I followed the recipe to a "T" and used all the paste. It cracked with large patches. I will have to try a few other things, I even put it under the grill (broiler) to brown it up no luck. *sigh*

    Batch Three
    Home made rice flour tiger topping
    This time I made my own rice flour (a couple minutes in my ex-Gloria Jean's coffee $5 grinder was enough) to make the crunch topping this time I got a much better result than the packet rice flour batches. I added some sesame seeds to the topping on a couple of them just before baking.

    The home made rice flour certainly browned up better than the packet flour but I'm still slightly unhappy about the look of it, I want to experiment some more. Maybe I'm baking them at too high a temperature my oven's at 240°C/465°F which is the normal heat I always bake bread these took 45 mins to bake which is really a long time for rolls. Maybe next time I will go for 220°C/430°F or even the much lower 350°F/180°F, and I'll try steam which should make the topping go browner.

    For the last three batches I let the paste rise until it had doubled in volume (i.e. I made the paste as soon as I had finished kneading the bread) I found it made no difference to as compare to the "15 minute version" in the challenge. The longer time makes the topping taste better because it has a stronger yeastier taste when you let it rise for a long time. I have made about eight batches of six rolls now trying to get a dark brown patterning on the crust but I haven't been able to achieve it as get, I have tried varying the
    1.thickness of the topping (thin vs thick)
    2 how long I let the topping rise before I apply it (15 mins vs doubling in volume)
    3.when I apply the topping (half way through the proof vs just before baking bread)
    4.used two brands of store bought rice flour
    5.ground my own rice flour
    6.I added vegemite to the topping
    7.different temperatures of oven (moderate to very hot)
    the only thing that made any difference was making my own rice flour and that only made a golden brown colour in the final patterned crust not a dark brown colour as I had hoped for. I really have no idea how to get a dark brown colour on the crust. I have looked hi and low on the internet searching for any reliable advice on this and cannot find any at all. If any body as tips or hints please share it!

    Batch Four
    I tried another batch this time using steam and I got almost white rolls so I don't think steam is the answer, usually steam is used to create a humid atmosphere so the crust stays soft for the first part of baking, the oven spring is much better and a nice crust is formed in the second half of baking i.e. steam in the first part of baking gives us a crisp crunchy crust but doesn't necessarily brown the crust. This batch was very crunchy but not brown at all. (I saw this advice in couple of websites but it doesn't seem to work for me.)

    I will try increasing the amount of sugar maybe I will try brown sugar to see what happens this time.

    Don't get me wrong the rolls I have made have been tasty and have had great crunchy crust it's just that I'm looking for a browner colour on the topping.

    Batch Five
    Finally after a lot of experimenting I have worked out how to colour the topping. It is the sugar that browns the topping so if your batch is too pale add more sugar next time I used honey (since I had to use it) about 2 tablespoons for half a batch of the topping (120 gm rice flour, 120 gm water, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt) it was only slightly sweet tasting when baked.
              March 2012 Daring Cooks' - Braving the braise        

    This month's Daring Cooks' challenge was to braise we had complete freedom to do any sort of braise we wanted. What a fun challenge and so much freedom and from the superb responses from the other forum members this challenge went down really well, so many braise using all sorts of ingredients such as chicken, duck, pork, beef short ribs, fennel, root vegetables, tofu even moose!

    Recipe Source: Michael Ruhlman – Ruhlman’s Twenty

    Blog-checking lines: The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

    See the PDF of the challenge recipes with hints and tips here.

    Balsamic vinegar and honey beef short ribs
    I have been wanting to do a short rib recipe for a little while now so this challenge was perfect. Braising is such a great technique because:-
    1. the searing gives you great colour and add lots of flavour to the final dish
    2. as the connective tissues break down, they dissolve and form gelatin, which thickens the cooking liquid and gives it body and shine, meanwhile
    3. the braising causes the muscle fibers to absorb moisture from the cooking liquid and steam. Which gives you a juicy piece of meat. Braising also melds flavours from the stock, vegetables and any herbs and seasonings.

    So it is important to pay attention to searing the meat correctly (including the bones), and the flavouring ingredients in the braising liquid. Take careful note of all the wonderful tips and hints that our lovely hostess Carol has included in the challenge write up they really do work. I like a longer slower braising time at the lowest temperature 140°F/60°C to cook meat safely I think it really adds a lot more flavour into the meat.    

    This recipe uses an initial eight hour marinade of fried tomato paste for acidity, onions and garlic which is cleaned off then the ribs are seared, and then they are braised for 14 hours at 140°F/60°C (in a cool oven) in a mixture of ironbark honey and aged balsamic vinegar, a little red wine, smoked paprika, chilli flakes, bay leaf, a mirepoix, lots of pepper and the marinade. I used two bush tomatoes (an Australia native herb that is a strongly flavoured of tomato and eggplant even one is enough to perfume a whole room!) in the braising broth also, I was very lucky and got 3 kgs (6.6 lbs) of short ribs for only $10 (they were on special in the Asian butcher shop usually $15/kg) which consisted of two enormous slabs of meat studded with ribs. After the ribs were cooked and cooled the fat is taken off and the sauce is reduced to a thick shiny sticky consistency it has a super concentrated flavour. I was very impressed with the colour and flavour of the ribs a small amount of sauce goes a long long way in this recipe. Enough for many many meals I got almost 12 cups of braised meat and liquid.  I will make a meal using the ribs in the next of couple of days since I want maximum flavour infused into the meat. Incidentally I got a new camera so that's the reason for all the close-up shots of the ribs I was experimenting it is an Aldi Traveller brand $56 point and shoot.

    The butcher told me that oxtail will be on special soon maybe I will try that next, since all braises freeze well.

    The two humongous slabs of beef ribs they are about 1.5 kgs (3-1/3 lbs) each!

    Seared beef ribs

    The braised ribs cooled overnight in the refrigerator

    The braised ribs before they were covered in the reduced sauce, even these are delicious

    Caramel miso duck nibbles
    I just had to do the caramel miso sauce it sounds so tasty, I got some duck pieces from my favourite gourmet butcher, I seared them to crisp up the duck skin and then oven braised them in the caramel miso sauce. Then I rested the braised meat in the fridge overnight then I removed a voluminous amount of duck fat (almost 1-1/2 cups) and strained the braising liquid and reduced it until it was thick and shiny. I used my new chopper to cut the cold braised duck pieces into bite sized nibbles (I find it is much easier to cut cooked poultry when it is cold). I coated the nibbles with the reduced caramel miso sauce and broiled (grilled) them until well coloured. I don't make duck that often since most of my friends dislike it (bad experiences at restaurants, greasy and tasteless) even my friend Cherie liked these nibbles, not greasy at all. The caramel miso sauce is to-die-for and can be used for meat and veggies a great recipe.

    Slow braised sweet chilli squid

    This is one of my favourite summer seafood dishes it is embarrassingly easy to make and it's a real crowd pleaser. When squid is slow braised it becomes extra soft (melt in your mouth) and sweet and in combination with sweet chilli sauce and a tomato/onion based pasta sauce produces an unctuous amalgam that emphasises the taste of the squid. The squid sauce is sweet and mild and perfect as a sauce for a seafood pasta dish. I seared the squid pieces and braised them for six hours on the lowest simmer.

    Slow braised sweet chilli squid
    (1-1/4 kg)(2-3/4 lb) 3 large squid (or you can use baby octopus about a dozen or so)
    3 cups pasta sauce (the kind that uses mainly tomato and onions, I use a good store bought kind, you can make you own if you wish, the sauce must be thick)
    3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
    optional 2 cloves of garlic crushed
    fresh lemon or lime juice, to taste if the sauce becomes too sweet

    1. Clean the squid (remove the beak, the central clear cartilage, the fins, ink sack, the innards and scrap off most of the 'coloured' outer skin and scrap the tentacles to make sure that all of the sucker cartilage is removed). Cut the flesh into 2 cm (1 inch) pieces, cut the tentacles into 5 cm (2 inch) lengths. The pieces reduce in size by about 75% when braised so remember to cut the pieces much larger than the final cooked size. You can sear the pieces if you wish this adds a lot more flavour and colour to the pieces but increases the braising time by twice. Place the pieces into a medium stew pot.
    2. Add the pasta sauce, the sweet chilli sauce and the optional garlic.
    3. Slow braise uncovered in a very slow (90C/195F) oven or on the stove top just below a bare simmer for about 3 hours (check at 1 hour to see how much squid liquid is given off if there is a lot leave the pot uncovered, if the sauce is already thick cover the pot and add some water as needed during the braise) until the squid is soft to the tooth and the sauce has thicken and turned a brownish red colour, I have found you can simmer the sauce all day all that happens is the squid flesh becomes softer and softer and the sauce becomes more and more mellow. Makes 4 cups of squid pasta sauce suitable for about 8 servings.
    4. The squid pasta sauce is much better the next day, store in the fridge up to 5 days.
    5. Add fresh lime or lemon juice at the end of the cooking process to counter excessive sweetness if desired. Gremolata would be an excellent addition to the pasta dish.
    Notes:- try to get small-sized squid or baby octopus since their cooking time is about 2-3 hours, while one large (1-1/3 kg/3 lb) octopus can take 6+ hours!

    A couple of questions about the squid from the challenge host
    1) You said searing increases the braising time...why? Do you have to the sear? Does the squid turn brown?
    2) How do you serve it - pasta, polenta, by itself?
    My answers
    Thank you so much for the kind kinds. Yes squid/octopus is perfect for long slow braising unlike some other seafood.
    Answer 1) There are two ways to cook squid one) fast and furious in a fry pan or a BBQ or two) a long slow bare simmer. So if you sear the squid first basically it is cooked therefore if you braise it after searing you need a lot more time to make the squid tender again. No you do not need to sear I usually just throw in the freshly cleaned and cut squid pieces into the sweet chilli tomato/onion sauce and braised it just like that with no problems. For special occasions I like to sear the squid first since it adds an additional flavour dimension to the final sauce but there is no real need to sear first if you do not want to. The sweet chilli tomato/onion sauce colours the squid flesh a light brown/red hue, if you sear first then the squid gets a very light brown colouring in addition to the brown/red hue that the sauce imparts to it.
    Answer 2) I just cook up some dry packet pasta and heat up some of the sauce and just add that to the pasta. I like to use black squid ink pasta to show off the colour of the squid and sauce. I think polenta (or sweet potato gnocchi) would be wonderful with the squid sauce though I never have had it that way. The squid sauce is great on pizza as well especially if you add some extra seafood like oysters or clams etc to the topping.

    Double squid pasta with gremolata
    Slowed braised sweet chilli squid served on squid ink pasta with gremolata
    I had surprise lunch guests over so I thought that I would serve up the braised sweet chilli squid I made a few days ago I love this sauce since it takes no time to made up a restaurant quality dish (in appearance and flavour) literally 5 minutes. The use of squid ink pasta really adds a lovely base seafood flavour to the dish which enhances the braised squid sauce taste while the germolata adds a lovely "fresh" zing to the dish I never used germolata before now it is a must for me. For this recipe I cooked some squid ink pasta (5 mins), made the gremolata (4 mins) while heating the sweet chilli squid (3 mins in the microwave) then finally I added some sliced marinated sweet chillies as a garnish. The final dish looks stunning the contrast of colours and textures makes its very visually appealing. This was a smashing dish I thought there is something about the texture contrast of the squid and the pasta that is delightful. And I have half of the sauce left! I liked this dish so much I'm having it for dinner tonight with some guests. Serve with crunchy bread and a green salad. I think you can see why this is my all-time favourite summer seafood pasta recipe, it's simple fast and always gives a spectacular looking result.

    The gremolata recipe
    Anchovy dill gremolata
    A gremolata is a quickly made condiment used to finish savoury dishes with bright fresh citrus-herb flavours.
    2 anchovy fillets, chopped fine
    1 lemon peel, zested fine
    1 garlic clove, minced fine
    1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
    1 tablespoon dill fronds, chopped fine
    1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin oil
    1 teaspoon anchovy oil
    Optional 1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped

    In a mortar and pestle mash and pound all the ingredients until a paste is formed. Dab or sprinkle sparingly over the pasta.

    If you like you can make orange fennel gremolata replace the lemon zest with orange zest and replace the dill with fennel fronds. Instead of the shallot use fennel.

    Sticky Sweet Braised Tofu Steaks with Asian Germolata
    I wanted to braise at least one non-meat ingredient for this challenge I just had to make a braised tofu recipe (I love tofu and am always looking for ways to enjoy it). I have been wanting to make sticky sweet tofu (tau hu kho) for a while now so this was the perfect challenge for this dish. And since I'm in love with germolata at the moment I made an Asian germolata to serve with the braised tofu it consisted of coriander, lime zest, garlic, Thai basil, mint, lemongrass, crispy fried chilli pawn (shrimp), salt and dark roasted sesame seed oil. I seared the sliced bite-sized firm tofu pieces until lightly brown then I braised them in a mixture of kacap manis, honey, rice wine vinegar, ginger powder, onion powder, chilli paste and vegetable stock. During the simmering the braising liquid reduces to a thick shiny sauce which coat the pieces with sticky sweet deliciousness. I really like this cooking method for tofu it adds so much flavour and colour to the bean curb. These taste great at room temperature great for dinner parties. I just love how the bean curd absorbs the braising liquid and the sweet sticky coating is to die for, and I think the Asian germolata is a great addition to the original basic braised tofu.

    Sear the tofu pieces until brown

    When seared transfer to a shallow saucepan and braise until the pieces expand about 15% (about 30 minutes to an hour), I fried the tofu in two batches you can see the difference before (the light coloured pieces) and after (the dark pieces) braising

    The tofu after braising

    The tofu topped with Asian germolata

    Sticky Sweet Braised Tofu Steaks
    makes 12 mini-steaks
    500 gm (1 lb) extra firm tofu block
    3 tablespoons vegetable stock (or water)
    2 tablespoons soy sauce, salt-reduced
    3 tablespoons kacap manis
    2 tablespoons rice wine vingear
    juice from one lemon or two limes (use the zest for the Asian gremolata)
    2 tablespoons honey
    2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
    2 teaspoons ginger powder
    2 teaspoons onion powder
    1 teaspoon chilli paste
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    dash of salt
    2 tablespoons olive oil (for frying)

    1. Combine all the braising ingredients in a small bowl mix well check for taste it should be slightly sweet with a salty sour after-taste adjust seasoning as needed, set aside.
    2. Drain tofu, slice into 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) square pieces about 1/2 inch (1-1/4 cm) thick, pat dry with paper towels. Squares work best for searing and braising.
    3. Add oil to a frying pan heat on medium heat until the oil shimmers.
    4. Fry the tofu until browned (about 3-5 minutes each side). Do not overcrowd the frying pan, it is best to fry the tofu in small batches. Remove browned pieces set aside. Clean the fry pan if needed.
    5. Add the braising liquid into the frying pan gently heat until barely simmering, add the browned tofu pieces in one layer braise (turning once or twice) until the pieces expand about 15% (about 30 minutes to one hour) and the braising liquid is thick and coats the tofu (add more water as needed). Check for sweetness add lemon juice as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature, braised tofu reheats wonderfully. It tastes even better the next day. Stores for 5 days in the fridge.

    Asian Gremolata
    Provides a generous topping for 12 sticky sweet tofu steaks
    A herb-citrus gremolata made with traditional Asian ingredients

    2 tablespoon crispy fried pawn (shrimp) flakes or crispy fried shallots, chopped fine
    2 lime peels (or 1 lemon peel), zested fine
    2 garlic cloves, minced fine
    1/4 cup coriander (cilantro), chopped fine
    1 tablespoon lemon grass, chopped fine
    1 tablespoon Thai basil, chopped fine
    1 tablespoon mint, chopped fine
    2 to 3 teaspoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
    1 teaspoon chilli paste (mild or hot as to taste)
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    In a mortar and pestle mash and pound all the ingredients while adding teaspoons of sesame oil until a paste is formed. Dab or sprinkle generously over the braised tofu pieces.
              February 2012 Daring Bakers’ Challenge - Quick Breads        

    Blog-checking lines: The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lis stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

    Posting Date: February 27, 2012

    Recipe Source: The basic quick bread recipe is from Sara Schewe. The prune bread recipe was my Aunty Ann’s recipe. The Meyer Lemon Loaf and Green Onion, Cheddar & Asiago Beer Batter Bread were adapted from Recipe Girl ( & ). The Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Filling was adapted from Dana Ramsey’s recipe located on Just a Pinch Recipe Club.

