Monday, October 26, 2009

Commissioned Quilt

The Inn on the Intervale in Judique, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, aside from being in an exquisite location also is next to the home of Yvonne McDonnell. A multi-talented crafter, quilter and appliqu-er, she is also an avid fisherwoman, outdoorsperson.

My brother in law Michael commissioned a quilt and it just arrived. Here is her amazing work depicting the Inn and the River beneath a map of Cape Breton. She even embroidered the flowers in the yard and hand quilted all the squares in addition to some machine stitching.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Silky Spicy Squash Soup

This turned out so good I just had to share it.


Take an assortment of fall squashes, such as butternut, spaghetti, acorn, kabuka, etc. weighing about 3 pounds. Halve them and roast in a lightly greased pan in the oven at about 350⁰ and bake or roast until tender, about 45 minutes.     

Meanwhile prepare:

1 T olive oil

1 large shallot, chopped

1 leek, sliced, white only

2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped

2 yellow peppers, seeded and finely chopped

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon whole coriander

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups water


In the bottom of a large pot heat oil and add shallots, leek and chiles. Saute until wilted. Add the remaining ingredients and the flesh of the roasted squashes. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Using a stick blender puree the contents of the pot. Strain through a mesh sieve, adjust for salt. Enjoy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

And They Are Obsessing Over Fox News?

Sorry to ruin your Friday but this is very important stuff and Victor Davis Hanson is one of my favorite go to guys...

Man Friday
Armageddon Time
Peter Robinson, 10.23.09, 12:01 AM ET

Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian; Robert Baer a former CIA field officer. Both have studied the Middle East for decades, traveled to the area repeatedly in recent years and written about the region extensively. And both have become convinced that we may be facing a cataclysm.

Hanson and Baer each presented his analysis during an interview this past week. Although they differ on certain matters, they agree on five observations. The first: If not already capable of doing so, Iran will be able to produce nuclear weapons in mere months.

Baer noted that Iran's scientific and technical capacity is impressive. The country may very well be able to produce enough enriched uranium for several nuclear weapons on its own. If not, Iran can obtain enriched uranium in other ways. "The Iranians are very good at procuring banned materials very easily," said Baer. "They are very close [to having what they need to produce weapons]. They could move very quickly."

How quickly?

"Six months, a year."

The second observation: The Iranians have no interest in running a bluff. Once able to produce nuclear weapons, they will almost certainly do so.

"We see Iran as the power in the region," Hanson said. "But when Iran looks at the region, it sees danger everywhere." In Iraq, a democratic government has achieved stability, which can only incite the dissident movement in Iran. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran's client, has failed in its attempt to capture control of the country, finding itself contained and marginalized instead. The Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and the emirates look upon Iran, a Shia state, with sectarian hostility.

"The Iranians, think, 'My gosh, we are in an unstable position,' " Hanson said. "'Maybe a bomb or two will allow us to do what Pakistan has done. Maybe it will allow us to achieve some autonomy.'"

The third observation: As the Iranians scramble to produce nuclear weapons, the Obama administration appears too feckless, inexperienced or deluded to stop them.

Already, the administration has committed two errors. Last summer, when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest their country's corrupt presidential election, it failed to encourage the protesters, merely looking on. "Obama could have said to the Iranian people, 'We support your legitimate concerns over constitutional government,'" Hanson argued. "Instead he was saying, 'Let's wait and see who wins.' It did not look good."

Then last month the Obama administration announced that the U.S. no longer planned to deploy anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. These emplacements, which the Bush administration had promised, would have protected Eastern Europe against long-range missiles from Iran. The Obama administration canceled the anti-missile defenses to please Russia, hoping that Russia would pressure Iran in return. "Russia is never going to help," Hanson said. "Tension in the Gulf would raise oil prices, helping Russia. Anything that causes the United States problems, Putin is for."

What options does the administration still possess? "We could get the Europeans to immediately stop exporting gas to Iran," Hanson explained. "We could have some kind of blockade of the Persian Gulf. We are talking about very serious things. But they would put pressure on Iran, ostracizing it." Will President Obama pursue such options? Does he possess the political will? Hanson and Baer doubted it. "We have a president who likes to be liked," Hanson said.

The fourth observation: Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.

"The Israelis have some bunker busters," Baer said. "They could take out some sites underground. They could set the Iranian nuclear program back years." Would the Israelis be willing to accept the risks a military strike would entail? "This is just 65 years after the Holocaust," Hanson said. "My God, we are talking about 6 million people who were executed while the world watched, and now we have a person [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran] who is promising to do it again."

What is the probability that Israel will strike Iran within the next six months?

"Forty-nine percent," said Baer.

"I would say 50-50," Hanson replied.

The final observation: Iran would retaliate.

