Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

Really enjoyed this book by Margaret Atwood--the first I've ever read by her.  This is a cozy book that left me pining for the nostalgia of little girlhood.

Cat's Eye is not at all dystopian like Atwood's many other books, but rather the story of a Elaine Risley, growing up in Toronto just after WWII.

Atwood conjured feelings of sentimentality as she brings you into a time warp, a world where girls still wore dresses to school, and had separate staircases from the boys in elementary.  Heartbreaking, too, to watch this world disappear with Elaine's maturity.

Elaine's girlhood friendships are at the crux of this story; primarily Cordelia, vicious and two faced as a little girl, once practically leaving Elaine for dead in a snowy ravine.  The friendship continues through their teen years.  The dynamic shifts.  Cordelia becomes despondent, depressed; whereas Elaine's life has much more potential and she has success and volition.

I like how Atwood doesn't put a Hitler mustache


I really like

the point that Brother Nathanael makes in this video regarding Trump's statement that he wants all Muslims prohibited from entering the country.  Or, rather, regarding the response to his statement.

Hilary call Trump's idea "shameless and dangerous"; BN makes the point that she's advocated for the deaths of thousands of Muslims with the Iraq War.  Netanyahu likewise objects to BN's statement (or does he?  BN implies as much, however does not include a quote in the video); however Bibi has displaced thousands of Muslims.

This goes to the heart of what's so bizairre about politicial correctness in this country.  With his statement, Trump's committed a mortal sin against political correctness.  Yet who has he really hurt, other than to make himself appear rash and reactionary.

Displacing people, killing people is a far greater crime.  Yet Bibi and Clinton's sins, in the eyes of political correctness are at most, venial. 


Tiffany Pratt

Extremely inspiring podcast here with Tiffany Pratt on CreativeMornings Podcast.

isn't she pretty?
Her "silly, glittery, rainbowey" optimism didn't come off as sickening, or trite and it in fact sounded very optimistic.


Cary Fukunaga on Fresh Air

This was an interesting interview on Fresh Air a week or so back with director Cary Fukunaga, most particularly the part where he talked about his father and grandparent's experiences of being interned during WWII.  I hadn't realized that the US had separate camps for different Japanese; for those who refused to renounce loyalty to Japan and those who did.  We never really learned much about these camps growing up, in school.  I suppose it's incumbent upon me to teach myself!

Anyway, Fukunaga did a good job with Jane Eyre, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post.  He seems like an interesting person.


Sweet and Spicy Pecans

Not a cookie exactly, but these candied nuts make a great addition to a cookie tray!  Merry Christmas!

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cumin
1-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 350.  Melt butter and sauce the pecans on the stove for three minutes.  Stir in the brown sugar until caramelized.  Stir in cumin, chili powder, and paprika.  Add vinegar and salt continue to heat until all of the liquid has evaporated.

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet, single layer, and bake for 3-5 minutes.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.


Brown Butter Molasses Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1.5 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
3/4 teaspoon cardamom, ground (or 1/2 teaspoon....to taste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Brown the butter for about 5 minutes, then let cool
Mix all dry ingredients
Then mix all the wet ingredients, and combine both.
refrigerate for 1-24 hours
Form the into small ball, and roll them in raw sugar
Place on a greased cookie sheet and drop 1-2 drops of water onto each cookie to give them a crinkled look.
Bake at 300 for 15+ minutes, checking every 2-3 minutes after 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.

I found this recipe here, and have made a few adjustments.  One of the better molasses cookie recipes I've found, different in that it uses browned butter and cardamom.  I used less cardamom b/c it's so strong.


Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

10 T butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour (1/2 whole wheat, optional)
3/4 teaspoon powder
3/4 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup and 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
4-7 oz chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional)

sea salt for sprinkling.

Brown the butter; melting it over low heat until it foams and smells nutty.  Let cool, and add the vanilla.
Mix all of the dry ingredients, then add the butter.  Mix until no dry ingredients remain.  Add the egg.   The dough will be clumpy.  Add the chocolate chops and pecans.

Scoop onto greased tray with 1/8 cup scoop or 1 T scoop, depending on size preference.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake low, at 275, for about 20 minutes, checking on the cookies at 10 and 15 minutes.

These cookies are SOOO good, omg.  I found this recipe here, and have made it so many times that I've added my own adjustment, including the baking time (to bake lower and for a longer period), plus I don't chill the dough as I found it to be unnecessary.  I make the all the time, probably about once a month.