    Basic Quick Bread
    Makes one 9” x 5” (23×13 cm) loaf
    Recipe from Sara Schewe
    2 cups (480 ml) (250 gm/9 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
    1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) fine sea salt or table salt
    1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk or soured milk*
    1 large egg
    1/4 cup (60 ml) mild- or non-flavored oil, like canola
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) flavored extract, such as vanilla or almond

    for the glaze
    1/3 cup (80 ml) (35 gm/1-1/3 oz) confectioners’ (icing) sugar
    1-2 teaspoons (5-10 ml) milk


    1. Preheat oven to moderate 350ºF/180ºC/gas mark 4. Grease a 9×5 inch (23×13 centimeter) loaf pan with butter and line with parchment paper cut to fit the length and width of the pan, with enough overhang to allow easy removal after baking. Grease the top sheet of parchment.
    2. In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt to combine. Make a well in the center and set aside.
    3. Lightly whisk (butter)milk, egg, oil, and extract to combine. Pour into well and stir until just mixed into a batter. The batter will be lumpy and may still show a few streaks of flour.
    4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely before slicing. Drizzle with glaze, if desired.
    5. For the glaze: Slowly whisk confectioners’ (icing) sugar and half of the milk, adding more milk as needed to thin the glaze to the desired consistency.
    Note: To make soured milk, combine 1 cup milk (240 ml) with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vinegar or lemon juice and let sit for 10 minutes.

    I really liked this challenge so many possibilities for the flavourings I made seven versions.

    Roasted banana and coconut cream bread
    I make banana bread at least once a week (an oversupply of bananas and it's super easy and quick to make and most of my friends and family love it) so I have developed a good feel for making it any way I want, below are some general guidelines on how to manipulate the ingredients and what techniques to use to obtain the banana loaf you want.

    For this challenge I made a brunt butter, brown sugar, coconut cream, roasted banana loaf. I roasted 4 bananas until they were like syrup I combined this with brunt (actually well browned) butter, brown sugar I used coconut cream for the liquid soured with some lime juice. I wanted a dense moist bread-like loaf, so I used the two bowl method to make the quick bread.

    This is the set of general guidelines to get the texture, mouth feel and moisture levels I want for the final loaf

    Firstly about the texture of the interior (or crumb)
    1. the creaming method (i.e. use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy about 5 minutes then beat in the eggs and then fold in the dry ingredients) produces a light well-aerated loaf with a cake-like crumb
    2. the two bowl method (sift the dry ingredients in one bowl and combine the wet ingredients in another bowl then mix (usually) the dry into the wet) produces a “heavier and denser” loaf with a bread-like crumb

    Secondly about the mouth feel, for most quick mix recipes as a general rule – less butter and sugar in a recipe makes it more bread-like, while more butter and sugar produces something closer to cake. So it is best to use the two bowl method when doing low-fat versions and the creaming method for high fat versions
    1. Low fat version use the lowest amounts of sugar, butter (you can use apple sauce instead) and lite sour cream (no eggs), stir the sugar and butter together until well mixed but still grainy add the other wet ingredients, sift the dry ingredients in another bowl, combine gently.
    2. Medium fat version use the middle amount of sugar, butter, sour cream and one egg
    3. Extreme fat version use the highest amount of sugar, butter and use 2 eggs (no sour cream), cream the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy, add eggs one at time beating well until incorporated add all the other wet ingredients mix well, add the sifted dry ingredients, combine gently.

    Thirdly the ratio of dry to wet gives different levels of moistness versus denseness
    1. Equal ratio batter: This batter has a dry:liquid ratio of 1:1. Which gives a very moist and dense loaf.
    2. Bread ratio batter: This batter has a dry:liquid ratio of 3:1. Which gives a moist but fluffy loaf. (This is the same ratio of flour:water as in normal bread)
    3. Stiff ratio batter: This “batter” has a dry:liquid ratio of 7:1 This batter will result in a very light and fluffy baked good.

    Here a great link to a video of a chef making banana bread well worth watching

    Ratios for banana bread (based on one cup of flour)
    1 cup flour (any sort or combination of flours is fine) (½ cake flour & ½ whole wheat is great)
    1½ teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    2 large bananas
    optional 1 tablespoon kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soya sauce) this really adds a wonderful depth of flavour & colour to the banana mash (if using do not add extra salt to the recipe)
    ¼ teaspoon of salt
    1/4 – 1/2 cup of sugar (for extreme flavour can use 1 cup sugar per cup of flour)
    2 – 4 tablespoons butter (or oil) (for extreme flavour can use ½ cup butter per cup of flour)
    1/4 – 1/2 cup sour cream (any sort full-fat or lite is fine) (for extreme moisture use 1 cup sour cream per cup of flour) (you can use buttermilk, coconut cream, almond milk, yoghurt etc if you want)
    1 large egg, lightly beaten (or use 2 eggs and don't use any sour cream) (you can use another 4 tablespoons of sour cream if you do not want to use eggs in the recipe)
    ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
    optional ½ teaspoon instant coffee
    optional ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (really adds a lovely intensity to the banana and kecap manis mash)
    optional 1/8 teaspoon cloves, ground
    optional 10-12 banana sweets (lollies) for decoration

    Additions (add an extra ½ teaspoon of baking powder per addition to the recipe above if using)
    ½ cup chopped nuts (or chopped soaked dried fruit)
    ½ cup chopped chocolate chips
    ¼ cup cocoa powder, (not Dutch-processed) sifted
    ¼ cup bran (or crushed bran cereal or wheat germ flakes)
    ¼ cup coconut, desiccated or flakes (not sweetened)
    ¼ cup maraschino cherries, chopped

    1. Roast the bananas in their skins in a preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for 15-20 minutes until black. Carefully remove banana flesh from the skins then mash well with any liquid released from the banana. Add the kecap manis and/or cayenne pepper if using mix until well combined. Cool and reserve.
    2. If you are using browned butter gently heat the butter in a saucepan until it browns to desired colour. The darker the colour the deeper the flavour. Set aside until firm.
    3. In one bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon (and if using the salt, cocoa powder, ground cloves or instant coffee).
    4. In another bowl using a wooden spoon or a plastic spatula lightly cream the sugar and butter together (about 1 minute) this will produce a bread-like loaf (if you use a mixer to cream [about 5 minutes] the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy the final loaf will be light textured and the crumb very cake-like), add the egg(s) one at time beating each time until well incorporated add the roasted banana mash, sour cream, vanilla extract and any additions. Mix until well combined.
    5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients mix until just combined there should be lumps and a few wisps of flour in the batter. (If you have used the creaming method then fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.)
    6. Spoon the batter into a greased large loaf [23cmx13cmx7cm (2litre)/9”x5”x3”(4.5 pints)] pan, carefully level the top. (The loaf pan should be a little under 3/4 full, it will rise to the top of the pan when baked). Decorate with banana sweets if desired.
    7. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 for 60-70 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. (Check at 50 minutes). Muffins take about 20-30 minutes (check at 15 minutes).
    8. Leave in pan until warm (about 15 minutes) remove to wire rack cool to room temperature, cover in foil then plastic, refrigerate overnight.
    9. This banana bread improves with age. The bread will store on the counter for three days if well covered and about ten days in the fridge.

    The roasted banana (the skin goes black when baked)

    The mixed wet ingredients and the sifted dry ingredients

    The mixed batter notice the lumps and the wisps of flour in it, the flour will be fully incorporated when the batter is spooned into the baking pan

    Unbaked loaf decorated with banana sweets (lollies)

    The finished loaf after one hour of baking

    If you are a follower of the “ratio” cookbook the ratio by weight for baking quick bread is 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg: 1 part fat. To fill a 9” x 5” (23cm x 13cm) loaf pan, you will need 240 grams of flour, 240 grams of liquid of any kind, 120 grams egg (2 of them) or egg substitute & 120 grams of fats. This ratio also works for making muffins. By volume you will need 1¾ cup flour, 1 cup liquid, 2 eggs, ½ cup fat (plus 2 teaspoons baking powder and about 1/2 cup of sugar plus additions).

    Quick Italian pizza loaf
    Italian herb, sun-dried tomato, spicy sausage and blue cheese quick bread
    I needed a really strongly flavoured quick bread, I followed the basic savoury recipe, 2 cups soft self-raising "OO" flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with these additions 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (with 2 tablespoons of the oil in the jar), 2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs, 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1 egg, one small chopped onion fried with one chopped spicy sausage and 1/4 cup high quality olive oil, I used 3 tablespoons of the fried onion and spicy sausage as a topping. When I was mixing the batter I could see the dough expanding, I spooned it into the loaf pan and baked it at moderate 325F/165C/gas mark 3 for 40 minutes. The aroma from the loaf was so good it smelt like a pizza baking. I was really pleased with the look of the loaf. The cut loaf was so yummy it had a thin crisp crust with a soft tender crumb choke full of flavour!


    Cherry Almond Semolina Syrup Cake

    My favourite flavour profile for quick bread is cherry and almond, I used 1 cup almond meal, 1 cup of very fine semolina (soaked in some almond milk), 4 tablespoons gluten flour, 1 cup chopped cherries, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup vanilla sugar, 4 tablespoons rice bran oil, 1 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons of natural almond extract, 1 teaspoon of cherry extract. I used 1 cup of sugar syrup to soak the cake after it was baked. This cake took almost two hours to bake at the recommend temperature! It is best to refrigerate the bread for a day before serving. The crust was thin, crisp and sweet while the crumb was soft tender and very tasty one of my better examples of my favourite cake. It is such a pretty cake and the tasty is luscious.

    I made this loaf a couple of days ago, I wanted to share how the crumb improves with some aging. After storing in the fridge cover in foil and plastic the loaf cuts cleanly and the density of the crumb is firm, so much better after a rest.

    Freshly sliced

    Two days later rested in the fridge

    Black cardamom bread

    I thought that I would make a flavour profile that was based on spices, I dug around my spice box and came up with this spice mix

    1 tablespoon black cardamom
    1/2 star anise
    2 cloves
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon allspice
    1/8 teaspoon ginger

    I used 1 cup of roasted parsnips and 1/2 cup of pureed prunes as the moisture content of the loaf. A really tasty and unusual flavour combination.


    Upside down blood plum loaf
    The local gourmet fruit and veggie shop had cute little blood plums on special ($2/kg about $1/lb) so I thought I would make an upside down loaf with them. I sliced up four plums and laid them out decoratively on the base of a parchment paper lined loaf tin, then I made some boozy plum sugar syrup (¼ cup white sugar, 2 tablespoons plum brandy and 2 tablespoons blood plum juice simmered until thick and glossy) and poured that over the sliced plums then I made up the quick bread batter; the dry ingredients were 2 cups of soft “OO” flour sifted with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt, the wet ingredients were ¾ cup lite sour cream, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons non-flavoured oil. ½ cup vanilla sugar and 2 tablespoons of plum brandy. I used the two bowl method to combine the wet into the dry. I baked the loaf for 60 minutes at moderate 325ºF/165°C/gas mark 3. Then I cooled the loaf in the pan then I un-moulded the loaf. I was very very happy with the look of the topping it was so neon bright with a lovely red transparency. The loaf was superbly flavoursome the brandy taste was mellow and combined well with the blood plum flavour overall a nice looking treat for the afternoon and not much harder than the normal quick bread recipe (i.e. without the fruit topping).

    A picture of blood plums (photo from the internet I forgot to take one)

    Maximum Intensity Chocolate Quick Bread
    You can intensify the flavour of chocolate in a recipe by using a combination of techniques. The easiest is to use a combination of melted unsweetened (not dark) chocolate and cocoa powder which has a much stronger chocolate flavour than each individual ingredient tasted separately. Using espresso coffee or vanilla or chilli or kecap manis (used separately or in combination) greatly enhances the taste of the flavour compounds found in chocolate. Also steeping the cocoa powder in boiling water intensifies the taste of chocolate.

    To obtain the intense chocolate flavour of this quick bread I combined
    1. melted semi-dark chocolate mixed with vanilla sugar, 2 tablespoons of kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce) and 1/4 teaspoon of chilli powder and
    2. cocoa powder which was steeped in 1/4 cup boiling hot espresso coffee and I used
    3. chocolate wafers to form an "upside down layer" (so when the bread is turned out the wafer layer becomes the base).

    I used the creaming method to make the bread.

    You can tell you have a strong chocolate taste when there is a "reddish" hue to the chocolate colour in the cake which shows that the flavour compounds have been fully extracted from the cocoa.

    I really like the simple elegant look of this treat.


    Cherry coconut cream popovers
    I thought I would do flavoured popovers as an experiment, I used the recipe that Renata linked to and substituted the cow's milk with coconut cream and used some home-made sour cherry extract also I accidentally used my 5% cake flour which I don't think was the correct choice for this recipe. They smelt wonderful while baking. I think I will have to do them again since the coconut cream made the batter too heavy for the popovers to rise correctly. Even if they sunk once out of the oven they tasted delicious. I think I will use coconut milk for my next batch and see if that will correct the heaviness of the batter.

    Cherry coconut milk popovers
    I made another batch of popovers using coconut milk and less cherry extract they worked out beautifully they rose about three times in height and had one large central hole in the popover perfect for filling with some lovely flavoursome morsel. See this recipe but replace the milk with coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of cherry extract. Also I baked them in a preheated very hot oven 450F for 15 mins and then 400F for 20 mins. I used 1/2 cup aluminium baking pans filled about 3/4 with the rested (30 mins) batter.

    1 cup plain (AP)flour (bread flour is best, I used AP flour for the recipe)
    1 cup milk or coconut milk, room temperature
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    1 tablespoon non-flavoured oil
    extra oil, for the popover baking pans
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar
    Optional 1 tablespoon extract; vanilla, cherry etc

    1. Place a small amount of oil in each popover baking pan. Place pans onto a baking sheet.
    2. Preheat oven with the baking pans on a baking sheet to very hot 450F/230C.
    3. Mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl.
    4. Form a well in the flour pour in the milk and the eggs whisk together until just combined with no lumps. I usually transfer the mixed batter to a jug with a long narrow spout which makes pouring out the batter much easier
    5. Rest the batter on counter for at least 15 mins (an hour is best). Do not stir again. DO NOT refrigerate the batter.
    6. Quickly remove the baking sheet and pour the batter into each pan about 3/4 full. The batter should sputter in the oil. Return to oven.
    7. Bake in the preheated very hot 450F/230C oven for 15 min then lower the heat to hot 400F/200C and bake for a further 20-25 mins until risen and well coloured. DO NOT OPEN the oven during this time.
    8. Remove from the oven and pierce a small hole into the side of the popover this allows steam to escape return the popover to the cooling oven to dry out completely which stops the popover from collapsing.


              February 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge: Flipping Fried Patties!!!        
    Hi it is Lisa and Audax and we are hosting this month's Daring Cooks' challenge we have chosen a basic kitchen recipe and a basic cooking technique which can be adapted to suit any ingredient that you have to hand and are beloved by children and adults alike … of course we are talking about patties.
    Technically patties are flatten discs of ingredients held together by (added) binders (usually eggs, flour or breadcrumbs) usually coated in breadcrumbs (or  flour) then fried (and sometime baked). Burgers, rissoles, croquettes, fritters, and rösti are types of patties as well.

    Irish chef Patrick "Patty" Seedhouse is said to have come up with the original concept and term as we know it today with his first production of burgers utilizing steamed meat pattys - the pattys were "packed and patted down" (and called pattys for short) in order to shape a flattened disc that would enflame with juices once steamed.

    The binding of the ingredients in patties follows a couple of simple recipes (there is some overlap in the categories below)
    Patties – patties are ingredients bound together and shaped as a disc.
    Rissoles and croquettes – use egg with breadcrumbs as the binder, typical usage for 500 grams (1 lb) of filling ingredients is 1 egg with ½ cup of breadcrumbs (sometimes flour, cooked grains, nuts and bran can be used instead of the breadcrumbs). Some meat patties use no added binders in them they rely on the protein strands within the meat to bind the patty together.  Vegetarian and vegan patties may use mashed vegetables, mashed beans, grains, nuts and seeds to bind the patty. Generally croquettes are crumbed (breaded) patties which are  shallow- or deep-fried. Rissoles are not usually crumbed (but can be) and are pan- or shallow-fried. Most rissoles and croquettes can be baked.  (Examples are all-meat patties, hamburgers, meat rissoles, meatloaves, meatballs, tuna fish and rice patties, salmon and potato rissoles, most vegetable patties.)
    Wet Fritters – use flour, eggs and milk as the binder, typical usage for 500 grams (1 lb) of filling ingredients is 2 cups flour, 1 egg with 1 cup of milk and are usually deep-fried and sometimes pan-fried  (examples deep fried apple fritters, potato fritters, some vegetable fritters, hushpuppies)
    Dry Fritters – use eggs and (some) flour as the binder, typical usage for 500 grams  (1 lb) of filling ingredients is 1 to 2 eggs and (usually) some 2 to 8 tablespoons of flour (but sometimes no flour) and are pan- or shallow- fried. (examples most vegetable patties like zucchini fritters, Thai fish cakes, crab cakes, NZ whitebait fritters)
    Röstis – use eggs (sometimes with a little flour) as the binder for the grated potato, carrot and other root vegetables, typical usage for 500 grams (1 lb) of filling ingredients is one egg yolk (potato rösti).

    Sautéing, stir frying, pan frying, shallow frying, and deep frying use different amounts fat to cook the food. Sautéing uses the least amount of oil (a few teaspoons) while deep frying uses (many many cups) the most oil. The oil helps lubricate (sometimes adds flavour) the food being fried so it will not stick to the pan and helps transfer heat to the food being cooked.

