Friday, November 30, 2007

Toys Are Important

Studies have shown that kids with active imaginations grow up to be more successful and happier. I'm all for that!!

A great online source is Back To Basic Toys. They have a wonderful selection of toys. I especially love the "Folding Barn with Animals" and the "English Easel "(my 9 year old daughter would love this!) or the "Table Top Puppet Theater" and Playmobile toys have always been a favorite at our house as they never seem to wear out and provide hours of imaginative play! I also like the fact that they are not marketed to boys or girls but both.


In August 2003 Back To Basics Toys was purchased by Scholastic, Inc., The Most Trusted Name In Learning®. Scholastic is the leading provider of quality learning products and services in school, at home and in a variety of media that children love.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

(14.11.1805, Hamburg - 14.5.1847 in Berlin)

Anyone who has listened to classical music has heard a composition by Felix Mendelssohn since he is considered by some to be the most popular composer of the Romantic era. However I suspect that few have heard of his sister Fanny Mendelssohn. She was a very talented composer herself and was supported by her family and husband in this pursuit.

As noted on Wikipedia - Fanny composed 466 pieces of music. Her compositions include a piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her songs were originally published under Felix's name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. One of these songs, 'Italy', was a favorite of Queen Victoria, who thought Felix had written it. Her piano works are often in the manner of songs, and carry the name Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words). This style of piano work was most successfully developed by Felix Mendelssohn, though some modern scholars assert that Fanny may have preceded him in the genre. She was also the only known composer of the time to depict the months of the year musically in her collection of pieces Das Jahr (meaning 'The Year').

Stories like Fanny's always bring to mind the question of how many other women's talents have never been known to us. In many stories like hers the success of the women is greatly dependent on the attitude of her father - the ability to be educated and to follow ones own talent. I also wonder about women all over the world living under a patriarchal society unable to express themselves in a way men take for granted. Men would never stand for this kind of treatment and rightly so. The other half of the population - mothers , daughters, etc. deserve the right to live out their dreams and talent. Fanny's story and music live on as a tribute to her and her family and the gift they gave to her...freedom.

Prelude in E Minor for Piano - Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Out Of Africa Soundtrack - John Barry

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving in our house without the music from "Out of Africa" playing softly in the background.

Flight Over Africa

Monday, November 19, 2007

Go Away Little Girl Live

Donny Osmond

The holidays are drawing closer and plans are being made for my sister and two nieces to fly in from Portland, Oregon and join us for New Years. So I've been reflecting on childhood memories and endless days spent playing with my sister - who is only 14 months younger than me. We grew up more like twins!

Just a few weeks back - Oprah had the Osmond's on her show and made the comment that just the mere mention of Donny Osmond's name turns grown women into swooning girls. Well I hate to admit it but I am one of those still swooning over Donny. My 4th grade girl heart never has quite recovered from that smile and that voice - as my sister can attest to.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I just had to post these wonderful pictures from the Sally Scott catalogue. It reminded me so much of when I was 20 and all the fun I had with my best friend Karen (remember K. all those dinners, camping trips, adventures, and lots of other things we cannot mention...shhhh...). We made up our own rules and fun as we went - much like these girls hauling that table outside for a meal filled with great conversation and lots of laughter!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bottled Water

(OXO Travel Mug from Sur La Table)
It takes the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil to create the 900,000 tons of plastic used to bottle water in the U.S. last year - as a result 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide were created and almost 90% of those bottles ended up being thrown in the trash instead of the recycling.

That is so shocking! I now keep a stainless steel (inside and out) travel mug filled with tap water in the refrigerator at all times. I can take it with me in a moments notice or sip from it right from refrigerator whenever I'm thirsty. I also have smaller ones for all the kids - so handy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our amazing talented son Benjamin turns 20 today. He came into this world at almost 10 lbs and after 21 hours of labor nearly did me in but he has been a complete joy from the minute we laid eyes on him. Happy Birthday Ben!! - I guess you really are all grown up.

Benjamin Turns 20

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Leftover Dough

(Courtesy of Martha Stewart)

The scraps of dough that get left behind when a pie heads for the oven can be turned into delectable little treats. Be imaginative: Cut your leftover dough into strips, and practice your lattice-weaving technique; braid, twist, or tie the dough in knots; scrunch it into a free-form fan. Sprinkle them all with cinnamon and sugar before you pop them in the oven. Or pinch the sides of a flat circle into a cup, and drop a dollop of jam into the center to make a miniature tart. Since these tiny pastries take only about 10 minutes to bake (remove them from the oven as soon as they turn golden brown), you can be nibbling on them while your pie's still half-baked.