Rocky Road

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 2/3 cups (11 oz package) butterscotch chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
9 cups (16 oz package) miniature marshmallows.
1 cup dry roasted peanuts

Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil.  Microwave chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter until just melted in a medium sized bowl.  Stir in the peanuts and marshmallows.  Spread into foil-lined pan with a buttered spatula.

This recipe is almost TOO easy to be SOO good.  A very addictive and sweet treat.  From my Seattle friend, circa 2005.


Russian Tea Cakes

It's that time of year!  Between now and Christmas Eve (excluding the weekend) I'm going to divulge some of my baking secrets!  Or some of them maybe not so secret, as I found the recipes online.....

Today, Russian Tea Cakes!  Can't remember exactly where I found this recipe, probably a google search, but it's such a simple and standard recipe it's kind of everywhere.  RTC are so simple, not too sweet, and make a good addition to a cookie tray.  Definitely use butter rather than margarine.

Russian Tea Cakes

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 -1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Extra powdered sugar for dusting.

Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl, and mix on low speed for about a minute.  Blend well. Gradually add the flour until just combined, then stir in the nuts.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls (you can use a food weight to standardize the cookie size).  Place one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes until firm to the touch but not brown.  Check on them after 6 minutes, and possibly turn the cookie sheet around if one side is baking longer than the other.

While warm, roll the cookies in powdered sugar.  What I sometimes do is place about 3 cookies in a tupperware jar with the sugar and gently turn the container to coat.  Re-roll in powdered sugar when the cookies are cool.


Republican December Debate

Yeah, so this debate felt a bit like more of the same.  Tons of questions revolving around Trump, Trump telling us that we're not winning anymore, that he's going to build a wall, Carson telling us that he doesn't value political correctness.  It's as though they have a few lines they need to hammer home; perhaps they assume that many people are hearing them for the first time and so it's ok for them to repeat themselves?

Kind of bizarre the way the announcer presented these candidates; it sounded a bit like I was at a truck show, with the cheesy booming voice and music.


The Virgin Mary : National Geographic

Great article here by Maureen Orth on the BVM entitled "How the Virgin Mary Became the World's Most Powerful Woman."  Oath as a journalist has really covered a broad range of material - consider this 2013 article on Mia Farrow from Vanity Fair.

She seems like a good reporter.  Nothing controversial presented here, mostly a lot of facts about various apparitions, the Church's interpretation of various apparitions (the criteria for approval), and some brief bios of some pilgrims.  Honestly, it might have gotten a little bit more mystical, given the subject at hand, but ah, then, it's National Geographic.

Or maybe she does, as Orth discusses at length the mystery of the tilma of the BVM in Mexico City, which, after hundreds of years has never decayed, as well as some of the unexplainable trances the seers in Medjugorje fall into during an apparition, not reacting to sudden noises in the background.

Additionally, Orth never alludes to the political implications of the BVM's apparitions; such as at Fatima, where her primary concern was to prevent WWII and the spread of Communism.

Loved these photos of the pilgrims on their way to the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City!

Pictures of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City


Norman Finkelstein American Radical

Great documentary here about Norman Finkelstein, professor and author of The Holocaust Industry, among other books.  OMG, so great, he's such a breath of fresh air.  Minutes 29-31 he writes off a 20ish college girl for crying alligator tears.  He certainly isn't afraid to speak his mind.  

Finkelstein, a Jew, grew up in New York City in the 50s.  His parents both lived in German internment camps and all of their families died in these camps.  Given his biography, Finkelstein's taken some unconventional and, to some, unpopular positions on the Holocaust and the Middle East.  Finkelstein supports Palestine's right to self-govern and believes the Israeli's have behaved criminally towards them.  Additionally, he thinks that the Holocaust has been exploited in order to victimize Israel and legitimize their violent actions towards Palestinians.

As someone in the movie points out, Finkelstein gives some cachet to these positions given that he's a Jew and both his parents are Holocaust survivors.

Although I think that the creaters of the documentary American Radical think favorably of Finkelstein, they've given nuance to Finkelstein and his positions.  Alan Derschowitz, a real Finkelstein opponent, speaks several times throughout the documentary, claiming Norman is a self-hating Jew.