    In particular, as a form of cooking patties, pan- and shallow-frying relies on oil of the correct temperature to seal the surface (so retaining moisture) and to heat the interior ingredients (so binding them together) so cooking the patty. The exposed topside of the patty while cooking allows, unlike deep frying, some moisture loss and contact with the pan bottom with the patty creates greater browning on the contact surface that is the crust of the patty is browned and the interior is cooked by pan- and shallow-frying. Because the food is only being cooked on one side while being pan- or shallow-fried, the food must be flipped at least once to totally cook the patty.

    So this month's challenge is to pan- or shallow-fry a patty, so giving us the title for this challenge “flipping fried patties”.

    This challenge will help you understand how to form, what binders to use, and how to fry a patty so that it is cooked to picture perfect perfection.

    Recipe Source:  Audax adapted a number of popular recipes to come up with the challenge patty recipes and Lisa has chosen to share two recipes – California Turkey Burger adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, and French Onion Salisbury Steak adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine.

    Blog-checking lines:  The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness!  We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!

    Posting Date:  February 14th, 2012

    Download the printable .pdf file HERE

    • Binders
    • Eggs – are found in most patty recipes it acts as a binder, use cold eggs and lightly beat them before using  If you cannot use eggs try this tip  "1/4 cup of silken tofu, blended, or a commercial egg re-placer powder mixed with warm water."
    • Flour – normal plain (all-purpose) flour is used in most fritter recipes it can be replaced with rice, corn or potato flours (in smaller quantities) in some recipes. If you want some rise in your patties then use self-raising flour or add some baking powder to the flour. 
    • Breadcrumb Preparation – breadcrumbs are a common ingredient in patties, burgers and fritters they act as a binding agent, ensuring the patty keeps it shape during the cooking process.
      • Fresh breadcrumbs – these crumbs are made at home with stale bread simply remove the crusts from one- or two-day old bread, break bread into pieces, place pieces in a blender or food processor then blend or process until fine. Store any excess in a plastic bag in the freezer. 1 cup of fresh crumbs = 3 slices of bread.
      • Packaged breadcrumbs – often called dry breadcrumbs, these are used to make a crisp coating on the burgers, patties and fritters they are easily found in the supermarket, You can make them at home. Place slices of one- or two-day bread on baking trays, bake in the oven on the lowest setting until slices are crisp and pale brown. Cool bread, break pieces in a blender or food processor then blend or process until fine. 1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs = 4 slices of bread.
    • Alternate binders – bran (oat, wheat, rice, barley etc) can be used instead of breadcrumbs in most recipes. Tofu (silken) can replace the egg. Also using mashed potato (or sweet potato, carrots, most root vegetables) and/or mashed beans can help bind most patties. Of course chickpea flour and most other flours can be used to help bind patties. Seeds, nuts and grains can help bind a patty especially when the patty has cooled after cooking. These binders are used in vegan recipes.
    • Moisteners – Mayonnaise and other sauces, pesto and mustard are used in some meat patty recipes mainly for moisture and flavour but they can act as binders as well. For vegetable patties you can use chopped frozen spinach, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, shredded apple and cooked grains to add extra moisture. Also sour cream and other milk products are used to increase the tenderness of patties.

    • Patty Perfection
    • When making meat patties the higher the fat content of the meat, the more the patties shrink during cooking this is especially true for ground (minced) red meat. Make patties larger than the bun they are to be served on to allow for shrinkage.
    • For hamburgers keep the fat content to about 20 - 30% (don't use lean meat) this ensures juicy patties when cooked. Also use coarse freshly ground meat (if possible) to make patties, if the mixture is ground too fine the large patties will break apart since the protein strands are too short and are covered in fat and can only bind to nearby ingredients so when the large patty is cooked it will fall apart or be too dense. Compare this behaviour with small amounts of finely ground lean meat (almost a paste) where the protein can adhere to itself (since the protein chains are short, not covered in fat and all the ingredients are nearby) hence forming a small stable patty (lamb kofta, Asian chicken balls, prawn balls).
    • Patty mixtures should be kept cold as possible when preparing them and kept cold until you  cook them the cold helps bind the ingredients together.
    • Don't over-mix the ingredients the resultant mixture will be heavy and dense.
    • For meat patties chop, mince, grate the vegetable ingredients fairly finely, if too coarse the patties will break apart.
    • Patties made mostly of meat (good quality hamburgers and rissoles) should be seasoned just before the cooking process, if salted too early liquid can be drawn out of the patty.
    • Make all the patties the same size so they will cook at the same rate. To get even-sized patties, use measuring cups or spoons to measure out your mixture.
    • For patties use your hands to combine the ingredients with the binders, mix gently until the mixture comes cleanly from the sides of the mixing bowl. Test that the final mixture forms a good patty (take a small amount in your palm and form into a ball it should hold together) before making the whole batch. Add extra liquid or dry binder as needed. Cook the test patty to check for seasoning, add extra if needed then cook the rest of the batch. 
    • Usually patties should be rested (about an hour) before cooking they “firm” up during this time, a good technique to use if your patty is soft. Always wrap patties they can dry out if left in the fridge uncovered.
    • Dampen your hands when shaping patties so the mixture won't stick to your fingers.
    • If making vegetable patties it is best to squeeze the grated/chopped/minced vegetables to remove any excess liquid this is most important for these types of patties.
    • When making fritters shred your vegetables because it makes long strands that gives a strong lattice for the patties. A food processor  or a box grater is great to use here.
    • For veggie patties make sure your ingredients are free of extra water. Drain and dry your beans or other ingredients thoroughly before mashing. You can even pat them gently dry with a kitchen cloth or paper towel.
    • Vegetable patties lack the fat of meat patties so oil the grill when BBQing them so the patty will not stick.
    • Oil all-meat burgers rather than oiling the barbecue or grill pan – this ensures the burgers don’t stick to the grill allowing them to sear well. If they sear well in the first few minutes of cooking they’ll be golden brown and juicy. To make it easy brush the burgers with a brush dipped in oil or easier still use a spray can of oil.
    • If you only have very lean ground beef try this tip from the Chicago Tribune newspaper  “To each 1 lb (½ kg) of ground beef add 2 tablespoons of cold water (with added salt and pepper) and 2 crushed ice cubs, form patties.” it really does work.
    • A panade, or mixture of bread crumbs and milk, will add moisture and tenderness to meat patties when the burgers are cooked well-done.
    • For vegetable patties it is best to focus on one main ingredient then add some interesting flavour notes to that major taste (examples carrot and caraway patties, beetroot, feta and chickpea fritters etc) this gives a much bolder flavour profile than a patty of mashed “mixed” vegetables which can be bland.
    • Most vegetable  and meat/vegetable patties just need a light coating of seasoned breadcrumbs. Lightly pat breadcrumbs onto the surface of the patty there is enough moisture and binders on the surface of the patty to bind the breadcrumbs to the patty while it is cooking. You can use wheatgerm, bran flakes, crushed breakfast cereals, nuts and seeds to coat the patty.
    • Use fine packet breadcrumbs as the coating if you want a fine smooth crust on your patties use coarser fresh breadcrumbs as the coating if you want a rougher crisper crust on your patty.
    • Flip patties once and only once, over-flipping the patty results in uneven cooking of the interior and allows the juices to escape.
    • Don't press the patties when they are cooking you'll squeeze out all of the succulent juices.
    • Rest patties a while before consuming.

    • Shaping the patty
    • Shaping – Shape the patty by pressing a ball of mixture with your clean hands it will form a disc shape which will crack and break up around the edges. What you want to do is press down in the middle and in from the sides, turning the patty  around in your hand until it is even and uniform. It should be a solid disc that is firm. Handle the mixture gently, use a light touch and don’t make them too compacted. Rather than a dense burger, which is difficult to cook well, aim for a loosely formed patty that holds together but is not too compressed.
    • Depressing the centre – When patties cook, they shrink (especially red meat burgers). As they shrink the edges tend to break apart causing deep cracks to form in the patty. To combat this you want the burger patty to be thinner in the middle than it is around the edges. Slightly depress the center of the patty to push a little extra mixture towards the edges. This will give you an even patty once it is cooked.  

    • Shallow- and pan-frying 
    • Preheat the pan or BBQ.
    • Generally when shallow-frying patties use enough oil that it comes halfway up the sides of the food. Best for most meat and vegetable patties and where the ingredients in the patty are uncooked.
    • Generally when pan-frying use enough oil to cover the surface of the pan best for most vegetable patties where all the ingredients are precooked (or cook very quickly) and all-meat rissoles and hamburgers.
    • Most oils are suitable for shallow- and pan-frying but butter is not it tends to burn. Butter can be used in combination with oil. Low-fat spreads cannot be used to shallow fry as they contain a high proportion of water. Rice bran oil is a great choice since it is almost tasteless and has a very high smoke point of 490°F/254°C. The smoke point is when the oil starts to break down into bitter fatty acids and produces a bluish smoke, Canola (smoke point 400°F/204°C) is also a great choice. Butter has a smoke point of 250–300°F/121–149°C. Olive oil Extra light 468°F/242°C. Olive oil Extra virgin 375°F/191°C. Ghee (Clarified Butter) 485°F/252°C.   
    • Do not overload the frying pan which allows steam to be trapped near the cooking food which might lead to the patties being steamed instead of fried. If you place too many patties at once into the preheated pan this reduces the heat and the patties will then release juices and begin to stew. Leave some space between each when you place them in the pan.
    • For most patties preheat the oil or fat until the oil seems to shimmer or a faint haze rises from it, but take care not to let it get so hot it smokes. If the oil is too cool before adding the patties, it will be absorbed by the food making the patty soggy. If the oil is too hot then the crumb coating will burn before the interior ingredients are cooked and/or warmed through. For vegetable and meat/vegetable patties start off cooking in a medium hot skillet and then reduce the heat to medium.  For all-meat patties start off cooking in a very hot skillet and then reduce the heat to hot, as celebrity chef Bobby Flay says that “the perfect [meat] burger should be a contrast in textures, which means a tender, juicy interior and a crusty, slightly charred exterior. This is achieved by cooking the meat [patty] directly over very hot heat, rather than the indirect method preferred for slow barbecues”. All patties should sizzle when they are placed onto the preheated pan.
    • Cast iron pans are best to fry patties.
    • When the raw patty hits the hot cooking surface it will stick. And will stay so until the patty crust forms so causing a non-stick surface on the patty at this point you can lift the patty easily without sticking. So wait until the patties (with a gentle shaking of the pan or a light finger-twist of the patty) release themselves naturally from the frying pan surface (maybe a minute or two for meat patties maybe 3-6 minutes for a vegetable patty).  If you try to flip it too early the burger will fall apart. The secret is to wait for the the patty to naturally release itself from the pan surface then flip it over once.
    • Veggie burgers will firm up significantly as they cool.
    • Most vegetable patties can be baked in the oven.
    • Check the temperature of the oil by placing a few breadcrumbs into the pan they should take 30 seconds to brown.
    • If you need to soak up excess oil place the patties on a rack to drain, do not place onto paper towels since steam will be trapped which can make the patty soggy, if you need to just press off the excess oil with paper towels then place onto a rack.

    Mandatory Items: Make a batch of pan- or shallow-fried (or baked) patties.

    Variations allowed:  Any variation on a patty is allowed. You can use the recipes provided or make your own recipe.

    Preparation time:
    Patties: Preparation time less than 60 minutes. Cooking time less than 20 minutes.

    Equipment required:
    Large mixing bowl
    Large stirring spoon
    Measuring cup
    Frying pan

    Basic Canned Fish and Rice Patties

    Servings: makes about ten ½ cup  patties
    Recipe can be doubled
    adapted from

    This is one my favourite patty recipes I make it once a week during the holidays. It is most important that you really mix and mash the patty ingredients well since the slightly mashed rice helps bind the patty together. 

    1 can (415 gm/15 oz) pink salmon or tuna or sardines, (not packed in oil) drained well
    1 can (340 gm/13 oz) corn kernels, drained well
    1 bunch spinach, cooked, chopped & squeezed dry or 60 gm/2 oz thawed frozen spinach squeezed dry
    2 cups (300 gm/7 oz) cooked white rice (made from 2/3 cups of uncooked rice)
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    about 3 tablespoons (20 gm/2/3 oz) fine packet breadcrumbs for binding
    3 tablespoons (45 ml) oil, for frying
    2 spring (green) onions, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) tomato paste or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) hot chilli sauce
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) oyster sauce
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) sweet chilli sauce
    Salt and pepper to taste
    ½ cup (60 gm/2 oz) seasoned fine packet bread crumbs to cover patties

    1) Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl.
    2) Mix and mash using your hands or a strong spoon the ingredients with much force (while slowly adding tablespoons of breadcrumbs to the patty mixture) until the mixture starts to cling to itself about 4 minutes the longer you mix and mash the more compacted the final patty.  Day-old cold rice works best (only needs a tablespoon of breadcrumbs or less) but if the rice is hot or warm you will need more breadcrumbs to bind the mixture. Test the mixture by forming a small ball it should hold together. Cook the test ball adjust the seasoning (salt and pepper) of the mixture to taste.   
    3) Form patties using a ½ cup measuring cup.
    4) Cover in seasoned breadcrumbs.
    5) Use immediately or can be refrigerated covered for a few hours.
    6) Preheat fry pan (cast iron is best) to medium hot add 1½ tablespoons of oil and heat until the oil shimmers place the patties well spaced out onto the fry pan lower heat to medium.
    7) Pan fry for about 3 minutes each side for a thin lightly browned crust about 10 minutes for a darker thicker crisper crust. Wait until the patties can be released from the pan with a shake of the pan or a light turning of the patty using your fingers before flipping over to cook the other side of the patty add the remaining 1½ tablespoons of oil when you flip the patties. Flip only once. You can fry the sides of the patty if you want brown sides on your patty.

    Pictorial Guide
    Some of the ingredients

    Starting to mix the patty mixture           

    About ready to be tested

    The test ball to check if the mixture will hold together

    Form patties using a ½ cup measuring cup

    Crumb (bread) the patties                   

    Cover and refrigerate

    Preheat frying pan add oil wait until the oil shimmers add patties well spaced out onto the pan

    Wait until the patties can be released by a light shaking of the pan or by finger-turning the patty and then flip the patties over add some extra oil (these were fried for 10 minutes)

    Enjoy picture perfect patties

    This patty was pan-fried on my cast iron fry pan notice the shiny very crisp crust as compared to the patty above

    Zucchini, prosciutto & cheese fritters

    Servings: makes about 8-10 two inch (five cm) fritters
    Recipe can be doubled
    adapted from

    This makes a great light lunch or a lovely side dish for dinner. 

    500 gm (½ lb) zucchini (two medium)
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (7 gm) salt
    ½ cup (120 ml) (60 g/2 oz) grated cheese, a strong bitty cheese is best
    5 slices (30 gm/1 oz) prosciutto, cut into small pieces
    ½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm/2½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour plus ½ teaspoon baking powder, sifted together
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    2 spring onions, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) chilli paste
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) black pepper, freshly cracked
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil, for frying

    • Grate the zucchini with a box grater or food processor. Place into large bowl, add salt, wait 10 minutes.
    • While waiting for the zucchini, pan fry the prosciutto pieces until cooked. Remove from pan and place prosciutto onto rack this will crisp up the prosciutto when it cools. Paper towels tend to make prosciutto soggy if left on them.
    • When zucchini is ready wrap in a cloth and squeeze dry with as much force as you can you will get a lot of liquid over ½ cup, discard liquid it will be too salty to use.
    • Return dried zucchini to bowl add prosciutto, cheese, pepper, sifted flour and baking powder, chilli paste, pepper, a little salt and the lightly beaten eggs.
    • Mix until combined if the batter is too thick you can add water or milk or another egg, if too wet add some more flour. It should be thick and should not flow when placed onto the frying pan.
    • Preheat a frying pan (cast iron is best) until medium hot, add 1/3 of the oil wait until it shimmers.
    • Place dollops of batter (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the fry pan widely spaced out, with the back of a spoon smooth out each dollop to about 2 inches (5 cm) wide, do not make the fritters too thick. You should get three or four fritters in the average-sized fry pan. Lower heat to medium
    • Fry for 3-4 minutes the first side, flip, then fry the other side about 2-3 minutes until golden brown.  Repeat for the remaining batter. Adding extra oil as needed.
    • Place cooked fritters into a moderate oven on a baking dish for 10 minutes if you want extra crispy fritters.

    Pictures of process – fresh zucchini, grated zucchini, liquid released from salted and squeezed dry zucchini, ingredients for the fritters, fritter batter and frying the fritters.