When I was young - and my mom made a pie - the treats she made with the left over dough were always my favorite. I let my kids take over this job. They really love it and create all kinds of interesting things!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

To my father - who is 75 and going strong - Happy Veterans Day! My dad served in the active Army for 12 years and the Army Reserves for another 15 years before his retirement. I myself am a Veteran (my kids think this is the strangest thing) since I served in the Army Reserves for 3 years back in the early 80's to earn some college money and for travel and adventure.

In honor of all Veterans - men and women - past and present I also wish you a Happy Veterans Day!! And to those serving in hostile areas of the world I send out a prayer for this war to end now! and for all of you to come home soon.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Authenticity and Thankfulness

The definition of "Authentic" in the Dictionary goes something like this - not false or copied; genuine; real. OK, that seems a little vague to me as it relates to people. It really is a philosophical concept at heart. When you get into it from that angle it's quite a rich subject matter. I've been striving for authenticity for as long as I can remember - even before I knew what the word authentic was. I have always been trying to find my own way to do things. When I ran up against a rule that didn't make sense to me I wondered - who made that rule and who made them the rule maker? This way of thinking hasn't always worked out entirely well for me I must say. The rule makers loom close by trying to put me back in my place but that never stops me for long. The rules of the universe however they seem obvious - kindness, honestly, integrity, love, freedom, tolerance, patience, etc.

The phrase "listen to your heart" or "follow your bliss" are all speaking to your authentic self. I've always been just as interested in others authentic journey as much as my own since it can be so inspirational and sometimes others insight can greatly effect my own. I experience this reading my favorite blogs each day. So thank you to all those bloggers (housemartin, at home with kim vallee, the cottage nest, and the perfect pantry, to name only a few) who inspired me to create my own blog and view the world each day with fresh eyes. It is the season of thankfulness and unknowingly you have helped me along my path to authenticity - so - thank you!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Healthy Pantry and Refrigerator

I'm currently working on having a healthy or mostly healthy pantry and refrigerator. My thinking is that this will make life easier for me. Since we began trying to buy our food locally (which hasn't always worked out - old habits die hard) I have experienced the necessity of being better stocked . I've searched high and low for lists of and have compiled one that seems doable. I'm trying to stick to whole grain foods, absolutely no high fructose corn syrup (thank you Dr. Oz) no hydrogenated fats (illegal in Canada and Europe, but the best we've managed here is a labeling law), and avoiding processed foods. We are eating more seasonally and we are also trying to buy organic whenever possible. Which seems to be becoming much easier these days almost anywhere you go.
Here is the list I came up with:
Olive oil is low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fat. It's ideal for salad dressings and marinades and can be used for low- to medium-heat cooking. Canola oil contains more monounsaturated fat than any other oil except olive. It is best for stir-frying because the flavor is bland and it can withstand high heat. Vegetable oil cooking spray can be used in place of oil or other fat for baking, frying, or browning. It prevents food from sticking and works best when used with a nonstick pan.
Balsamic vinegar is aged until it becomes dark and mellow, with a sweet-sour flavor. It is so intense in flavor that you need very little oil for salad dressings.
Basmati Rice is a long-grained rice with a nutty flavor and fragrance. Brown rice is the whole grain, with only the outer tough husk removed, and so takes longer to cook than white rice. It is rich in B vitamins, as well as calcium and iron. Wild rice is actually a grass that is often cooked with brown rice to add a nutty taste and more texture.
Canned Goods & Bottle Items:
Canned Tomatoes, Tomato Paste is made of concentrated tomatoes, and only a small amount is needed to give a rich tomato flavor. It's conveniently packaged in cans or tubes. If you use it occasionally, it helps to buy it in tubes so that you can use a tablespoon at a time with no waste. Reduced-Sodium Broths, Canned Beans, Lentils, Tuna, and Salmon.
Grains :
Barley adds interesting flavor and texture to soups and stews, as well as soluble fiber. Whole-Wheat Flour contains the bran and the germ and so is high in fiber. It is also rich in B vitamins and E. Rolled Oats, Steel Cut Oats or "Old-Fashioned" Oats, are steamed or flattened oats. They are high in soluble and insoluble fiber and are rich in vitamins and minerals. Granola and Whole Grain Cereals, Crackers and Pasta.
Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit:
Almonds are high in calcium, minerals, and dietary fiber. Cashews are a good source of iron and folic acid. Hazelnuts are rich in minerals and folic acid. Pecans are high in fat and low in protein compared to other nuts and so should be eaten sparingly. Walnuts are a fairly good source of iron and vitamin B6. Sunflower Seeds are rich in iron and low in saturated fat. They are good for snacks or in salads, cooked recipes, and breads. Pumpkin Seeds are dark green seeds they are a good source of iron and fairly low in fat. Apricots, when dried, add flavor to sweet or savory dishes. They are rich in fiber, beta carotene, iron, niacin, and minerals. Prunes are high in fiber, half of which is cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. They are also rich in beta carotene, B vitamins, and minerals. Sun-dried Tomatoes are intensely flavored and can be added to sauces, salads, or soups. Available dried or in oil. Dried Cranberries, Raisins and Figs, Etc.
Misc. :
Peanut Butter, Couscous, Dried Mushrooms, Herbs/Spices
Refrigerator Basics:

Milk, Sour Cream, Butter, Fruit Juice, Eggs, Sharp Cheddar, Feta, Parmesan Cheese is a robust-flavored cheese ideal for cutting down on fat because it is made with skim or part-skim milk. Mozzarella, Yogurt it is rich in calcium, protein, and vitamin B12.
Meat and Fish

Freezer Basics:

Organic Frozen Meals (Amy's, Etc.), Frozen Fruit, Frozen Vegetables, All Natural Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt and/or Sorbet, Frozen Cheese Ravioli or Tortellini.
Applesauce, Dark Chocolate, Fruit Leather, Popcorn, Pretzels, Tortilla Chips, Health Bars (Odwalla, etc.), Granola.
Seasonal and Other Fresh Foods and Herbs

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Scandinavian Cooking

PBS has a show called "New Scandinavian Cooking" (check your local PBS listing). There have been various hosts through the years but my favorite is returning and current chef Andreas Viestad. He was recently on Martha Stewart show promoting his cookbook. Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route. This is on my list of things I would like from Santa this year (wink, wink, my wonderful husband). The show it is like taking a trip to Norway - getting a brief history lesson - learning to cook something in a completely new and fresh way - all in less than 30 minutes. It is also beautifully filmed! The food is not made in studio but outdoors, on a portable kitchen that is set up on location. You just have to see it to appreciate this aspect of the show.
I cooked up a really fun Midsummer's Eve menu from the show last June. We all dressed in costume - hung lights and candles - and danced under the stars. It was fun to eat food prepared in a way we had never experienced and inspired a really memorable meal.
I am going to prepare the menu from - Nuclear Family Food.

The cold Norwegian winter does not stop Andreas from scaling the Gaustad mountain, where skiing is believed to have been invented. In this chilly landscape, Andreas prepares a warm mushroom soup and lamb shanks with a Norwegian-style risotto.
I can't wait to see how it all turns out!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What Not To Have In Your Pantry or Refrigerator

4 Most Harmful Ingredients in Packaged Foods
(This was an article I came across online via Readers Digest - really helpful info)

Planning a frozen dinner tonight? Think again. Ninety percent of Americans' household food budget is spent on processed foods, the majority of which are filled with additives and stripped of nutrients. Discover which common ingredients in the foods you eat pose the greatest risk to your health. Grab the broccoli with cheese sauce from the freezer, the box of instant rice pilaf from the pantry, or the hot dogs from your fridge and squint at the ingredient list's fine print. You'll likely find food additives in every one. Is this healthy? Compared to the foods our bodies were built to eat, definitely not. Processed, packaged foods have almost completely taken over the diet of Americans. In fact, nearly 90 percent of our household food budget is spent on processed foods, according to industry estimates.Unfortunately, most processed foods are laden with sweeteners, salts, artificial flavors, factory-created fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives. But the trouble is not just what's been added, but what's been taken away. Processed foods are often stripped of nutrients designed by nature to protect your heart, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and "good" fats. Combine that with additives, and you have a recipe for disaster. Here are the big four ingredients in processed foods you should look out for.

Trans fats are in moist bakery muffins and crispy crackers, microwave popcorn and fast-food French fries, even the stick margarine you may rely on as a "heart-healthy" alternative to saturated-fat-laden butter. Once hailed as a cheap, heart-friendly replacement for butter, lard, and coconut oil, trans fats have, in recent times, been denounced by one Harvard nutrition expert as "the biggest food-processing disaster in U.S. history." Why? Research now reveals trans fats are twice as dangerous for your heart as saturated fat, and cause an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 premature heart disease deaths each year. Trans fats are worse for your heart than saturated fats because they boost your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and decrease "good" HDL cholesterol. That's double trouble for your arteries. And unlike saturated fats, trans fats also raise your levels of artery-clogging lipoprotein and triglycerides.Trans fats will be listed on the "Nutrition Facts" panel on food beginning in 2006. Until then, check the ingredient list for any of these words: "partially hydrogenated," "fractionated," or "hydrogenated" (fully hydrogenated fats are not a heart threat, but some trans fats are mislabeled as "hydrogenated"). The higher up the phrase "partially hydrogenated oil" is on the list of ingredients, the more trans fat the product contains.Replacing trans fats with good fats could cut your heart attack risk by a whopping 53 percent.