"Iran's deterrent doctrine is to strike back everywhere it can," Baer explained. "We should expect the worst." Iran would attack American supply lines in Iraq and command Hezbollah to start a civil war in Lebanon. It would fire surface-to-surface missiles at every oil facility within range, wreaking devastation in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states while removing millions of barrels of oil a day from the world markets. The economy of the entire globe would suffer a paroxysm. The Middle East could descend into chaos. The U.S. would experience the worst crisis in decades.

After the assassination 95 years ago of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the great powers of Europe engaged in meaningless diplomatic maneuvers. "Austria has sent a bullying and humiliating ultimatum to Serbia, who cannot possibly comply with it," British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith confided in a letter. "[W]e are in measurable, or at least imaginable, distance of a real Armageddon."

A big nation attempting to humiliate a small nation in a way the small nation simply cannot accept. Unseriousness among great powers. A gathering sense of impending catastrophe. Once again, it may be Armageddon time.

Peter Robinson, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former White House speech writer, writes a weekly column for Forbes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


As a devoted member of the Christown YMCA, I frequent it at least three times a week and have done so for years; nearly 18 to be exact. My regimen includes a Saturday morning step aerobics class that has been meeting virtually the entire time.

Naturally, when you spend an hour a week together you get to know people. And when that hour is first thing on Saturday morning, you don't tend to get too dolled up, especially since you are going there to sweat.

Once a year in January we try to round up the class and treat ourselves to breakfast at the First Watch, a local eatery that has yummy and healthy breakfasts. It is our way of thanking Jim, our devoted instructor. Jim is my age and we have similar taste in music and often sing along to the older songs while the younger students stare. He is from Michigan and so there is that. He is a foster parent and is always bringing in new infants. An ex-military guy, he has instruction down pat. And he encourages our participation in things like the Strong Kids Campaign;our group has become a major participant over the years, bringing lots of resources to the folks who need the Y but maybe could not afford it.

Jim also works for the organization in additional to being a volunteer. When he worked at the Christown location he looked out for my brother-in-law Michael who is also a YMCA devotee, going even more often than myself. You may recall my post when Michael was the member of the month. There is no question that Michael's amazing come back from his stroke is attributable to the tremendous opportunity he has been afforded at the Y.

But perhaps the most telling anecdote about the benefit of the Y happened last week. A lovely young mother named Leslie joined our class almost a year ago. We learned each others names and exchange pleasantries. She noticed I was gone for while and upon my return inquired. When I noted we had been in Nova Scotia she seemed interested so I gave her my blog address and invited her to "read all about it" as I am wont to do.

The following Saturday she caught me at the water break and indicated she had read my blog and while she generally liked it she noted "there is something terribly wrong with it!"

Well, a panic ran up my spine as my mind was racing. What I could possibly have in there that is so bad? As I was mentally scanning the site she said: "It indicates that you are 52."

Snapped back to the present I replied "Well actually I will be 53 in a couple of weeks!"

"That is just not possible! I thought 42, max!"

Wow! I was blown away. When I regained my composure I let her know that I guess that is what 20 years of going to the Y three times a week will do for you. She vowed to remember that, having recently marked her one year anniversary.

Now, I do not post this story as a matter of braggadocio (you all know me too well for that). The point I think it makes is that when all these so-called experts keep pointing to diet and regular exercise as the magic formula to a healthy life, I think they are on to something. I eat like Michael Pollen says to: Eat food, not too much, lots of vegetables. I shop organic and right after my Saturday morning exercise I head to the farmer's market every week. I take no medications except the occasional herbs for my gall stone and hot flashes symptoms that just go with age, regardless. I generally sleep a solid 8 hours a night.

According to Leslie at least, it seems to be working. After our conversation I felt inspired. I hope that by sharing it, you too will find some inspiration to work on your diet and incorporate some regular exercise into your routine.

Or at least join the YMCA! They also have Bingo.

Cowgirls Eat Sheep

Here is the link to the fall issue of Edible Phoenix which contains my article about an amazing experience on the Navajo Nation. Sort of an immersion program of Native American culture, the Sisters on the fly were privy to an entire weekend with a Navajo family. The trip in included the sheep slaughter which is the subject of the article, but there was so much more.

The Chee family took us under their wings and treated us like family, sharing their Dine traditions, including the traditional prayer ceremony in the hogan led by the Patriarch complete with smokes of the mountain herbs wrapped in corn husks he grew himself and eagle feathers. Musicians, artists and weavers shared their skills. Traditional song and round dancing were also part of the adventure. And perhaps our favorite part was the sweat lodge that was built into the dirt and powered by the super heated rocks from the bon fire made especially for that purpose.

We literally had in intimate window on a different world that was as moving as it was enlightening. And quite a feat, when you think about it, for a multigenerational family to open its home and hearts to a bunch of strangers in such a personal way. This was an experience that will not be forgotten.