    Cooked fritters

    California Turkey Burger

    Servings: makes about 10 burgers
    Recipe can be doubled
    adapted from Cooking Light Magazine September 2005:

    ½ cup (120 ml) ketchup
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) Dijon mustard
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) fat-free mayonnaise

    ½ cup (120 ml) (60 gm/2 oz) finely chopped shallots
    ¼ cup (60 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) dry breadcrumbs
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) Worcestershire sauce
    ¼ teaspoon (¾ gm) freshly ground black pepper
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1¼ lbs (600 gm) ground turkey
    1¼ lbs (600 gm) ground turkey breast
    Cooking spray

    Remaining ingredients:
    10 (2-ounce/60 gm) hamburger buns
    10 red leaf lettuce leaves
    20 bread-and-butter pickles
    10 (1/4-inch thick/5 mm thick) slices red onion, separated into rings
    2 peeled avocados, each cut into 10 slices
    3 cups (750 ml) (60 gm/2 oz) alfalfa sprouts

    1. Prepare the grill to medium-high heat.
    2. To prepare sauce, combine first 3 ingredients; set aside.
    3. To prepare patties, combine shallots and the next 7 ingredients (through turkey breast), mixing well. Divide mixture into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick (1¼ cm thick) patty. Place patties on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until done.
    4. Spread 1 tablespoon sauce on top half of each bun. Layer bottom half of each bun with 1 lettuce leaf, 1 patty, 2 pickles, 1 onion slice, 2 avocado slices, and about 1/3 cup of sprouts. Cover with top halves of buns.                                                                                                         


    Yield:  10 servings (serving size: 1 burger) - Nutritional Information – CALORIES 384(29% from fat); FAT 12.4g (sat 2.6g,mono 5.1g,poly 2.8g); PROTEIN 31.4g; CHOLESTEROL 68mg; CALCIUM 94mg; SODIUM 828mg; FIBER 3.9g; IRON 4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 37.5g
    Lisa’s Notes:
    Nutritional information provided above is correct for the recipe as written.  When I make these burgers, the only ingredients I change are using regular mayo, and dill pickles.  My red lettuce of choice is radicchio.  I’ve both grilled and pan fried these burgers and both are delicious.  If you decide to pan fry, you’ll need a little extra fat in the pan – so use about 2 tsp. of extra virgin olive oil, or canola oil before laying your patties on the pan.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side, or until done.  Do not overcook as the patties will dry out and not be as juicy and tasty! :)

    French Onion Salisbury Steak

    Courtesy of Cuisine at Home April 2005 edition
    Makes 4 Steaks; Total Time: 45 Minutes

    1 1/4 lb (600 gm) ground chuck 
    1/4 cup (60 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) fresh parsley, minced
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) (⅓ oz/10 gm) scallion (spring onions), minced
    1 teaspoon (5ml) (3 gm) kosher salt or ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) table salt
    1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) black pepper
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) (½ oz/18 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
    2 cups (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) onions, sliced
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) sugar
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) (⅓ oz/10 gm) garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) (½ oz/15 gm) tomato paste
    2 cups (240 ml) beef broth
    1/4 cup (60 ml) dry red wine
    3/4 teaspoon (2 gm) kosher salt or a little less than ½ teaspoon (2 gm) table salt
    1/2 teaspoon  (2½ ml) (1½ gm) dried thyme leaves
    4 teaspoons (20 ml) (⅓ oz/10 gm) fresh parsley, minced
    4 teaspoons (20 ml)  (2/3 oz/20 gm) Parmesan cheese, shredded

    Cheese Toasts
    4 slices French bread or baguette, cut diagonally (1/2" thick) (15 mm thick)
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 ml/1 oz) unsalted butter, softened
    1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (2 gm) garlic, minced
    Pinch of paprika
    1/4 cup (60 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) Swiss cheese, grated (I used 4 Italian cheese blend, shredded)
    1 tablespoon (15 ml) (⅓ oz/10 gm) Parmesan cheese, grated

    1. Combine chuck, parsley, scallion, salt and pepper. Divide evenly into 4 portions and shape each into 3/4"-1" (20-25 mm) thick oval patties. Place 2 tablespoons flour in a shallow dish; dredge each patty in flour. Reserve 1 teaspoon flour.
    2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add patties and sauté 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove from pan.
    3. Add onions and sugar to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste; sauté 1 minute, or until paste begins to brown. Sprinkle onions with reserved flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth and wine, then add the salt and thyme.
    4. Return meat to pan and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
    5. Serve steaks on Cheese Toasts with onion soup ladled over. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan.

    For the Cheese Toasts
    6. Preheat oven to moderately hot 200°/400ºF/gas mark 6.
    7. Place bread on baking sheet.
    8. Combine butter, garlic and paprika and spread on one side of each slice of bread. Combine cheeses and sprinkle evenly over butter. Bake until bread is crisp and cheese is bubbly, 10-15 minutes.

    French Onion Salisbury Steak

    Potato Rösti

    Servings: makes two large rösti
    adapted from a family recipe

    The classic rösti; cheap, easy and so tasty.

    1 kg (2½ lb) potatoes
    1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
    2 teaspoons (10 ml) (6 gm) black pepper, freshly milled
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    2 tablespoons (30 ml) (½ oz/15 gm) cornflour (cornstarch) or use all-propose flour
    3 tablespoons (45 ml) oil, for frying

    1. Grate lengthwise the peeled potatoes with a box grater or a food processor.
    3. Wrap the grated potato in a cloth and squeeze dry, you will get a lot of liquid over ½ cup, discard liquid since it is full of potato starch.
    5. Return dried potato to bowl add the egg, cornflour, pepper, and salt.
    7. Mix until combined.
    9. Preheat a frying pan (cast iron is best) until medium hot, add 2 teaspoons of oil wait until oil shimmers.
    11. Place half of mixture into the pan, flatten with a spoon until you get a smooth flat surface. Lower heat to medium.
    13. Fry for 8-10 minutes (check at 6 minutes) the first side, flip by sliding the rösti onto a plate then use another plate invert the rösti then slide it back into the pan, then fry the other side about 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Repeat to make another rösti

    Pictures of process – Peel 1 kg spuds, grate lengthwise, squeeze dry, add 1 egg, 2 tablespoons starch, salt and pepper. Pan fry.

    Pictures of the grated potato before (left) and after (right) squeezing dry. Notice in the left hand pictures the gratings are covered in moisture and starch, while in the right hand pictures the grated potato is dry and doesn't stick together.

    Pictures of the finished small rösti

    Pictures of the large rösti

    Chicken, potato and corn patties
    I had some leftover chicken legs and boiled potatoes from dinner last night so I made up some patties. The patties are made from 1 kilogram of finely grated cold boiled potatoes, 4 chicken legs meat removed and finely chopped, and one can of corn kernels. The binder was one egg and 1/4 cup of self-raising wholewheat flour.

    The crumbed (breaded) patties waiting to be pan fried

    Patties pan frying

    The finished patties


    I made meatballs using high quality ground veal and pork (30% fat) I didn't use any binders in the mixture just a little seasoning chilli, garlic and dried mushroom powder.

    The meatballs waiting to be fried

    Frying the meatballs

    The finished meatballs

    Of course I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner so so delicious

    Thai Fish Cakes

    I adore Thai fish cakes but I have never really made them I was surprised how simple it is if you have a very strong food processor. Basically you make a paste from 1/2 kg (1 lb) of white fillet fish (I used catfish (basa) fillets) with 1 egg and 6 tablespoons of flavourings (a combination of 1 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp chilli, 2 Tbsp red curry paste, 1 Tbsp coconut cream, 1 Tbsp chilli crab flakes, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp shrimp paste, a few spices), 6 kaffir lime leaves and 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch) with a teaspoon of baking powder, you form small patties (each 2 tablespoons) from the paste and pan fry until cooked. These are just as good as the cafe ones I buy and only cost about 30 cents each instead of $1.90 at the cafe. A good basic recipe for Thai fish cakes is here I added some extra baking powder and cornflour to the basic recipe since it makes the cakes rise and the interiors are light and fluffy. Super tasty and so cute.


    Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
    Most rissoles, croquettes and dry fritters keep well for three or four days if covered and kept in the fridge. Uncooked and cooked rissoles and croquettes can be frozen for at least one month.

    Additional Information: 
    An index of Aussie patty recipes
    An index of Aussie rissole recipes
    An index of American patty recipes
    An index of American burger recipes 
    A great vegetable and chickpea recipe
    A baked vegetable patty recipe
    Vegetable patty recipes
    Best ever beet(root) and bean patty
    Ultimate veggie burgers
    One of best zucchini fritter recipes 
    Old School Meat rissoles
    How to form a patty video
    Top 12 vegetable patty recipes
    Ultimate Meat Patties Video
    Beautiful vegetable fritters so pretty   
    Information about veggie patties  

    The Daring Kitchen and its members in no way suggest we are medical professionals and therefore are NOT responsible for any error in reporting of “alternate baking/cooking”.  If you have issues with digesting gluten, then it is YOUR responsibility to research the ingredient before using it.  If you have allergies, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are lactose intolerant, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure any ingredient in a recipe will not adversely affect you. The responsibility is YOURS regardless of what health issue you’re dealing with. Please consult your physician with any questions before using an ingredient you are not familiar with.  Thank you! :)
              Dec 2011 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Sourdough        
    Sorry for posting late but I'm on holidays away from my normal computer setup and this is the first chance I've had to get onto my blog.

    This month's Daring Bakers' challenge was sourdough, yes sourdough and yes we were asked to make a fresh starter for the challenge.

    French Country Sourdough Picnic Loaf

    I have a decade old starter called Boris (100% hydration i.e. equal weights of water and plain bread flour) so I decided to use that to make the French Country Loaf recipe. I started the process at Day 4 in the instructions. Since I had Boris already made up I saved four days. I have started a new sourdough starter to use in a few days time. In Sydney Australia it is the start of summer so I made a stuffed picnic loaf with the baked bread one of my favourite summer picnic foods.

    I used "OO" finely steel-milled bread flour and "OO" finely cold-steel-milled whole wheat flour with some stabilised wheat germ (since I couldn't find my stone ground flour).

    Boris my (100% hydration) starter, before I fed it to make the Leaven Starter, notice how Boris is burping gas

    Boris feeding on the extra flour and water, notice the condensation on the top of the plastic lid which indicates that the yeastie beasties and bacteria are very active making lots of gas and tasty flavour for the sourdough

    Boris full of tiny active bubbles after feeding

    Comparison of Boris (left) when he is made into the leaven for the sourdough (right) in the French country loaf. Notice how wet and soft the leaven is for this recipe!

    The loaf proofing for the final raise in a greased pan (I didn't want flour on the outside of the picnic loaf) before it is tipped out and slashed. The unbaked loaf is very soft and needs a mould.

    The baked loaf (the unbaked loaf is very wet and soft and forms a great shape when baked) the final loaf shape is formed by squeezing (the soft out-turned unbaked loaf) with your hands, then you quickly slash it and place immediately into a very hot oven and turn the temperature to hot for 10 mins and then to the recipe temperature for the rest of the time.

    Making the picnic loaf
    Hollow out the loaf, notice how moist the interior is and the 'greyish' colour which is a indication of the sourdough starter. The crumb (the texture of the interior) of the loaf is like dense sponge really good I thought, notice the dense spongy crumb in the hollowed out top of the loaf (bottom piece in the photo below).  

    Line the hollow with several layers of thin ham, and then fill with a combination of ricotta cheese, chopped charred-grilled red capsicums (fire-roasted red bell peppers), spinach, basil, finely chopped spicy smoked French sausage, grated sharp cheese and lots for black pepper. The filling ingredients can be varied to suit your own tastes a great version is the famous Muffuletta sandwich (the filling is an olive paste with various cheeses and sliced meats).

    Wrap tightly with plastic film and place into the fridge with a light weight on top of the loaf for a few hours (up to two days)

    The finished picnic loaf

    Close-up of a slice of the picnic loaf yum yum

    The verdict - this recipe produces a sourdough unlike anything I have done before the crumb of the loaf is very moist almost sponge-like which I really really liked and it is a perfect foil for the pressed filling ingredients since they almost have the same texture which is what you want in a picnic loaf. Also the picnic loaf slices cleanly and thinly. I bet for an extra special treat slices of this picnic loaf would fry up beautifully. I will be using this recipe from now on to make picnic loaves.

    What to do with the leftover starter
    You can make a lot of recipes with the leftover starter examples pancakes, cakes, scones etc.  In this case I made crumpets with the leftover starter (To make the batter - to one cup of starter, sprinkle over the surface 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (or 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder), stir well, the mixture will double in volume. Dry fry 1/4 cup scoops of the batter in well greased 3" (7-1/2 cm) metal rings on a medium-low heated griddle (or fry pan) for 4-6 minutes on the bottom and optionally 30 seconds on the top if you like colour on both top and bottom of your crumpets.) These crumpets were so good I love how the holes form and the moist texture of the crumb so much better than the store bought version. You can freeze the leftover starter/leaven and the cooked crumpets. 

    Comments and notes
    1. This recipe is unusual in that you knead the leaven into the dough.
    2. The leaven is very wet and soft more like soft putty so when you form the disk of dough and place the leaven onto it and knead it, the final dough-making is incredibly messy and the final dough is very very soft and spreads out very slowly (takes about 20 mins) if left on the counter. I had to add about 3 tablespoons of extra flour to make it a little stiffer.
    3. The final interior of the loaf is very moist, as compared to my normal sourdough. I really liked the final interior and the loaf. The crumb (the texture) of the interior was like soft dense sponge even slightly doughy which I really liked. The weight of the loaf feels very heavy for its size. 
    4. What to make with the leftover starter make crumpets see links below for the recipe.
    What to do with the discarded starter (use to make crumpets)
    And what to do with a neglected starter
    5. A plain flour starter seems to work very well for this recipe.

    French Country Sour Dough Open-faced sandwiches with home-made pesto, tomatoes and cured Italian ham

    I made the French country loaf its starter was very easy to make and look after until it was active it only took three days for the starter to become super active since I feed it twice a day and the starter was in a moist warm environment for the entire 'brewing' time. I made up the loaf has per the recipe I used very coarse stone ground whole meal bread flour and "OO" finely milled bread flour. The dough rose in about 2 hours (really quick for a sour dough) and to twice it original volume and when baked stayed exactly the same size. Since I used such coarse flour the final texture of the crumb was very grainy. My dough was so wet and soft it really needed a mould but that was no problem.

    I wanted perfectly shaped sandwiches which means the crust has to be very smooth with crisp edges, so I went for a 'brick-shape' loaf that could be cut thinly and cleanly while having the strength so the bread slice wouldn't break or bend when the sandwich is being eaten.

    The final texture of the loaf was like a Rye European sour dough bread, not dense at all in fact, the loaf could be cut very thinly and cleanly - perfect for open-faced sandwiches.

    I had the most beautiful tomatoes and basil so I had to use them as the topping for my sandwiches.

    This summer in Sydney Australia has been the coldest in the last fifty-one years, so I took special precautions in keeping the starter warm that is by enclosing the plastic container in several tea-towels on the counter on the spot that is above the hot water system. The temperature was gorgeously warmish at all times, so after three days the starter was full of energy and going for it. If you feed the starter once in the morning and in the evening it shortens the time for the starter to become active.

    The starter covered in many tea towels over a warm spot on the counter, it is toasty in there:)

    I wanted to make thin open-faced sandwiches so I coated my pan with oil-spray and then with wheat germ flakes which produces a thin smooth crust on the loaf

    Notice the nice straight edges and smooth faces on the loaf, it looks like a brick! Perfect for open-faced sandwiches.

    Close up of the crust of the loaf

    Some more photos of the loaf and the thin slices that can be cut from it

    I really like how thin you could slice the loaf

    To make the open-faced sandwiches

    Finished sandwiches with home made pesto, tomatoes and cured Italian ham and a piece of tangy goat's cheese

    The verdict - a very tasty open-face sandwich bread wonderful with the tomatoes and pesto. And so filling only a couple of quarter slices where enough. Just like the old fashioned country breads I had in my childhood.

    Some notes
    1. You can speed up the 'brewing' time of the starter by twice feeding it a day and making sure that the starter is in a moist warm place.
    2. My starter was super active it rose the dough in about two hours which is very quick.
    3. The final dough was too soft to be shaped into a free-form loaf it really needs a mould.
    4. The final crumb is very much like the classic black bread style of Northern Europe.

    Cornmeal sourdough loaf

    I used the French Country starter to make a cornmeal soudough loaf that was more traditionally shaped. I replaced the whole meal flour with corn meal (polenta) I added some pure gluten flour to replace the missing gluten from the corn meal and raised the dough in a bowl lined with linen that was covered in flour and cornmeal.

    This is the largest loaf of bread I have made it was 12 inches (30 cms) in diameter and weighed almost 2-1/2 kgs (5-1/2 lbs)! It took about an hour and a quarter to bake.

    The dough is very wet and soft

    The dough raising in the lined bowl

    How to raise the dough during cold weather, place a plastic bag over the bowl and place that over a saucepan 3/4 filled with warm water also you can wrap the saucepan in tea towels this will keep your dough warm for many hours even overnight.

    The final baked loaf

    The underside of the baked loaf a wonderful yellow colour

    I will use the loaf tomorrow after it has cooled down and the flavours have settled.

    I love the look of this loaf so rustic with lots of character in the crust and the yellow colour is stunning. 

