Friday, November 18, 2016


Does anyone remember this headline from the Republican primaries?

Donald Trump: 'I could shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.' He was right. His supporters believe in their anointed billionaire god.

He told us he was going to do all of these things: take away DACA and threaten the lives of many wonderful people, the "dreamers" who are now working hard in college and in jobs. He told us he was going to create a registry for Muslims. He told us that we were going to have "law and order," which is code for I pick the laws that get enforced and I pick the order. 

His picks of Steve Bannon, Gen. Flynn, Sen. Sessions, and Rep. Pompeo, confirm that he plans to do what he has promised. These are all white men whose views on race issues, immigration, and the Muslim religion make them way outside of the American mainstream, even outside of the Republican party, on these issues.

The problem is: he can do any of this and his supporters will still support him. They will cheer him. He just might whip out some heat and shoot someone. He might grab a reporter "by the pussy." Everything else he has done and said has been so ridiculous, and the outrage has not happened. If he now murders or molests someone, will anyone care?

When he has conflicts of interest with his businesses in foreign countries, will anyone care? When he encourages Putin to continue cyber-attacks in our country, will anyone care? When he designates himself the supreme ruler will anyone care?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Awesome Summer Soup: Tomato Basil

This morning I was thinking about tomatoes and lunch. We have a huge Roma tomato plant that has given us more fruit than we can eat in salads and sandwiches. We have tomatoes on the vine, on the kitchen counter, and ripening on the deck.

I opened Bernard Clayton Jr.'s The Complete Book of Soups and Stews (a present from my sister Sara) and turned to "tomato" in the index. When I saw Iced Tomato and Basil soup I knew I had a starting point. Of course my current diet eschews the oil and mozzarella crostinos recommended in the recipes, but I adapted quite nicely. The result was delicious. When Andy came home for lunch and we ladled up the soup, we felt like we were dining in a multi-starred NY restaurant.

Ingredients: 5 pounds of tomatoes, which equals about 20 Roma tomatoes
5 garlic cloves
1 cup shredded fresh basil (or one Tbs dried)
One box vegetable broth (or chicken if you are so inclined).
Salt, pepper, to taste; dash of sugar
Optional toppings: 1/2 cup soy milk; cream; pesto 

Clayton's recipe called for 5 pounds of fresh garden tomatoes. I rounded up about 20 small Romas.

He suggested dipping them in boiling water and, after a minute and a half, dunking them in cold water. This allows the skins to slip off easily. He also advised slicing them down the middle and removing the seed cores, which I did. I also trimmed off any tough stem ends.

I then followed his directions to dice the tomatoes into small pieces and cook them in a pan for 5 minutes. He uses oil; I used a nonstick pan with a little water.

Meanwhile, I sauteed his suggested 5 cloves of minced fresh garlic in a non-stick skillet. Since I didn't add oil, I deglazed with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth.

After the tomatoes had cooked down for 5 minutes, I added the garlic and 1 cup of shredded basil and simmered for 5 more minutes.

Then I added a box of vegetable low-sodium vegetable broth (Clayton uses chicken) and let these all meld together for several more minutes.

I sprinkled in salt, black pepper, and a dash of sugar.

I departed from Clayton's recipe by dumping this all in my food processor and churning it to remove any tomato pulp and chunks of garlic and basil.

When I returned it to the pan, I added about 1/2 cup of soy milk. If you are into cream, that would do nicely too.

I had plucked extra basil from the garden and, before churning the soup, had made a pesto using fresh basil, one garlic clove, nutritional yeast, and about one cup of walnuts.

A spoonful of this pesto added to the soup was just … hmm … je ne sais quoi

Oh, yes, Clayton recommends eating this chilled ("iced") but admits it is delicious hot also. That's how we enjoyed it, due to timing issues. By the end of lunch hour the pan was empty so we'll have to try the chilled version another time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My friend asked for my ratatouille recipe. Here goes

On Jul 23, 2014, at 5:03 PM, Cheryl Richards wrote:

I got a couple of eggplants from my Amish connection today. You and your Mom had a good recipe for them, ratatouille? can you email this to me?

My friend, Cheri, doesn't love fresh garlic, but I assure her and any others with the same feelings that sauteed garlic adds depth. Once it is cooked it loses its intensity. 