Choosing refined grains such as white bread, rolls, sugary low-fiber cereal, white rice, or white pasta over whole grains can boost your heart attack risk by up to 30 percent. You've got to be a savvy shopper. Don't be fooled by deceptive label claims such as "made with wheat flour" or "seven grain." Or by white-flour breads topped with a sprinkling of oats, or colored brown with molasses. Often, they're just the same old refined stuff that raises risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks, insulin resistance, diabetes, and belly fat. At least seven major studies show that women and men who eat more whole grains (including dark bread, whole-grain breakfast cereals, popcorn, cooked oatmeal, brown rice, bran, and other grains like bulgur or kasha) have 20 to 30 percent less heart disease. In contrast, those who opt for refined grains have more heart attacks, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure.Read the ingredient list on packaged grain products. If the product is one of those that are best for you, the first ingredients should be whole wheat or another whole grain, such as oats. The fiber content should be at least 3 grams per serving.


Three-quarters of the sodium in our diets isn't from the saltshaker. It's hidden in processed foods, such as canned vegetables and soups, condiments like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, fast-food burgers (and fries, of course), and cured or preserved meats like bacon, ham, and deli turkey. Some sodium occurs naturally in unprocessed edibles, including milk, beets, celery, even some drinking water. And that's a good thing: Sodium is necessary for life. It helps regulate blood pressure, maintains the body's fluid balance, transmits nerve impulses, makes muscles -- including your heart -- contract, and keeps your senses of taste, smell, and touch working properly. You need a little every day to replace what's lost to sweat, tears, and other excretions.But what happens when you eat more salt than your body needs? Your body retains fluid simply to dilute the extra sodium in your bloodstream. This raises blood volume, forcing your heart to work harder; at the same time, it makes veins and arteries constrict. The combination raises blood pressure.Your limit should be 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, about the amount in three-fourths of a teaspoon of salt. (Table salt, by the way, is 40 percent sodium, 60 percent chloride.) Older people should eat even less, to counteract the natural rise in blood pressure that comes with age. People over 50 should strive for 1,300 mg; those over 70 should aim for 1,200 mg.Only the "Nutrition Facts" panel on a food package will give you the real sodium count. Don't believe claims on the package front such as "sodium-free" (foods can still have 5 mg per serving); "reduced sodium" (it only means 25 percent less than usual); or "light in sodium" (half the amount you'd normally find).


Compared to traditional sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup costs less to make, is sweeter to the taste, and mixes more easily with other ingredients. Today, we consume nearly 63 pounds of it per person per year in drinks and sweets, as well as in other products. High-fructose corn syrup is in many frozen foods. It gives bread an inviting, brown color and soft texture, so it's also in whole-wheat bread, hamburger buns, and English muffins. It is in beer, bacon, spaghetti sauce, soft drinks, and even ketchup. Research is beginning to suggest that this liquid sweetener may upset the human metabolism, raising the risk for heart disease and diabetes. Researchers say that high-fructose corn syrup's chemical structure encourages overeating. It also seems to force the liver to pump more heart-threatening triglycerides into the bloodstream. In addition, fructose may zap your body's reserves of chromium, a mineral important for healthy levels of cholesterol, insulin, and blood sugar.To spot fructose on a food label, look for the words "corn sweetener," "corn syrup," or "corn syrup solids" as well as "high-fructose corn syrup."
Something I read that stayed with me was this simple sentence - Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother would not recognize as food.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Little Princess

I spent part of the weekend watching - "The Little Princess" (the 1995 version - video clip below) - with my three youngest children. The holiday season is on the horizon and sometimes the emphasis seems to be on "getting" on not "giving" or having a grateful heart. Amid all the decorations and greetings of - Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas - I am sometimes bothered by the materialistic side of things. Of course I like receiving gifts as much as the next person it's just that sometimes it's tipped a little too far that direction. I wanted to kindle their hearts with the love of giving, sharing and thinking of others and the importance of being grateful and the magic of the season.

As the moon kindles the night
As the wind kindles the fire
As the rain fills every ocean
And the sun, the earth
With your heart, kindle my heart
Take my heart
Take my heart
Kindle it with your heart
And my heart
Cannot be
Kindled without you
With your heart
Kindle my heart

Kindle My Heart - A Little Princess (Liesel Matthews) (1995)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Deep Breath

I need to take a big deep breath after a very busy Halloween filled with ghosts, vampires, princesses and scarecrows and brace myself for the oncoming holiday season. Listening to Puccini seems to work for me - particularly - "O mio babbino caro". Today I'm just going to sit back without a care and drift off......well at least until I have to pick the kids up from school.

Puccini - O Mio Babbino Caro

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...