    Cornmeal Sourdough Loaf part II

    I use my cornmeal sourdough loaf today I was extremely pleased with the look, taste and texture of the slices. I had some beautiful beet(root) and mint on hand so I made a spicy beetroot mint dip to serve with the cornmeal bread.

    Lovely beet(root) and mint

    The yellow cornmeal bread sliced into wedges so colourful and tasty

    The beet(root) and mint dip served on the cornmeal sourdough slices

    Another photo of the delicious bread

    Gorgeous White Sourdough

    One thing about sourdoughs is that they can look so beautiful as compared to the store bought loaves. I made another loaf using the French Country starter but using all white flour for the loaf. I had to add about 1/4 cup of extra flour to the dough so that the shaped loaf would hold its shape and be slashed. I double egg-washed the loaf which really gave the baked loaf a lovely shiny gloss finish. I will use it tomorrow after the loaf has had time to settle and mellow. I cannot wait.

    I used a five cup "flower-pot" shaped container which gives a nice visual proportion to the loaf 

    Some gorgeous photos of the final loaf

    White Sourdough Loaf
    I made tandoori roast chicken to serve with the white sourdough loaf I had made yesterday. The crumb of the sourdough was very smooth and its hue was a light sand colour which was unexpected since I used a very white flour for the dough. The thinly sliced chicken was lovely on the sourdough sandwich. The crumb of the loaf was very similar to white wonder bread a wonderful bread for sandwiches.

    The white sourdough loaf being sliced

    The tandoori roast chicken I adore the vibrant colour of the chicken

    The final tandoori chicken sandwich

    White sourdough loaf

    I repeated making a white flour sourdough but this time I added some more flour in the final stage so that the loaf would spread out so much and would hold it shape when slashed. I needed about 1 cup of extra flour to achieve the correct consistency. I was very pleased with the final result. The loaf expanded about three times it was incredible to watch it grow and bake in the oven.


    More things to make with the leftover starter part II
    Wholesome banana and date sourdough bread

    I had a cup of very sour active starter left so I thought I would make my favourite banana/date bread with it, I make this recipe about once a fortnight during the summer. The recipe is easy -

    Wholesome banana and date sourdough bread
    1 cup starter (the starter doesn't need to be active)
    2 cups wholemeal flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    3 tablespoons olive oil (or melted butter)
    3 tablespoons dried milk powder (or buttermilk powder)
    3 tablespoons wheat-germ
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    3 large ripe bananas, mashed
    1 cup of dates finely chopped, soaked in orange juice until soft
    (Optional 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts)

    Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, milk powder and salt, form a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour into the well the sourdough starter, oil, wheat-germ, egg, brown sugar, banana and dates (and the nuts if using). Whisk the ingredients together until a normal "cake" batter consistency is formed you can add more water if you need to loosen the batter. Bake in a moderate oven 160C/320F/gas mark 3 for 1-1/2 hours until a skewer comes out clean, check at 1 hour and then every 10 mins until done. Best if left for one day before slicing, but can be sliced when completely cooled. The bread will last for 2 weeks (at least! I have always eaten it before this) in the fridge covered in foil and plastic wrap and it gets better and better with time, fabulous toasted and served with butter. The slices are super moist and not too sweet. The sourdough and bananas really makes for a moist bread. 

    White sourdough loaf

    I decided to make a treat for this delicious bread that is meatloaf which I really really like a lot in Australia it isn't that common basically nobody I know makes meatloaf but every time I make it the meatloaf gets rave reviews.

    For a super special treat I baked the meatloaf on two slices of the white bread these slices therefore get toasted and are dripping with gorgeous flavour I'm sure that they aren't not that healthy but once in while it is such a flavoursome treat.

    The meatloaf notice the two slices of white sourdough bread that acts as a soak of all the juices

    The delicious slices of bread that have been baked and basted throughout the cooking of the meatloaf

    The cut meatloaf. My meatloaf contains grilled red capsicums (the red pieces), shredded seaweed (the black pieces) and lots of herbs and a mixture of pork and veal with some BBQ duck and the glaze is a mixture of tomato pesto, black sugar and balsamic vinegar.  
              December 2011 Daring Cooks' Challenge - Steamed Buns        
    December 2011 Daring Cooks' Challenge - Yum Char Steam buns and baked buns

    This month's challenge was a beauty - steam buns and baked  - something that I love having at yum char (dim sum) so I was looking forward to the results. And WOW what stunning results I have to say the steamed and baked bun dough are perfection itself. The steamed/baked bun dough is extra soft, moist and so delicate I LOVED them. And the marinade for the pork is so delicious. Our hostess Sara has done a marvellous job on this challenge. Thank you so much Sara for all the work you did on this challenge.       

    Recipe Source: I looked at quite a few blogs and various websites as well as referring to various cook books. Through trial and error my recipes are a slight variation. My recipe for marinade using maltose was based on Blue Apocalypse's recipe. My char sui bao filling variations was based on quite a few various sites I visited, one of those was Chinatown Connection which I used the dough recipe for the steamed buns.

    Blog-checking lines: Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

    Click here for a PDF of the recipes.
    Savoury chicken tofu bao steam buns

    This is one of the easiest and most delicious challenges so far for me, I never would of tried this so another fabulous recipe to add to my regular rotation. Thank you so much Sara for the recipes.

    Well what can I say except …. perfection … The steam bun recipe is perfect every stage of the process was effortless. The dough was a dream to work with, the kneaded dough (about 8 minutes) expanded three times in an hour, it looked so smooth and shiny and it felt so soft, slightly tacky and elastic. The dough rolled out without flour using a rolling pin. I used 1½ tablespoons of filling for each 55 gram (2 ounce) dough round that was about 7 cm (2-3/4 inch) diameter and about 5 mm (1/5 inch) thick.  Sealing of the filled dough ball was easy just press the two edges together and gather the edges and twist together to seal the bun. The balls expand dramatically in the streamer so leave a lot of space between the uncooked buns. And the taste was spot-on a delicious contrast of the salty, spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and savoury filling with the super soft and moist bun. These steamed buns were even better (better shaped with a much better tasting filling also the bun bread was much softer with a lovely moistness) than the ones in my favourite yum cha (dim sum) restaurant, these home-made buns cost about 15 cents each to make as compared to $1.50 in the restaurant. The buns were super soft and the filling was spicy and moist, and the ratio of dough to filling was exactly right. Everything was perfect I really love this recipe. I even loved the shape of the steamed buns so round and smooth.

    I located some bun flour in the Asian shop but I decided I didn't want to use chlorinated (bleached) flour so I used a finely milled "OO" Italian bread flour that was naturally very white. In Australia it is almost impossible to find bleached flour except in Asian shops.  

    Since my oven is still out I had to the do the steamed bun recipe (which is what I wanted anyway), for the filling I used chopped chicken leg meat (leftovers from the night before) and home-made overnight marinated (hoisin, rice wine and chilli mushroom soya sauce) savoury tofu as the protein source then I added shallots, fresh chillies, chilli powder, Kepas Manis- (Sweet soya Sauce), home made tomato sauce, rice wine, soya sauce, fish sauce, hoisin, sugar, fresh lime juice, smoked paprika, lots of Szechuan pepper, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and some shredded lime leaves super yum yum. I thickened the filling with corn flour until it was almost a paste. I really liked how the filling gleamed with vibrant colours and on tasting the filling it was packed with a punchy flavour profile real yummy.

    I made a half batch (10 buns) perfect for 4 people, total cost about $1.50.

    The finished bun had the perfect ratio of dough to filling, also I got an even layer of bread covering the filling (I was very pleased about the look of the interior) also notice the perfect bread texture of the bun layer so soft and moist

    The 55 gram (2 ounce) dough balls waiting to be rolled out and filled

    Savoury chicken tofu filling gleaming with unctuous deliciousness

    The 1½ tablespoon of filling in the centre of the round waiting to be formed into a bun

    The un-steamed buns

    The finished steam buns notice how much they expand in the streamer and the fabulous shape they have

    Close-up of the steamed bun

    Hints and tips
    1. Knead the dough until its pliable about 8-10 minutes and let the dough raise until it has doubled (or more) in volume.
    2. The buns expand a lot when steamed so leave a lot of room I did a batch of three and they expanded even more than the ones in the photo! since they had room to really grow. Remember to use parchment paper for the bases of the buns this makes removing the buns very easy.
    3. I used plain "OO" flour (11.5% protein) which is a finely milled flour which produces very soft textured pastries and breads.
    4. I left out the sugar in the dough since the filling had the correct balance of hot/spicy/sweet/sour and umami (savoury).
    5. The filling should be at room temperature (or fridge temperature) since a hot filling will cook the dough.
    6. Seal the edges well or the filling will leak out while steaming.
    7. Make the filling very flavoursome so a little goes a long way.
    8. One thing I did notice was that after about 8 minutes the buns had expanded to maximum size with a beautiful smooth surface but after 12 minutes of steaming the buns had got a little smaller with a slightly roughen surface. So next time I will steam them for about 9 minutes.
    9. Follow the rolling out instructions as provided they really do work. That is leave the centre of the dough round a little thicker than the edges so when the roll expands the top will not tear open.

    Cantonese Hot Dog Buns

    At last my oven is working again!

    I thought I would do baked hot dog buns, I charred-grilled good quality organic hot dogs using the challenge recipe for the marinade. When making the buns I added extra caramelised onions, tomato sauce and mustard along with the central hot dog. The baked bun recipe provides enough dough for six buns. I really love how the hot dog and its relishes are all contained in the bun. The sweetness of the buns contrasts well with the salty/savoury filling. These are really delicious, an interesting version of the traditional open hot dog bun. My tasters were delighted with this concept. And they taste great cold also, I think I will add these to my picnic food rotation from now on.

    I have posted this photo to yeastspotting .

              Oct 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge - Povitica        
    A tale of two povitica loaves

    This month's challenge was to make povitica (a type of nut roll.

    Blog-checking lines: The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

    This is my first time ever making this sort of recipe so I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the recipe. Well after doing some interesting internet research and ringing a pastry chef mate of mine whose mum is from Croatia and another friend's mum who is from Poland. I have some (little) understanding of the process and what to expect.

    When comparing my notes with the information from my friends and their mums I found that povitica (or nut rolls) seems to be made by two slightly different methods that lead to two very dissimilar results; it seems that the “Northern European“ version (my name) is dense and moist like a firm bread-and-butter pudding, while the “Southern European” version is a well risen roll slightly less dense than the Northern version.

    One major difference between the two versions is an hour of rising time before the final baking. Our challenge recipe only has ¼ hour of rising time before the final baking like a lot of Northern recipes while a typical Southern recipe has an hour of rising time before the final bake.

    During my internet research I found that there are other differences; the Northern version uses a soft dough that is rolled out fairly thickly while the filling has a firmish consistency, while the Southern version uses a firmer dough that is rolled out very thinly while its filling has a consistency of thick honey. Since I was making two loaves (½ batch) anyway I thought I would do one loaf using the challenge instructions (which are very Northern) and do the other loaf using the Southern method. For both versions you make the dough layer as thin as possible.

    A (Northern) povitica is meant to be dense and moist, it is important not to let the shaped roll rise too much before baking (in our challenge recipe you only let it rest for 15 minutes) in the other version you let the unbaked roll rise until doubled in volume then bake it.

    I found that if you refrigerate the loaf until cold, it will slice thinly and cleanly, remember to serve it at room temperature. Also let the povitica rest for a few hours (a day is better) before cutting it this will help it set better so it can be sliced cleanly.

    The biggest tip - If you find the dough is too springy let it rest.

    Uhmmm, I don't know why but every stage of this recipe was an uphill battle.I used “00” soft flour (finely milled white flour 8% protein) for the recipe since I had it to hand and I thought it would make the stretching of the dough easier since “lower gluten” means “easier handling”.

    For the nut filling I used about 300 grams (10½ ounces) walnuts and 250 grams (9 ounces) of mixed nuts, also I added 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder I wanted a chocolate hit from the Povitica. I used ¾ cup of white sugar and ¼ cup of dark brown sugar in the filling. And I used an unsalted “European” styled butter 87% fat since it had to used.

    Dough – Firstly the size of the dough is amazing when you stretch it out, you will need to do it on a large table with a floured tablecloth. I found that the dough was very very hard to stretch it wanted to go back to its original shape that is every time I rolled it or stretched it out it would spring right back. From experience I know what to do in this situation I let the partially stretched out dough rest for about 15 minutes covered in plastic so the gluten strands in the dough would relax so making stretching a lot easier so after resting the dough I then proceeded to make a very thin layer of it … that is … after a lot of time doing guarded stretching and gentle man-handling … finally … I could see magazine print through the dough but this process took about 45 minutes. I think the problem was that I added too much flour while forming the dough, next time I will just have the dough a little tacky which will make it easier to stretch out. Also I will add ½ teaspoon lemon juice (for a ¼ batch) next time since the acidity helps to tenderise the dough so making it easier to stretch out. The second dough was a lot easier to roll out since by this time it had a lot more resting than the first dough it only took 15 minutes to roll out to phyllo (filo) sheet thinness. Looking back I should of added about 3 tablespoons of milk to get the correct consistency.

    Filling - Firstly the filling seems like a huge amount but you need it all for the ½ batch its volume is almost 1 litres almost 4 cups. I found that the filling was much too stiff to spread out (I was using very dry nuts that could of been the problem?) on the thin dough layer without tearing it I had to add 4 tablespoons of warm milk and micro-wave to get it to the right consistency (like very thick honey). It is best to place tablespoon dollops of the filling evenly over the dough then spread these dollops evenly across the thin dough. After 20 minutes! of careful and methodical spreading the nut filling it was done. Of course the second version was a breeze to spread again I think resting time really helps the nut filling with spreading it over the thin dough sheet.I trimmed the edges and placed it into the baking pan such that the roll was coiled on itself I egg washed just after forming the unbaked loaf and once again just before baking.

    I had given away for the long weekend my baking pans to a friend so I used my high loaf tin.I let one loaf rest for 15 mins then I baked it and the other loaf I let rise until doubled in volume then I bake it both were baked the same way (same temperatures and times). I'm sure that there is nothing wrong with the recipe I think I didn't let the dough rest enough for the first version and I added too much flour at the start.I have to say after all the troubles they both looked good, the loaf using the challenge instructions expanded about x2, the other version expanded about x2½ both had great colour and the crust dough layer for both was very thin so thin you could see the nut filling through it. And the colour was great so brown and shiny. Since the final baked loaf rises so much take this into account when you are shaping the loaf into the baking pan. I had a little trouble getting it out of the pan, so I recommend using parchment paper or butter and flour your baking pan well.

    The dough starting to be mixed notice the foamy yeast mixture

    How to tell if your dough is kneaded enough if you poke an indentation into the dough it should spring back I realise now that I should of added more liquid it should be tacky Photobucket

    The huge amount of nut filling I used my food processor to make it this is the first time I used the machine since I bought it two years LOL LOL ago in this instance I thought it was worth the effort to clean the machine after the task

    Stretching the dough to size … a pain to do in every sense of the word

    The baked Northern povitica

    The southern povitica

    If you want to do the recipe over two days I would do the nut filling and the challenge recipe up to step 7. that is make the dough and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. Then the next day return the dough to room temperature (a couple of hours) and make the povitica as per the recipe. This sort of recipe freezes very well, freeze the baked loaf and thaw in the fridge overnight loosely covered in paper towels then cover in plastic wrap this stop the povitica from becoming soggy from condensation.

    The verdict – the challenge (Northern) povitica is a really delicious nut roll with a very dramatic interior appearance, the texture of it is very similar to bread-and-butter pudding, very moist and 'firm-ish” to the tooth. While the “Southern” had great height it was a lot lighter in texture than the challenge recipe version still good. But I liked the challenge version much more the interior looked better and tasted better also. Overall I was very pleased though it was a frustrating process for the first version, though the second version was a breeze.

    Comparison of the two loaves – on the left is the challenge version (which I call Northern) and on the right is the Southern version. As you can see very different looking results.