1 large onion
3 cloves fresh garlic (when it's cooked you won't really taste it so much), but use powder if you prefer.
1 eggplant (or 2 if small) sliced thin
several zucchini and yellow squash - sliced thin - and cut in half if they are larger
Optional: thinly sliced or shredded carrots
Depending on the quantity of vegetables, 1-2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
Lotsa Italian seasoning - fresh basil if you have it
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (if you dare) for serving - sprinkle on top. I use nutritional yeast.

Use a large pot.

Saute onion and garlic in a little oil -- or not if the pot is nonstick. Let it brown a little.
Add sliced veggies. Let them brown a little also.
Add diced tomatoes -- if it doesn't seem moist enough add some tomato sauce or veggie broth - as the veggies simmer they will release more water so keep that in mind
Let the tomatoes and veggies simmer for at least 45 minutes til everything is tender
Add seasoning - let simmer a few more minutes.

Serve over couscous (preferred) or rice or pasta.

Just made some the other day (sans eggplant) and this is basically what I did.

ratatouille is one of those dishes that is better the next day

Good luck.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh's texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after "sweating" will remove most of the salt.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Small milestones

My dad was a good carpenter, extraordinary Mr. Fixit, roofer, mechanic etc.

I am now wondering how I grew up with him and never insisted that he teach me these skills. Maybe some of them can't be taught. He could figure out how to fix Mrs. Smith's sewing machine and how to get Mr. Jones's lawnmower started. He had the touch.

We did wallpaper our living room together when I was in high school and I remember that time very fondly. Since then I have done papering with some success (and some failure!). But I have always been passionate about color so painting has been important to me. (Dad was, of course, also a good painter.)

In my last house I practiced painting with a good brush that allows you to move along edges without the annoyance of blue or green tape. You just need to get a good stubby beveled brush, such as ones made by Wooster or Purdy. These brushes fit nicely into your hand and you can then feather the paint, in a floating motion, up against the ceiling, trim, and door edges.

I have worked on this skill. In our new house in Topeka, I have just completed painting the walls of Bedroom # 1. I can't believe I was able to finish all of the wall surface with no tape and successfully cover all of the old paint. Next, I need to tackle the trim. By the way, I am using Valspar's historical house colors, Lyndhurst beige for the walls and Lyndhurst mahogany for the windows and trim.

Kudos to Lowes for marketing historical colors in their wonderful Valspar paint, which combines paint and primer.

Still need to work on spackling techniques and how to cover previous bad repairs.

Researching… skim coating. Dad would have had a good solution, I am sure. I will figure it out, somehow.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Letter to Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) Kansas

October 3, 2013
Representative Lynn Jenkins
1027 Longworth HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative Jenkins:

We moved to Kansas late last year. Apparently you “represent” us. So far, we don’t believe you have done one thing that has represented what we believe is in the best interest of Kansas or of the United States.
Your support of the government shutdown is the latest insult. We implore you to urge Speaker Boehner to bring a clean funding bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. This will immediately end the shutdown, which is harming the livelihoods of almost two million federal workers, leaving preschool children at home rather than in vital Head Start programs, and, most importantly, jeopardizing the security of our nation and its citizens. Many other programs have been shut down, and we know you are well aware of the harm this is doing to your constituents.
Seventy-two percent of Americans and 49 percent of Republicans believe the shutdown is wrong for this country, according to a new CBS News poll. Clearly, reasonable Americans want Republicans to end the shutdown now.

We support the Affordable Care Act. Understanding that you have always opposed Obamacare, we ask you to please accept the fact that Republicans have lost on this issue. The ACA was voted into law through regular order, signed by the president, deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, and affirmed by the American citizens, who overwhelmingly reelected President Obama. Enthusiasm for Obamacare, since people have been able to sign up for it, has been very high. We are thrilled at its successes.
Rather than believing that Obamacare is a government takeover of healthcare and puts big government between doctors and patients, a large number of citizens, including us, believe that Obamacare will give wider access to healthcare and ultimately lower medical costs by bringing young, healthy people into the system.
The ACA is the law of the land. You and conservative Republicans cannot alter that fact. You cannot will it to be defunded. You need the votes to do that and you do not have them.
We have heard you claim to be a “No-Labels Problem Solver.” However, all we have seen is that you have been front and center among representatives who cause problems, rather than solve them. The problems include the sequester and the government shutdown. You also appear to be among those who believe that the United States doesn’t have to pay its bills, at least if a minority of representatives’ demands are not met. All of this amounts to more than just a problem; it amounts to anarchy. If you are a problem solver, you have the responsibility to fund the government and pay the debts of the United States. To further at least one of these goals, we encourage you to help convince Speaker Boehner to bring a clean funding bill to a vote.
Thank you for your time,