This documentary really drives home the idea that speaking your mind can be tantamount to suicide.  Here's an example of one of Finkelstein's controversial quotes;  
"Just as it would be shameful for a German during WWII to sing the praises of Germany and just as during the US war of Vietnam to sing the prises of the US, admist the horror and admist the suffering I'm not going to sing the praises of Israel...not while and when it's torturing the Palestenians." 
After publishing The Holocaust Industry, Finkelstein lost his job as a professor in New York, and found work at DePaul University in Chicago.  Several years later DePaul University denied Finkelstein tenure, almost undeniably due to his outspoken statements against Israel, his controversial views on the Holocaust, and his dismissal of Alan Dershowitz' book A Case For Isreal 

 "These are dangerous days.....to say what you feel is to make your own grave."   Perhaps a more accurate re-phrasing of this quote from Sinead Oconnar is "to say what you feel about Jews is to make your own grave."

I find it so disconcerting the way Jews have turned on Finkelstein....isn't he one of their own?  I don't find his statements hateful; rather he's speaking out for justice on behalf of the Palestenians.  His being outcast reminds me of David Stein, a Jew who had a bounty placed on his head by a Jewish organization after he produced a documentary minimizing the Holocaust.


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

Mockingjay Part 1 really disappointed me.  At the onset it felt like a money-grab to make two movies from a single book (although this pales in comparison to The Hobbit).

Generally it lacked the momentum from the first two movies, perhaps because the story has been stretched into two feature-length films. I had a hard time caring about Peeta and Jennifer Lawrence or whatever the hell her names is.

Although I had intended seeing Part II in the theaters, now I don't think that I will.  And anyway, I already know that she ends up with Peeta.  But honestly, I don't really give a shit. 


I recommend this

podcast, The 40 Year Old Boy, if you're in need of a little respite and have time to kill.  It gets dirty at times, but you can skip over those sections, and dude this guy can rant and entertain like no other.

His Uber discussion with producer Lily on his 12/3 episode (it will be available at iTunes for awhile) really felt a little dark.  Uber takes so many fees per ride that it really sounds like a job for a pauper.

But it was funny nonetheless.  As I said, I highly recommend.


Jubilee of Mercy

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception yesterday the pope initiated the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy the Pope explains the purpose of the year of mercy.

Perhaps the most surprising statement that I read in this Bull is 

It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy...Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.
We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45). 

(underline added).  


Rick Moody

Had a good interview on Fresh Air yesterday.  He seems like a sensitive & funny guy, they spoke at length about the life coaching that he does on his website.  Funny in that he seemed to have started giving life advice tongue in cheek, however it at the same time feels very heartfelt, like he has a genuine interest in helping people.

Hm, the movie Ice Storm.



um, yeah.  kind of a cynic about REI's new marketing campaign.

I've often sensed the REI feels a bit like a cult.  They get you pay some f-ing fee to become a member, the major perk being that you'll receive 10% back on your purchases.  Except that it takes FOREVER to actually redeem that 10% for cash.  It's much simpler to just use the dividend spending more in the store, and they even send a special 20% off coupon the same day that you receive your dividend refund.  Additionally, the discounts they give members on things like a bike tune up are so dramatic that once you've joined it's difficult to justify going anywhere else.  They've got you.

.....and now, they're informing us that they aren't crass materialists.


Great interview

here on Fresh Air with Iris DeMent.  She can really wail.  Found her faith journey interesting as well.


I found Linda Holmes'

interview with Trevor Noah, the new host of the Daily Show, wince-inducing.  His entire career smacks of cronyism; a Jew from N Carolina does a documentary about him and then invites him to the US; another Jew invites him to replace him on huge high-profile show.

Yet he never alludes to this, and instead talks about how horrible it is that white males receive so much representation in this culture, and women and 'minorities' are marginalized.

I don't see the Jewish minority being marginalized in this scenario.  And I wonder where he'd be now if he weren't a Jew.


Shondra Rhimes Quote

What I found fascinating for me was I have never got so much approval and accolades and warmth and congratulations as when I had a guy on my arm that people thought I was going to marry.  It was amazing.  I mean, nobody congratulated me that hard when I had my three children.  Nobody congratulated me that hard when I won a Golden Globe or a Peabody or my 14 NAACP images awards.  But when I had a guy on my arm that people thought I was going to marry.....people lost their minds, like Oprah was giving away cars.  It was unbelievable.   
I'm not Dr. Frankenstein.  I didn't make this guy.  He just is there.  Everything else, I actually had something to do do with.  I thought that it was a little bit creepy. 

From her interview with Audie Cornish on NPR