    Tips and hints (some of these are from the other bakers' experiences with this recipe I will add extra tips and hints during the month when others have posted their results)
    1. It is very important to get the correct consistency for the dough and the nut filling if you do the process is a breeze. Remember when it comes to making bread -- recipes are guidelines, since flour absorbs moisture from the air so it is not unusual to add extra liquid or flour to get the correct consistency for the dough (in our case it should be slightly sticky) and depending on how old the nuts are and how the nuts are ground (this is highly variable for each baker) determines how the nuts absorb the liquid so again look at the consistency and adjust the liquid for the nut filling you want it to be like thick honey. I think this is the real lesson of this challenge, don't be afraid to adjust the liquid amounts to suit what you find in front of you in the mixing bowl!
    2. Use plain (all purpose) flour. Use the flour sparingly when you mix the initial dough, it should be sticky don't be afraid to add liquid to get the correct consistency if you used too much flour. When you start mixing the dough it looks like that there isn't enough flour avoid adding any extra at this stage. It is best to mix the dough up (reserving some of the flour) and really give it a good working over it will be sticky (slap it down on the counter a few times and use a scraper to scoop it off the counter and knead it hard) it will be become less sticky while you knead it, that way you will use the least amount of flour.
    3. Let the dough rise then punch it down and let it rest until it's pliable, if it is too springy let it rest longer.
    4. Always check if your nuts are fresh and are not bitter tasting, ground nuts in a packet easily can be a year old. Fresh nuts give the best result leading to a lovely moist filling. Grind or process the nuts very finely if the nut pieces are too large they will break and tear the dough layer when you roll it up.
    5. The consistency of the nut filling is like thick honey don't be afraid to add some liquid to get the correct consistency, micro-waving really helps make it spreadable.
    6. The amount of time you let the roll rise just before baking leads to different results for the final baked povitica.
    7. Roll up the povitica fairly tightly (using the floured sheet as your guide) so the final baked loaf will not fall apart and the layers will have a good pattern with no voids between the layers.
    8. To check if the loaf is ready lightly knock the top of the roll it should sound hollow, or insert a skewer (or small thin knife) into the loaf for a slow count of three it should come out dryish and feel warmish if the skewer is wet or feels cool bake for a longer time don't over-bake since the filling will dry out making the final loaf dry so making the layers fall apart when the roll is cut into slices.
    9. Leave the roll in the tin until it has cooled this helps firm it up so the roll will not collapse when you take it out of the pan recall the loaf weighs over 1 kg (2 lbs).
    10. Let the roll rest for a few hours (better for a day) until completely cooled and set before cutting, if you refrigerate the loaf it will cut thinly and cleanly without crumbs, remember to serve the slices at room temperature. Makes great toast or even better French toast yum yum.
    11. The loaf gets better and better the longer it matures in the refrigerator.

    A few more tips and hints from Wolf who has made povitica every Christmas for many years, I put these here so they can be found easily by the forum members
    A. Don't spread the filling right to the edges of the dough. You want to stay within at least 1/2 inch of the sides. This way, you can seal the filling inside and won't have leakage.
    B. I use a stoneware bread pan to bake mine in. The one in the photo had the ends tucked underneath to the center, so it presented a smooth top. It was also rolled to the center from BOTH ends. That's how I got 4 distinct swirls. (See her exquisite povitica here)
    C. Definitely cool the loaf in whatever you bake it in, until you can handle it with your bare hands, before turning it out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. It slices cleaner when completely cooled or refrigerated.
    D. Roll the dough tighter than you think you need to. Yes, some filling will squeeze out the ends, but you'll get a neater swirl in the center, less voids and gaps and it'll stay together better, as well as make it a nicer sliced bread for toasting or even french toast- which is awesome with this type of bread.
    E. It will freeze well, especially if well wrapped- I've done one upwards of a month before. It does ship very well- I ship one loaf to my parents every Christmas and one to my In Laws, my recipe makes 3 full sized loaves and will last upwards of a week on the counter at room temp. - if it lasts that long in your house }:P

    Wolf graciously included instructions to obtain her exquisite swirl patterned povitica for the method.

    I have drawn some diagrams of the method

    The stretched out dough layer covered with filling

    Then roll each long edge to the center thus forming two swirls

    Then take each end and fold them towards the middle of the roll (the brown line is where the ends finish up when folded) thus forming a double height roll

    Then turn the loaf over and place into the pan so the seam ends are at the bottom of the pan which means the top is smooth and has no cut seams or edges

    Txfarmer a very experienced and superb baker posted some great tips also
    1) At first glance, since we need to stretch the dough to very thin, it seems to make sense not to knead the dough too much. Kneading == strong gluten == too elastic == hard to roll out/stretch. However, what we really need is a dough that can be stretched out WITHOUT BREAKING, that actually requires the dough to have strong gluten. I make breads a lot, from my past experience, I think the solution here is to have a wet (as wet as one can handle) dough that's kneaded fairly thoroughly. Wet doughs are more extensible, despite being kneaded very well. I kept the dough so wet that it was sticking to the mixer bowl at the end of kneading, however, a large transparent strong "windowpane" can be stretched out, which is the indication of strong gluten.
    2) With the right dough, stretching out was easy, < 10mins of work. The dough was tough enough not to break, yet wet enough to be stretched out. I made quarter-size (i.e. one loaf), but the dough was stretched out to cover almost all of my coffee table. The tip of using a sheet underneath was very good. I used a plastic table cloth (lightly floured). In fact the dough was stretched so large that the filling was barely enough to cover it. 3) I proofed the dough longer than the formula suggests to get more volume, and the loaf less dense. I understand the authentic version is quite dense, but my family tends to like lighter fluffier loaves when it comes to sweet breads. 4) Since the dough was kneaded well, the final loaf had very good volume. Rose well above the rim in my 8.5X4.5inch pan. Poviticas for morning tea
    I needed to make a treat for nibbles at a morning tea. So I decided to make two poviticas – one povitica filled with tea infused figs and almonds and the other filled with coffee infused dates, cocoa and hazelnuts. I wanted a strong contrast in the flavours between the two loaves. The tea/fig/almond filling was a lovely 'camel' colour its flavour was like caramelised fig on the palate each element was present I really liked how the tea melded with the fig and the almond this povitica was additively GOOD with tea. The other loaf had a very strong coffee/date base flavour while the cocoa and hazelnut added a lovely lingering after taste the winner for me. I was very very pleased with the filling flavours and how they tasted with tea or coffee. (Apart from the coffee infused date povitica looking like a baked chicken LOL LOL.) Those loaves were moist, very dense and incredible rich, perfect (when thinly sliced) with a cuppa. Feeds a lot of people! There were like very moist, ultra dense fruit cakes I thought hence the reason for very thin slices to be served with your choice of tea or coffee. Not recommended for children too much caffeine!

    For this attempt I was careful about adding the flour and made sure that the finished dough was a little sticky, this time I found it a lot easier to stretch though the consistency wasn't exactly right I felt and I need to better understand how do to the spreading out of the filling and I haven't still mastered how the amount of filling as compared to the amount of stretched out dough needs to be in ratio, and also how to form a good pattern of swirls needs some thought so a lot of little things to practice for me over the next few weeks.

    I will give this recipe another go since I want to perfect the process (making pretty interior patterns and getting the texture right) since these loaves would be a great Christmas present.

    Tea infused figs with almonds

    Coffee infused dates with hazelnuts (the finished loaf looks a little like a roasted chicken LOL)

    Tea infused figs with almonds
    375 grams (13 ounces) finely chopped dried figs
    ¾ cup of very very strong tea (I used 4 teabags of Earl Grey tea)
    ¾ cup of vanilla sugar
    1 cup (120 grams) (4¼ ounces) ground almonds
    2 large egg
    ½ cup clotting cream (66% butter fat)
    Method – combine all the ingredients (except eggs and cream) in a small saucepan bring to boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Beat eggs and pour slowly into mixture, stirring constantly and simmer gently 5 minutes more. This mixture scorches easily, so heat must not be too high. Cool mixture add clotting cream. Place filling into a container and let rest overnight before using.

    Coffee infused dates with hazelnuts
    375 grams (13 ounces) of finely chopped dried dates
    ¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) unsalted butter, fried until nut brown
    ¾ cup of very very strong coffee (I used 1½ tablespoons of instant coffee)
    ½ cup of dark brown sugar
    ¼ cup of cocoa powder
    1 cup (120 grams) (4¼ ounces) ground hazelnuts
    2 large egg
    ¼ cup clotting cream (66% butter fat)
    Method – combine all the ingredients (expect eggs and cream) in a small saucepan bring to boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Beat eggs and pour slowly into mixture, stirring constantly and simmer gently 5 minutes more. This mixture scorches easily, so heat must not be too high. Cool mixture add clotting cream. Place filling into a container and let rest overnight before using.
              It's getting tough        
    Well, this week has been tough for the country, heck even the world. Credit is drying up, markets are in a panic, small businesses are laying off employees in droves. I saw this personally with bank loans this week on a travel trailer I own.

    I am not at all happy about the federal government getting involved in this crisis, but the country and small businesses are in a complete panic. A local company auto dealer laid off nearly 40 employees this week. Sales are at an all time low - from about 150 cars per week being moved to 20 per month.

    I am fortunate enough to not have car payments, but everything I have is at least 12 years old.
    88 honda civic
    91 honda civic
    96 chevy suburban

    All paid for. I can't image a car payment on top of my mortgage and property payments.

    I do think that this regulation is leading us towards socialism. Whats amazing is that many Americans know how to solve this problem without more tax payer money. It's simple conservative economics.

    - The USA needs to go into complete isolationism
    - Get out of NATO and foreign entaglements
    - Stop supporting foreign dictators who hate us
    - Become completely energy independent through wind, nuclear and oil drilling.
    - destroy the welfare state and limit welfare to 12-18 months one time
    - start using land to farm additional crops. The world is coming to a food shortage.
    - Export goods instead of import
    - Diversify the workforce and have Americans learn to farm again
    - Drill, Drill, Drill and export what oil we don't use.
    - Nuclear power and wind power to charge autos of the future - plug in hybrids
    - Upgrade the energy grid to support this new infrastructure
    - Broadband internet and technology connectivity everywhere to stimulate this diversified workforce, telecommuting
    - Build a huge wall at the border, tazer anyone coming across the border illegally
    - Get rid of regulation and zoning which deprives land owners from significant value and possible small business start-ups
    - Reduce the capital gains tax from 0-5% to get businesses to bring their money back to the USA
    - Reduce building regulations so land owners can build low cost houses on their own. It costs more to permit a mobile home than it costs to put a used one on a piece of property. It's extorsion and artificial inflation of the market to increase government's taxable property value.

    Do this and watch this economy boom....

    If only the politicians were not so entagled with their own special interest groups.. this could be implemented and America would once again lead the world in productivity, exports and wealth.
              Quite the week        
    This has been a really challenging week for me personally. This past weekend with the dog bite, and my son going to the ER kind of threw me over the edge.

    Wall street also had a horrid week. Very concerning about the housing crisis, and it appears to be getting worse. Today, Indymac bank that holds over 32B in assets was taken over by the Fed. They had a liquidity crisis from the housing market crash. Chuck Schumer mentioned this bank being in trouble about a month ago, and people pulled out over 1.3B in the past 30 days. This further created the crisis. I hate to say it but these things are probably going to get much worse, and as oil climbed again to a new high today of $147, oil is increasing daily as the dollar slowly collapses. It would be nice to know when we are at the bottom of this market, but the bottom is probably still far away unfortunately. I had told my family to get their stock out about a year ago, but they did not listen.

    This whole thing with Iran isn't helping either. With Americans now concerned about the economy and their assets (housing), I think Ron Paul would have a much better shot if the nomination process started today instead of six months ago. It just goes to show you how timing is so critical. Iran isn't helping things either, instability is everywhere and is completely volitale now that our economy is more global than it was in 2001 when 9/11 hit.

    I have some fear about this, but I think I would be better off praying for our country and it's citizens. I have concern that things are going to get worse, especially if Barry Obama becomes president. Not that Mccain will do much good either. I think unfortunately that we are going to have to get another Jimmy Carter elected to get a Reagan. I think that the current person who could become a great leader is Bobby Jindal. He is unique, humble and is a leader.

    Going to try and take it easy this weekend, sleep and rest.
              Happy 4th of July        
    This 4th of July is another time to celebrate our Independence. It was somewhat of a sombering year here in Chico, as the abundant wildfires had most fireworks cancelled. It was the first year in my life where Fireworks were not going to be displayed. At about 11pm my son ran downstairs as he saw some fireworks from his bedroom window. We all got in the car and drove towards the fireworks. It was the local Chico baseball team having fireworks at Nettleton stadium. We saw the last 2-3 minutes, the kids were happy and we went back home. This 4th of July was a trying day for myself and my family on a personal level as we had to take my 3 year old son to the emergency room when he drank something he shoulden't have. He is okay.

    We spent the day at home after this incident and laid low.

    Our national Independence is becoming an interdependence upon other nations in terms of borrowing money, and oil. It is becoming so apparent that oil is the lifeblood of this economy. The senate and congress better get their act in gear. Americans are actually becoming more united than I have ever seen when I talk to people. It isn't about the war any longer, it is about the slumping economy at home and the oil economy. I hope that you all speak to your friends and family about the oil crisis, and how we need to drill here, drill now. See for that information. We should make this our Oil independence day and declare to meet our own needs at home by whatever means necessary, ANWR, oil shale, etc. Thomas Jefferson never wanted us to be 'hocked' to a local banker who is in turn 'hocked' to a foreign banker. That's essentially what we have with Oil. Jefferson knew this situation would be disastrous for the republic.

    The doom and gloom surrounding the media's daily negative agenda provides a constant reason to be bitter and worried. That we should let our government fix this problem is their answer.

    I submit to you who read this blog and who are independent minded to not despair, but rejoice in the fact that you are making preparations and live your life in a manner that you can take care of yourself, and are not reliant upon the government. The agrarian lifestyle is going to re-emerge in the years to come. The US of A once was an agrarian country through the mid 20th century, where we all met our own needs. Look at the situation we now deal with when we move away from this mindset.

    I hope all of you had a great 4th of July. We should pray for this country and thank God for what blessings we have. Regardless of what CNN and the local newspapers will tell you, the USA is still the greatest country the world has ever seen, and we are blessed by it's people through their generosity, hard-working nature and conservative roots- not political leaders in the government who seek to have us become part of Europe.

              Single quote that summarizes state of USA        
    A blogger called MichiganFarmer has quoted "Our totalitarian government has, by stealthy encroachment, taken our basic rights away and is forcing us to buy them back as privileges, permits, and licenses. This is not freedom.". Lets break this down.

    Source -

    totalitarianism, a modern autocratic government in which the state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population, erasing the distinction between state and society. The citizen's duty to the state becomes the primary concern of the community, and the goal of the state is the replacement of existing society with a perfect society.

    Encroachment is a term which implies "advance beyond proper limits"

    Human rights refers to "the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. Examples of rights and freedoms which are often thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to work, and the right to education.

    Permit may refer to:

    *Work permit
    *Learner's permit
    *Permit to travel
    *Construction permit
    *Home Return Permit
    *One-way Permit

    Does any of this sound like a free society? - What happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? We all need shelter, water and food and even these basic rights have been violated.

    Shelter - Need building permit + Ton of fees

    Food - development permit for over an acre of land in California + requires water, hunting licenses and fishing licenses.

    Water - illegal to drill a well in California for your own needs without using a C-57 licensed driller specializing costing you about $6000-20,000.


    I thought that this is the one exact sentence that shows us the state of our country and it's distance from the founders. Jefferson believed that the people would have to occasionally rise up and wash out the government and start over.

    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson

    Each day that goes by with the government is becoming more cradle to grave, anti free-market and anti-capitalist. The people want the government to allow us to have our own energy independence. The people are sending a clear message to the politicians and they are not listening. It's time to continue the Revolution Ron Paul started. Government is too big, too costly and is strangling it's working class by the neck to support a welfare state. Something will change in time. I have personally lost faith in our system, it's politicians and activist judges. It is no longer functioning to it's original purpose. I can only trust that God is putting us through this turmoil to bring us a reformer.

    To the liberals - YOU cannot put enough solar panels on your car to make it function- plus the power to charge batteries has to come from somewhere- either more solar or wind power.

    WE NEED DOMESTIC OIL RIGHT NOW. There is a gap between technologies that may be viable and the available infrastructure such as the state with hydrogen. Live in reality - most liberals would rather see our internal destruction with our economy before we drill more oil on our lands and make more refineries.
              The 200% World Cup Breakfast, Day 8 – How To Follow A Narrative        

    And so it goes. Barring a sequence of events so improbable that the mathematics of it barely stands thinking about for too long, England are out of the 2014 World Cup finals after a performance against Uruguay that involved a considerable amount of toil for very little end result. There was a period of about […]

    The post The 200% World Cup Breakfast, Day 8 – How To Follow A Narrative appeared first on Twohundredpercent.