Laura and Andrew McGowan

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rah Rah Rah College Hill Old House Magazine online has designated my little neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, adjacent to Washburn University, one of the "Best Old House Neighborhoods 2013" for the midwest region. 

Quite an honor for this humble place in a humble city in a state that is often misunderstood.

The magazine's write-up mentions that the standard joke about Topeka is "how boring is it"?

Well that's just silly. How boring is any midwestern city? Topeka ranks right in the middle, I'd say. We have live theater, a good university with a wonderful art museum and amazing classical music festival, a state capitol with all sorts of interesting protests and events, a large farmers market, rainbow-colored Equality House across the street from Fred Phelps' anti-gay compound, and, in the heart of the city, an Expo Center that hosts dog shows, horse shows, garden shows, and a fabulous annual library book sale. We have our random violence and our random wonderfulness. We have amazing architecture, Topeka High School or the State Capitol, for example.

In all, it turns out to be a pretty interesting place. If you live here you should definitely subscribe to the print version of the Topeka Capital Journal. It isn't comprehensive but it does open up views into the city. And the carriers throw the paper near the sidewalk, so you (or your dog) get some exercise retrieving it each morning. The paper highlights what a "small town" Topeka really is. Four days ago a family with special needs lost their house in a fire. For the past three days the paper has highlighted things that they need to help get their life back together. The community seems to be pitching in.

As for the the College Hill neighborhood, the article mentions that professors, law students, and young families taking advantage of the affordable housing prices, populate the neighborhood. True. But many other people live here. 

I live next door to a retired widower who lives alone with his cute little dog. On the other side is a grandmother who balances taking care of her grandchildren with her job as remedial education teacher. Across the street is a family with lots of active children. Next door to them a retired couple. Across the street from them is a woman who is caring for an extended family.

Down the street, a law student who has stayed and is now a lawyer. Across the street from him, a family who attended the university and had children in the meantime. They are moving out and the house (a rental) will soon be up for sale. Next door to them a similar house, an American Four Square, was recently purchased by a young family. 

People in this neighborhood love dogs. I estimate that one dog lives in College Hill for about every two people.

At Boswell Park, across the street from my house, dogs rule. They love its big open field. "Frisbee Dog" comes every afternoon and amazes the children on the adjacent swings with his acrobatic catches. 

Throughout the day, many dogs, small and large, get to run in the big field, which unfortunately is not completely fenced in. The well-mannered dog owners generally heed the signs to "pick up after your dog" and never interfere with baseball or soccer practice or a karate dojo. 

I estimate that for every five or six well-maintained College Hill properties, a blighted house exists. I define a blighted house as one with seriously overgrown weeds or trees (such as trees of heaven or mulberry seedlings sprouting up in the yard and next to the foundation), inoperable, unlicensed vehicles sinking into the ground on the property, or trash and other inappropriate items, such as an old sink or deteriorated upholstered furniture in the yard or on the porch.

Kansas is not quite the boring place that postcards and cliches might lead you to believe.

If you like to observe migrating birds and butterflies Kansas lies right in a major avenue.  Also, many wonderful birds make Kansas their year-round home.

The University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Washburn University all make their home here, and their influence reverberates far beyond the state's boundaries.

Just as Kansas is more interesting than most people realize, the architecture of College Hill is also more diverse than the This Old House write-up mentions. Yes, we have our share of lovely bungalows and airplane bungalows, but stately American Four Squares are numerous, as are Georgians, cottages, and other structures of quite unique character. For more information about the architecture of College Hill, visit the College Hill Topeka Historical Site.