              EIB Supports Construction of Kilpilahti Power Plant With Eur 175m Loan        
    The European Investment Bank (EIB) has provided a EUR 175m long-term loan for the construction of a new industrial combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Kilpilahti that will supply heat to the oil refinery and chemicals plant on the same site. Being built in accordance with the latest environmental regulations, including the European Industrial Emissions Directive, the new CHP plant is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% compared to the current situation. EIB Vice-President Ja...
              European Diesel Prices Hit 11-Year Lows        
    Diesel prices in Europe have fallen to an 11-year low amid falling crude prices and an oversupply of product. A sharp drop in crude prices since the start of this month has pushed outright prices for gasoline, jet fuel and fuel oil to levels last seen in 2008-2009. An acute oversupply of diesel has caused prices of the product to fall to levels seen even further back. French diesel prices in northwest Europe settled at $366.75/t yesterday. The last time prices settled lower was on 14 July ...
              Alternative fuels debate: are green cars the future of European transport?        
    Alternative fuels debate: are green cars the future of European transport? What should the EU do to promote alternative fuels? Alternative fuels such as biofuels, natural gas or electricity have been pitched as a way to overcome Europe's dependence on oil as no less than 94% of transport uses it, of which 84.3% is imported. However, support is needed if vehicles running on these alternative fuels are to take off. The Commission presented its ideas for this in its Clean Power for T...
              Chicago Marathon        

    When I first started running, a marathon seemed like an impossible feat. But if you did it, if you somehow managed to run 26 miles, your time didn't matter. 
    That changed when I started running them. 
    As with any other race, it was never enough to finish. I had to beat them. I'm not exactly proud of that. But it was what attracted me to running in the first place. Every year I saw progress. That progress was intoxicating. I measured that progress by my times.
    My first marathon didn't go well. I cramped up to the point where I couldn't run after mile 20. I had to do better, and next year, I did. I ran the whole way, with no cramping, and finished well. I began to think I could do even better. 
    Last year, I ran a small marathon in South Carolina with some good friends. It was a wonderful experience. I ran a solid time, even PRd by a minute, but I believed it could have been so much better. Cramping, again, slowed me down. I didn't feel too bad about it, but there was an asterisk next to it.
    That's why I targeted the Chicago Marathon. I thought I was finally ready to run fast and hard for a long time, just like I did in my half marathons. I wanted that perfect race. I even dreamed of qualifying for Boston.
    The Boston Marathon is the crown jewel of marathons. I thought it about it a lot. I wondered how good it would feel to cross the finish line, and this is embarrassing to say, post on Facebook and see the accolades pour in. I wanted to shock people. I wanted to shock myself. I especially wanted to shock all those people who picked on me when I was much younger for, among other things, being a lousy athlete. 
    I didn't approach the Chicago Marathon to qualify for Boston. But I wasn't afraid of trying. I told myself I would run what felt good, but that I would also push it. I knew, going in, that it was risky to run a hard first half, given what happened in South Carolina last year. But I wanted to try it.
    I tried not to obsess about it. I was still a father, and a husband, and a guy with a job. For the most part, I didn't. I would think about it late at night, when everyone else was asleep. Or when I'd go on one of my frequent training runs. Everything seemed to point to a great marathon. My six half marathons all went well this year, and I PRd three times. I  knew the course was usually cool and flat almost the whole way. 
    I really, honestly thought I was ready. I was wrong.
    But this is not a sob story about another failed attempt at a perfect marathon. It is an examination of the human spirit - not my own - and how a little kindness can ease a painful situation and leave you with a smile on your face.
    • • •
    Marathons bring out the best in people, but I always thought it was the runners who benefitted, not the people watching. When the cramps hit in my first, other runners stopped to share pretzels, bananas and their drinks. A marathon, if you hadn't guessed by now, is unpredictable, and all you can do is plan for the worst and pray for the best. These runners had planned for the worst, meticulously, in fact, and at mile 20, when the worst was probably yet to come, they crumpled up and threw that planning and caution in the trash to help a fellow runner who they didn't know. Marathoners bond over the grueling training and distance of the race, and they cheer each other when they pass, talk about their plans and offer words of encouragement about their training.
    I changed my mind a little bit about spectators after Boston, when it was the spectators, not the runners, who felt most of the bombs' wrath, and yet many others stepped forward to help the runners after the explosions. There were stories about neighbors bringing out water and juice and fruit for the trapped runners who wouldn't get to finish.
    So I was excited to run Chicago because I'd never been in a race that attracted a lot of spectators. Chicago, I was told, had spectators three deep, all 26 miles of the course, for a total of 1.7 million. It seemed almost impossible to comprehend. Surely, I thought, those people had to be passive. There were 45,000 running the race. Wouldn't your hands hurt from clapping so much?
    • • • 
    It was a cool morning, almost too perfect, when me and a friend strolled out of our hotel to walk the mile to the race. It was dark, but I could sense the anticipation of the other runners as they swept past me. I was not the only one, it seemed, who had high hopes for the race. My friends, three of them who traveled with me, had the same high hopes. Everyone does before a race. 
    By that point, I was already blown away by the enormity of it all. The race expo was big. HUGE. There were booths from every major apparel and shoe company. Hal Higdon, whose plan I followed for my marathons, was there. The walkway had to be the size of at least a football field, if not two, and it went five rows deep. 
    The city, too, was massive. Think about the fact that I liked Denver, and enjoyed Denver, but considered Denver too big for my tastes. Chicago seemed three times as large as Denver. It probably is. 
    I walked around the city with wide eyes, trying, at first, to avoid contact with anyone who came in my way. I had assumed that people in large cities were hurried, busy and, well, a little rude. Again, I'm not proud of that, but that was the mid-sized city in me. My fears seemed justified, too, when the first desk clerk at the hotel hissed at our request for a late check-out to grab a quick shower after the race. Too many people, she said, would want one.
    I began to change my mind when strangers would look us over while waiting for a light at the street corner, then smile and ask if we were running. They didn't have to ask about the race. Just "are you running?" When we said yes, they would tell us good luck.
    So my fears about Chicago had dissipated as we walked toward the race. But as the race began, I would be pleasantly surprised. 
    Almost euphorically so.
    • â€¢ â€¢ 
    I felt good as the race began, but I always feel good the first few miles of a marathon. It's a deadly trap. I told myself, over and over, to slow down, and so I was careful about sticking to my plan. But even my plan was aggressive, and I was happy to realize it felt good. As soon as two years ago, my pace would have PRd my half by four minutes. But it had been two years. Again, I thought I was ready for it. I was barely breathing hard as my pace crept down to 7:35 per mile. I felt elated. Maybe this would be THE race.
    By the time I crossed the halfway mark at 1:41, I was a little concerned. If I stopped now, I thought, I'd be tired. I'd consider that a pretty good race. I might even have a hard time making it back to my hotel without limping a touch. But I was confident, too, that I had run smart.
    The thing was, yes, I ran well, and yes, I felt elated, but my stomach was a little crampy. I began to walk through the aid stations to try to get more fluids in my body, but that seemed to make it worse, and I was having trouble breathing. It was as if someone had inflated a balloon in my mid-section. Well, I thought, I'd just have to back off on fluids and nutrition for a bit. 
    Well, that works in a half. I've ran whole halves without eating or drinking a damn thing. A marathon is two halves. And this would be a tale of two of them.
    My calves began to twitch at mile 16. I knew that wasn't good. I changed my running style a bit, and it seemed to work, for a while, anyway. I threw down a 7:50 mile and prayed I'd be OK. 
    Prayers don't work in a marathon. I'm sorry if that offends your religious nature. But they don't.
    By mile 18, the road sloped down a touch, into a short tunnel, and when I came out the other side, my hamstring began tightening. OK, OK, I whispered to it, gently. We'll take it easy. But my hamstring froze, and I couldn't move my right leg. I was helpless. Pain radiated down my leg and into my foot. I felt like the tin man without his oil can.
    A police officer approached me. "Are you OK?" he asked. "Yes," I said, and it was the truth. I was positive, lucid and had energy.
    I just couldn't move.
    "Cramps?" the officer said.
    "Yeah," I said. "This is the marathon for you."
    "Well," he said, "if you need me to support you, you just lean on my shoulder and let me know, OK?"
    I almost began tearing up. Here was an officer who had a lot on his mind, like, you know, terrorism. Chicago was the biggest race since Boston. It was a natural target. And there's always crowd control. But he seemed more worried about me.
    That's when I looked around me, and I saw a group of about 50 all cheering for me. "YOU GOT THIS COLORADO" many yelled, referring to my tank top with the Colorado flag out front. I smiled and gave a little wave, and they nearly burst my eardrums.
    I"d never experienced anything like it in my life. 
    I began to walk, to work out the cramp, but I had no hopes at that point of my best race. I knew I'd have to play cat and mouse with the cramps. I could run, but it would only be for a while, and then I'd have to stop to ward them off again. I hoped I could still run, say, 3:30 or 3:35. It seemed realistic. I'd only have to run a half slower than any time I'd run in five years.
    I continued to walk, and then I jogged a bit and took a look around. The spectators were roaring at this point. It was almost unnerving. They were shaking signs, hilarious ones at that, stuff that read "You've done dumber things drunk."
    A mile later, when I had to walk again, a spectator reached out to pat me on the back. Her hand lingered on my shoulder. "It's OK hun," she said. "It's a long way to the finish. You take your time."
    That's when it hit me. These people were not only here to cheer me on. They were here to will me to the end. 
    At that point, I dropped all my natural defenses and hesitations and let them wash over me. I gave thumbs up, high fives and cheered right along with them, even when I had to frequently walk. 
    I had a smile on my face the whole time. But more than that, even when it was apparent I'd just miss the four-hour mark, a landmark that most marathoners consider a goal, I just shrugged my shoulders. I ran the last mile the whole way, even when I had to grit my teeth through it, and I didn't do it for myself. I did it for them.
    The people who didn't know me did something amazing. They made me not care, at least not too much, about my time. They forced me to understand what a cool thing it is to be able to run a marathon in a big city. I preach all the time to my friends to be grateful for what they can do before they start a race. Chicago made me follow my own advice.
    Later, dozens of people passed us on the street, and they continued to lift me up. Far too many congratulated us. I thanked them as best I could. But I prefer to think about when I crossed the finish line.
    I didn't cheer, raise my arms or clap. I simply turned around and blew them all a kiss, before I turned around, joined the hundreds crowding around me, and reveled at how comfortable I was in their masses.

              Bright Lights, Big Post        
    Warning: This post is long. I won't apologize for it, but I don't expect you to read it. If you want, you could divide it up to before race day and after, though I think you'll miss the theme if you do. I don't even have it in the headline.
    Enjoy. I guess.

    My life feels like it began after I had kids.
    This is a cliche turned on its head (you see what I did there?) because it's not meant to be a caption for "The Family Circus." My life feels that way because of the way it seems to be rushing by without me getting so much as a glimpse of it. Time flies when you're having fun. It flies even more when you're too busy to have it.
    When Jayden was born six years ago, I began to notice that whole chunks out of the year just seemed to vanish. I distinctly remember three things. Finishing the 14ers, the first time I played online poker for money and Jayden's birth. The rest, even when Kate told me she was pregnant, is a smear. And then life seemed to get smooshed into globs of seasons without any kind of a calendar to mark it. It was hot, then cold, only we were inside most of the time, changing diapers and collapsing into bed. Vacations were the same every year, a trip to Kansas to see Kate's grandmother and my parents. We'd put the tree up at Christmas. Then we would take it down.
    The girls were born a couple years later, and I'll be damned if I can recall much of anything in that first year. I remember being tired.
    Time, by then, was indistinguishable. Songs I loved felt like they were released just weeks ago, and someone had to tell me it was a couple years ago. Metallica's "Death Magnetic," my favorite recent album, came out in 2008. That's a high school career ago.
    My high school career, those four years in high school, still feel like 20 to me. I can tell you what albums came out then and what I was doing every month in my life. I can point out the grocery store that let us buy beer and the other that almost had us arrested. I know all the movies.
    I was busy then, too, almost as busy as I am now. But I marked my life with moments. There were so many moments. There were moments in my life that I'll remember forever.
    I love my kids dearly, but when you're a parent, at least in the first six years I've done it, I've found myself so bent on surviving them, and life, and all the crap that comes in between, that it's easy to forget to have moments.
    There are a ton of milestones, but most of them are your kids', not your own, other than their births. And if you don't have anything to write down anything significant on the calendar, how do you know when it's time to turn the page?
    Which is the longest lede you'll ever read from me, in perhaps the longest blog post I'll ever write.
    Other than a few times in my life, say, Jayden's first day of Kindergarten or my first marathon, I had run out of moments. The #wpbt started to feel that way as well. Even those special trips sort of blurred together. And then I decided to run the Vegas Half Marathon.
    Well, we did.
    That's kind of the point.
    • • • 
    It's hard to explain what the #wpbt is to people, and so I treat it like Fight Club. You know the first rule of Fight Club, right? I followed it.
    My life is so different back home. I don't drink much, play poker much or even stay up past 10 p.m. much. When I had a 40th birthday surprise party, I didn't get drunk, to the crushing disappointment of one of my best friends.
    I also find it hard to explain to people why running has taken over my life. I hated it for so many years. I always thought it was because I had to shave my mountain climbing down to a nub after the kids were born, and I needed something to keep me motivated to stay active. But I've thought about this trip a lot the last few days, and I've come to two conclusions why both things mean a lot to me.
    The first is the milestones.
    The second is the people.
    • • •
    Sure, the roads were snowpacked Thursday morning, even icy in spots, but the thought of my plane being cancelled never occurred to me until I heard it announced over the loudspeaker in the small airport in Fort Collins.
    Running's taught me more than anything else how to deal with adversity. Climbing laid the groundwork, but when you're running, adversity is only a few steps behind. Cramps, side stitches, unplanned trips to the bathroom, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, dogs, wild animals, your balance, your sense of direction, nausea, black ice, injuries, 5 a.m. wake-ups, bad food, your GPS, a leaky Gatorade bottle, other runners and even your very breath (really, especially that) all conspire to screw you over, probably when you least expect it.
    Whatever running hasn't taught me how to handle, being a parent takes care of the rest, like dealing with puke and poop or a bad night's sleep.
    So I can handle just about any situation, and I was handling it. I was handling it like a motherfucker as I shuffled back to my car, until I heard the message that another flight wouldn't be available until Friday evening.
    I was going to miss half the fun after not being at #wpbt last year.
    I was instantly, totally crushed.
    I said so on Twitter.
    Then I started getting tweets back.
    I had to pull over my car to read and respond to all of them.
    They were offers to get me on another one-way flight using their miles.
    I can think on my feet when I'm a reporter, a runner or a climber, but in the rest of my life, I'm a planner. 
    It took me a moment to gather my thoughts.
    I didn't know how I'd get home, and I wasn't sure if I'd get a refund from this flight, and if I didn't, I'd have to suck it up and go Friday night. My head was swimming. Did I have time to get to Denver's airport? Could I still make it that Thursday night? Was it worth it? How much more money would it cost me?
    A small voice whispered to me. This is like the race you are about to run.
    I was home maybe five minutes. I called the airline and (woot!) and got a refund. I was packed, my bag was in the car, and I was ready to go.
    April's offer was the best. With her 25,000 miles, she could get me off the ground at 3 p.m. 
    Book it! I Tweeted, as I was on my way to the airport, in the car, with Christmas music blasting through the speakers. 
    She did. 
    First Class.
    For $75.
    It wasn't lost on me that this reminded me of two other times when people did something completely selfless and unexpected that required a sacrifice, and both those other times involved the same sense of community I got from climbing and get now from running. Once was just after the time a decade ago when I got trapped in a rock avalanche and barely escaped with my life. I was beaten up, bloodied and a bit broken, and I had a long way to go. Eight miles. A quarter-mile into the hike, someone offered me his hiking poles. I turned them down at first, until my Dad chased the guy down after I stumbled down the trail a couple times. I could not have made it without them. We returned them a week later.
    The second was during my first marathon, and I was at mile 20 when I got hit by severe cramps. People gave me their bananas, pretzels and drinks. I made it across.
    In both cases, these were adventures that people planned far in advance, and they brought that food and drink (and the poles) in case something bad happened to them. Instead, they risked their own well being to give them to me.
    April took time out of her day and gave me a shitload of airline miles just so I could get there Thursday night and have dinner with some bloggers.
    I bought her meal that night.
    • • •
    By now you're wondering why I decided to run the race. Or, most likely, you no longer care and have moved on to Angry Birds. I don't blame you.
    Still with me? Wow.
    A couple years ago (oh man, I'm REALLY trying your patience now, aren't I, I mean, how much exposition can one blog have), John, aka Bad Blood, wrote me, wondering how he could run a 10K in 48 minutes. It was for a bet. Rob, aka Gordon, aka um, G-Rob, was losing a bunch of weight, and Blood bet him some pounds against his time. 
    I knew Blood a bit, mostly because we both liked music that scared most people, but I was happy to help because, well, I love talking about running, probably way too much. So I put him on a plan, taught him how to run speed work and tempo runs, and he crushed the race. It was really fun. So when he wanted to do a half marathon, I helped him with that, too, and it turned out to be really, really fun. He got hooked on the running, and I got hooked on the help. We stayed in touch throughout the years.
    When Rock and Roll sent me an e-mail stating that the race would be held that night, I registered, not knowing, or caring, how it would work with #wpbt. I had a feeling John would want to do it too. He did.
    Only he had a surprise. Others were interested too.
    They were only interested at first. Brad, aka Otis, seemed especially nervous about it. I knew Brad a bit, too, as I had met him during a trip two years ago, while Steel Panther blasted in the background, and he was kind of a legend among the #wpbt, and he was a pretty darn good writer and was really supportive of my own writing, which, of course, meant a lot because I tend to write long, rambling sentences with a lot of commas.
    So, OK. I wrote him an email, explaining that a half marathon really, truly, honestly wasn't as hard as it sounded. At least the training wasn't. You didn't have to run all day, every day, while whipping yourself like a monk. Really, for what you get out of the race, it's a pretty good deal.
    John just told Brad to pull his head out of his ass and sign up.
    I'm not sure what worked more.
    G-Rob, fresh off losing 100 pounds, which would leave me weighing about as much as my 6-year-old, and Doc signed up as well. We had a group.
    I volunteered to help right away just like I helped John. Part of me likes being the guru. But mostly I do it because I remembered when I first started running, and so many great runners, people who were destroying me in races, turning in times I never thought I'd run, helped me. They waited for me on group runs, talked to me about different ways to run and introduced me to the concept of runs having a purpose, not just strapping on shoes and getting out there. I remembered that, and I thought it was time to pay them back by (sigh, I hate this expression) paying it forward to others.
    The e-mails among our group started back in the summer. They didn't stop until it was time for the race. They meant far more than I thought they would when they started.
    • • •
    No, I'm not breaking this into parts. Deal with it.
    • • •
    As excited as I was for the race, I felt conflicted when I got there Thursday night. I was eating with Astin, Heather, April, Dawn, Ryan and later Michelle.
    (By the way, I liked how we sort of ditched the nicknames for the most part this year and called each other by our real names. I occasionally referred to them if I needed them or wanted them, aka Bad Blood is such a badass name that it fit before we headed out to the race. But for the most part people went by their actual names. It was time).
    The food was fantastic, but I chose not to drink, and I worried about eating too much greasy or fried pickings. It was like that most of the weekend. Vegas is usually the one place I don't have to be on guard all the time, and yet I had to be. I focused on eating rice, pasta, breads, pancakes and fruit and not drinking, in addition to drinking a lot of water.
    The race doesn't happen until you hit the starting line, but really, it begins a few days before, when you load your body with carbs, try not to eat anything that will screw with your stomach on race day and try to get rest. You also probably shouldn't drink a lot.
    What helped was not only were my running partners following the same program, but many of the rest of us bloggers were too. This time seemed far mellower than any other. I even saw AlCan'tHang sober a few times. I preferred it that way. We're all older now, and it's nice to act like it a little bit. There were no wheelchair stories, and as disappointing as that was, acting like adults does mean sacrificing a little fun.
    So Thursday and Friday were fun, but they involved poker (with Jordan and Carol, mostly, which was awesome). Then Otis came to town Friday afternoon. You all know the story by now. I'll let him tell the bulk of it. But his father died suddenly earlier that week.
    I'd already written him off for the most part, though a part of me, selfishly, really wanted him there. We all did.
    Otis/Brad had really embraced running, and I got as much joy out of coaching him than anyone I've ever helped. He was thankful, of course, but more than that, I could see what it did for him spiritually. I told him for weeks as he got on the program that running really would become enjoyable, and one day, after those many weeks, I got an email from him, explaining how he'd finally had that day. Running, the outdoors and mountain climbing are much more to me than a way to exercise, and finally Brad felt that way too.
    I hoped he was going to go, but our group let him make that decision.
    He sent us an email that he was coming when I was on my way to the airport.
    We spent Friday night, after an appearance at the mellow blogger mixed game, at the Monte Carlo poker room. It's a run-down place, close to the opposite of the Aria poker room.
    It was exactly what we needed.
    John arrived late that night.
    It was good to have our group together.
    • • •
    You won't find many details of the nights here. I"m not afraid to share them, of course, as they were fairly tame, especially by Vegas standards, but this post is long enough, and there were some special times that don't need to make the Internet. We had a wonderful pasta dinner Saturday, the night before the race, picked by Brad, where we reflected on our training and the guys surprised me by buying me dinner. I was so touched I forgot to say no.
    The place was located next to the Palms, and we played a wild game (one of several that weekend, and those wild games meant me picking my spots while they splashed around a lot of chips), and I'll just say two words: Jose Canseco (the guy's kinda a whiner at the table).
    That Saturday was especially mellow: We picked up our number for the race, played the tournament and cheered Brad's min-cash before we went to the runner's Expo that night and then dinner.
    We got in fairly late but slept until 10 a.m. Sunday. After a pancake breakfast, we decided the best thing to do was play a little poker to take our mind off what we were facing.
    I'd never run a night race before, especially not something as ardrous as a half. I grabbed a large Gatorade to drink over the afternoon with Brad. At the last second, he picked up a couple black pens.
    When I sat at the poker table, I instantly pulled off two huge bluffs and was betting like a maniac. In other words, I was playing exactly like I usually DON'T play. What was going on? I didn't even realize what I was doing until someone whispered, "I'm gonna get this wild guy." I laughed to myself and snapped out of it.
    I'm an aggressive runner, and just a few hours before the race, I was ready to tear it up. I was in running mode.
    I switched that off for the moment and settled into my usual careful play, and soon enough, I looked over at Bad Blood, and he nodded at me. I smiled and my mind began to travel down a darkening tunnel. I love it when my brain does that on its own and I don't have to force it. It usually means I'm going to have a good race. Pain, nausea and weariness can't penetrate that zone.
    We got up to go to our rooms. It was time to get ready.
    • • •
    Before the race almost makes racing worth it on its own. The anticipation is incredible if you let it be that way. If you don't let the nerves and doubts take over. Your stomach rumbles, your tapered legs tingle and your lips snarl.
    I told the guys during our incredible dinner the night before that I go over in my head what Kansas' coach Bill Self said to his troops the night before the Final Four, when we eventually went on to win the title in 2008. It sounds cheesy, but when you're going through something like a long race, cheesy works. In this case it's a pretty simple statement, not a Gipper cheer.
    "You can't hope good things happen tonight," he said. "You expect them to."
    There are always things in a race you can't train for. Maybe there's stomach problems, weather, injuries, other runners and the crappy unknown, like a small piece of broken pavement that's just big enough to trip you. But what I've found, and really love, about running is if you do the training, it pays off in a race. It really rewards you with the time you put into it. Many sports aren't necessarily like that. Football and baseball rely too much on the circumstances. Even mountain climbing, my first love, isn't that way because the weather and the altitude play such huge roles in whether you make your goal or not.
    So if you do the training, it's foolish to hope good things happen during a race. You should expect them to.
    You may want to skip this next part. It's a race report and will include my thoughts on my time during the run. You may find this the most interesting part of the blog. But I doubt it.
    • • • 
    Brad and I were silent as we got dressed for the race, which I took as a good sign. It meant he was sure of what he was wearing, carrying and using for the race. That's the first step to keeping your nerves under control.
    I was most worried about Brad. G-Rob seemed to be as self-assured about the race as he is about everything else in his life, including his hair. He wasn't cocky by any stretch, but he seemed to know he would run relatively slow but also that he would finish. Bad Blood looked sharp and was going to run well and fast, and I knew he knew how to focus (in fact, there was an outside chance he would beat me, I thought). Doc was exactly like G-Rob and had already run a half earlier that year.
    But I not only expected Brad to be emotional before the race, I thought he might push it a little hard and let the moment overtake him. I was hoping he'd run an even, fun race where he didn't have to walk. Running an even race is harder than it sounds. I've rarely done it.
    I had concerns about myself, too, namely whether my bitchy hamstring would hold up. I expected it to hurt. I just didn't want it to prevent me from running. I didn't know if the crowds would hold me back a bit. And I really wanted to PR, but a lot has to go right. We'd been up late every night even if we got a good night's sleep.
    The bloggers wished us well, and OhCaptain took over photo, which was sweet, but I was already in a zone. I allowed one smile for Iggy, who shouted my old blogger name as we left. 
    After the promised shuttles didn't deliver, we started walking to the starting line. I tried to look out for my runners as best I could, but I failed miserably as a coach in this spot. We were rushed, as were 25,000 other runners, it seemed, and so it was crowded, and I would like to blame the race officials for that, and I can and will, but ultimately it's up to you to get to the race in enough time. I barely got us there before the start, and Blood didn't even get to check his bag. 
    All this robbed us somewhat of the electricity before a big race. It was still there, but a good portion of it went to worry and concern of us reaching the starting line. It's the one thing I still regret about the way things went.
    I had planned a small speech for them for days, but I also had to pee, bad, and I saw some bushes to the side. It would be my only chance among the crowds. I pulled in my runners and said to them to not start too fast, have fun and remind themselves how thankful they should be before the start of the race to be there. Then I gave them a hug. It was too fast of a goodbye.
    I dashed off to the bushes, hoping an officer wouldn't see me. 
    I was now on my own. 
    I entered corral 2 and was immediately thankful for it. Even the runners corral 3 were bunched together like cattle in the pens, but they let us spread out, and there weren't very many runners. I knew right away that I wouldn't get trapped behind a crowd, and that thought relaxed me.
    I'll admit that I was annoyed at first when Mike McCready from Pearl Jam began to play our national anthem. I use the song as a final way to get focused before what's facing me. It helps remind ME how lucky I am to be at the line. But I shook off the irritation after the first few notes. I mean, look at where I was. I was in VEGAS, about to run the strip at NIGHT, and the guitarist from PEARL JAM, one of my favorite bands, was there, tearing it up. If I have one flaw, it's that sometimes, I forget to have fun. I told myself this, above all other things, would be really, really fun.
    So when I crossed the line, and my chip beeped, and I was off, I held back that first mile, running at a conservative pace of 7:45. It would be the only mile that I didn't run by feel. I held back and held back, almost to frustration, because that's when I have my best races, when I let my body ease into it. 
    I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing it was, even better than I thought, to run the strip. Seeing the lights of Vegas in the middle of the strip makes you realize how overwhelming, and, yeah, beautiful in an obnoxious way, it all is. And the PEOPLE. There were so many people watching us and cheering for us like we were athletes, like we mattered. I've never had half that many spectators. Many people called for my Colorado shirt, and I loved it.
    Iron Maiden wrote about the loneliness of the long distance runner because it IS lonely. You are there, in your head, with your doubts and your courage. Sometimes a little cheer goes a long way to quieting those fears, even from people you don't know.
    And yet, a lot of people I DO know who where there.
    I was silently thrilled, even flabbergasted, at how the #wpbt embraced the race. Not only did they volunteer to talk to us about it (which is dangerous since I might keep you for a while), they seemed generally interested in what we had to say. A good chunk of the group showed up for it, and though I didn't see them, I looked for them as the miles got tougher, and knowing they were probably out there helped in ways I can't explain. I love running, but I also know it's not a spectator sport. I would imagine watching a bunch of runners stream by is probably about as exciting as watching someone play live poker without the hole cards. But they showed up, shook our hands after, and Pauly even told me he had fun being out there. I wonder what he was on. I may want it next year. Drizz packed us beers! Beers!
    Anyway, once I got to mile two and saw the Bellagio on my left, I threw off the shackles and decided to let my body tell me what I could run. I was looking for a pace that was just beyond comfortably hard. A half marathon is a long way, so I couldn't run completely balls out, like I do many times in a 5K, and yet it's still a race. I settled on a pace that left me breathing hard, but not gasping, and that got my legs moving, not straining. It would hurt, bad, to trip, but the motions felt relaxed yet quick. It's probably the same pace I would use if I were dashing away from a pack of zombies.
    I looked at my watch. That pace was 7:15 per mile.
    That's over 8 miles an hour if you're scoring at home.
    Shit. Really?
    I knew I'd run faster. The elevation in Vegas isn't sea level, but it's not 5,000 feet, either. And it's the flattest course I'll run, so I knew I wouldn't bonk on a hill. Still. It was a little scary to see that pace. I have run races too fast at first, and by the end, you're so miserable, you want to burn your shoes. My 10K split was the second-fastest 10K I've ever run. Even in this year, by far the greatest I've had running, I ran two 10Ks that weren't as fast.
    Fuck it, I thought. I know I can finish. I know I can run below 1:45 (I ran 1:40 a month ago in Denver, which was a PR). I know that if I get back to mile 10, I"ll have the Vegas lights to lead me home.
    I took a deep breath. And then I ran.
    • • • 
    By mile 7 and 8, as we darted through the darker areas of downtown Vegas, both in lighting and in humanity, I felt tired, and my chest tightened a bit, but I felt all right, mostly thanks to the incredible, 40-degree weather most of the night. The pace, regardless, was torrid for me and would put me close to a crash. I resolved to do what I could to avoid it. I ripped open a Powerbar gel and gulped it down and hoped for an aid station to take away the taste. I took a salt pill. I did find a station, got pissed when they didn't seem to have any sports drink and tried to focus on the next step. I needed that dark tunnel in my mind back. Arch Enemy came over the iPod. That's what I needed. "Battery low," it chirped at me. Oh please don't give out, I said to it.
    I got caught up in a group as we swerved the corners, and I fought for space with some dude who refused to move over an inch so I wouldn't have to hop the curb. He gashed my wrist with an elbow and got an elbow in the ribs in return. I can be a polite runner, but if someone tries to cut me off, it's Braveheart time. I would never shove a runner - that's like ramming a car on the highway - but I will throw elbows. He got the message and backed off. 
    It turns out I ran a 6:59 mile at this point. It would be my fastest. Things got harder after that. I managed to stay around 7:20 or so, which makes me happy, but probably the toughest thing about a half marathon is also the most obvious: You have to keep running, hard, after you've put on some serious miles. Even at mile 11, when I had the strip back and the bright lights, I knew I was fading. I also knew at this point that I had a shot at 1:37 and didn't want to blow it, and even a pace of, say, 8:30, an aggressive pace for two-thirds of the runners out there, would blow it. I was straining, and my legs felt like a stuffed animal being pulled in a fight between a brother and sister. The only good news was my hamstring wasn't bothering me any longer, which probably was because I was too tired to care.
    I apologize I didn't see the bloggers cheering on the sideline. I was trying so hard not to see anything but the lights and the finish line. I was hurting by that point, just trying to hard to seal away 1:37 and knowing I could crash at any moment. I was floating around a 7:35-7:40 pace and was afraid I could not hold even that much longer.
    And then I saw the finish line.
    I stepped across.
    I didn't celebrate when I finished. I bent over and slowly walked over to grab a foil wrap. I grabbed a water and a drink and tried to breathe. Everyone around me was dead, too, barely able to walk or breathe. It felt good to me to be with them. We WORKED. We nodded at each other or patted each other's shoulder on the way to the exit out of the chute. We'd worked against, and with, each other most of the way. I spent a little time at the trash can, with a coin flip's chance of puking, and then the nausea went away and then I felt a tap on my back. He was the guy I fought at the corner. 
    Good run, he said. You too, I said.
    I waited, far too long, for Blood but knew I'd missed him, and then later Otis and the others. I looked for the bloggers. I finally shivered so hard someone came over and asked me if I needed a doctor, and so I went inside Mandalay to warm up and catch the shuttle. I waited inside there, too, for a long time, but I finally rode the bus home.
    I pressed my nose against the glass when I saw an In and Out Burger.
    • • • 
    I made it up to my room without seeing anyone, which was the plan since I needed to decompress, stretch and become myself again. After touching base via my phone with Blood and Brad, knowing the others wouldn't be far behind, I stripped off my sticky clothes and took a shower. The warm water felt like heaven. 
    I was just about to leave the room, texting my running friends back home anxious to hear my time, when I heard the door open and Brad came through.
    We hugged each other, unabashedly, and then Brad talked like one of my kids for 10 minutes straight. I knew exactly what he was feeling, but it was so rewarding to see it from someone else and know that I helped him get there. It's that crack-like, addicting feeling of accomplishment. Ultimately it's why we run. It was an emotional run for him, as I thought, but it also seemed to be a great, fun experience too.
    And he ran the whole way.
    I came back down and got warm greetings from Blood, who crushed the race, and many other bloggers, which felt great. I was almost embarrassed at how much everyone cared. 
    We had to eat in the food court, and plans didn't exactly go like we had hoped, but they never do. We ate, played some table games (I broke my Pai Gow cherry; that game is fun) and then, finally, had a private poker game at the Monte Carlo. 
    Brad called it an epilogue in an email to us. As usual, he found a great word for it. Though I like to think of that game, the race, really the whole weekend, as something else.
    I think, for once, I've got an even better word than Brad for it.
    I'm calling it a moment.


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    Twenty-five years ago, kitchen faucets were viewed as a required eyesore and were shrouded in dim corners. There are so many another different innovations for the kitchen spigot, that it has turned fun, rather then a task when planning this household pr


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    Ten years ago, kitchen faucets were considered a required eyesore and were obscured in dim corners. There are so many different innovations for the kitchen faucet, that it has become fun, rather then a task when designing this home job. Today, they hav


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    Twenty-five years ago, kitchen faucets were considered a required eyesore and were hidden in dim corners. There are so numerous particular aims for the kitchen faucet, that it has become fun, instead of a task when designing this household job. Today,


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    Ten years ago, kitchen faucets were considered a required eyesore and were hidden in ackward corners. There are so numerous different conceptions for the kitchen faucet, that it has become fun, rather then a chore when planning this home job. Nowadays,


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    Twenty-five years ago, kitchen faucets were considered a required eyesore and were obscured in dark corners. There are so numerous different innovations for the kitchen faucet, that it has turned fun, instead of a task when planning this home undertakin


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    Twenty years ago, kitchen faucets were viewed as a unavoidable eyesore and were concealed in ackward corners. There are so numerous particular innovations for the kitchen spigot, that it has become fun, rather then a job when planning this household und


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